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Title: My African Journey
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      On page 6, "full tale of steamers" should possibly be
      "full tail of steamers."



MY AFRICAN JOURNEY


  [Illustration: MR. CHURCHILL AND THE RHINOCEROS AT SIMBA.
      _Frontispiece._]


MY AFRICAN JOURNEY

by

THE RIGHT HON.
WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL, M.P.

Author of "The Story of the Malakand Field Force,"
"The River War," "London to Ladysmith," "Ian Hamilton's March,"
"Savrola," "Life of Lord Randolph Churchill"

With Sixty-One Illustrations from Photographs by
the Author and Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon Wilson,
and Three Maps



Toronto
William Briggs
1909

Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,
Bread Street Hill, E.C., and
Bungay, Suffolk.



PREFACE


In so far as the collection of information is concerned, the
advantages of travel may often be over-stated. So much has been
written, so many facts are upon record about every country, even the
most remote, that a judicious and persevering study of existing
materials would no doubt enable a reader to fill himself with
knowledge almost to repletion without leaving his chair. But for the
formation of opinion, for the stirring and enlivenment of thought, and
for the discernment of colour and proportion, the gifts of travel,
especially of travel on foot, are priceless. It was with the design
and in the hope of securing such prizes, that I undertook last year
the pilgrimage of which these pages give account. I cannot tell
whether I have succeeded in winning them; and still less whether, if
won, they are transferable. I therefore view these letters with a
modest eye. They were written mainly in long hot Uganda afternoons,
after the day's march was done. The larger portion has already
appeared in the _Strand Magazine_, and what has been added was
necessary to complete the story.

They present a continuous narrative of the lighter side of what was to
me a very delightful and inspiring journey; and it is in the hope that
they may vivify and fortify the interest of the British people in the
wonderful estates they have recently acquired in the northeastern
quarter of Africa, that I offer them in a connected form to the
indulgence of the public.

     WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL

_London_, 1908.



CONTENTS


                                                              PAGE
     CHAPTER I

     THE UGANDA RAILWAY                                          1


     CHAPTER II

     AROUND MOUNT KENYA                                         19


     CHAPTER III

     THE HIGHLANDS OF EAST AFRICA                               45


     CHAPTER IV

     THE GREAT LAKE                                             66


     CHAPTER V

     THE KINGDOM OF UGANDA                                      86


     CHAPTER VI

     KAMPALA                                                   104


     CHAPTER VII

     'ON SAFARI'                                               127


     CHAPTER VIII

     MURCHISON FALLS                                           148


     CHAPTER IX

     HIPPO CAMP                                                168


     CHAPTER X

     DOWN THE WHITE NILE                                       188


     CHAPTER XI

     THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT RAILWAY                           209



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                    _To face page_

     MR. CHURCHILL AND THE RHINOCEROS AT SIMBA      _Frontispiece_

     ON THE COW-CATCHER                                          7

     THE RHINOCEROS AT SIMBA                                    12

     GUARD OF HONOUR, KING'S AFRICAN RIFLES                     20

     BREAKDOWN ON THE WAY TO THIKA CAMP                         22

     SHOOTING PARTY AT THIKA CAMP                               24

     THE BANDA AT THIKA CAMP                                    28

     COLONEL WILSON'S LION                                      28

     "DURBAR" AT KIAMBU                                         30

     THE RIFT VALLEY FROM THE KIKUYU ESCARPMENT                 66

     GOVERNMENT STOCK FARM AT NAIVASHA                          68

     THE LAIBON'S WIVES                                         71

     RAILHEAD AT KISUMU                                         71

     KAVIRONDO WARRIORS AT KISUMU                               80

     NANDI AND KAVIRONDO WARRIORS AT KISUMU                     84

     KISUMU                                                     86

     GOVERNMENT HOUSE, ENTEBBE                                  90

     THE GOVERNOR WITH BAGANDA GROUP                           102

     BAGANDA WARRIORS AT KAMPALA                               106

     KING DAUDI'S DRUMMERS AT KAMPALA                          108

     WATCHING THE WAR-DANCE AT KAMPALA                         109

     ON THE WAY TO KAMPALA                                     110

     ROAD BETWEEN JINJA AND LAKE CHIOGA                        110

     WAR DANCE AT KAMPALA--"THE BRAVEST MAN
     IN THE ARMY"                                              112

     WAR DANCE AT KAMPALA                                      112

     THE WHITE FATHERS' MISSION AT KAMPALA                     114

     CHILDREN AT THE ENGLISH CATHOLIC MISSION,
     KAMPALA                                                   114

     INTERIOR OF NAMIREMBE CATHEDRAL                           116

     THE RIPON FALLS (SOURCE OF THE NILE)                      120

     BETWEEN NIMULE AND GONDOKORO                              128

     FOREST SCENE NEAR RIPON FALLS                             133

     PALM TREE NEAR THE ASUA                                   134

     BANDA WITH ESCORT OF KING'S AFRICAN RIFLES                134

     AN ENCAMPMENT                                             136

     LANDING AT MRULI                                          146

     MURCHISON FALLS                                           159

     FAJAO, WITH NATIVES ASSEMBLED TO WELCOME US               160

     FLOTILLA AT FAJAO                                         162

     THE TOP OF THE MURCHISON FALLS                            164

     UGANDA SCENERY                                            164

     THE LANDING-PLACE AT FAJAO                                169

     EARLY MORNING ON THE NILE AT FAJAO                        170

     FAJAO                                                     170

     APPROACH TO LAKE ALBERT, WITH THE CONGO
     HILLS IN THE DISTANCE                                     174

     WADELAI                                                   174

     THE "KENIA," "JAMES MARTIN," AND "GOOD HOPE"
     NEARING NIMULE                                            178

     HIPPO CAMP                                                178

     MR. CHURCHILL ON THE OBSERVATION LADDER AT
     HIPPO CAMP                                                182

     BANK OF THE VICTORIA NILE                                 182

     MR. CHURCHILL AND BURCHELL'S WHITE RHINOCEROS             186

     COLONEL WILSON'S ELEPHANT                                 187

     THE "KENIA," "JAMES MARTIN," AND "GOOD HOPE"
     ON THE WHITE NILE                                         187

     FORDING THE ASUA                                          192

     THE BELGIAN OFFICIALS AT LADO                             196

     GONDOKORO                                                 196

     REVIEW AT KHARTOUM                                        198

     SOUDAN GOVERNMENT STEAMER "DAL"                           198

     A SHELUK AT KODOK (FASHODA)                               202

     THE PALACE, KHARTOUM                                      204

     GEORGE SCRIVINGS                                          207

     PHILAE                                                    208


MAPS

     EASTERN AFRICA                                              2

     BRITISH EAST AFRICA                                        16

     UGANDA                                                     92



CHAPTER I

THE UGANDA RAILWAY


The aspect of Mombasa as she rises from the sea and clothes herself
with form and colour at the swift approach of the ship is alluring and
even delicious. But to appreciate all these charms the traveller
should come from the North. He should see the hot stones of Malta,
baking and glistening on a steel-blue Mediterranean. He should visit
the Island of Cyprus before the autumn rains have revived the soil,
when the Messaoria Plain is one broad wilderness of dust, when every
tree--be it only a thorn-bush--is an heirloom, and every drop of water
is a jewel. He should walk for two hours at midday in the streets of
Port Said. He should thread the long red furrow of the Suez Canal, and
swelter through the trough of the Red Sea. He should pass a day among
the cinders of Aden, and a week among the scorched rocks and stones of
Northern Somaliland; and then, after five days of open sea, his eye
and mind will be prepared to salute with feelings of grateful delight
these shores of vivid and exuberant green. On every side is
vegetation, moist, tumultuous, and varied. Great trees, clad in dense
foliage, shrouded in creepers, springing from beds of verdure, thrust
themselves through the undergrowth; palms laced together by flowering
trailers; every kind of tropical plant that lives by rain and
sunshine; high waving grass, brilliant patches of purple
bougainvillea, and in the midst, dotted about, scarcely keeping their
heads above the fertile flood of Nature, the red-roofed houses of the
town and port of Mombasa.

  [Illustration: SKETCH MAP OF
    "MY AFRICAN JOURNEY"]

The vessel follows a channel twisting away between high bluffs, and
finds a secure anchorage, land-locked, in forty feet of water at a
stone's throw from the shore. Here we are arrived at the gate of
British East Africa; and more, at the outlet and debouchment of all
the trade of all the countries that lap the Victoria and Albert Lakes
and the head-waters of the Nile. Along the pier now being built at
Kilindini, the harbour of Mombasa Island, must flow, at any rate for
many years, the main stream of East and Central African commerce.
Whatever may be the produce which civilized government and enterprise
will draw from the enormous territories between Southern Abyssinia and
Lake Tanganyika, between Lake Rudolf and Ruenzori, as far west as the
head-streams of the Congo, as far north as the Lado enclave; whatever
may be the needs and demands of the numerous populations comprised
within those limits, it is along the unpretentious jetty of Kilindini
that the whole traffic must pass.

For Kilindini (or Mombasa, as I may be permitted to call it) is the
starting-point of one of the most romantic and most wonderful railways
in the world. The two iron streaks of rail that wind away among the
hills and foliage of Mombasa Island do not break their smooth monotony
until, after piercing Equatorial forests, stretching across immense
prairies, and climbing almost to the level of the European snow-line,
they pause--and that only for a time--upon the edges of the Great
Lake. And thus is made a sure, swift road along which the white man
and all that he brings with him, for good or ill, may penetrate into
the heart of Africa as easily and safely as he may travel from London
to Vienna.

Short has been the life, many the vicissitudes, of the Uganda Railway.
The adventurous enterprise of a Liberal Government, it was soon
exposed, disowned, to the merciless criticism of its parents. Adopted
as a cherished foundling by the Conservative party, it almost perished
from mismanagement in their hands. Nearly ten thousand pounds a mile
were expended upon its construction; and so eager were all parties to
be done with it and its expense that, instead of pursuing its proper
and natural route across the plateau to the deep waters of Port
Victoria, it fell by the way into the shallow gulf of Kavirondo, lucky
to get so far. It is easy to censure, it is impossible not to
criticize, the administrative mistakes and miscalculations which
tarnished and nearly marred a brilliant conception. But it is still
more easy, as one traverses in forty-eight hours countries which ten
years ago would have baffled the toilsome marches of many weeks, to
underrate the difficulties in which unavoidable ignorance and
astonishing conditions plunged the pioneers. The British art of
"muddling through" is here seen in one of its finest expositions.
Through everything--through the forests, through the ravines, through
troops of marauding lions, through famine, through war, through five
years of excoriating Parliamentary debate, muddled and marched the
railway; and here at last, in some more or less effective fashion, is
it arrived at its goal. Other nations project Central African railways
as lightly and as easily as they lay down naval programmes; but here
is a railway, like the British Fleet, "in being"--not a paper plan or
an airy dream, but an iron fact grinding along through the jungle and
the plain, waking with its whistles the silences of the Nyanza, and
startling the tribes out of their primordial nakedness with
"Americani" piece goods _made in Lancashire_.

Let us, then, without waiting in Mombasa longer than is necessary to
wish it well and to admire the fertility and promise of the coastal
region, ascend this railway from the sea to the lake. And first, what
a road it is! Everything is in apple-pie order. The track is smoothed
and weeded and ballasted as if it were the London and North-Western.
Every telegraph-post has its number; every mile, every hundred yards,
every change of gradient has its mark; not in soft wood, to feed the
white ant, but in hard, well-painted iron. Constant labour has
steadily improved the grades and curves of the permanent-way, and the
train--one of those comfortable, practical Indian trains--rolls along
as evenly as upon a European line.

Nor should it be supposed that this high standard of maintenance is
not warranted by the present financial position of the line. The
Uganda Railway is already doing what it was never expected within any
reasonable period to do. It is paying its way. It is beginning to
yield a profit--albeit a small profit--upon its capital charge.
Projected solely as a political railway to reach Uganda, and to secure
British predominance upon the Upper Nile, it has already achieved a
commercial value. Instead of the annual deficits upon working expenses
which were regularly anticipated by those most competent to judge,
there is already a substantial profit of nearly eighty thousand pounds
a year. And this is but the beginning, and an imperfect beginning; for
at present the line is only a trunk, without its necessary limbs and
feeders, without its deep-water head at Kilindini, without its full
tale of steamers on the lake; above all, without its natural and
necessary extension to the Albert Nyanza.

  [Illustration: ON THE COW-CATCHER.
    (Mr. Currie, Mr. Marsh, Col. Wilson, Sir J. Hayes-Sadler, Mr.
    Churchill.)]

We may divide the journey into four main stages--the jungles, the
plains, the mountains, and the lake, for the lake is an essential part
of the railway, and a natural and inexpensive extension to its length.
In the early morning, then, we start from Mombasa Station, taking our
places upon an ordinary garden seat fastened on to the cow-catcher of
the engine, from which position the whole country can be seen. For a
quarter of an hour we are still upon Mombasa Island, and then the
train, crossing the intervening channel by a long iron bridge,
addresses itself in earnest to the continent of Africa. Into these
vast regions the line winds perseveringly upon a stiff up-grade, and
the land unfolds itself ridge after ridge and valley after valley,
till soon, with one farewell glance at the sea and at the
fighting-tops of His Majesty's ship _Venus_ rising queerly amid the
palms, we are embraced and engulfed completely. All day long the train
runs upward and westward, through broken and undulating ground clad
and encumbered with super-abundant vegetation. Beautiful birds and
butterflies fly from tree to tree and flower to flower. Deep, ragged
gorges, filled by streams in flood, open out far below us through
glades of palms and creeper-covered trees. Here and there, at
intervals, which will become shorter every year, are plantations of
rubber, fibre, and cotton, the beginnings of those inexhaustible
supplies which will one day meet the yet unmeasured demand of Europe
for those indispensable commodities. Every few miles are little trim
stations, with their water-tanks, signals, ticket-offices, and
flower-beds complete and all of a pattern, backed by impenetrable
bush. In brief one slender thread of scientific civilization, of
order, authority, and arrangement, drawn across the primeval chaos of
the world.

In the evening a cooler, crisper air is blowing. The humid coast
lands, with their glories and their fevers, have been left behind. At
an altitude of four thousand feet we begin to laugh at the Equator.
The jungle becomes forest, not less luxuriant, but distinctly
different in character. The olive replaces the palm. The whole aspect
of the land is more friendly, more familiar, and no less fertile.
After Makindu Station the forest ceases. The traveller enters upon a
region of grass. Immense fields of green pasture, withered and
whitened at this season by waiting for the rains, intersected by
streams and watercourses densely wooded with dark, fir-looking trees
and gorse-looking scrub, and relieved by bold upstanding bluffs and
ridges, comprise the new panorama. And here is presented the wonderful
and unique spectacle which the Uganda Railway offers to the European.
_The plains are crowded with wild animals._ From the windows of the
carriage the whole zoological gardens can be seen disporting itself.
Herds of antelope and gazelle, troops of zebras--sometimes four or
five hundred together--watch the train pass with placid assurance, or
scamper a hundred yards farther away, and turn again. Many are quite
close to the line. With field-glasses one can see that it is the same
everywhere, and can distinguish long files of black wildebeeste and
herds of red kongoni--the hartebeeste of South Africa--and wild
ostriches walking sedately in twos and threes, and every kind of small
deer and gazelle. The zebras come close enough for their stripes to be
admired with the naked eye.

We have arrived at Simba, "The Place of Lions," and there is no reason
why the passengers should not see one, or even half-a-dozen, stalking
across the plain, respectfully observed by lesser beasts. Indeed, in
the early days it was the custom to stop and sally out upon the royal
vermin whenever met with, and many the lion that has been carried back
to the tender in triumph before the guard, or driver, or any one else
could think of timetables or the block system, or the other
inconvenient restrictions of a regular service. Farther up the line,
in the twilight of the evening, we saw, not a hundred yards away, a
dozen giraffes lollopping off among scattered trees, and at Nakuru six
yellow lions walked in leisurely mood across the rails in broad
daylight. Only the rhinoceros is absent, or rarely seen, and after one
of his species had measured his strength, unsuccessfully, against an
engine, he has confined himself morosely to the river-beds and to the
undisturbed solitudes which, at a distance of two or three miles,
everywhere engulf the Uganda Railway.

Our carriage stopped upon a siding at Simba Station for three days, in
order that we might more closely examine the local fauna. One of the
best ways of shooting game in this part of the world, and certainly
the easiest, is to get a trolly and run up and down the line. The
animals are so used to the passage of trains and natives along the one
great highway that they do not, as a rule, take much notice, unless
the train or trolly stops, when their suspicions are at once aroused.
The sportsmen should, therefore, slip off without allowing the vehicle
or the rest of the party to stop, even for a moment; and in this way
he will frequently find himself within two hundred and fifty or three
hundred yards of his quarry, when the result will be governed solely
by his skill, or want of skill, with the rifle.

There is another method, which we tried on the second day in the hopes
of finding a waterbuck, and that is, to prowl about among the trees
and undergrowth of the river-bed. In a few minutes one may bury
oneself in the wildest and savagest kind of forest. The air becomes
still and hot. The sun seems in an instant to assert his just
prerogative. The heat glitters over the open spaces of dry sand and
pools of water. High grass, huge boulders, tangled vegetation,
multitudes of thorn-bushes, obstruct the march, and the ground itself
is scarped and guttered by the rains into the strangest formations.
Around you, breast-high, shoulder-high, overhead, rises the African
jungle. There is a brooding silence, broken only by the cry of a bird,
or the scolding bark of baboons, and the crunching of one's own feet
on the crumbling soil. We enter the haunt of the wild beasts; their
tracks, their traces, the remnants of their repasts, are easily and
frequently discovered. Here a lion has passed since the morning. There
a rhinoceros has certainly been within the hour--perhaps within ten
minutes. We creep and scramble through the game paths, anxiously,
rifles at full cock, not knowing what each turn or step may reveal.
The wind, when it blows at all, blows fitfully, now from this quarter,
now from that; so that one can never be certain that it will not
betray the intruder in these grim domains to the beast he seeks, or to
some other, less welcome, before he sees him. At length, after two
hours' scramble and scrape, we emerge breathless, as from another
world, half astonished to find ourselves within a quarter of a mile of
the railway line, with its trolly, luncheon, soda-water, ice, etc.

  [Illustration: THE RHINOCEROS AT SIMBA]

But if one would seek the rhinoceros in his open pastures, it is
necessary to go farther afield; and accordingly we started the next
morning, while the stars were still shining, to tramp over the
ridges and hills which shut in the railway, and overlook remoter
plains and valleys beyond. The grass grows high from ground
honeycombed with holes and heaped with lava boulders, and it was
daylight before we had stumbled our way to a spur commanding a wide
view. Here we halted to search the country with field-glasses, and to
brush off the ticks--detestable insects which infest all the resorts
of the game in innumerable swarms, ready to spread any poison among
the farmers' cattle. The glass disclosed nothing of consequence.
Zebra, wildebeeste, and kongoni were to be seen in troops and herds,
scattered near and far over the plains, but never a rhinoceros! So we
trudged on, meaning to make a wide circle. For an hour we found
nothing, and then, just as we were thinking of turning homewards
before the sun should get his full power, three beautiful oryx, great,
dark-coloured antelope with very long, corrugated horns, walked over
the next brow on their way to water. Forthwith we set off in pursuit,
crouching and creeping along the valley, and hoping to intercept them
at the stream. Two passed safely over before we could reach our point.
The third, seeing us, turned back and disappeared over the hill,
where, a quarter of an hour later, he was stalked and wounded.

It is always the wounded beast that leads the hunter into adventures.
Till the quarry is hit every one walks delicately, avoids going the
windward side of unexplored coverts, skirts a reed-bed cautiously,
notices a convenient tree, looks often this way and that. But once the
prize is almost within reach, you scramble along after it as fast as
your legs will carry you, and never trouble about remoter
contingencies, be they what they may. Our oryx led us a mile or more
over rocky slopes, always promising and never giving a good chance for
a shot, until at last he drew us round the shoulder of a hill--and
there, abruptly, was the rhinoceros. The impression was extraordinary.
A wide plain of white, withered grass stretched away to low hills
broken with rocks. The rhinoceros stood in the middle of this plain,
about five hundred yards away, in jet-black silhouette; not a
twentieth-century animal at all, but an odd, grim straggler from the
Stone Age. He was grazing placidly, and above him the vast snow dome
of Kilimanjaro towered up in the clear air of morning to complete a
scene unaltered since the dawn of the world.

The manner of killing a rhinoceros in the open is crudely simple. It
is thought well usually to select the neighbourhood of a good tree,
_where one can be found_, as the centre of the encounter. If no tree
is available, you walk up as near as possible to him from any side
except the windward, and then shoot him in the head or the heart. If
you hit a vital spot, as sometimes happens, he falls. If you hit him
anywhere else, he charges blindly and furiously in your direction, and
you shoot him again, or not, as the case may be.

Bearing all this carefully in mind, we started out to do battle with
Behemoth. We had advanced perhaps two hundred yards towards him, when
a cry from one of the natives arrested us. We looked sharply to the
right. There, not a hundred and fifty paces distant, under the shade
of a few small trees, stood two other monsters. In a few more steps we
should have tainted their wind and brought them up with a rush; and
suppose this had happened, when perhaps we were already compromised
with our first friend, and had him wounded and furious on our hands!
Luckily warned in time, to creep back to the shoulder of the hill, to
skirt its crest, and to emerge a hundred and twenty yards from this
new objective was the work of a few minutes. We hurriedly agree to
kill one first before touching the other. At such a range it is easy
to hit so great a target; but the bull's-eye is small. I fired. The
thud of a bullet which strikes with an impact of a ton and a quarter,
tearing through hide and muscle and bone with the hideous energy of
cordite, came back distinctly. The large rhinoceros started, stumbled,
turned directly towards the sound and the blow, and then bore straight
down upon us in a peculiar trot, nearly as fast as a horse's gallop,
with an activity surprising in so huge a beast, and instinct with
unmistakable purpose.

  [Illustration: BRITISH EAST AFRICA]

Great is the moral effect of a foe who advances. Everybody fired.
Still the ponderous brute came on, as if he were invulnerable; as if
he were an engine, or some great steam barge impervious to bullets,
insensible to pain or fear. Thirty seconds more, and he will close. An
impalpable curtain seems to roll itself up in the mind, revealing a
mental picture, strangely lighted, yet very still, where objects have
new values, and where a patch of white grass in the foreground,
four or five yards away, seems to possess astonishing significance. It
is there that the last two shots that yet remain before the resources
of civilization are exhausted must be fired. There is time to reflect
with some detachment that, after all, we were the aggressors; we it is
who have forced the conflict by an unprovoked assault with murderous
intent upon a peaceful herbivore; that if there is such a thing as
right and wrong between man and beast--and who shall say there is
not?--right is plainly on his side; there is time for this before I
perceive that, stunned and dazed by the frightful concussions of
modern firearms, he has swerved sharp to the right, and is now moving
across our front, broadside on, at the same swift trot. More firing,
and as I reload some one says he is down, and I fire instead at his
smaller companion, already some distance off upon the plain. But one
rhinoceros hunt is like another, except in its details, and I will not
occupy the reader with the account of this new pursuit and death.
Suffice it to say that, in all the elements of neurotic experience,
such an encounter seems to me fully equal to half an hour's brisk
skirmish at six or seven hundred yards--and with an important
addition. In war there is a cause, there is duty, there is the hope
of glory, for who can tell what may not be won before night? But here
at the end is only a hide, a horn, and a carcase, over which the
vultures have already begun to wheel.



CHAPTER II

AROUND MOUNT KENYA


The town of Nairobi, the capital of the East Africa Protectorate,
stands on the base of wooded hills at the three hundred and
twenty-seventh mile of the railroad. Originally chosen as a convenient
place for assembling the extensive depots and shops necessary to the
construction and maintenance of the railway, it enjoys no advantages
as a residential site. The ground on which the town is built is low
and swampy. The supply of water is indifferent, and the situation
generally unhealthy. A mile farther on, however, upon the rising
ground a finer position could have been found, and this quarter is
already being occupied sparsely by Government buildings, hospitals,
and barracks. It is now too late to change, and thus lack of foresight
and of a comprehensive view leaves its permanent imprint upon the
countenance of a new country.

Our train traverses the Athi plains, more crowded perhaps with game
than any other part of the line, and approaches swiftly the long rows
of one-storeyed tin houses which constitute the town. Nairobi is a
typical South African township. It might be Pietermaritzburg or
Ladysmith of twenty years ago, before blue gum-trees and stone
buildings had waxed and multiplied. In its present stage perhaps it
resembles Buluwayo most. The population is also South African in its
character and proportions. There are five hundred and eighty whites,
three thousand one hundred Indians, and ten thousand five hundred and
fifty African natives. The shops and stores are, however, much more
considerable than these figures would appear to warrant, and are fully
capable of supplying the varied needs of settlers and planters over a
wide area. Nairobi is also the headquarters of a brigade of the King's
African Rifles, the central office and depot of the Uganda Railway,
and the seat of the Administration, with its numerous official
_personnel_. The dinner of the Colonists' Association, to which I was
invited, afforded the familiar, yet in Central Africa not
unimpressive, spectacle of long rows of gentlemen in evening dress;
while the ball given by the Governor to celebrate the King's birthday
revealed a company gay with uniforms, and ladies in pretty dresses,
assembled upon a spot where scarcely ten years before lions hunted
undisturbed.

  [Illustration: GUARD OF HONOUR, KING'S AFRICAN RIFLES.]

Every white man in Nairobi is a politician; and most of them are
leaders of parties. One would scarcely believe it possible, that a
centre so new should be able to develop so many divergent and
conflicting interests, or that a community so small should be able to
give to each such vigorous and even vehement expression. There are
already in miniature all the elements of keen political and racial
discord, all the materials for hot and acrimonious debate. The white
man _versus_ the black; the Indian _versus_ both; the settler as
against the planter; the town contrasted with the country; the
official class against the unofficial; the coast and the highlands;
the railway administration and the Protectorate generally; the King's
African Rifles and the East Africa Protectorate Police; all these
different points of view, naturally arising, honestly adopted,
tenaciously held, and not yet reconciled into any harmonious general
conception, confront the visitor in perplexing disarray. Nor will he
be wise to choose his part with any hurry. It is better to see
something of the country, of its quality and extent, of its promises
and forfeits, of its realities and illusions, before endeavouring to
form even a provisional opinion.

The snow-clad peak of Mount Kenya, a hundred miles away, can on a
clear morning be easily seen from the slopes above Nairobi--a sharp,
serrated summit veined with gleaming white. A road--passable, albeit
unmetalled, for wagons and even a motor-car--runs thitherward by Fort
Hall and across the Tana River. On the way there is much to see. A
wild, ragged-looking, but fertile region, swelling into successive
undulations and intersected by numerous gorges whose streams are
shaded by fine trees, unfolds itself to the eye. Scattered about upon
spacious estates of many thousand acres are a score or two of
colonists, each gradually making himself a home and a living in his
own way. One raises stock; another plants coffee, which grows so
exuberantly in this generous soil as to threaten the speedy exhaustion
of the plant. Here are ostriches, sheep, and cattle standing
placidly together in one drove under the guardianship of a native
child of eleven. There is a complete dairy farm, admirably equipped.
One of the streams has been dammed effectively, and turbines are
already in position to light Nairobi with electricity. Upon the banks
of another there is talk of building an hotel.

  [Illustration: BREAKDOWN ON THE WAY TO THIKA CAMP.]

At one place I found a family of good people from Hightown,
Manchester, grappling courageously with an enormous tract of ten
thousand acres. Hard by, an old Boer, who has trekked the length of
Africa to avoid the British flag, sits smoking stolidly by his grass
house, reconciled to British rule at last by a few months' experience
of paternal government in a neighbouring Protectorate. He has few
cattle and less cash, but he holds decided views as to the whereabouts
of lions; there, moreover, stands the heavy tilted wagon of the Great
Trek--an ark of refuge when all else fails; and for the rest there is
plenty of game, few people, and the family grows from year to year. In
short, one sees a sparse, heterogeneous population engaged in varied
labours; but everywhere hard work, straitened resources, hopes
persisting through many disappointments, stout hospitable hearts, and
the beginnings, at any rate, of progress.

A camp has been prepared for me in a very beautiful spot at the
juncture of the Chania and Thika rivers. Tents are pitched and grass
shelters are erected in a smooth meadow. Southwards, a hundred yards
away, a fine waterfall plunges downwards over enormous boulders amid
tall, interlacing trees. The muffled roar of another rises from a deep
ravine an equal distance to the north; and the Philistine computes,
with a frown, four thousand horse-power expending itself upon the
picturesque.

Nothing causes the East African colonist more genuine concern than
that his guest should not have been provided with a lion. The
knowledge preys upon his mind until it becomes a veritable obsession.
He feels some deep reproach is laid upon his own hospitality and the
reputation of his adopted country. How to find, and, having found, to
kill, a lion is the unvarying theme of conversation; and every place
and every journey is judged by a simple standard--"lions or no lions."
At the Thika camp, then, several gentlemen, accomplished in this
important sport, have come together with ponies, rifles, Somalis,
and all the other accessories. Some zebras and kongoni have been
killed and left lying in likely-looking places to attract the lions;
and at 4 a.m., rain or shine, we are to go and look for them.

  [Illustration: SHOOTING PARTY AT THIKA CAMP.
    From left to right--Capt. Sadler, Major Riddell, Mr. Marsh,
    Marquis Gandolfi-Hornyold, Hon. K. Dundas, Mr. Percival, Mr.
    Churchill, Mr. D. J. Wilson.]

The young Englishman, be he officer or settler in the East African
Highlands, cuts a hardy figure. His clothes are few and far between: a
sun hat, a brown flannel shirt with sleeves cut above the elbow and
open to the chest, a pair of thin khaki knickerbockers cut short five
inches--_at least_--above the knee, boots, and a pair of putties
comprise the whole attire. Nothing else is worn. The skin, exposed to
sun, thorns, and insects, becomes almost as dark as that of the
natives, and so hardened that it is nothing to ride all day with bare
knees on the saddle; a truly Spartan discipline from which at least
the visitor may be excused.

This is the way in which they hunt lions. First find the lion, lured
to a kill, driven from a reed-bed, or kicked up incontinently by the
way. Once viewed he must never be lost sight of for a moment. Mounted
on ponies of more or less approved fidelity, three or four daring
Britons or Somalis gallop after him, as in India they ride the
pig--that is to say, neck or nothing--across rocks, holes, tussocks,
nullahs, through high grass, thorn scrub, undergrowth, turning him,
shepherding him, heading him this way and that until he is brought to
bay. For his part the lion is no seeker of quarrels; he is often
described in accents of contempt. His object throughout is to save his
skin. If, being unarmed, you meet six or seven lions unexpectedly, all
you need do--according to my information--is to speak to them sternly
and they will slink away, while you throw a few stones at them to
hurry them up. All the highest authorities recommend this.

But when pursued from place to place, chased hither and thither by the
wheeling horsemen, the naturally mild disposition of the lion becomes
embittered. First he begins to growl and roar at his enemies, in order
to terrify them, and make them leave him in peace. Then he darts
little short charges at them. Finally, when every attempt at peaceful
persuasion has failed, he pulls up abruptly and offers battle. Once he
has done this, he will run no more. He means to fight, and to fight
to the death. He means to charge home; and when a lion, maddened with
the agony of a bullet-wound, distressed by long and hard pursuit, or,
most of all, a lioness in defence of her cubs, is definitely committed
to the charge, death is the only possible conclusion. Broken limbs,
broken jaws, a body raked from end to end, lungs pierced through and
through, entrails torn and protruding--none of these count. It must be
death--instant and utter--for the lion, or down goes the man, mauled
by septic claws and fetid teeth, crushed and crunched, and poisoned
afterwards to make doubly sure. Such are the habits of this cowardly
and wicked animal.

It is at the stage when the lion has been determinedly "bayed" that
the sportsman from London is usually introduced upon the scene. He
has, we may imagine, followed the riders as fast as the inequalities
of the ground, his own want of training, and the burden of a heavy
rifle will allow him. He arrives at the spot where the lion is
cornered in much the same manner as the matador enters the arena, the
others standing aside deferentially, ready to aid him or divert the
lion. If his bullet kills, he is, no doubt, justly proud. If it only
wounds, the lion charges the nearest horseman. For forty yards the
charge of a lion is swifter than the gallop of a racehorse. The
riders, therefore, usually avoid waiting within that distance. But
sometimes they do not; or sometimes the lion sees the man who has shot
him; or sometimes all sorts of things happen which make good
stories--afterwards.

After this general description no particular example is required, and
the reader need not be disappointed to learn that our lion escaped
what, no doubt, would have been his certain destruction by the
breaking of a single link in the regular chain of circumstances. He
was not found upon the kill. His place was taken by a filthy hyena,
and it was not until we had beaten thoroughly for two hours more than
three miles of reed-bed that we saw him--a splendid great yellow cat,
looking as big as a bullock--bounding away up the opposite hill. Off
started our riders like falcons; but alas!--if "alas!" is the proper
word--a deep and impassable nullah intervened, necessitating large
circuits and long delays; so that the lion got clean away out of sight
of all men, and we were reduced to the slow and tedious process of
tracking him footprint by footprint through waving grass, breast-high,
hour after hour, always expecting to tread on his tail, and
always--disappointed!

  [Illustration: THE BANDA AT THIKA CAMP.]

  [Illustration: COLONEL WILSON'S LION.]

In the afternoon I had to ride to Fort Hall, where there was to be a
great gathering of Kikuyu chiefs and thousands of their warriors and
women. The country is much the same as that traversed on the previous
day, but greener, smoother, and more pleasant-looking. Fort Hall is
not a fort in any military sense, but the Commissioner's house with a
ditch round it, a jail, a few houses, and an Indian bazaar. The
station is hardly well selected, being perched up on a hill out of the
reach of any railway--and unhealthy nevertheless. The whole place was
crowded with natives in their most highly ornamented and elaborate
nudity, waiting for the war-dance.

This ceremony was performed the next morning. Long before daylight the
beating of drums, the blowing of horns, and the rhythm of loud, yet
not altogether unmelodious chanting awakened the weariest sleeper; and
when, at eight o'clock the _indaba_ began, the whole space in front of
the fort was densely packed with naked, painted, plumed, and gyrating
humanity, which seethed continually to and fro, and divided from time
to time as particular chiefs advanced with their followers, or as
gifts of struggling sheep and bulls were brought forward. In his war
dress the Kikuyu, and, still more, the Masai warrior, is a striking,
if not impressive, figure. His hair and body are smeared with the red
earth of his native land, compounded into a pigment by mixture with
the slimy juice of the castor-oil plant, which abounds. Fantastic
headdresses, some of ostrich feathers, others of metal or leather;
armlets and leglets of twisted wire; stripes of white clay rubbed
across the red pigment; here and there an old pot-hat or some European
garment, incongruously contrasted with leopard-skins and bulls' horns;
broad, painted cow-hide shields, and spears with soft iron blades
nearly four feet long, complete a grotesque and indecorous picture.
Still, there is a sleek grace about these active forms--bronze statues
but for their frippery--which defeats all their own efforts to make
themselves hideous. The chiefs, however, succeed in reducing
themselves to regular guys. Any old, cast-off khaki jacket or tattered
pair of trousers; any fragment of weather-stained uniform, a
battered sun-helmet with a feather stuck lamely into the top of it, a
ragged umbrella, is sufficient to induce them to abandon the ostrich
plume and the leopard-skin kaross. Among their warriors in ancient
gear they look ridiculous and insignificant--more like the commonest
kind of native sweeper than the hereditary rulers of some powerful and
numerous tribe.

  [Illustration: "DURBAR" AT KIAMBU.]

It is unquestionably an advantage that the East African negro should
develop a taste for civilized attire. In no more useful and innocent
direction could his wants be multiplied and his desires excited, and
it is by this process of assimilation that his life will gradually be
made more complicated, more varied, less crudely animal, and himself
raised to a higher level of economic utility. But it would surely be
worth while to organize and guide this new motive force within
graceful and appropriate limits. A Government runs risks when it
intrudes upon the domain of fashion; but when a veritable abyss of
knowledge and science separates the rulers from the ruled, when
authority is dealing with a native race still plunged in its primary
squalour, without religion, without clothes, without morals, but
willing to emerge and capable of emerging, such risks may fairly be
accepted; and the Government might well prescribe or present suitable
robes for ceremonial occasions to the chiefs, and gradually encourage,
and more gradually still enforce, their adoption throughout the
population.

After the dance it had been arranged that I should go as far as the
bank of the Tana River to see the view of Mount Kenya, and then return
to the Thika camp before night. But when the whole splendid panorama
of the trans-Tana country opened upon us, I could not bring myself to
stop short of the promised land; and, casting away material cares of
luncheon and baggage, I decided to ride through to Embo, twenty-eight
miles from Fort Hall, and our most advanced post in this direction. We
crossed the Tana by a ferry which travels along a rope under the
impulsion of the current. The ponies swam the deep, strong, sixty-yard
stream of turbulent red water. On the farther bank the country is
really magnificent in quality and aspect. The centre of the picture is
always Mount Kenya; but there never was a mountain which made so
little of its height. It rises by long gentle slopes, more like a
swelling of ground than a peak, from an immense upland plain, and so
gradual is the acclivity that, but for the sudden outcrop of snow-clad
rock which crowns the summit, no one would believe it over eighteen
thousand feet high. It is its gradual rise that imparts so great a
value to this noble mountain; for about its enormous base and upon its
slopes, traversed by hundreds of streams of clear perennial water,
there grows, or may grow, in successive, concentric belts, every kind
of crop and forest known in the world, from the Equator to the Arctic
Circle. The landscape is superb. In beauty, in fertility, in verdure,
in the coolness of the air, in the abundance of running water, in its
rich red soil, in the variety of its vegetation, the scenery about
Kenya far surpasses anything I have ever seen in India or South
Africa, and challenges comparison with the fairest countries of
Europe. Indeed, looking at it with an eye fresh from Italy, I was most
powerfully reminded of the upper valleys of the Po.

We rode on all day through this delicious country, along a well-kept
native road, smooth enough for a bicycle, except where it crossed
stream after stream on primitive bridges. On every side the soil was
cultivated and covered with the crops of a large and industrious
population. It is only a year since regular control was established
beyond the Tana, not without some bloodshed, by a small military
expedition. Yet so peaceful are the tribes--now that their intertribal
fighting has been stopped--that white officers ride freely about among
their villages without even carrying a pistol. All the natives met
with on the road were armed with sword and spear, and all offered us
their customary salutations, while many came up smiling and holding
out long, moist, delicate-looking hands for me to shake, till I had
quite enough of it. Indeed, the only dangers of the road appear to be
from the buffaloes which infest the country, and after nightfall place
the traveller in real peril. We were very glad for this reason, and
also because we had eaten nothing but a banana each since early
morning, to see at last on the top of the next hill the buildings of
Embo just as the sun sank beneath the horizon.

Embo is a model station, only five months old--one small, three-roomed
house for the District Commissioner, one for the military officer, an
office, and a tiny jail, all in good dressed stone; two Indian shops
in corrugated iron; and seven or eight long rows of beehive grass huts
for a hundred and fifty soldiers and police. Two young white
officers--a civilian and a soldier--preside from this centre of
authority, far from the telegraph, over the peace and order of an area
as large as an English county, and regulate the conduct and fortunes
of some seventy-five thousand natives, who have never previously known
or acknowledged any law but violence or terror. They were uncommonly
surprised to see four horsemen come riding up the zigzag path to their
dwelling; but their astonishment was no bar to their hospitality, and
we were soon rewarded for our journey and our fasting in most
excellent fashion.

I had just time before the darkness flooded the land and blotted out
the mighty mountain and its wreaths of fire-tipped cloud to walk round
this station. The jail consisted of a single room, barred and bolted.
Inside not a prisoner was to be seen. I inquired where they were, and
was shown two little groups seated round fires in the open. They were
chained together by a light running chain, and after a hard day's
miscellaneous work about the station they chatted peacefully as they
cooked and ate their evening meal. The prison was only their shelter
for the night--primitive arrangements, no doubt, but are they more
barbarous than the hideous, long-drawn precision of an English convict
establishment?

The African protectorates now administered by the Colonial Office
afford rare scope for the abilities of earnest and intelligent youth.
A man of twenty-five may easily find himself ruling a large tract of
country and a numerous population. The Government is too newly
established to have developed the highly centralized and closely
knit--perhaps too closely knit--hierarchy and control of the Indian
system. It is far too poor to afford a complete Administration. The
District Commissioner must judge for himself, and be judged upon his
actions. Very often--for tropical diseases make many gaps in the
ranks, and men must often return to England to recruit their
health--the officer is not a District Commissioner at all, but a
junior acting in his stead or in some one's stead, sometimes for a
year or more. To him there come day by day the natives of the
district with all their troubles, disputes, and intrigues. Their
growing appreciation of the impartial justice of the tribunal leads
them increasingly to carry all sorts of cases to the District
Commissioner's Court. When they are ill they come and ask for
medicine. When they are wounded in their quarrels it is to the white
man they go to have the injuries dressed. Disease and accident have to
be combated without professional skill. Courts of justice and forms of
legality must be maintained without lawyers. Taxes have to be
collected by personal influence. Peace has to be kept with only a
shadow of force.

All these great opportunities of high service, and many others, are
often and daily placed within the reach of men in their twenties--on
the whole with admirable results. It was most pleasant to hear with
what comprehension and sympathy the officers of the East Africa
Protectorate speak about their work; and how they regard themselves as
the guardians of native interests and native rights against those who
only care about exploiting the country and its people. No one can
travel even for a little while among the Kikuyu tribes without
acquiring a liking for these light-hearted, tractable, if brutish
children, or without feeling that they are capable of being instructed
and raised from their present degradation. There are more than four
million aboriginals in East Africa alone. Their care imposes a grave,
and I think an inalienable, responsibility upon the British
Government. It will be an ill day for these native races when their
fortunes are removed from the impartial and august administration of
the Crown and abandoned to the fierce self-interest of a small white
population. Such an event is no doubt very remote. Yet the speculator,
the planter, and the settler are knocking at the door. There are many
things which ought to be done--good, wise, scientific, and justly
profitable. If the Government cannot find the money to develop the
natural economic strength of the country, to make its communications,
to start its industries, can it with any reason bar the field to
private enterprise? Can it prevent the ingress of a white population?
Ought it to do so, and for how long? What is to happen when there are
thirty thousand white people in East Africa, instead of the three
thousand or so who make so much stir at the present time? Perhaps the
course of these chapters will lead us back again to these questions.
I am very doubtful whether it will supply their answers.

We have a discussion in the evening on a much more manageable subject.
The District Commissioner at Embo has been ordered by the High Court
of the Protectorate to retry a criminal case which he had settled some
months before, on account of an informality in the report of the
proceedings, which had excited the attention of the revising
authority. It is pointed out that neither the accused nor his
fellow-natives understand, or can ever be made to understand, the
meaning of this repetition of a trial; that they are bewildered; that
their confidence in their personal ruler may be weakened; that endless
practical difficulties--for instance, the collection of witnesses
scattered about in distant villages, and the disquietude caused to
them by a second summons from the strange, mysterious power called
"Government"--arise out of an error which only a lawyer could detect,
and which only appears upon a piece of paper. "Some one," quaintly
says a young civil officer, who has ridden over with us, "forgot to
say 'Bo!' in the right place." I ask the nature of the "Bo!" It is
certainly substantial. No mention was made in the report of the trial
that the accused was given the opportunity of cross-examining the
hostile witnesses. Therefore, although this was in fact done, the
trial is held to be no trial, and ordered anew.

Now, here is again a balancing of disadvantages; but without here
examining whether a simple release would not have been better than a
retrial, I find myself plainly on the side of the "Bo!" There is
scarcely anything more important in the government of men than the
exact--I will even say the pedantic--observance of the regular forms
by which the guilt or innocence of accused persons is determined.
Those forms are designed to protect the prisoner, not merely from the
consequences of honest forgetfulness in his judges, but from
systematic carelessness and possible oppression. Once they are allowed
to be loosely construed the whole system of civilized jurisprudence
begins to crumble, and in its place there is gradually erected a
rough-and-ready practice dependent entirely for its efficiency and
fairness upon the character and intelligence of the individual
responsible. Necessary as it is to trust to personal authority in the
control of native races of the lowest standard, it is not less
necessary to assign well-marked limits to that authority, and, above
all, to place the simple primary rights of accused persons to what we
at home are accustomed to call a "fair trial" outside its scope. Nor
does the administrator really suffer in native eyes from the
apparition into his domain of superior authority. The tribesmen see
that their ruler--to them all-powerful, the man of soldiers and
police, of punishment and reward--is himself obedient to some remote
external force, and they wonder what that mysterious force can be and
marvel dimly at its greatness. Authority is enhanced and not impaired
by the suggestion of immense reserves behind and above the immediate
ruler--strong though he be. But upon this, as upon other matters, it
is not necessary for every one to be of the same opinion; and even
lawyers are not always wise.

On our homeward ride in the early morning we passed a Swahili village.
These Mohammedans have penetrated deeply and established themselves
widely in the Eastern parts of Africa. Armed with a superior religion
and strengthened with Arab blood, they maintain themselves without
difficulty at a far higher level than the pagan aboriginals among
whom they live. Their language has become a sort of _lingua franca_
over all this part of the world. As traders they are welcomed, as
fighting men they are respected, and as sorcerers they are feared by
all the tribes. Their Khan had supplied us with bananas on the
previous day with many expressions of apology that, as we were
unexpected, he had no "European food." To-day all this was repaired.
The men of the village, to the number of perhaps fifty, walked
sedately out to meet us, their long white smocks in striking contrast
to the naked, painted barbarians who surrounded them. The Khan led up
a white Arab stallion, of vicious temper and tripling gait, to replace
my wearied pony; and then produced tea and a familiar tin of mixed
biscuits, which he had over-night sent runners to procure, that his
hospitality might incur no reproach.

While we were eating and parleying with the Khan there arrived on the
scene a mounted Kikuyu chief, with chair, umbrella, khaki helmet, and
other insignia, and attended by about a hundred warriors in full
feather. In order to show their respect they began at once their
war-dance, and we left them a quarter of an hour later still circling
and hopping to and fro with quivering spears and nodding plumes to
their monotonous chorus, while the white-robed Swahilis stood gravely
by and bade us farewell in the dignified manners of the East. I
reflected upon the interval that separates these two races from each
other, and on the centuries of struggle that the advance had cost, and
I wondered whether that interval was wider and deeper than that which
divides the modern European from them both; but without arriving at
any sure conclusion.

Our journey to Embo had been so delightful that I was not inclined to
hanker after rejected alternatives. But when we drove in to the Thika
camp as the sun was setting, tired out by fifty miles of road, the
first spectacle which saluted my eyes was a lion's skin spread out
upon the ground and Colonel Wilson engaged in sprinkling it with
arsenical powder. Then we were told the tale, which in brief was that
they were driving a long reed-bed, when the lion sprang out and ran
obliquely across the line of beaters. Wilson fired and the lion
bounded back into the reeds, whence stones, fires, shoutings, shots,
and all other disturbances failed to move him. Whereupon, after two
hours, being impatient and venturesome, they had marched in upon him
shoulder to shoulder, to find him, fortunately, quite dead.

My friends endeavoured to console me by the news that lions had now
been heard of in two other places, and that we should be sure to find
one in the morning; and next day, after we had driven three miles of
reeds, it seemed that their hopes were well founded, for a large
animal of some kind could be seen moving swiftly to and fro under
cover, and every one declared this must be the lion. At last only one
more patch of reeds remained to beat, and we took up our positions,
finger on trigger, about sixty yards from the farther edge of it,
while the beaters, raising an astonishing tumult with yells and the
beating of tin cans, plunged boldly in. _Parturiunt montes_--out
rushed two enormous wart-hogs. Let no one reproach the courage of the
pig. These great fierce boars, driven from their last shelter, charged
out in gallant style--tusks gleaming, tails perpendicular--and met a
fate prepared for a king. With these and another which we galloped
down and pistolled on the way home I had to be content, and can now,
so far as I am concerned, sadly write, in the expressive words of
Reuter, "No lions were 'bagged.'"



CHAPTER III

THE HIGHLANDS OF EAST AFRICA


"Colour" is already the dominant question at Nairobi. "We mean to make
East Africa a white man's country," cries, in strident tones, the
Colonists' Association on every occasion. Truly a respectable and
impressive policy; but one which seems, at first sight, rather
difficult to achieve in a land where there are, so far, fewer than two
thousand five hundred whites and more than four million black
aboriginals. Can East Africa ever become a white man's country? Can
even the Highlands, with their cool and buoyant breezes and temperate,
unchanging climate, become a white man's country? Never, certainly, in
the sense that Canada, or, indeed, the United Kingdom, are white men's
countries--that is to say, countries inhabited wholly by white people
and subsisting upon an economic basis of white unskilled labour.

It is scarcely worth while even to imagine the Highlands of East
Africa denuded of their native inhabitants and occupied solely by
Europeans. Such an idea is utterly impossible. Whatever may be the
increase in the white population in the future, it is safe to say that
it will be far more than counter-balanced by the multiplication of the
natives, as they are guarded against famine and prevented from civil
war. But were such a solution possible, it would be almost the last
thing in the world desired by those who clamour for "a white man's
country." For observe it is not against the black aboriginal that the
prejudices and interests of the white settler or trader are arrayed.
The African, it is conceded, is welcome to stay in his own country. No
economic competition has yet arisen or is likely to arise between him
and the new-comers. Their spheres of activity lie wholly apart, for
the white man absolutely refuses to do black man's work; not for that
harsh toil does he exile himself from the land of his birth; while the
native could not, in his present state of development, displace the
white man in skilled employments and the superintendence and the
organization of industry--even if he would--and nothing is farther
from his ambitions.

It is the brown man who is the rival. The European has neither the
wish nor the power to constitute a white proletariat in countries like
East Africa. In his view the blacks should be the private soldiers of
the army, but the non-commissioned officers and the commanders must be
white. This should not be dismissed as a mere assertion of racial
arrogance. It is an obstinate fact. It is already a grave defect for a
community to found itself upon the manual labour of an inferior race,
and many are the complications and perils that spring therefrom. But
what of the second storey? If there is to be any kind of white society
dwelling together year after year within the standards of life and
comfort to which Europeans have universally been accustomed to aspire,
and largely to attain, this middle stage in the economic system must
provide that white society with the means of earning--as professional
men, as planters, merchants, traders, farmers, bankers, overseers,
contractors, builders, engineers, accountants, clerks--a living for
themselves and their families. And here strikes in the Asiatic. In
every single employment of this class, his power of subsisting upon a
few shillings a month, his industry, his thrift, his sharp business
aptitudes give him the economic superiority, and if economic
superiority is to be the final rule--as it has never been and never
will be in the history of the world--there is not a single employment
of this middle class, from which he will not, to a very large extent,
clear the white man, as surely and as remorselessly as the brown rat
extirpated the black from British soil.

Then what remains? What sort of social organizations shall we be
building up with so much thought and labour in these new lands under
the British Crown? There is already no white working class. There is
to be no white middle class. Room is left only for the capitalist
_pure and simple_--if one may so describe him. A vast army of African
labourers, officered by educated Indians or Chinese, and directed by a
few individuals of diverse nationalities employing cosmopolitan
capital--that is the nightmare which haunts the white population of
South Africa, and at which what there is of a white population in East
Africa is already shrieking vigorously.

Yet hear the other side. How stands the claim of the British Indian?
His rights as a human being, his rights as a British subject, are
equally engaged. It was the Sikh soldier who bore an honourable part
in the conquest and pacification of these East African countries. It
is the Indian trader who, penetrating and maintaining himself in all
sorts of places to which no white man would go or in which no white
man could earn a living, has more than any one else developed the early
beginnings of trade and opened up the first slender means of
communication. It was by Indian labour that the one vital railway on
which everything else depends was constructed. It is the Indian banker
who supplies perhaps the larger part of the capital yet available for
business and enterprise, and to whom the white settlers have not
hesitated to recur for financial aid. The Indian was here long before
the first British official. He may point to as many generations of
useful industry on the coast and inland as the white settlers--especially
the most recently-arrived contingents from South Africa (the loudest
against him of all)--can count years of residence. Is it possible for
any Government with a scrap of respect for honest dealing between man
and man, to embark upon a policy of deliberately squeezing out the
native of India from regions in which he has established himself under
every security of public faith? Most of all must we ask, is such a
policy possible to the Government which bears sway over three hundred
millions of our Indian Empire?

We are in presence of one of those apparently hopeless antagonisms of
interests which baffle and dispirit all who are concerned in their
adjustment. And these questions are not confined to East Africa or to
South Africa. A whole series of new problems has arisen, and will grow
graver and larger as the immediate history of the British Empire
unfolds. They erect themselves upon a field almost wholly unstudied,
and familiar only by the prejudices which in every direction obstruct
movement and view. The entry of the Asiatic as labourer, trader, and
capitalist into competition in industry and enterprise not only
_with_, but _in_, the Western world is a new fact of first importance.
Cheap, swift, easy means of communication, the establishment of peace
and order over land and sea, the ever-growing inter-dependence of all
men and all countries upon one another, have given wings to Asiatic
commercial ambition and rendered Asiatic manual labour fluid, as it
has never before been fluid since the beginning of things.

Unless these new elements in the economic life of mankind can be
scientifically and harmoniously controlled and assimilated, great and
novel dangers menace alike the Asiatic and the European he supplants.
On the one hand we see the possible exploitation under various
unhealthy conditions of immense masses of Asiatic labour, to the moral
injury of the employer and to the degradation and suffering of the
employed; on the other the overturn of the standards of living
laboriously achieved or long obstinately battled for among Europeans.
Superadded to these we must foresee the confusion of blood, of
manners, of morals, amounting, where operative upon any extensive
scale, almost to the disintegration of the existing order of society.
And behind--very close behind--lie the appeals to force, by mobs or
Empires, to decide in a brutal fashion the brutal question which of
two sets of irreconcilable interests shall prevail. It is not easy to
measure the degree of political instability that will be introduced
into international relations, when the subjects of a powerful
military and naval State are continually exposed to penal legislation
and open violence, and into private life when the white artisan is
invited to acquiesce in his own extinction, in virtue of laws which he
himself controls, by a competitor whom, he believes, he could strike
down with his hands.

Yet the Asiatic, and here I also include the African native, has
immense services to render and energies to contribute to the happiness
and material progress of the world. There are spacious lands whose
promise can never be realized, there are unnumbered harvests which can
never be garnered, without his active co-operation. There are roads
and railways and reservoirs which only he can make. There are mines
and forests which will slumber for ever without his aid. The mighty
continent of tropical Africa lies open to the colonizing and
organizing capacities of the East. All those new products which modern
industry insistently demands are offered in measureless abundance to
the West--if only we could solve the Sphinx's riddle in its newest
form.

And is it after all beyond our reach to provide, if not a perfect, at
any rate a practical answer? There ought to be no insuperable
difficulty, in the present state of political knowledge and social
organization, in assigning different spheres to the external activity
of different races. The Great Powers have partitioned Africa
territorially; is it beyond the wit of man to divide it economically?
The co-operation of many different kinds of men is needed for the
cultivation of such a noble estate. Is it impossible to regulate in
full and intricate detail the conditions under which that co-operation
shall take place? Here white men can live and thrive; there they
cannot. Here is a task for one, there the opportunity of another. The
world is big enough. [I write as the stream of the Nile bears me
between the immense spaces of beautiful, fertile, unpopulated country
that lie north of the Albert Lake.] There is plenty of room for all.
Why cannot we settle it fairly?

It must be noted that the question of Asiatic immigration presents
itself to the Imperial point of view in several quite distinct forms.
There are, first of all, colonies which stand on the basis of a white
proletariat, and whose inhabitants, rich and poor, employers and
employed, are all Europeans. The right of such colonies to forbid the
entry of large numbers of Asiatics, and to preserve themselves from
the racial chaos and economic disturbance inseparable from such
immigration, cannot be denied, although its exercise ought no doubt to
be governed by various prudential and other considerations. But these
colonies differ markedly from those where the mass of the population
is not white, but black. Again, there are colonies which possess
responsible government, and where the number of the white middle-class
inhabitants very largely exceeds the Asiatic community. It is evident
that these stand in a wholly different position from that of places
like the tropical Protectorates of East and West Africa.

Indeed, it may be contended that the very fact that the native of
British India will undoubtedly, wisely or unwisely, rightly or
wrongly, be refused access in any large numbers to several South
African and all Australian Colonies by their respective Governments,
makes it all the more desirable that the Imperial Government should
afford in the tropical Protectorates outlet and scope to the
enterprise and colonizing capacity of Hindustan. And, as I have
written, these countries are big enough for all. There is no reason
why those Highland areas which promise the white man a home and a
career, and where alone he can live in comfort, should not, as a
matter of practical administration, be in the main reserved for him.
Nor, on the other hand, why the Asiatic, if only he does not teach the
African natives evil ways--a contingency which must not be
forgotten--should not be encouraged to trade and settle as he will in
the enormous regions of tropical fertility to which he is naturally
adapted. Somewhere in this direction--I do not wish to dogmatize--the
immediate course of sound policy would seem to lie, and, guided by the
lights of science and tolerance, we may easily find it.

But the course of these reflections has carried me a good deal farther
than the politics of Nairobi would seem to justify; and I hasten to
return to the question with which I started: "Can the Highlands of
East Africa be made 'a white man's country'?" Let us examine this by a
fresh process. As one rides or marches through the valleys and across
the wide plateaux of these uplands, braced by their delicious air,
listening to the music of their streams, and feasting the eye upon
their natural wealth and beauty, a sense of bewilderment overcomes the
mind. How is it they have never become the home of some superior race,
prosperous, healthy, and free? Why is it that, now a railway has
opened the door and so much has been published about them, there has
not been one furious river of immigration from the cramped and
insanitary jungle-slums of Europe? Why, most of all, are those who
have come--the pioneers, the men of energy and adventure, of large
ambitions and strong hands--why are they in so many cases only just
keeping their heads above water? Why should complaint and discontent
and positive discouragement be so general among this limited class?

I have always experienced a feeling of devout thankfulness never to
have possessed a square yard of that perverse commodity called "land."
But I will confess that, travelling in the East African Highlands for
the first time in my life, I have learned what the sensation of
land-hunger is like. We may repress, but we cannot escape, the desire
to peg out one of these fair and wide estates, with all the rewards
they offer to industry and inventiveness in the open air. Yet all
around are men possessing thousands of fertile acres, with mountains
and rivers and shady trees, acquired for little or nothing, all
struggling, all fretful, nervous, high-strung, many disappointed, some
despairing, some smashed.

What are the true lineaments concealed behind the veil of boundless
promise in which this land is shrouded? Are they not stamped with
mockery? Is not the eye that regards you fierce as well as bright?
"When I first saw this country," said a colonist to me, "I fell in
love with it. I had seen all the best of Australia. I had prospered in
New Zealand. I knew South Africa. I thought at last I had struck
'God's own country.' I wrote letters to all my friends urging them to
come. I wrote a series of articles in the newspapers praising the
splendours of its scenery and the excellence of its climate. Before
the last of the articles appeared my capital was nearly expended, my
fences had been trampled down by troops of zebra, my imported stock
had perished, my title-deeds were still blocked in the Land Office,
and I myself had nearly died of a malignant fever. Since then I have
left others to extol the glories of East Africa."

These second thoughts err, no doubt, as much on the side of
extravagant depression as the first impression was over-sanguine. But
that there is a rude reverse to the East African medal is a fact which
cannot be disputed, and which ought not, in the interests either of
the immigrant or of the country to be concealed. It is still quite
unproved that a European can make even the Highlands of East Africa
his permanent home--that is to say, that he can live there without
sensible degeneration for fifteen or twenty years at a stretch without
ever returning to the temperate zones; still less that he can breed
and rear families through several generations. The exhilaration of the
air must not lead people to forget that an altitude of from five to
eight thousand feet above the sea-level is an unusual condition,
producing results, not yet ascertained, upon the nervous system, the
brain, and the heart. Its coolness can never remove the fact that we
are upon the Equator. Although the skies look so familiar and kindly
with their white fleecy clouds and passing showers, the direct ray of
the sun--almost vertical at all seasons of the year--strikes down on
man and beast alike, and woe to the white man whom he finds
uncovered! Although sheep and oxen multiply so rapidly, although
crossing them with imported stock produces in each generation
astonishing improvements in quality, they are subject to many perils
little understood and often fatal. And if the landscape recalls to the
pensive traveller the peaceful beauties of gentler climes at home, let
him remember that it nurses with blithe fecundity poisonous reptiles,
and pest-spreading insects, and terrible beasts of prey.

There is no reason, however, for doubting that modern science
possesses, or will discover, the means of eradicating or mitigating
many of these evils. As the development of the country and the
scientific investigation of tropical agriculture and tropical disease
proceed, the difficulties which beset the early settler will gradually
be removed. He will learn how to clothe and house himself; what to
plant, what to breed, and what to avoid. The spread of East Coast
fever, now carried by the ticks from one animal to another, and
carried by the infected animals from one district to another, will be
arrested, and controlled by a proper system of wire-fencing and
quarantine. Remedies will be discovered against the various diseases
which attack sheep or horses. Zebra, rhinoceros, buffalo, and other
picturesque and fascinating nuisances will be driven from or
exterminated within the settled areas, and confined to the ample
reserves of uninhabited land. The slow but steady growth of a white
population will create a market for local agricultural produce. The
powerfully equipped Scientific Departments, the Veterinary and
Forestry Departments, and the Department of Agriculture newly
established on a considerable scale, will be able to guide and assist
the enterprise of the new-comer, and save him from repeating the
ill-starred experiments of the pioneer. Roads will improve, and
railways and mono-rail tramways will extend. Step by step life and the
means of living will become easier and more secure. Still it will not
be proved that the pure-bred European can rear his children under the
Equatorial sun and at an elevation of more than six thousand feet; and
till that is proved "the white man's country" will remain a white
man's dream.

I have written of Europeans and Asiatics. What of the African? About
four millions of these dark folk are comprised within the districts
of the East Africa Protectorate which are actually or partially
administered. Many more lie beyond those wide and advancing
boundaries. What is to be their part in shaping the future of their
country? It is, after all, _their_ Africa. What are they going to do
for it, and what is it going to do for them? "The natives," says the
planter, "evince a great reluctance to work, especially to work
regularly." "They must be made to work," say others. "Made to work for
whom?" we innocently ask. "For us, of course," is the ready answer;
"what did you think we meant?" And here we run into another herd of
rhinoceros questions--awkward, thick-skinned, and horned, with a short
sight, an evil temper, and a tendency to rush blindly up wind upon any
alarm. Is the native idle? Does he not keep himself and pay his taxes?
Or does he loll at his ease while his three or four wives till the
soil, bear the burden, and earn his living? And if idle, has he a
right to remain idle--a naked and unconscious philosopher, living "the
simple life," without cares or wants,--a gentleman of leisure in a
panting world? Is that to be the last word? Is civilization to say
definitely that when the African native has kept himself, or made his
women keep him, she has no further claim upon him? The white man shall
do the rest. He shall preserve the peace, that the tribes may prosper
and multiply. His watchful and foreseeing eye, strained and weary with
the effort, shall still make provision against famine; his science,
though he himself goes down in the struggle, shall grapple with
pestilence and cure disease. Far from his home or from his family he
shall hew the trees and dig the wells, shall dam the streams and build
the roads, with anxious heart and "in the sweat of his brow,"
according to the curse laid upon the child of many wants, while the
child of few wants watches him from the shade and thinks him mad.

And to compare the life and lot of the African aboriginal--secure in
his abyss of contented degradation, rich in that he lacks everything
and wants nothing--with the long nightmare of worry and privation, of
dirt and gloom and squalour, lit only by gleams of torturing knowledge
and tantalizing hope, which constitutes the lives of so many poor
people in England and Scotland, is to feel the ground tremble under
foot. "It would never do to have a lot of 'mean whites' in this
country," I heard one day a gentleman say. "It would destroy the
respect of the native for the white man, if he saw what miserable
people we have got at home." So here, at any rate, the boot is on the
other leg, and Civilization is ashamed of her arrangements in the
presence of a savage, embarrassed lest he should see what lies behind
the gold and purple robe of State, and begin to suspect that the
all-powerful white man is a fraud. But this is an irrelevancy!

I am clearly of opinion that no man has a right to be idle, whoever he
be or wherever he lives. He is bound to go forward and take an honest
share in the general work of the world. And I do not except the
African native. To a very much larger extent than is often recognized
by some who discuss these questions, the natives are industrious,
willing to learn, and capable of being led forward. Live for a few
weeks, as I have done, in close association with the disciplined
soldiers of the King's African Rifles, or with the smart sailors of
the Uganda Marine, and it seems wonderful to contrast them with the
population from which they have emerged. How strong, how good-natured,
how clever they are! How proud their white officers are of them! What
pains they take to please the travellers whom they escort; how frankly
they are delighted by a word of praise or thanks! Just and honourable
discipline, careful education, sympathetic comprehension, are all that
is needed to bring a very large proportion of the native tribes of
East Africa to a far higher social level than that at which they now
stand. And why should men only be taught to be soldiers? Is war always
to have the best of everything? Cannot peaceful industry be made as
attractive, be as highly organized, as carefully studied as the
combined use of deadly weapons? "Why," as Ruskin asks, "cannot men
take pride in _building_ villages instead of only _carrying_ them?"

I wonder why my pen slips off into these labyrinths, when all I set
out to do was to give some general idea of politics at Nairobi? But in
truth the problems of East Africa are the problems of the world. We
see the social, racial, and economic stresses which rack modern
society already at work here, but in miniature; and if we choose to
study the model when the whole engine is at hand, it is because on the
smaller scale we can see more clearly, and because in East Africa and
Uganda the future is still uncompromised. The British Government has
it in its hands to shape the development and destiny of these new
countries and their varied peoples with an authority and from an
elevation far superior to that with which Cabinets can cope with the
giant tangles at home. And the fact stirs the mind. But by this time
the reader will have had as much of East African politics as I had
when, after three days of deputations and disputations, the train
steamed out of Nairobi to take us to the Great Lake and beyond.



CHAPTER IV

THE GREAT LAKE


We are off again on the Uganda Railway. Interesting and beautiful as
is the country through which the line passes from Mombasa to Nairobi,
it is surpassed by the magnificent scenery of the journey to the Lake.
First in order and in rank is the Great Rift. This curious fault in
the earth's surface, which geologists trace across the four thousand
miles of land and sea which separate us from Palestine, and onward
still to the southern end of Lake Tanganyika, is traversed by the
Uganda Railway at one of its most remarkable stages. For sixty miles
the Highland plateau has been rising steadily by a succession of
wooded undulations to a level of over six thousand feet. Now it falls
abruptly, almost precipitously, more than two thousand feet. This
frowning wall of rock and forest, which extends straight as a ruler
farther than eye can see, is the Kikuyu Escarpment. As the train
claws its way downwards by slant and zigzag along its face, a majestic
panorama breaks upon the view. Far below, bathed in sunshine,
stretching away to misty purple horizons, lie the broad expanses of
the Rift Valley. Its level surface is broken by strangely moulded
volcanic hills and shattered craters. The opposite mountain wall looms
up in the far distance, brown and blue. We gaze down upon the plain as
from a balloon, mistaking forests for patches of green grass, and
mighty trees for thorn-scrub.

  [Illustration: THE RIFT VALLEY FROM THE KIKUYU ESCARPMENT.]

Another hour or so and Lake Naivasha comes into view. This sheet of
water is about ten miles square, and the rim of a submerged crater
makes an odd, crescent-shaped island in its midst. Its brackish waters
repel the inhabitants, but afford shelter to numberless wild-fowl and
many hippopotami. At Naivasha there is the Government stock farm. One
may see in their various flocks the native sheep, the half-bred
English, the three-quarter-bred, etc. The improvement is amazing. The
native sheep is a hairy animal, looking to the unpractised eye more
like a goat than a sheep. Crossed with Sussex or Australian blood,
his descendant is transformed into a woolled beast of familiar
aspect. At the next cross the progeny is almost indistinguishable from
the pure-bred English in appearance, but better adapted to the African
sun and climate. It is the same with cattle. In the first generation
the hump of the African ox vanishes. In the second he emerges a
respectable British Shorthorn. The object of this farm is twofold:
first, to find the type best adapted to local conditions; secondly, to
supply the settlers and the natives with a steadily broadening
fountain of good blood by which their flocks and herds may be trebled
and quadrupled in value. The enthusiasm and zeal of those in charge of
this work were refreshing. At present, however, their operations are
restricted by insufficient funds and by the precautions which must be
taken against East Coast fever. The first of these impediments may be
removed; the second is less tractable.

East Coast fever came across the German border a year and a half ago,
and since then, in spite of such preventive measures as our scanty
means allow, it has been gradually and slowly spreading through the
Protectorate. A diseased cow may take thirty days to die. In the
meantime wherever it goes the swarming ticks are infected. They hold
their poison for a year. If, during that time, other cattle pass over
the ground the ticks fasten upon them and inoculate them with the
sickness. And each new victim wanders off to spread the curse to new
ticks, who cast it back to new cattle, and so on till the end of the
story. At each point fresh areas of ground become distempered, and
fresh cows begin to drop off one by one, leaving their evil
inheritance to the ravening insects.

  [Illustration: GOVERNMENT FARM AT NAIVASHA.]

So here we see the two principles of Nature at work
simultaneously--the blood-stock rams and bulls spreading their
healthy, fruitful life in ever-widening circles through the land; the
infected cattle carrying their message of death in all directions.
Every point that either attains, becomes at once a new centre of
vitality or dissolution. Both processes march deliberately forward to
limitless multiplications. The native is helpless in the face of
advancing ruin. Left to itself the evil would assuredly devour the
good, till the cattle were exterminated and the sickness starved to
death for lack of prey. But at this moment the white biped with
faculties of ratiocination intervenes from the tin-roofed Department
of Agriculture; discovers, for instance, that ground may be purified
by putting upon it sheep, into whom the ticks discharge their poison
harmlessly and are thereafter purged; erects hundreds of miles of wire
fencing to cut the country up into compartments, as a warship is
divided by bulkheads; encloses infected areas; destroys suspected
animals; searches methodically and ever more hopefully for
prophylactics and remedies; with one hand arrests the curse, with the
other speeds the blessing, and in so doing is surely discharging
rather an important function from a good many points of view.

My friends and I took four days in travelling to the Victoria Nyanza,
although the distance can be covered in twenty-four hours; for we
turned aside every day for sport or business, while our train waited
obligingly in a siding. Of the latter, indeed, there was no lack, for
the Governor and the heads of several departments were in the train,
and we laboured faithfully together at many prickly things. Then at
the stations came farmers, surveyors, and others, with words of
welcome or complaint, and a deputation of Boer settlers with many
expressions of loyalty to the Crown, and the chiefs of the Lumbwa and
Nandi tribes, with a crowd of warriors, and their Laibon with his four
wives, all in a row, till I was as tired of making "brief and
appropriate" speeches as my companions must have been of hearing them.

  [Illustration: THE LAIBON'S WIVES.]

  [Illustration: RAILHEAD AT KISUMU.]

But Elmenteita was all holiday. Lord Delamere met us at the station
with Cape carts, ponies, and hog-spears, and we drove off in search of
pig over an enormous plain thickly peopled with antelope and gazelle.
I cannot pretend to the experience of both countries necessary to
compare the merits of pig-sticking in India and in East Africa in
respect of the fighting qualities of the animal, nor the ground over
which he is pursued. But I should think the most accomplished member
of the Meerut Tent Club would admit that the courage and ferocity of
the African wart-hog, and the extreme roughness of the country, heaped
as it is with boulders and pitted with deep ant-bear holes concealed
by high grass, make pig-sticking in East Africa a sport which would
well deserve his serious and appreciative attention. At present it is
in its infancy, and very few even of the officers of the King's
African Rifles can boast the proficiency of the Indian expert.
But everything in East Africa is at its first page; and besides,
the wart-hog is, at present at any rate, regarded as dangerous
vermin who does incredible damage to native plantations, and whose
destruction--by any method, even the most difficult--is useful as well
as exciting.

Our first pig was a fine fellow, who galloped off with his tail
straight up in the air and his tusks gleaming mischievously, and
afforded a run of nearly three miles before he was killed. The risk of
the sport consists in this--that the pig cannot be overtaken and
effectively speared except by a horse absolutely at full gallop. The
ground is so trappy that one hardly cares to take one's eyes off it
for a moment. Yet during at least a hundred yards at a time the whole
attention of the rider must be riveted on the pig, within a few yards
of whom he is riding, and who may be expected to charge at any second.
A fall at such a climax is necessarily very dangerous, as the wart-hog
would certainly attack the unhorsed cavalier; yet no one can avoid the
chance. I do not know whether Anglo-India will shudder, but I should
certainly recommend the intending hunter in East Africa to strap a
revolver on his thigh in case of accidents. "You do not want it
often," as the American observed; "but when you do, you want it
badly."

We passed a jolly morning riding after these brutes and shooting a few
_Gazella Granti_ and _Gazella Thomsoni_, or "Grants" and "Tommies" as
they are familiarly called, and in looking for eland in the intervals.
At the end of Lake Elmenteita, a beautiful sheet of water, unhappily
brackish, a feast had been prepared, to which a number of gentlemen
from Lord Delamere's estates and the surrounding farms had been
bidden. A long array of flocks and herds was marshalled on both sides
of the track in due order, native-bred, half-bred, three-quarter-bred,
pure. Through these insignia of patriarchal wealth, which would have
excited the keenest interest in any traveller less hungry and more
instructed in such matters than I, we made our way to an excellent
luncheon, which, be sure, was not unaccompanied by the usual
discussion on East African politics.

It was late in the afternoon when we started back to the train, which
lay eight miles off in a siding. On the way we fell in with a most
fierce and monstrous pig, who led us a nice dance through bush and
grass and boulder. As he emerged into a patch of comparatively smooth,
open ground I made up my mind to spear him, urged my pony to her top
speed, and was just considering how best to do the deed when, without
the slightest provocation, or, at any rate, before he had been even
pricked, the pig turned sharp round and sprang at me, as if he were a
leopard. Luckily, my spear got in the way, and with a solid jar, which
made my arm stiff for a week, drove deep into his head and neck before
it broke, so that he was glad to sheer off with eighteen inches of it
sticking in him, and after a dash at my companion he took refuge in a
deep hole, from which no inducements or insults could draw him.

Later we rode and killed another pig and chased a fourth
unsuccessfully, and it was nearly dark before the railway was reached.
As I was getting into my carriage they calmly told me that _six lions_
had walked across the line a quarter of a mile away and a quarter of
an hour before. A settler who had been to lunch at Elmenteita was
loading a hastily-borrowed revolver before starting on his homeward
ride to Nakuru, and as I gave him some cartridges, I reflected that,
whatever may be the shortcomings of East Africa, the absence of an
interesting and varied fauna is certainly not among them.

Next day our train is climbing through dense and beautiful forests to
the summit of the Mau Escarpment. Admiration of the wealth and
splendour of the leafy kingdom is mingled with something very like awe
at its aggressive fertility. The great trees overhang the line. The
creepers trail down the cuttings, robing the red soil with cloaks of
flowers and foliage. The embankments are already covered. Every
clearing is densely overgrown with sinuous plants. But for the
ceaseless care with which the whole line is scraped and weeded it
would soon become impassable. As it is, the long fingers of the
encroaching forest are everywhere stretching out enviously towards the
bright metals. Neglect the Uganda Railway for a year, and it would
take an expedition to discover where it had run.

At Nyoro station nearly nine hundred natives were at work cutting
timber for the railway, which is entirely dependent on wood fuel. The
contractor in charge, a young English gentleman, who was described to
me as being a model employer of native labour in Government contracts,
had taken the trouble to cut a path through the forest across a loop
of the line in order that I might see what it was like inside. Through
this leafy tunnel, about a mile and a half long, we all accordingly
dived. There was nothing sinister in the aspect of this forest, for
all its density and confusion. The great giants towered up
magnificently to a hundred and fifty feet. Then came the ordinary
forest trees, much more thickly clustered. Below this again was a
layer of scrub and bushes; and under, around, and among the whole
flowed a vast sea of convolvulus-looking creeper. Through all this
four-fold veil the sunlight struggled down every twenty yards or so in
gleaming chequers of green and gold.

On the way the method of fuel-cutting is explained. So far as the
labourer is concerned, it is an elaborate system of piece-work, very
accurately and fairly adjusted, and, as is so often the case where the
white employer takes personal care of his men, there appeared to be no
difficulty in finding any number of natives. But they are a plaguey
company. Few will stay for more than a month or two, however
satisfied they may be with their work and its rewards; and just as
they begin to get skilful, off they go to their villages to cultivate
their gardens and their families, promising to come back another year,
or after the harvest, or at some other remote and indefinite date. And
meanwhile the railway must have its fuel every day and day after day,
with the remorseless monotony of the industrial machine.

But what a way to cut fuel! A floating population of clumsy barbarians
pecking at the trees with native choppers more like a toy hoe than an
axe, and carrying their loads when completed a quarter of a mile on
their heads to the wood-stack, while the forest laughs at the
feebleness of man. I made a calculation. Each of the nine hundred
natives employed costs on the whole six pounds a year. The price of a
steam tree-felling plant, with a mile of mono-rail tram complete, is
about five hundred pounds. The interest and sinking fund on this
capital outlay represent the wages of four natives, to which must be
added the salary of a competent white engineer, equal to the wage of
forty natives, and the working expenses and depreciation roughly
estimated at the wage of twenty natives more; in all the wage of
sixty-five natives. Such a plant, able to cut trees six feet in
diameter through in four or five minutes, to cut timber as well as
fuel, to saw it into the proper lengths for every purpose with the
utmost rapidity, and to transport it by whole truck-loads when sawn to
the railway siding, would accomplish a week's work of the sixty-five
natives it replaced in a single day, and effect a sevenfold
multiplication of power. It is no good trying to lay hold of Tropical
Africa with naked fingers. Civilization must be armed with machinery
if she is to subdue these wild regions to her authority. Iron roads,
not jogging porters; tireless engines, not weary men; cheap power, not
cheap labour; steam and skill, not sweat and fumbling: there lies the
only way to tame the jungle--more jungles than one.

On this we talked--or at least I talked--while we scrambled across the
stumps of fallen trees or waded in an emerald twilight from one
sunbeam to another across the creeper flood. It is of vital importance
that these forests should not be laid waste by reckless and
improvident hands. It is not less important that the Uganda Railway
should have cheap fuel. For a long time fuel alone was the object, but
now that an elaborate Forestry Department has been established on the
most scientific lines, there is a danger that forestry will be the
only object, and the cost of fuel so raised by regulations, admirable
in themselves, that the economy of the Uganda Railway may be impaired.
And let us never forget that the Uganda Railway is the driving-wheel
of the whole concern. What is needed here, as elsewhere, is a
harmonious compromise between opposite and conflicting interests. That
is all.

Presently our guide began to tell us of the strange creatures who live
in the forest, and are sometimes seen quite close by the
fuel-cutters--very rare antelope, enormous buffaloes, and astonishing
birds and butterflies beyond imagination. He had managed to make
friends with the Wandorobo--a tribe of forest-dwelling natives who
live plunged in these impenetrable shades, who are so shy that, if
once a stranger does but set eye upon their village, forthwith they
abandon it; yet who are at the same time so teased by curiosity that
they cannot resist peeping, peeping ever nearer and nearer to the
fuel-cutters, until one day commercial relations are established on
the basis of sugar for skins. I was just becoming interested in these
wood-squirrels when we broke into the hot blaze of the noonday sun
beating down on the polished railway track, and had to climb up on to
our cowcatcher in order to hurry on to a real steam saw-mill ten miles
farther up the line.

As the journey advances, the train mounts steadily higher and the
aspect of the country changes. The forest, which has hitherto lapped
the line closely on every side, now makes fair division with rolling
hills of grass. And there is this extraordinary feature about it:
where the forest areas end, they end abruptly. There is no ragged belt
of trees less thickly grown; no transition. Smooth slopes of grass run
up to the very edge of virgin forest, just as in England the meadow
runs to the edge of the covert. The effect is to make the landscape
surprisingly homelike. It is like travelling through a series of
gigantic parks, where the hand of man has for hundreds of years
decided exactly where trees shall grow and where they shall not.

  [Illustration: KAVIRONDO WARRIORS AT KISUMU.]

Towards the west great plains are visible, in misty apparition,
through rifts in the plateau. At length we arrive at the summit of the
escarpment, and stop for luncheon by an indicator, which registers
eight thousand two hundred and ninety feet above the sea-level.
Southward rises a hill perhaps five hundred feet above us, from the
top of which the waters of the Great Lake can be seen, like the waters
of a distant ocean.

Geographically we have now reached the culminating point in this long
journey. Henceforward, to find our way home, we have only to descend,
guided by the force of gravity, first swiftly along the railroad to
the Victoria Lake, then sedately with the stream of the Nile to the
Mediterranean. The lofty table-lands of East Africa, with their crisp,
chill air and English aspect, must now be left behind--not without
many regrets--and the traveller will alight upon a middle world spread
at a level of about four thousand feet, in which an entirely different
order of conditions prevails. Downward then at thirty miles an hour,
along the side of spacious valleys, around the shoulders of the hills,
across thin-spun iron bridges, through whose girders one glances down
at torrents flashing far below, onward to the Lake. Within an hour the
temperature has sensibly altered. An overcoat is no longer necessary,
even if you ride in front of the engine. In two hours the climate is
warm and damp with the steamy heat of the Tropics. The freshness has
gone out of the air, and in its place is that sense of sultry
oppression which precedes the thunderstorms so common at this season
of the year.

In order to avoid a hot night on the Lake shore we stopped at Fort
Ternan, a placeless name, some forty miles from Kisumu, and rather
more than a thousand feet above it. And here the storm which had been
brooding all the afternoon over the western face of the Mau Escarpment
burst upon us. Even after ten months on the South African veldt I was
astonished by its fury. For nearly two hours the thunder crashed and
roared in tremendous peals--

     "Like water flung from some high crag,
     The lightning fell with never a jag,
         A river steep and wide,"

while the rain dashed down in sheets of water, one single gust of
which would drench you to the skin. But our train is an effective
shelter. We dine comfortably in the midst of the tempest, and
afterwards in a cooler atmosphere look up towards repentant stars and
a tear-stained sky.

At dawn we are at Kisumu. There is a stir of men, a crowded platform,
soldiers in order, groups of Indian traders, hundreds of Kavirondo
natives in their fullest undress, bunting, and introductions. Large
white steamers lie alongside the jetty, and beyond these the waters of
the Lake gleam their broad welcome to the sunrise. Kisumu, or Port
Florence as it is sometimes called, is the western terminus of the
Uganda Railway and the chief port on Lake Victoria. It possesses what
I am told is the highest dockyard in the world, and is the place at
which all the steamers now plying on the Lake have been put together.
One eight-hundred-ton cargo boat is actually in process of
construction, and will be launched in a few months' time to meet the
growing traffic of the Nyanza. The station itself is pretty; its trim
houses and shady trees, backed against the hills, overlook the wide
expanse of Kavirondo Bay and its encircling promontories. Unluckily,
it is unhealthy, for the climate is depressing and the sewage
accumulates in the tideless and shallow inlet. Some day one of two
things will happen: either the waters of the Victoria Nyanza will be
raised by a dam across the Ripon Falls and Kavirondo Bay will be
proportionately deepened and cleansed, or the railway will be
deflected and prolonged to its natural terminus on the deep waters of
the lake at Port Victoria.

The Kavirondo tribe, the greatest in this part of the country, had
organized an imposing demonstration. In dense array they lined the
road from the station to the Commissioner's house, and our party
walked through their midst in a perfect hubbub of horns and drums and
shrill salutations. All the warriors carried their spears, shields,
and war-paint, and most of them wore splendid plumes of ostrich
feathers. The Kavirondo are naked and unashamed. Both sexes are
accustomed to walk about in the primitive simplicity of Nature. Their
nudity is based not upon mere ignorance but reasoned policy. They have
a very strong prejudice against the wearing of clothes, which they
declare lead to immorality; and no Kavirondo woman can attire herself
even in the most exiguous raiment without sullying her reputation.
They are said to be the most moral of all the tribes dwelling on the
Lake shore. It is a pity that Herr Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, of the
University of Weissnichtwo, did not meet them in his rugged
wanderings, for they would surely have enabled him to add another page
to his monumental work on the functions of the tailor.

  [Illustration: NANDI AND KAVIRONDO WARRIORS AT KISUMU.]

I wake up the next morning to find myself afloat on a magnificent
ship. Its long and spacious decks are as snowy as those of a pleasure
yacht. It is equipped with baths, electric light, and all modern
necessities. There is an excellent table, also a well-selected
library. Smart bluejackets--with ebon faces--are polishing the
brasswork; dapper, white-clad British naval officers pace the bridge.
We are steaming ten miles an hour across an immense sea of fresh water
as big as Scotland, and uplifted higher than the summit of Ben Nevis.
At times we are in a complete circle of lake and sky, without a sign
of land. At others we skirt lofty coasts covered with forest and
crowned with distant blue-brown mountains, or thread our course
between a multitude of beautiful islands. The air is cool and fresh,
the scenery splendid. We might be yachting off the coast of Cornwall
in July. We are upon the Equator, in the heart of Africa, and crossing
the Victoria Nyanza, four thousand feet above the sea!



CHAPTER V

THE KINGDOM OF UGANDA


The East Africa Protectorate is a country of the highest interest to
the colonist, the traveller, or the sportsman. But the Kingdom of
Uganda is a fairy tale. You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk,
and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is
different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and,
most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be
seen in the whole range of Africa. Instead of the breezy uplands we
enter a tropical garden. In the place of naked, painted savages,
clashing their spears and gibbering in chorus to their tribal chiefs,
a complete and elaborate polity is presented. Under a dynastic King,
with a Parliament, and a powerful feudal system, an amiable, clothed,
polite, and intelligent race dwell together in an organized monarchy
upon the rich domain between the Victoria and Albert Lakes. More
than two hundred thousand natives are able to read and write. More
than one hundred thousand have embraced the Christian faith. There is
a Court, there are Regents and Ministers and nobles, there is a
regular system of native law and tribunals; there is discipline, there
is industry, there is culture, there is peace. In fact, I ask myself
whether there is any other spot in the whole earth where the dreams
and hopes of the negrophile, so often mocked by results and stubborn
facts, have ever attained such a happy realization.

  [Illustration: KISUMU.]

Three separate influences, each of them powerful and benevolent,
exercise control over the mass of the Baganda nation. First, the
Imperial authority, secular, scientific, disinterested, irresistible;
secondly, a native Government and feudal aristocracy, corrected of
their abuses, yet preserving their vitality; and thirdly, missionary
enterprise on an almost unequalled scale. Under the shelter of the
British Flag, safe from external menace or internal broil, the
child-King grows to a temperate and instructed maturity. Surrounded by
his officers of State, he presides at the meetings of his council and
Parliament, or worships in the huge thatched cathedral which has been
reared on Namirembe Hill. Fortified in their rights, but restrained
from tyrannical excess, and guided by an outside power, his
feudatories exercise their proper functions. The people, relieved from
the severities and confusions of times not long ago, are apt to learn
and willing to obey. And among them with patient energy toils a large
body of devoted Christian men of different nations, of different
Churches, but of a common charity, tending their spiritual needs,
enlarging their social and moral conceptions, and advancing their
education year by year.

An elegance of manners springing from a naïve simplicity of character
pervades all classes. An elaborate ritual of friendly salutations
relieves the monotony of the wayfarer's journey. Submission without
servility or loss of self-respect is accorded to constituted
authority. The natives evince an eagerness to acquire knowledge and a
very high observant and imitative faculty. And then Uganda is from end
to end one beautiful garden, where the staple food of the people grows
almost without labour, and where almost everything else can be grown
better and easier than anywhere else. The planter from the best
islands in the West Indies is astonished at the richness of the soil.
Cotton grows everywhere. Rubber, fibre, hemp, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee,
tea, coca, vanilla, oranges, lemons, pineapples are natural or thrive
on introduction. As for our English garden products, brought in
contact with the surface of Uganda they simply give one wild bound of
efflorescence or fruition and break their hearts for joy. Does it not
sound a paradise on earth? Approach and consider it more closely.

The good ship _Clement Hill_, named after a well-known African
explorer, has carried us smoothly and prosperously across the northern
corner of the Victoria Nyanza, and reaches the pier of Entebbe as the
afternoon draws towards its close. The first impression that strikes
the eye of the visitor fresh from Kavirondo is the spectacle of
hundreds of natives all dressed in long clean white garments which
they wear with dignity and ease. At the landing-place a sort of
pavilion has been erected, and here come deputations from the Chamber
of Commerce--a limited body of Europeans--from the Goanese community,
and from the numerous Indian colony of merchants. A tonga drawn by
two mules takes me to Government House, and from a wide
mosquito-proof veranda I am able to survey a truly delightful
prospect. The most beautiful plants and trees grow in profusion on all
sides. Beyond a blaze of violet, purple, yellow, and crimson blossoms,
and an expanse of level green lawns, the great blue lake lies in all
its beauty. The hills and islands on the horizon are just beginning to
flush to the sunset. The air is soft and cool. Except that the picture
actually looks more English in its character, one would imagine it was
the Riviera. It must be too good to be true.

It _is_ too good to be true. One can hardly believe that such an
attractive spot can be cursed with malignant attributes. Yet what is
true of the East Africa Protectorate is even more true of Uganda. The
contrast between appearance and reality is more striking and more
harsh. Behind its glittering mask Entebbe wears a sinister aspect.
These smiling islands which adorn and diversify the scenery of the
lake supported a few years ago a large population. To-day they are
desolate. Every white man seems to feel a sense of undefinable
oppression. A cut will not heal; a scratch festers. In the third
year of residence even a small wound becomes a running sore. One day a
man feels perfectly well; the next, for no apparent cause, he is
prostrate with malaria, and with malaria of a peculiarly persistent
kind, turning often in the third or fourth attack to blackwater fever.
In the small European community at Entebbe there have been quite
recently two suicides. Whether, as I have suggested in East Africa, it
be the altitude, or the downward ray of the Equatorial sun, or the
insects, or some more subtle cause, there seems to be a solemn veto
placed upon the white man's permanent residence in these beautiful
abodes.

  [Illustration: GOVERNMENT HOUSE, ENTEBBE.]

There are many who advocate the abandonment of Entebbe as the
administrative capital and the restoration of the seat of Government
to Kampala. But the expense of transferring public offices and
buildings lately erected to another site is altogether beyond the
slender resources and not among the most urgent needs of the Uganda
Protectorate. Great improvements have been effected recently in the
sanitation of Entebbe. The bush and trees, which added so greatly to
its picturesque appearance, have been ruthlessly cut down; and with
them, _mirabile dictu_, have vanished the mosquito and the
sleeping-sickness tsetse-fly. Half a mile away on either side of the
settlement are groves which it might easily be death to enter; but the
inhabited area is now quite clear.

Besides, the general unhealthiness of the country so far as the
European is concerned is not local to Entebbe. It is widely spread in
slightly different degrees throughout the whole of Uganda; and Kampala
is certainly not exempt. Finally, there is a reason of a different
character which ought to impose a final bar on any return of the
Imperial Government to the native city. Uganda is a native state. Much
of our success in dealing with its population arises from the fact
that we work through and by the native Government. And that Government
could not fail to lose much, if not all, of its separate and natural
identity if it were overwhelmed by the immediate proximity of the
supreme Administration.

  [Illustration: UGANDA
    Founded by permission of the War Office on the Map of Africa
    No 1539.]

For a new station in an almost unknown land, Entebbe certainly
presents many remarkable evidences of progress. The slopes of the lake
shore are covered with pretty villas, each standing in its own
luxuriant garden. There is an excellent golf course, and a very
bright and pleasant society. Guardian over all this stands the Sikh.
There are two companies of these soldiers, one at Entebbe and the
other at Kampala, who, being entirely immune to local influences of
all kinds, constitute what Mr. Gladstone used to call the "motor
muscle" of Imperial authority. I have always admired the Sikh in
India, both in his cantonments and in the field. But somehow his
graceful military figure and grave countenance under the turban as he
stands erect beside his rifle on guard over British interests six
thousand miles from the Punjab, impresses the eye and the imagination
with an added force. He is a picked volunteer from all the Sikh
regiments, who delights in Uganda, thrives under its, to him, milder
sun, lives on nothing, saves his doubled pay, and returns to India
enriched and proud of his service across the sea. If at any time
considerations of expense, or the desire to obtain a complete
homogeneity in the military forces of the Protectorate, should lead to
the disbandment or withdrawal of these two companies, those who take
the decision will have incurred a responsibility which few would care
to share with them.

So far as human force is concerned, the British power in these regions
is at present beyond challenge. No man can withstand it. But a new
opponent has appeared and will not be denied. Uganda is defended by
its insects. It would even seem that the arrival of the white man and
the increased movement and activity which his presence has engendered
have awakened these formidable atoms to a realization of their powers
of evil. The dreaded _Spirillum_ tick has begun to infest the roads
like a tiny footpad, and scarcely any precautions avail with certainty
against him. This tick is a dirty, drab-coloured creature the size and
shape of a small squashed pea. When he bites an infected person he
does not contract the Spirillum fever himself, nor does he transmit it
directly to other persons. By a peculiarly malevolent provision of
Nature this power is exercised not by him but by his descendants, who
are numbered in hundreds. So the poison spreads in an incalculable
progression. Although this fever is not fatal, it is exceptionally
painful in its course and distressing in its consequences. There are
five or six separate and successive attacks of fever, in which the
temperature of the victim may rise even to 107 degrees; and
afterwards the eyes and hearing are temporarily affected by a kind of
facial paralysis. Road after road has been declared infected by this
scourge, and officer after officer struck down as he moves on duty
from place to place. The only sure preventive seems to be the
destruction of all old grass-huts and camping-grounds, and the
erection along the roads of a regular system of stone-built, properly
maintained and disinfected rest-houses, in which the traveller may
take refuge from the lurking peril. And this will have to be done.

But a far more terrible shadow darkens the Uganda Protectorate. In
July, 1901, a doctor of the Church Missionary Society Hospital at
Kampala noticed eight cases of a mysterious disease. Six months later
he reported that over two hundred natives had died of it in the Island
of Buvuma, and that thousands appeared to be infected. The pestilence
swiftly spread through all the districts of the lake shore, and the
mortality was appalling. No one could tell where it had come from or
what it was caused by. It resisted every kind of treatment and
appeared to be universally fatal. Scientific inquiries of various
kinds were immediately set on foot, but for a long time no results
were obtained, and meanwhile the disease ran along the coasts and
islands of the great lake like fire in a high wind. By the middle of
1902 the reported deaths from _Trypanosomiasis_, or "sleeping
sickness," as it has come to be called, numbered over thirty thousand.
It was still spreading rapidly upon all sides, and no clue whatever to
its treatment or prevention had been obtained. It seemed certain that
the entire population of the districts affected was doomed.

On April 28th, 1903, Colonel Bruce, whose services had been obtained
for the investigation of "sleeping sickness" through the
instrumentality of the Royal Society, announced that he considered the
disease to be due to a kind of trypanosome, conveyed from one person
to another by the bite of a species of tsetse-fly called _Glossina
palpalis_. His theory was strongly supported by the fact that the
disease appeared to be confined to the localities infested by the fly.
The fly-belt also could be defined with precision, and was rarely
found to extend more than a mile or two from water. The news that
Europeans could no longer consider themselves immune from the
infection caused, as might be imagined, much consternation in the
white community. Nearly everybody had been bitten by tsetses at one
time or another, but whether by this particular species when actually
infected, remained in suspense. Moreover, tsetse-flies abounded in
such numbers on all parts of the lake shore that their wholesale
destruction seemed quite impossible. What then?

For a time Colonel Bruce's discovery almost paralyzed all preventive
and restrictive measures. The scourge fell unchecked. By the end of
1903 the reported deaths numbered over ninety thousand, and the lake
shores were becoming fast depopulated. Whole villages were completely
exterminated, and great tracts in Usoga, which had formerly been famed
for their high state of cultivation, relapsed into forests. The
weakness of the victims and the terror or apathy of the survivors
permitted a sudden increase in the number of leopards, and these
fierce animals preyed with daring and impunity upon the living, the
dying, and the dead.

Further investigations, which were anxiously pushed on in many
directions, revealed the existence of the tsetse-fly over widespread
areas. In the interior of Usoga, on the banks of many rivers, in
swamps on the shores of the Albert Lake and Lake Albert Edward, these
swarming emissaries of death were found to be awaiting their message.
All that was needed to arm them with their fatal power was the arrival
of some person infected with the microbe. The Albert shores and
several parts of the Upper Nile soon became new centres of pestilence.
Thousands of deaths occurred in Unyoro. By the end of 1905
considerably more than two hundred thousand persons had perished in
the plague-stricken regions, _out of a population_ in those regions
_which could not have exceeded three hundred thousand_.

Any decrease in the mortality in any district up to the present time
is due, not to any diminution in the virulence of the disease, but
simply to the reduction of possible victims, owing to the
extermination of the inhabitants. Buvuma, a few years ago one of the
most prosperous of all the islands, contains fewer than fourteen
thousand out of thirty thousand. Some of the islands in the Sesse
group have lost every soul, while in others a few moribund natives,
crawling about in the last stages of the disease, are all that are
left to represent a once teeming population.

"It might have been expected," writes Sir H. Hesketh Bell, the
Governor of Uganda, to whom I am indebted for much valuable
information on this subject, "that, even though the negroes showed
inability to grasp the theory of the transmission of disease by the
agency of insects, the undeniable deadliness of the countries
bordering on the lake shore would have induced them to flee from the
stricken land and to have sought in the healthier districts inland a
refuge from the pestilence that was slaying them by thousands. An
extraordinary fatalism, however, seems to have paralyzed the natives,
and, while deploring the sadness of their fate, they appear to have
accepted death almost with apathy."

The police of science, although arrived late on the scene of the
tragedy, were now following many converging clues. Therapeutic
investigation into the treatment and origin of the disease,
entomological examination of the resorts, habits, dangers, and
life-history of the fly, and thirdly administrative measures of
drastic authority are now being driven sternly forward. Knowledge has
accumulated. Fighting the sleeping sickness is like laying a vampire.
To make the spell work, five separate conditions must be
present--water, bushes, trees, the tsetse-fly (_Glossina palpalis_),
and one infected person. Remove any one of these and the curse is
lifted. But let them all be conjoined, and the sure destruction of
every human being in the district is only a matter of time.

The Government of Uganda is now pursuing a policy based on the
appreciation of these facts. Wherever it is necessary to come to the
lake shores, as at Entebbe, Munyonyo, Ripon Falls, Fajao, etc., the
tsetse-fly is banished or eliminated by cutting down the trees,
clearing away the bush, and planting in its place the vigorous,
rapid-growing _citronella_ grass, which, once firmly established,
holds its own against invading vegetation. Wherever it is not possible
to clear the shores of tsetse-flies, they must be cleared of
inhabitants. And the extraordinary operation of moving entire
populations from their old homes to new places--often against their
will--has been actually accomplished within the last year by a
combined dead-lift effort of these three tremendous forces of
Government which regulate from such different points of view the
lives and liberties of the Baganda.

It does not follow that the lake shores will have to be abandoned for
ever. In a very short time--some say two days, some eleven hours--the
infected tsetse is free from poison and can no longer communicate it;
and once the disease has been eradicated from the population, healthy
people might return and be bitten with impunity. Nor, on the other
hand, can we hope, unless some cure capable of being applied on a
large scale can be perfected, that the mortality in the immediate
future will sensibly diminish. For there are many thousands of persons
still affected, and for these segregation, nursing, and compassion
comprise the present resources of civilization.

One thing is, however, above all things important. There must be no
losing heart. At any moment the researches which are being conducted
in so many laboratories, and in which Professor Koch has taken a
leading part, may produce an absolute therapeutic remedy. By the
administrative measures now vigorously enforced it is believed that
the fatal contact between infected persons and uninfected flies,
between infected flies and uninfected persons, will have been
effectively broken. We cannot fail to learn more of the tsetse. The
humble black horse-fly, indistinguishable to the casual observer from
harmless types, except that his wings are folded neatly like a pair of
shut scissors, instead of splaying out on either side of his back, is
now under a bright, searching, and pitiless eye. Who are his enemies?
What are his dangers? What conditions are essential to his existence?
What conditions are fatal or inimical? International Commissions
discuss him round green tables, grave men peer patiently at him
through microscopes, active officers scour Central Africa to plot him
out on charts. A fine-spun net is being woven remorselessly around
him. And may not man find allies in this strange implacable warfare?
There are fishes which destroy mosquitoes, there are birds which prey
upon flies, there are plants whose scent or presence is abhorrent or
injurious to particular forms of insect life. In what places and for
how long will the tsetse continue to fly, as he is wont, over the
smooth, gleaming water, just above the reeds and bushes, just below
the branches of the overhanging trees? _Glossina palpalis contra
mundum!_

  [Illustration: THE GOVERNOR WITH BAGANDA GROUP.]

I have not sought to conceal the perils in describing the riches and
the beauties of Uganda. The harsh contrasts of the land, its noble
potentialities, its hideous diseases, its fecundity alike of life and
death, are capable of being illustrated by many more facts and
examples than I can here set down. But what an obligation, what a
sacred duty is imposed upon Great Britain to enter the lists in person
and to shield this trustful, docile, intelligent Baganda race from
dangers which, whatever their cause, have synchronized with our
arrival in their midst! And, meanwhile, let us be sure that order and
science will conquer, and that in the end John Bull will be really
master in his curious garden of sunshine and deadly nightshade.



CHAPTER VI

KAMPALA


Two days after I had arrived at Entebbe the Governor took me over to
Kampala. The distance between the ancient and the administrative
capital is about twenty-four miles. The road, although unmetalled,
runs over such firm, smooth sandstone, almost polished by the rains,
that, except in a few places, it would carry a motor-car well, and a
bicycle is an excellent means of progression. The Uganda Government
motor-cars, which are now running well and regularly, had not then,
however, arrived, and the usual method was to travel by rickshaw.
Mounted in this light bicycle-wheeled carriage, drawn by one man
between the shafts and pushed by three more from behind, we were able
to make rather more than six miles an hour in very comfortable style.

The rickshaw-boys, who were neatly dressed in white tunics and red
caps, were relieved every eight miles. They have their own way of
doing business. From the moment when the travellers are seated in the
rickshaw and their labour begins, they embark upon an ever-varying but
absolutely interminable antiphony, which, if it exhausts their breath,
serves undoubtedly to keep their spirits up. "Burrulum," cry the
pushers; "Huma," says the puller. "Burrulum," say the pushers again,
and so on over and over again for a very long time. All these chaunts
have their meanings, and if the traveller is found to be heavy or
known to be ignorant of the language, he would not always be
complimented by a correct translation. The phrase I have quoted means
"iron upon wood"; and its signification is that the iron of European
strength and skill, however superior, yet cannot get along without the
wood of native labour and endurance. With such unexceptionable
sentiments no one would quarrel. Yet even these lose their flavour by
repetition, and after half an hour of "Burrulum" and "Huma" I was
constrained to ask the singers whether they could not possibly manage
to convey us in silence. They tried their best, but I could see they
were unhappy, and after a while, out of compassion and to improve the
pace, I withdrew the ban, and the chorus was joyfully resumed in a new
and more elaborate form.

The manners of the Baganda are ceremonious to a degree. They well
deserve Sir Harry Johnston's description of them as "the Japanese of
Africa." If you say "Good morning" to a stranger on an English road,
it is as like as not that his surprise will throw him into a posture
of self-defence; but when two Baganda meet they begin to salute each
other as soon as they come within earshot. "How are you?" cries the
one. "Who am I that you should care to know?" replies the other.
"Humble though I be, yet I have dared," rejoins the first. "But say
first how are _you_," continues the second. "The better for the honour
you have done me," is the answer. By this they have already passed
each other, and there is only time for the Parthian affability, "The
honour is mine, and I shall treasure it," and a quavering of
delicately-modulated, long-drawn "A--a--a's" of contentment and
goodwill which gradually die away in the distance, leaving neither of
them the worse circumstanced, nor the better informed. I must add,
for the reader's caution, that the aforesaid dialogue is not an
invariable ritual. The phrases may be varied _ad infinitum_ to suit
the occasion; but it will suffice as an illustration of these roadside
courtesies.

  [Illustration: BAGANDA WARRIORS AT KAMPALA.]

If you wish to make a Baganda perfectly happy, all you need to do is
to say, "Way wally," which means a sort of supremely earnest "Well
done." The moment this talismanic expression has left your lips, the
native to whom it is addressed will probably fall on his knees, and,
clasping his two hands together, will sway them from side to side, as
if he were playing a concertina, while all the time his face beams
with a most benignant and compulsive smile, and he purrs, "A--o, a--o,
a--o," as much as to say, "My cup of joy is overflowing." It is not in
accordance with our ideas that man should kneel to man, and one feels
uncomfortable to see it done. Yet it should not be thought that the
action, as performed by the Baganda, involves or implies any
servility. It is their good manners--and meant to be no more. Nor,
once you are used to it, do they seem to lose at all in dignity. Only
they win your heart.

The road from Entebbe to Kampala passes through delicious country.
Along its whole length a double avenue of rubber trees has just been
planted, and behind these on each side are broad strips of cotton
plants, looking beautiful with their yellow flowers or pinky-white
bolls. American upland cotton grown in Uganda actually commands a
higher price in the Manchester market than when it is grown in the
United States. There appears to be practically no natural difficulty
in its cultivation throughout the larger part of Uganda. A great
development is only a question of organization and--money.

But I have forgotten that we have been moving swiftly along the
Kampala road, and now we are almost in sight of the city. Almost, but
not quite; for, to tell the truth, no one has ever seen Kampala. The
traveller sees the Government buildings and residences neat and prim
on one hill; he sees the King's house and his Ministers' houses on
another. Upon a third, a fourth, or a fifth hill he may discern
successively the Protestant Cathedral, the Catholic Mission, and the
White Father's Monastery. But Kampala, the home of sixty thousand
persons, is permanently invisible. The whole town is buried under the
leaves of innumerable banana plantations, which afford shade and
food to its people, and amid which their huts are thickly scattered
and absolutely concealed.

  [Illustration: KING DAUDI'S DRUMMERS AT KAMPALA.]

  [Illustration: WATCHING THE WAR-DANCE AT KAMPALA.
    (Major Jenkins, Mr. Churchill, King Daudi, Sir H. Hesketh Bell.)]

We were still three miles out of this "garden city" when the native
reception began, and we travelled for a quarter of a mile between
lines of white-robed Baganda, all mustered by their chiefs, and
clapping their hands in sign of welcome. At last our procession of
rickshaws reached a hillock by the roadside, at the top of which stood
a pavilion, beautifully constructed of stout elephant grass like thin
polished canes woven together with curious art. Down from this
eminence, over a pathway strewn with rushes, came to meet us the King
and his notables in a most imposing array. Daudi Chewa, the King or
Kabaka of Uganda, is a graceful, distinguished-looking little boy,
eleven years old. He was simply dressed in a flowing black robe edged
with gold, and a little white gold-rimmed cap. Around him were the
Council of Regency; and at his right hand stood the Prime Minister,
Sir Apolo Kagwar, a powerful, determined-looking man, wearing a
crimson, gold-laced robe, on which shone many decorations, several
British war medals, and the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

We all shook hands, and were then led up into the pavilion, where we
took our seats on wicker chairs and ate sweet jellies while we
conversed. The King, who is being most carefully educated by an
English tutor, understands and speaks English quite well, but on this
occasion he seemed too shy to say much more than "Yes" or "No," in a
low, sweet drawl, and this formal interview soon came to an end.

The afternoon was consumed in ceremony; for the Commissioner of Uganda
had to be sworn in the rank of Governor, to which he has been lately
raised; and there was a parade of troops, in which some five or six
hundred very smart-looking soldiers took part, headed by the Kampala
company of Sikhs. It was not until the shadows began to lengthen that
we visited the Kabaka on the Royal Hill. He received us in his
Parliament House. In this large and beautifully-constructed grass
building about seventy chiefs and Baganda notables were assembled. The
little Kabaka sat on his throne, and his subjects grouped themselves
around and before him. We were given seats at his side, and the
Prime Minister explained that the Baganda would show us the ceremony
of swearing a chief. One of the most portly and dignified of the
councillors thereupon advanced into the centre of the room, threw
himself face downward on the ground, and poured out a torrent of
asseverations of loyalty. After a few minutes he rose and began
brandishing his spears, chaunting his oath all the while, until he had
created an extraordinary appearance of passion. Finally he rushed from
the building to go and slay the King's enemies outside. It was not
until he returned a moment later, calm, sedate, and respectable, that
I realized, from the merry smile on his face and from the mirth of the
company, that he was "only pretending," and that the ceremony was
merely a representation given to interest us.

  [Illustration: ON THE WAY TO KAMPALA.]

  [Illustration: ROAD BETWEEN JINJA AND LAKE CHIOGA.]

The incident is remarkable because it illustrates the rapidity with
which the Baganda people are leaving their past behind them. Already
they laugh at their old selves. Ceremonies which twenty years ago had
a solemn and awful significance, are to-day reproduced by this
reflective people in much the same spirit as the citizens of Coventry
revive the progress of Lady Godiva. The same thing happened at the
war-dance the next day. Two or three thousand men, naked and painted
for war, rushed frantically to and fro to the beating of drums and
barbaric music, with every sign of earnestness and even frenzy. Yet a
few minutes later they were laughing sheepishly at one another, and
bowing to us like actors before the curtain, and the Prime Minister
was making a speech to explain that this was meant to be a pageant of
the bad old times reproduced for our benefit. Indeed, so unaccustomed
to carry arms had the warriors become that not one in ten could find a
spear to arm himself with, and they had to come with sticks and other
stage-properties.

Even a comic element was provided in the shape of a warrior painted
all over in a ridiculous manner, and held by two others with a rope
tied round his middle. This, we were told, was "the bravest man in the
army," who had to be restrained lest he should rush into battle too
soon. It is not easy to convey the air of honest fun and good humour
which pervaded these curious performances, or to measure the
intellectual progress which the attitude of the Baganda towards them
implied.

  [Illustration: WAR DANCE AT KAMPALA.
    "The bravest man in the army."]

  [Illustration: WAR DANCE AT KAMPALA.]

The Kabaka gave us tea in his house. It is a comfortable European
building, quite small and modest, but nicely furnished, and adorned
with familiar English prints and portraits of Queen Victoria and King
Edward. Gradually he got the better of his shyness, and told me that
he liked football more than anything else, and that his mathematical
studies had advanced as far as "G.C.M.," initials which never fail to
stir disagreeable school-day memories in my mind. He can write a very
good letter in English, rides well on a nice pony, and will probably
become a well-educated and accomplished man. Altogether it is a very
pleasing spectacle to find in the heart of Africa, and amid so much
barbarism, squalour, and violence, this island of gentle manners and
peaceful civilization.

The next day was one unending pilgrimage. I have described how Kampala
lies under the leaves of the plantain groves about the slopes of many
hills. Each hill has its special occupants and purpose. Each of the
different Christian missions has a hill to itself, and in the bad old
days a Maxim gun was not thought at all an inappropriate aid to
Christian endeavour. It would, however, be very unfair to charge the
missionaries with having created the feuds and struggles which
convulsed Uganda twelve years ago. The accident that the line of
cleavage between French and British influence was also the line of
cleavage between Catholic and Protestant converts, imparted a
religious complexion to what was in reality a fierce political
dispute. These troubles are now definitely at an end. The arrival upon
the scene of an English Catholic mission has prevented national
rivalries and religious differences from mutually embittering one
another. The erection of a stable Government and the removal of all
doubts about the future of Uganda have led to an entire abatement of
strife among devoted men engaged in a noble work. Not only is there
peace among the different Christian missions themselves, but the
Government of Uganda, so far from watching missionary enterprise with
sour disfavour, is thoroughly alive to the inestimable services which
have been and are daily being rendered by the missions to the native
population, and excellent relations prevail.

  [Illustration: THE WHITE FATHERS' MISSION AT KAMPALA.]

  [Illustration: CHILDREN AT THE ENGLISH CATHOLIC MISSION, KAMPALA.]

In duty bound I climbed one hill after another and endeavoured to make
myself acquainted with the details of mission work in Kampala. It
comprises every form of moral and social activity. Apart from their
spiritual work, which needs no advocacy here, the missionaries have
undertaken and are now maintaining the whole educational system of the
country. They have built many excellent schools, and thousands of
young Baganda are being taught to read and write in their own
language. The whole country is dotted with subsidiary mission
stations, each one a centre of philanthropic and Christian effort.
There are good hospitals, with skilful doctors and nurses or sisters
of charity, in connection with all the missions. The largest of these,
belonging to the Church Missionary Society, is a model of what a
tropical hospital for natives ought to be. Technical education is now
being added to these services, and in this, it is to be hoped, the
Government will be able to cooperate. I do not know of any other part
of the world where missionary influence and enterprise have been so
beneficently exerted, or where more valuable results have been
achieved.

On Namirembe Hill, where the Church Missionary Society have their
head-quarters, a really fine cathedral, with three tall, quaint,
thatched spires, has been built out of very primitive materials; and
this is almost the only building in Uganda which offers the slightest
attempt at architectural display. Under the shadow of this I found
myself on the afternoon of the 20th of November engaged in opening a
high school for scholars who are more advanced than can be instructed
in the existing establishments. A large and well-dressed audience,
native and European, filled a good-sized room. The scholars crowded
together in a solid mass of white-dressed youths upon the floor. The
Kabaka and Sir Apolo Kagwar, who has himself five sons at the school,
were upon the platform. The Governor presided. The Bishop made a
speech. The schoolboys sang English songs and hymns in very good tune
and rhythm. It was astonishing to look at the map of the British
Empire hanging on the wall and to realize that all this was taking
place near the north-western corner of the Victoria Nyanza.

  [Illustration: INTERIOR OF NAMIREMBE CATHEDRAL.]

It is eight miles from Kampala to Munyonyo, its present port on the
lake, and this distance we covered in rickshaws over a shocking road.
Munyonyo is itself little more than a jetty and a few sheds, but it
affords a very good example of the salutary effects of cutting down
the bush and forest. Mosquitoes and tsetses have been absolutely
banished from the cleared area, and a place which a year ago was a
death-trap is now perfectly safe and healthy. Plans are now on foot to
make a new port a little farther along the coast at a point only five
miles away from Kampala; and when this has been connected with the
capital, as it must be, by a line of mono-rail tramway, there is every
reason to expect a substantial and growing trade.

The _Sir William Mackinnon_, a venerable vessel of the Uganda Marine,
awaited our party, and we steamed off on the smooth waters of the
lake, through an archipelago of beautiful islands--each one more
inviting than the other--and all depopulated by sleeping sickness. All
day long we voyaged in these sheltered waters, and in the evening the
lights of Jinja guided us to our destination. One cannot help admiring
the luck which led Speke to his thrilling discovery of the source of
the Nile. There are five hundred gulfs and inlets on the northern
shore of Lake Victoria, and nothing distinguishes this one from the
rest. No current is perceptible to the ordinary mariner until within a
few miles of the rapids, and although the presumption that so vast a
body of fresh water would have an overflow somewhere had behind it a
backing of strong probability, the explorer might have searched for a
year without finding the spot. Instead of which he drifted and paddled
gently along until all of a sudden the murmur of a distant cataract
and the slight acceleration in the pace of his canoe drew him to the
long-sought birthplace of the most wonderful river in the world.

It was dark when we landed at Jinja, and I could not properly see the
preparations made for our reception by the local chiefs and the Indian
traders, of whom there was a considerable crowd. The darkness,
otherwise a cause of disappointment, afforded the opportunity for just
the sort of brave act one so often finds a British officer ready to
do. As the baggage was being landed from the steamer on to the jetty,
a poor coolie slipped under his load, and in an instant was engulfed
in the deep black waters below. Whereupon, as a matter of course, a
young civilian in the Political Department jumped in after him in the
darkness and among the crocodiles, and fished him out safe and sound,
an act of admirable behaviour which has since received the recognition
of the Royal Humane Society. I am not quite sure that in all parts of
Africa so high a standard of honour and respect for the life of the
humble native would prevail.

Jinja is destined to become a very important place in the future
economy of Central Africa. Situated at the point where the Nile flows
out of the Great Lake, it is at once on the easiest line of water
communication with Lake Albert and the Soudan, and also where great
water-power is available. In years to come the shores of this splendid
bay may be crowned with long rows of comfortable tropical villas and
imposing offices, and the gorge of the Nile crowded with factories and
warehouses. There is power enough to gin all the cotton and saw all
the wood in Uganda, and it is here that one of the principal emporia
of tropical produce will certainly be created. In these circumstances
it is a pity to handicap the town with an outlandish name. It would be
much better to call it Ripon Falls, after the beautiful cascades which
lie beneath it, and from whose force its future prosperity will be
derived.

The Ripon Falls are, for their own sake, well worth a visit. The Nile
springs out of the Victoria Nyanza, a vast body of water nearly as
wide as the Thames at Westminster Bridge, and this imposing river
rushes down a stairway of rock from fifteen to twenty feet deep, in
smooth, swirling slopes of green water. It would be perfectly easy to
harness the whole river and let the Nile begin its long and beneficent
journey to the sea by leaping through a turbine. It is possible that
nowhere else in the world could so enormous a mass of water be held up
by so little masonry. Two or three short dams from island to island
across the falls would enable, at an inconceivably small cost, the
whole level of the Victoria Nyanza--over an expanse of a hundred and
fifty thousand square miles--to be gradually raised six or seven feet;
would greatly increase the available water-power; would deepen the
water in Kavirondo Bay, so as to admit steamers of much larger
draught; and, finally, would enable the lake to be maintained at a
uniform level, so that immense areas of swampy foreshore, now
submerged, now again exposed, according to the rainfalls, would be
converted either into clear water or dry land, to the benefit of
man and the incalculable destruction of mosquitoes.

  [Illustration: THE RIPON FALLS (Source of the Nile).]

As one watches the surging waters of the Ripon Falls and endeavours to
compute the mighty energies now running to waste, but all within the
reach of modern science, the problem of Uganda rises in a new form on
the mind. All this water-power belongs to the State. Ought it ever to
be surrendered to private persons? How long, on the other hand, is a
Government, if not prepared to act itself, entitled to bar the way to
others? This question is raised in a multitude of diverse forms in
almost all the great dependencies of the Crown. But in Uganda the
arguments for the State ownership and employment of the natural
resources of the country seem to present themselves in their strongest
and most formidable array. Uganda is a native State. It must not be
compared with any of those colonies where there is a white population
already established, nor again with those inhabited by tribes of
nomadic barbarians. It finds its counterparts among the great native
States of India, where Imperial authority is exercised in the name and
often through the agency of a native prince and his own officers.

This combination of the external brain and the native hand results in
a form of government often highly acceptable to the general body of
the inhabitants, who are confronted with no sudden or arbitrary
changes in the long-accustomed appearances of things. But it involves
all the administration of affairs in a degree of complexity and
delicacy which is absent from simpler and cruder systems. In such
circumstances there cannot be much opening for the push and drive of
ordinary commercial enterprise. The hustling business man--admirably
suited to the rough and tumble of competitive production in Europe or
America--becomes an incongruous and even a dangerous figure when
introduced into the smooth and leisurely development of a native
State. The Baganda will not be benefited either morally or materially
by contact with modern money-making or modern money-makers. When a man
is working only for the profits of his company and is judged by the
financial results alone, he does not often under the sun of Central
Africa acquire the best method of dealing with natives; and all sorts
of difficulties and troubles will follow any sudden incursion of
business enterprise into the forests and gardens of Uganda. And even
if the country is more rapidly developed by these agencies, the
profits will not go to the Government and people of Uganda, to be used
in fostering new industries, but to divers persons across the sea, who
have no concern, other than purely commercial, in its fortunes. This
is not to advocate the arbitrary exclusion of private capital and
enterprise from Uganda. Carefully directed and narrowly controlled
opportunities for their activities will no doubt occur. But the
natural resources of the country should, as far as possible, be
developed by the Government itself, even though that may involve the
assumption of many new functions.

Indeed, it would be hard to find a country where the conditions were
more favourable than in Uganda to a practical experiment in State
Socialism. The land is rich; the people pacific and industrious. There
are no great differences between class and class. One staple article
of food meets the needs of the whole population, and produces itself
almost without the aid of man. There are no European vested interests
to block the way. Nowhere are the powers of the Government to
regulate and direct the activities of the people more overwhelming or
more comprehensive. The superiority of knowledge in the rulers is
commanding. Their control upon the natives is exerted through almost
every channel; and besides the secular authorities--native and
Imperial--there is the spiritual and educative influence of the
missionaries to infuse human sympathy and moral earnestness into the
regular machinery of State.

The first, and perhaps the greatest, difficulty which confronts the
European Socialist is the choosing of Governors to whom the positively
awful powers indispensable to a communistic society are to be
entrusted. If a race of beings could be obtained when and as required
from a neighbouring planet, whose practical superiority in virtue,
science, wisdom, and strength was so manifest as to be universally
acclaimed, this difficulty would disappear, and we might with
composure await the decision of popular elections with all their
defects and advantages. But in the absence of this dispensation the
problem of how rulers are to be selected, and how, having been
selected, they are to be controlled or changed, remains the first
question of politics, even in days when the functions of government
are, in general, restricted to the modest limits of _laissez-faire_.

In Uganda, however, this difficulty does not exist. A class of rulers
is provided by an outside power as remote from and, in all that
constitutes fitness to direct, as superior to the Baganda as Mr.
Wells's Martians would have been to us. The British administration is
in its _personnel_ absolutely disinterested. The officials draw their
salaries, and that is all. They have no end to serve, except the
improvement of the country and the contentment of its people. By that
test and that test alone are they judged. In no other way can they win
approbation or fame. They are furthermore controlled in the exercise
of their functions by a superior authority, specially instructed in
this class of administration, and itself answerable to a Parliament
elected on a democratic franchise. At no point in the whole chain of
command is there any room for corruption, usurpation, or gross
inefficiency.

It is clear that larger powers could be entrusted to the State in
regard to the labour of its citizens than would ever be accorded to
private employers. The subjects of every European Power have accepted
the obligation of military service to defend their respective
countries from external attack. The Baganda, relieved from this harsh
obsession, have no higher duty than to cultivate and develop the
beautiful land they live in. And if it were desired to organize
scientifically, upon a humane and honourable basis, the industry of an
entire population, and to apply the whole fruits of their labour to
their own enrichment and elevation, no better conditions are likely to
be discovered than those which now exist in Uganda.

It might at any rate be worth while to make such an experiment, if
only as a prelude to those more general applications of the principles
of Socialism which are held in some quarters to be so necessary.



CHAPTER VII

'ON SAFARI'


Now the reader must really look at the map. To this point we have
proceeded by train and steamer with all the power and swiftness of
modern communication. If we have traversed wild and lonely lands, it
has been in a railway carriage. We have disturbed the lion with the
locomotive, and all our excursions have but led back to the iron road.
But at Ripon Falls we are to let go our hold upon machinery. Steam and
all it means is to be shut off. We are "to cut the painter," and,
losing the impulsion of the great ship, are for a while to paddle
about upon a vast expanse in a little cock-boat of our own. Back
towards Mombasa, three days' journey will cover nine hundred miles.
Forward, you will be lucky to make forty in the same time. Return at
this moment is swift and easy. In a week it will be perhaps
impossible. Going on means going through.

Everywhere great pathways are being cut into Africa. We have followed
for nearly a thousand miles one leading from the East towards the
centre. Far away from the North another line has been thrust forward
by British efforts in peace and war. From Alexandria to Cairo, from
Cairo to Wady Halfa, from Halfa to Berber, from Berber to Khartoum,
from Khartoum to Fashoda, from Fashoda to Gondokoro, over a distance
of nearly three thousand miles, stretches an uninterrupted service of
trains and steamers. But between the landing-stage at Jinja and the
landing-stage at Gondokoro there opens a wide gulf of yet unbridged,
unconquered wilderness and jungle, across which and through which the
traveller must crawl painfully and at a foot's pace, always amid
difficulty and never wholly without danger. It is this gulf which we
are now to traverse.

  [Illustration: BETWEEN NIMULE AND GONDOKORO.
    Capt. Read. Mr. Marsh. Dr. Goldie. Mr. Ormsby.
    Col. Wilson. Mr. Churchill. Capt. Dickinson. Lieut.
    Fishbourne, R.E.]

The distance from the Victoria to the Albert Nyanza is about two
hundred miles in the direct line, and it is all downhill. The Great
Lake is hoisted high above the highest hill-tops of England. From this
vast elevated inland sea the descending Nile water flows through a
channel of three thousand five hundred miles into the Mediterranean.
The first and steepest stage of its journey is to the Albert Lake.
This second body of water, which, except in comparison with the
Victoria Nyanza, would be impressive--it is more than a hundred miles
long--lies at an altitude of two thousand three hundred feet above the
sea. So that in its first two hundred miles the Nile exhausts in the
exuberant improvidence of youth about a third of the impulse which is
to carry it through its venerable career. Yet this considerable
descent of twelve hundred feet is itself accomplished in two short
steps. There is one series of rapids, thirty miles long, below the
Ripon Falls, and another of equal extent above the Murchison Falls.
Between these two declivities long reaches of open river and the wide,
level expanse of Lake Chioga afford a fine waterway.

Our journey from one great lake to the other divided itself therefore
into three stages. Three marches through the forest to Kakindu, the
first point where the Victoria Nile is navigable after the rapids;
three days in canoes along the Nile and across Lake Chioga; and,
lastly, five marches from the western end of Lake Chioga to the Albert
Nyanza. Beyond this, again, four days in canoes and steel
sailing-boats, towed by a launch, would carry us to Nimule, where the
rapids on the White Nile begin, and in seven or eight marches from
there we should reach the Soudan steamers at Gondokoro. About five
hundred miles would thus be covered in twenty days. It would take
about the same time, if trains and steamers fitted exactly, to return
by Mombasa and Suez to London.

Early in the morning of November 23rd our party set off upon this
journey. Travelling by marches from camp to camp plays a regular part
in the life of the average Central African officer. He goes "on
Safari" as the Boer "on trek." It is a recognized state of being,
which often lasts for weeks, and sometimes for months. He learns to
think of ten days' "Safari" as we at home think of going to Scotland,
and twenty days' "Safari" as if it were less than the journey to
Paris. "Safari" is itself a Swahili word of Arabic origin, meaning an
expedition and all that pertains to it. It comprises yourself and
everybody and everything you take with you--food, tents, rifles,
clothing, cooks, servants, escort, porters--but especially porters.
Out of the range of steam the porter is the primary factor. This
ragged figure, tottering along under his load, is the unit of
locomotion and the limit of possibility. Without porters you cannot
move. With them you move ten or twelve miles a day, if all is well.
How much can he carry? How far can he carry it? These are the
questions which govern alike your calculations and your fate.

Every morning the porters are divided into batches of about twenty,
each under its headman. The loads, which are supposed to average about
sixty-five pounds, are also roughly parcelled out. As each batch
starts off, the next rushes up to the succeeding heap of loads, and
there is a quarter of an hour of screaming and pushing--the strongest
men making a bee-line for the lightest-looking loads, and being beaten
off by the grim but voluble headman, the weakest weeping feebly beside
a mountainous pile, till a distribution has been achieved with rough
justice, and the troop in its turn marches off with indescribable
ululations testifying and ministering to the spirit in which they mean
to accomplish the day's journey.

While these problems were being imperfectly solved, I walked down
with the Governor and one of the Engineer officers to the Ripon Falls,
which are but half a mile from the Commissioner's house, and the sound
of whose waters filled the air. Although the cataract is on a moderate
scale, both in height and volume, its aspect--and still more its
situation--is impressive. The exit or overflow of the Great Lake is
closed by a natural rampart or ridge of black rock, broken or worn
away in two main gaps to release the waters. Through these the Nile
leaps at once into majestic being, and enters upon its course as a
perfect river three hundred yards wide. Standing upon the reverse side
of the wall of rock, one's eye may be almost on a plane with the
shining levels of the Lake. At your very feet, literally a yard away,
a vast green slope of water races downward. Below are foaming rapids,
fringed by splendid trees, and pools from which great fish leap
continually in the sunlight. We must have spent three hours watching
the waters and revolving plans to harness and bridle them. So much
power running to waste, such a coign of vantage unoccupied, such a
lever to control the natural forces of Africa ungripped, cannot but
vex and stimulate imagination. And what fun to make the immemorial
Nile begin its journey by diving through a turbine! But to our tale.

  [Illustration: FOREST SCENE NEAR RIPON FALLS.]

The porters had by now got far on their road, and we must pad after
them through the full blaze of noon. The Governor of Uganda and his
officers have to return to Entebbe by the steamer, so it is here I bid
them good-bye and good luck, and with a final look at Ripon Falls,
gleaming and resounding below, I climb the slopes of the river bank
and walk off into the forest. The native path struck north-east from
the Nile, and led into a hilly and densely wooded region. The
elephant-grass on each side of the track rose fifteen feet high. In
the valleys great trees grew and arched above our heads, laced and
twined together with curtains of flowering creepers. Here and there a
glade opened to the right or left, and patches of vivid sunlight
splashed into the gloom. Around the crossings of little streams
butterflies danced in brilliant ballets. Many kinds of birds flew
about the trees. The jungle was haunted by game--utterly lost in its
dense entanglements. And I think it a sensation all by itself to walk
on your own feet, and staff in hand, along these mysterious paths,
amid such beautiful, yet sinister, surroundings, and realize that one
is really in the centre of Africa, and a long way from Piccadilly or
Pall Mall.

Our first march was about fourteen miles, and as we had not started
till the hot hours of the day were upon us, it was enough and to spare
so far as I was concerned. Up-hill and down-hill wandered our path,
now plunged in the twilight of a forest valley, now winding up the
side of a scorched hill, and I had for some time been hoping to see
the camp round every corner, when at last we reached it. It consisted
of two rows of green tents and a large "banda," or rest-house, as big
as a large barn in England, standing in a nice, trim clearing. These
"bandas" are a great feature of African travel; and the dutiful chief
through whose territory we are passing had taken pains to make them on
the most elaborate scale. He was not long in making his appearance
with presents of various kinds. A lanky, black-faced sheep, with a fat
tail as big as a pumpkin, was dragged forward, bleating, by two
retainers. Others brought live hens and earthenware jars of milk and
baskets of little round eggs. The chief was a tall, intelligent-looking
man, with the winning smile and attractive manners characteristic
of the country, and made his salutations with a fine air of dignity
and friendship.

  [Illustration: PALM TREE NEAR THE ASUA.]

  [Illustration: BANDA WITH ESCORT OF KING'S AFRICAN RIFLES.]

The house he had prepared for us was built of bamboo framework,
supported upon a central row of Y-shaped tree-stems, with a
high-pitched roof heavily thatched with elephant-grass, and walls of
wattled reeds. The floors of African "bandas" when newly made are
beautifully smooth and clean, and strewn with fresh green rushes; the
interior is often cunningly divided into various apartments, and the
main building is connected with kitchens and offices of the same
unsubstantial texture by veranda-shaded passages. In fact, they prove
a high degree of social knowledge and taste in the natives, who make
them with almost incredible rapidity from the vegetation of the
surrounding jungle; and the sensation of entering one of these lofty,
dim, cool, and spacious interiors, and sinking into the soft rush-bed
of the floor, with something to drink which is, at any rate, not
tepid, well repays the glaring severities of a march under an
Equatorial sun. The "banda," however, is a luxury of which the
traveller should beware, for if it has stood for more than a week it
becomes the home of innumerable insects, many of approved malevolence
and venom, and spirillum fever is almost invariably caught from
sleeping in old shelters or on disused camping-grounds.

Life "on Safari" is rewarded by a sense of completeness and
self-satisfied detachment. You have got to "do" so many miles a day,
and when you have "done" them your day's work is over. 'Tis a simple
programme, which leaves nothing more to be demanded or desired. Very
early in the morning, often an hour before daybreak, the bugles of the
King's African Rifles sounded réveille. Every one dresses hurriedly by
candle-light, eats a dim breakfast while dawn approaches; tents
collapse, and porters struggle off with their burdens. Then the march
begins. The obvious thing is to walk. There is no surer way of keeping
well in Uganda than to walk twelve or fourteen miles a day. But if the
traveller will not make the effort, there are alternatives. There is
the rickshaw, which was described in the last chapter--restful, but
tedious; and the litter, carried on the heads of six porters of
different sizes, and shifted every now and then, with a disheartening
jerk, to their shoulders and back again--this is quite as
uncomfortable as it sounds. Ponies cannot, or at least do not, live in
Uganda, though an experiment was just about to be made with them by
the Chief of the Police, who is convinced that with really careful
stable management, undertaken in detail by the owner himself, they
could be made to flourish. Mules have a better chance, though still
not a good one. We took one with us on the last spell of "Safari" to
Gondokoro, and were told it was sure to die; but we left it in
apparently excellent condition and spirits.

  [Illustration: AN ENCAMPMENT.]

But the best of all methods of progression in Central Africa--however
astonishing it may seem--is the bicycle. In the dry season the paths
through the bush, smoothed by the feet of natives, afford an excellent
surface. Even when the track is only two feet wide, and when the
densest jungle rises on either side and almost meets above the head,
the bicycle skims along, swishing through the grass and brushing the
encroaching bushes, at a fine pace; and although at every few hundred
yards sharp rocks, loose stones, a water-course, or a steep hill
compel dismounting, a good seven miles an hour can usually be
maintained. And think what this means. From my own experience I should
suppose that with a bicycle twenty-five to thirty miles a day could
regularly be covered in Uganda, and, if only the porters could keep
up, all journeys could be nearly trebled, and every white officer's
radius of action proportionately increased.

Nearly all the British officers I met already possessed and used
bicycles, and even the native chiefs are beginning to acquire them.
But what is needed to make the plan effective is a good system of
stone, fumigated, insect-proof rest-houses at stages of thirty miles
on all the main lines of communication. Such a development would mean
an enormous saving in the health of white officials and a valuable
accession to their power. Had I known myself before coming to Uganda
the advantages which this method presents, I should have been able to
travel far more widely through the country by the simple expedient of
trebling the stages of my journeys, and sending porters on a week in
advance to pitch camps and deposit food at wide intervals. And then,
instead of merely journeying from one Great Lake to the other, I
could, _within the same limits of time_, have explored the fertile
and populous plateau of Toro, descended the beautiful valley of the
Semliki, and traversed the Albert Lake from end to end, and skirted
the slopes of Ruenzori. "If youth but knew...!"

But the march, however performed, has its termination; and if, as is
recommended, you stop to breakfast and rest upon the way, the new camp
will be almost ready upon arrival. During the heat of the day every
one retires to his tent or to the more effective shelter of the
"banda," to read and sleep till the evening. Then as the sun gets low
we emerge to smoke and talk, and there is, perhaps, just time for the
energetic to pursue an antelope, or shoot a few guinea-fowl or
pigeons.

With the approach of twilight comes the mosquito, strident-voiced and
fever-bearing; and the most thorough precautions have to be taken
against him and other insect dangers. We dine in a large
mosquito-house made entirely of fine gauze, and about twelve feet
cubically. The bedding, which should if possible be packed in tin
boxes, is unrolled during the day, and carefully protected by
mosquito-nets well tucked in, against all forms of vermin. Every one
puts on mosquito-boots--long, soft, leather leggings, reaching to the
hips. You are recommended not to sit on cane-bottomed chairs without
putting a newspaper or a cushion on them, to wear a cap, a scarf, and
possibly gloves, and to carry a swishing mosquito-trap. Thus one
moves, comparatively secure, amid a chorus of ferocious buzzings.

To these precautions are added others. You must never walk barefoot on
the floor, no matter how clean it is, or an odious worm, called a
"jigger," will enter your foot to raise a numerous family and a
painful swelling. On the other hand, be sure when you put on boots or
shoes that, however hurried, you turn them upside down and look
inside, lest a scorpion, a small snake, or a perfectly frightful kind
of centipede may be lying in ambush. Never throw your clothes
carelessly upon the ground, but put them away at once in a tin box,
and shut it tight, or a perfect colony of fierce-biting creatures will
beset them. And, above all, quinine! To the permanent resident in
these strange countries no drug can be of much avail; for either its
protection is diminished with habit, or the doses have to be
increased to impossible limits. But the traveller, who is passing
through on a journey of only a few months, may recur with safety and
with high advantage to that admirable prophylactic. Opinions differ as
to how it should be taken. The Germans, with their love of exactness
even in regard to the most uncertain things, prescribe thirty grains
on each seventh day and eighth day alternately. We followed a simpler
plan of taking a regular ten grains every day, from the moment we left
Port Said till we arrived at Khartoum. No one in my party suffered
from fever even for a day during the whole journey.

Our second day's march was about the same in length and character,
except that we were nearer the river, and as the path led through the
twilight of the forest we saw every now and then a gleam of broad
waters on our left. At frequent intervals--five or six times during
the day--long caravans of native porters were met carrying the produce
of the fertile districts between Lake Chioga and Mount Elgon into
Jinja. Nothing could better show the need of improved communications
than this incipient and potential trade--ready to begin and thrusting
forward along bush-paths on the heads of tottering men. For the rest,
the country near the river seemed the densest and most impenetrable
jungle, hiding in its recesses alike its inhabitants and its game.

The third morning, however, brought us among "shambas," as the patches
of native cultivation are called; and the road was among plantations
of bananas, millet, cotton, castor-oil, and chilies. Here in Usoga, as
throughout Uganda, the one staple crop is the banana; and as this
fruit, when once planted, grows and propagates of its own accord,
requiring no thought or exertion, it finds special favour with the
improvident natives, and sustains them year after year in leisured
abundance, till a sudden failure and a fearful famine restore the
harsh balances of the world.

After a tramp of twelve miles, and while it was still comparatively
early--for we had started before dawn--we reached Kakindu. The track
led out of the forest of banana-groves downwards into more open spaces
and blazing sunlight, and there before us was the Nile. Already--forty
miles from its source, near four thousand from its mouth--it was a
noble river: nearly a third of a mile in breadth of clear, deep water
rolling forward majestically between banks of foliage and verdure. The
"Chioga flotilla," consisting of the small steam launch, _Victoria_, a
steel boat, and two or three dug-out canoes, scooped out of
tree-trunks, awaited us; and after the long, hot business of embarking
the baggage and crowding the native servants in among it, was
completed, we parted from our first relay of escorts and porters, and
drifted out on the flood.

The next three days of our life were spent on the water--first
cruising down the Victoria Nile till it flows into Chioga, and then
traversing the smooth, limpid expanses of that lake. Every evening we
landed at camps prepared by the Busoga chiefs, pitched our tents,
lighted our fires, and erected our mosquito-houses, while dusk drew
on, and thunderstorms--frequent at this season of the year--wheeled in
vivid splendour about the dark horizon. All through the hot hours of
the day one lay at the bottom of massive canoes, sheltered from the
sun by an improvised roof of rushes and wet grass. From time to time a
strange bird, or, better still, the rumour of a hippo--nose just
peeping above the water--enlivened the slow and sultry passage of the
hours; and one great rock, crowded with enormous crocodiles, all of
whom--a score at least--leaped together into the water at the first
shot, afforded at least one really striking spectacle.

As the Victoria Nile approaches Lake Chioga, it broadens out into wide
lagoons, and the sloping banks of forest and jungle give place to
unbroken walls of papyrus-reeds, behind which the flat, surrounding
country is invisible, and above which only an isolated triangular hill
may here and there be descried, purple in the distance. The lake
itself is about fifty miles long from east to west, and eleven broad,
but its area and perimeter are greatly extended by a series of long
arms, or rather fingers, stretching out in every direction, but
especially to the north, and affording access by water to very wide
and various districts. All these arms, and even a great part of the
centre of the lake, are filled with reeds, grass, and water-lilies,
for Chioga is the first of the great sponges upon which the Nile
lavishes its waters. Although a depth of about twelve feet can usually
be counted on, navigation is impeded by floating weeds and
water-plants; and when the storms have swept the northern shore,
numerous papyrus-tangled islands, complete with their populations of
birds and animals, are detached, and swim erratically about the lake
to block accustomed channels and puzzle the pilot.

For one long day our little palpitating launch, towing its flotilla of
canoes, plashed through this curious region, at times winding through
a glade in the papyrus forest scarcely a dozen yards across, then
presently emerging into wide flood, stopping often to clear our
propeller from tangles of accumulating greenery. The middle of the
lake unrolls large expanses of placid water. The banks and reeds
recede into the distance, and the whole universe becomes a vast
encircling blue globe of sky and water, rimmed round its middle by a
thin band of vivid green. Time vanishes, and nothing is left but space
and sunlight.

All this while we must carefully avoid the northern, and particularly
the north-western shore, for the natives are altogether
unadministered, and nearly all the tribes are hostile. To pursue the
elephants which, of course (so they say), abound in these forbidden
precincts is impossible; to land for food or fuel would be dangerous,
and even to approach might draw a splutter of musketry or a shower of
spears from His Majesty's yet unpersuaded subjects.

The Nile leaves the north-west corner of the lake at Namasali and
flows along a broad channel above a mile in width, still enclosed by
solid papyrus walls and dotted with floating islands. Another forty
miles of steaming and we reach Mruli. Mruli is a representative
African village. Its importance is more marked upon the maps than on
the ground. An imposing name in large black letters calls up the idea
of a populous and considerable township. All that meets the eye,
however, are a score of funnel-shaped grass huts, surrounded by dismal
swamps and labyrinths of reeds, over which clouds of mosquitoes danced
feverishly. A long wattled pier had been built from terra firma to
navigable water, but the channel by which it could be approached had
been wholly blocked by a floating island, and this had to be towed
painfully out of the way before we could land. Here we were met by a
fresh escort of King's African Rifles, as spick and span in uniform,
as precise in their military bearing, as if they were at Aldershot; by
a mob of fresh porters, and, lastly, by the only friendly tribe
from the northern bank of the river: and while tents were pitched,
baggage landed, and cooking-fires began to glow, these four hundred
wild spearmen, casting aside their leopard skins, danced naked in the
dusk.

  [Illustration: LANDING AT MRULI.]



CHAPTER VIII

MURCHISON FALLS


We had intended, on leaving the Nile where it turns northward at
Mruli, to march directly across to Hoima, on the Albert Lake; and this
journey, by way of Masindi, would have required four marches. But
tales of the beauty and wonder of the Murchison Falls had captivated
my mind, and before embarking at Kakindu a new plan had been resolved.
Runners were sent back to the telegraph wire at Jinja, and thence a
message was flashed by Kampala to Hoima, directing the flotilla which
awaited us there, to steam to the north end of the Albert and meet us
by the foot of the Murchison Falls at Fajao. Thither we were now to
proceed by five marches--two to Masindi and three more turning
northward to the Nile.

The road from Mruli consists of a sort of embanked track through
low-lying and desolate scrub and jungle. The heavy black cotton soil,
cracked and granulated by the heat, offered at this time a hardened if
uneven surface to the bicycle; but in the rains such paths must become
utterly impassable. As one advances westward the country improves
rapidly in aspect. The dismal flats of the South Chioga shore are left
behind, and the traveller discovers more characteristic Uganda scenery
in a region of small hills and great trees. Before Masindi is reached
we are again in a rich and beautiful land. Pools of shining water, set
in verdant green, flash back the sunbeams. Bold bluffs and ridges rise
on all sides from amid the unceasing undulations of the ground.
Streams plash merrily downwards through rocky channels. The yellow
grass roofs of frequent villages peep from underneath their groves of
bananas among broad streaks of cultivated ground, and chiefs and
headmen salute the stranger with grave yet curious politeness as the
long "safari" winds beneath the trees.

The heat grows as the altitude dwindles, and even in the early morning
the sun sits hard and heavy on the shoulders. At ten o'clock its power
is tremendous. So long as the roadway consisted of nobbly lumps of
black cotton soil bicycling, though possible in places, was scarcely
pleasant. But the change in the landscape arises from the change in
the soil. The fields are now of bright red earth, the paths of red
sandstone washed in places almost as smooth and as firm as asphalt by
the rains and sparkling with crystalline dust; and when the ridges
which form the watershed between Lake Chioga and Lake Albert had been
topped, my bicycle glided almost without impulsion down four miles of
gradual descent into Masindi. This station--which is the residence of
a collector--lies embosomed in a wide bay of gently-sloping hills
clothed with noble trees. It is indeed a pleasant spot. There are real
houses, standing on high stone platforms, with deep verandas and wire
gauze windows. The roads are laid out in bold geometry of broad red
lines. There are avenues of planted trees, delicious banks of flowers,
a prepared breakfast, _cold_, not cool, drinks, a telegraph office,
and a file of the _Times_. What more could an explorer desire or the
Fates accord?

We were now to strike northwards to the Nile at Fajao in three long
marches (for the porters) of about sixteen miles each. Upon the Hoima
road some preparations had been made to make the journey easier by
clearing the encroaching jungle from the track and constructing
rest-houses. But my change of plan had disconcerted these
arrangements, and on the new route we had to clear our own paths from
the overgrowth by which even in a season, if unused, they are choked,
and to trust to tents and improvised shelters. Progress was therefore
slow and camps unpretentious. But all was redeemed by the wonders of
the scene.

For a whole day we crept through the skirts of the Hoima forest, amid
an exuberance of vegetation which is scarcely describable. I had
travelled through tropical forests in Cuba and India, and had often
before admired their enchanting, yet sinister, luxuriance. But the
forests of Uganda, for magnificence, for variety of form and colour,
for profusion of brilliant life--plant, bird, insect, reptile,
beast--for the vast scale and awful fecundity of the natural processes
that are beheld at work, eclipsed, and indeed effaced, all previous
impressions. One becomes, not without a secret sense of aversion, the
spectator of an intense convulsion of life and death. Reproduction and
decay are locked struggling in infinite embraces. In this glittering
Equatorial slum huge trees jostle one another for room to live;
slender growths stretch upwards--as it seems in agony--towards
sunlight and life. The soil bursts with irrepressible vegetations.
Every victor, trampling on the rotting mould of exterminated
antagonists, soars aloft only to encounter another host of aerial
rivals, to be burdened with masses of parasitic foliage, smothered in
the glorious blossoms of creepers, laced and bound and interwoven with
interminable tangles of vines and trailers. Birds are as bright as
butterflies; butterflies are as big as birds. The air hums with flying
creatures; the earth crawls beneath your foot. The telegraph-wire runs
northward to Gondokoro through this vegetable labyrinth. Even its
poles had broken into bud!

As we advanced, continually rising or falling with the waves of the
land, and moving in rapid alternations from a blazing patch of
sunshine into a cloistered dimness, every now and then the path became
smooth, broad, and of firm sandstone. And here one could watch the
columns of marching soldier-ants. Perhaps in a hundred yards the road
would be crossed four times by these fierce armies. They move in
regular array, and upon purposes at once inscrutable and unswerving. A
brown band, perhaps two inches broad and an inch and a half _deep_, is
drawn across your track. Its ends are lost in the recesses of the
jungle. It moves unceasingly and with a multiplied rapidity; for each
ant runs swiftly forward, whether upon the ground or upon the backs of
his already moving comrades. About a yard away, on each side of the
main column, are the screening lines of the flank-guards, and for five
yards beyond this every inch is searched, every object is examined by
tireless and fearless reconnoitring patrols. Woe to the enemy who is
overtaken by these hordes. No matter what his size or nature, he is
attacked at once by an ever-increasing number of assailants, each one
of whom, upon remorseless instinct, plunges his strong mandibles in
the flesh, and will have his head pulled off his shoulders rather than
let go.

These ant armies fascinated me. I could not resist interfering with
them. With my walking-stick I gently broke the column and pushed the
swarming rope off its line of march. Their surprise, their confusion,
their indignation were extreme. But not for an instant did they pause.
In a second the scouts were running all over my boots eagerly seeking
an entry, and when I looked back from this to the walking-stick I held
it was already alive. With a gesture so nimble that it might have been
misunderstood, I cast it from me and jumped back out of the danger
circle until I found refuge on a large rock at a respectful distance.
The Soudanese sergeant-major of the escort, a splendid negro, drilled
as smart as a Grenadier Guardsman and with a good long row of medal
ribbons on his khaki tunic, so far forgot himself as to grin from ear
to ear. But his gravity was fully restored when I invited him to
rescue my walking-stick, which lay abandoned on the field in the
mandibles of the victorious enemy. The devoted man was, however, equal
to the crisis.

I have a sad tale also to tell of the perversity of butterflies. Never
were seen such flying fairies. They flaunted their splendid liveries
in inconceivable varieties of colour and pattern in our faces at every
step. Swallow-tails, fritillaries, admirals, tortoise-shells,
peacocks, orange-tips--all executed in at least a dozen novel and
contrasted styles, with many even more beautiful, but bearing no
resemblance to our British species--flitted in sunshine from flower to
flower, glinted in the shadow of great trees, or clustered on the path
to suck the moisture from any swampy patch. The butterfly is a dirty
feeder, and if ever some piece of putrescent filth lay odorous on the
ground, be sure it would be covered with a cloud of these greedy
insects, come in such gay attire to eat such sorry meat. I found them
sometimes so intoxicated with feasting that I could pick them up quite
gently in my fingers without the need of any net at all.

To any one who has ever tried to collect the modest and now all too
rare and scattered butterflies of Britain, these sights could not but
be a hard temptation. For a week I had resisted it, not because it was
not easy enough to make a net, but because of the difficulty of
setting and preserving the prizes; and it was not until the end of our
first day's march out from Masindi that I was told that much the best
way of sending butterflies home from Africa was to enclose them in
neatly-folded triangles of paper and leave them to be set in London.
Forthwith, out of telegraph-wire and mosquito-curtain, a net was made,
and before another dawn I was fully equipped. It is almost incredible
to state that from that very moment, except near the Murchison Falls,
I scarcely ever saw a really fine butterfly again all the way to
Gondokoro. Whether this was due to the intelligent perversity of these
insects, or to the fact that we had left the deeper recesses of the
forest region, I do not inquire; but the fact remains, and I carry
away from the butterflies of Uganda only the haunting memories of
unrealized opportunity.

This first day's march from Masindi was a long one, and our porters
panted and toiled under their loads through the heat of the day. It
was not till the afternoon that the main body came into camp, and
stragglers trickled through into the dusk. Meanwhile the local natives
built under our eyes, with extraordinary speed and cleverness, a
spacious dining-hall and two or three quite excellent bedrooms from
the surrounding elephant-grass and bamboo groves; and we fared as
comfortably in these two humble dwellings as if we dwelt in kings'
palaces. The forest was a little thinner on the second day, although
the jungle was of the same dense and tangled fertility. We started an
hour before sunrise, and by eight o'clock had climbed to the saddle of
the high rocky wall which contains the valley of the Victoria Nile.
From this elevation of, perhaps, six hundred feet above the general
level of the plain a comprehensive view of the landscape was for the
first time possible. In every direction spread a wide sea of foliage,
thinning here into bush, darkening there into forest, rising and
falling with the waves of the land, and broken only by occasional
peaks of rock. Far away to the north-west a long silver gleam, just
discernible through the haze of the horizon, revealed to our eyes the
distant prospect of the Albert Nyanza. The camera cannot do justice to
such a panorama. In photographs these vast expanses look like mere
scrubby commons, inhospitable and monotonous to the eye, melancholy to
the soul. One has to remember that here are Kew Gardens and the Zoo
combined on an unlimited scale; that Nature's central productive
laboratory is here working night and day at full blast; and that the
scrubby common of the picture is really a fairyland of glades and
vistas, through which an army of a hundred thousand men might march
without the glint of a bayonet, or even the dust of an artillery
column, betraying their presence to the watcher on the crag.

Our camp this night lay in a tiny patch cleared in the heart of this
wild world. The cluster of tents under a canopy of palms, illumined by
the watch-fires, bright with lanterns, and busy with the moving
figures of men and the hum of human activity, seemed at a hundred
yards' distance an island of society amid an ocean of Nature. To what
strange perils--apart altogether from the certainty of losing your
way--would a walk of a quarter of a mile in any direction expose the
wanderer? To withdraw from the firelight was to be engulfed in the
savage conditions of prehistoric time. Advance, and the telegraph-wire
would tell you the latest quotations of the London markets, the
figures of the newest by-election. An odd sensation!

  [Illustration: MURCHISON FALLS.]

We had scarce proceeded for an hour on our third march, when just as
it grew daylight a low vibrant murmur began to be perceptible in the
air. Now it was lost as we descended into some moist valley, now it
broke even more strongly on the ear as we reached the summit of some
ascent--the sound of the Nile plunging down the Murchison Falls. And
by nine o'clock, when we were still about ten miles off, a loud,
insistent, and unceasing hum had developed. These Falls are certainly
the most remarkable in the whole course of the Nile. At Foweira the
navigable reaches stretching from Lake Chioga are interrupted by
cataracts, and the river hurries along in foam and rapid down a
gradual but continuous stairway, enclosed by rocky walls, but still a
broad flood. Two miles above Fajao these walls contract suddenly till
they are _not six yards apart_, and through this strangling portal, as
from the nozzle of a hose, the whole tremendous river is shot in one
single jet down an abyss of a hundred and sixty feet.

The escarpment over which the Nile falls curves away in a vast bay of
precipitous, or almost precipitous, cliffs, broken here and there by
more gradual rifts, and forms the eastern wall of the Albert Lake,
from whose waters it rises abruptly in many places to a height of six
or seven hundred feet. Arrived at the verge of this descent, the lower
reaches of the Victoria Nile could be discerned, stretching away mile
after mile in a broad, gleaming ribbon almost to its mouth on the
lake. The Falls themselves were, indeed, invisible, concealed behind a
forested bluff, but their roaring left no doubt of their presence.
Below me a zigzag path led down by long descents to the water's edge,
and on an open meadow a row of tents and grass houses had already been
set up.

Fajao as a native town was no more. At hardly any point in Uganda has
the sleeping sickness made such frightful ravages. At least six
thousand persons had perished in the last two years. Almost the whole
population had been swept away. Scarcely enough remained to form the
deputation, who, in their white robes, could be distinguished at the
entrance to the cleared area of the camping-ground. And this cleared
area was itself of the utmost importance; for all around it the powers
of evil were strong. The groves which fringed and overhung the river
swarmed with tsetse flies of newly-replenished venom and approved
malignity, and no man could enter them except at a risk. After pausing
for a few minutes to watch a troop of baboons who were leaping
about from tree to tree on the opposite hill, and who seemed as big as
men, I climbed down the zigzag, photographed the deputation, and shook
hands with the chief. He was a very civilized chief--by name James
Kago--who wore riding-breeches and leather gaiters, and who spoke a
few unexpected sentences of excellent English. He seemed in the best
of spirits, and so did the remnant of the population who gathered
behind him, though whether this was due to stoical philosophy or good
manners, I could not tell. All was smiles and bows and gurglings of
guttural gratification. The district officer who had travelled with me
explained that the chief had had the path up to the top of the Falls
improved, and that he proposed, after we had lunched and rested, to
guide us along it to the very edge of the abyss, but that the forest
along the river-bank was so dangerous because of the tsetses that we
should in prudence wear veils and gloves before entering it. With all
of this I made no quarrel.

  [Illustration: FAJAO, WITH NATIVES ASSEMBLED TO WELCOME US.]

In a little rocky inlet forming a small natural harbour we found the
Albert flotilla already arrived. It consisted of the _Kenia_, a
steam-launch about forty feet long, decked, and with a cabin, and
drawing four feet of water, and three steel sailing-boats of different
sizes--to wit, the _James Martin_, the _Good Intent_, and the
_Kisingiri_. These small vessels were to carry us down the Victoria
Nile into the Albert Nyanza, across the top end of this lake, and then
down the hundred and seventy miles' reach of the White Nile till
navigation is barred at Nimule by more cataracts. They were manned by
a crew of jolly Swahili tars smartly dressed in white breeches and
blue jerseys, on whose breasts the words "Uganda Marine" were worked
in yellow worsted. The engineer of the steam-launch commanded the
whole with plenary powers of discipline and diplomacy; and it was by
means of this little group of cock-boats that trade and communications
with the Nile province and around the whole of Lake Albert were alone
maintained. The flotilla, nestling together in its harbour and
sheltered by a rocky breakwater from the swift current, made a pretty
picture; and behind it the Nile, streaked and often covered with the
creamy foam of the Falls, swept along in majestic flood six hundred
yards from brim to brim.

  [Illustration: FLOTILLA AT FAJAO.]

We began our climb to the summit of the Falls in the blazing heat
of the day, and for the first time I was forced to confess the Central
African sun as formidable as that which beats on the plains of India.
Yet even at the worst moments it is more endurable, for the breeze
does not stifle you with the breath of a furnace. First the path led
through the deadly groves; and here, of course, the most beautiful
butterflies--some five inches across the wings--floated tantalizingly.
Sometimes we descended to where the river lapped along the rocks and
curled in eddies under floating islands of froth. Precautions were
required against diverse dangers. The Nile below the Murchison Falls
swarms with crocodiles, some of an enormous size, and herds of
hippopotamus are found every half mile or so; so that, what with the
rifles which it was necessary to take for great beasts, and the gloves
and veils which were our protection against even more villainous small
ones, we were painfully encumbered. Indeed, the veils were such a
nuisance and the heat was so great that I resolved to hazard the
tsetse and took mine off. But after half an hour of menacing buzzings,
and after a fly--presumably of the worst character--had actually
settled on my shoulder, brushed off by the promptness of my
companion, I changed my mind again.

As we were thus scrambling along the brink of the river a crocodile
was discovered basking in the sunshine on a large rock in mid-stream,
about a hundred and fifty yards from the shore. I avow, with what
regrets may be necessary, an active hatred of these brutes and a
desire to kill them. It was a tempting shot, for the ruffian lay
sleeping in the sun-blaze, his mouth wide open and his fat and scaly
flanks exposed. Two or three attendant white birds hopped about him,
looking for offal, which I have been assured (and does not Herodotus
vouch for it?) they sometimes pick from his very teeth. I fired. What
the result of the shot may have been I do not know, for the crocodile
gave one leap of mortal agony or surprise and disappeared in the
waters. But then it was my turn to be astonished. The river at this
distance from the Falls was not broader than three hundred yards, and
we could see the whole shore of the opposite bank quite plainly. It
had hitherto appeared to be a long brown line of mud, on which the sun
shone dully. At the sound of the shot the whole of this bank of the
river, over the extent of at least a quarter of a mile, sprang into
hideous life, and my companions and I saw hundreds and hundreds of
crocodiles, of all sorts and sizes, rushing madly into the Nile, whose
waters along the line of the shore were lashed into white foam,
exactly as if a heavy wave had broken. It could be no exaggeration to
say that at least a thousand of these saurians had been disturbed at a
single shot. Our British friends explained that Fajao was the
favourite haunt of the crocodiles, who lay in the water below the
Falls waiting for dead fish and animals carried over by the river.
Very often, they told us, hippos from the upper river and from Lake
Chioga were caught and swept downwards, the force of the water
"breaking every bone in their body." "Indeed," added the officer,
somewhat obscurely, "they are _very lucky_ if they are not smashed
into pulp."

  [Illustration: THE TOP OF THE MURCHISON FALLS.]

  [Illustration: UGANDA SCENERY.]

At length we turned a corner and came face to face with the Falls.
They are wonderful to behold, not so much because of their
height--though that is impressive--but because of the immense volume
of water which is precipitated through such a narrow outlet. Indeed,
seeing the great size of the river below the Falls, it seemed
impossible to believe that it was wholly supplied from this single
spout. In clouds of rainbow spray and amid thunderous concussions of
sound we set to work to climb the southern side of the rock wall, and
after an hour achieved the summit. It was possible to walk to within
an inch of the edge and, lying on one's face with a cautious head
craned over, to look actually down upon the foaming hell beneath. The
narrowness of the gorge at the top had not been overstated. I doubt
whether it is fifteen feet across from sheer rock to sheer rock. Ten
pounds, in fact, would throw an iron bridge across the Nile at this
point. But it is evident that the falling waters must have arched and
caved away the rock below their surface in an extraordinary degree,
for otherwise there could not possibly be room for the whole river to
descend.

We waited long at this strange place, watching the terrible waters,
admiring their magnificent fury, trying to compute their force. Who
can doubt that the bridle is preparing which shall hold and direct
their strength, or that the day will come when forlorn Fajao--now
depopulated and almost derelict--will throb with the machinery of
manufacture and electric production? I cannot believe that modern
science will be content to leave these mighty forces untamed, unused,
or that regions of inexhaustible and unequalled fertility, capable of
supplying all sorts of things that civilized industry needs in greater
quantity every year, will not be brought--in spite of their insects
and their climate--into cultivated subjection. Certain it is that the
economy of the world remains hopelessly incomplete while these
neglects prevail, and, while it would be wasteful and foolish to
hustle, it would be more wasteful and more foolish to abate the steady
progress of development.

From these reflections I was roused abruptly by the Nile, a wave of
whose turbulent waters--cast up by some unusual commotion as they
approached the verge--boiled suddenly over a ledge of rock hitherto
high and dry, carrying an ugly and perhaps indignant swish of water to
my very feet.



CHAPTER IX

HIPPO CAMP


It took no little time to stow all our baggage, food and tents upon
the launch and its steel boats, and though our camp was astir at
half-past three, the dawn was just breaking when we were able to
embark. And then the _James Martin_ wedged herself upon a rock a few
yards from the shore of the sheltering inlet, and seemed to have got
herself hard and fast; for pull as we might with all the force of the
launch at full steam, and the added weight of the current to help us,
not an inch would she budge. Everything had, therefore, to be unloaded
again from the straggler, and when she had thus been lightened and her
freight transferred to the attendant canoes, James Kago ordered his
tribesmen to leap into the water, which was not more than five feet
deep, and push and lift the little vessel whilst the steamer tugged.
But this task the natives were most reluctant to perform out of
fear of the crocodiles, who might at any moment make a pounce,
notwithstanding all the noise and clatter. Thereupon the energetic
chief seized hold of them one after another round the waist, and threw
them full-splash into the stream, till at least twenty were
accumulated round the boat, and then, what with their impatience to
finish their uncomfortable job and our straining tow rope, the _James
Martin_ floated free, was reloaded, and we were off.

  [Illustration: THE LANDING-PLACE AT FAJAO.]

As we drifted out into mid-stream the most beautiful view of the falls
broke upon us. It was already almost daylight, but the sun had not yet
actually topped the great escarpment over which the Nile descends. The
banks on both sides of the river, clad with dense and lofty forest and
rising about twice as high as Cliveden Woods from the water's edge,
were dark in shadow. The river was a broad sheet of steel grey veined
with paler streaks of foam. The rock portals of the falls were jetty
black, and between them, illumined by a single shaft of sunlight,
gleamed the tremendous cataract--a thing of wonder and glory, well
worth travelling all the way to see.

We were soon among the hippopotami. Every two or three hundred yards,
and at every bend of the river, we came upon a herd of from five to
twenty. To us in a steam launch they threatened no resistance or
danger. But their inveterate hostility to canoes leads to repeated
loss of life among the native fishermen, whose frail craft are
crumpled like eggshells in the snap of enormous jaws. Indeed, all the
way from here to Nimule they are declared to be the scourge and terror
of the Nile. Fancy mistaking a hippopotamus--almost the largest
surviving mammal in the world--for a water lily. Yet nothing is more
easy. The whole river is dotted with floating lilies detached from any
root and drifting along contentedly with the current. It is the habit
of the hippo to loll in the water showing only his eyes and the tips
of his ears, and perhaps now and again a glimpse of his nose, and thus
concealed his silhouette is, at three hundred yards, almost
indistinguishable from the floating vegetation. I thought they also
looked like giant cats peeping. So soon, however, as they saw us
coming round a corner and heard the throbbing of the propeller, they
would raise their whole heads out of the water to have a look, and
then immediately dive to the bottom in disgust. Our practice was
then to shut off steam and drift silently down upon them. In this way
one arrives in the middle of the herd, and when curiosity or want of
air compels them to come up again there is a chance of a shot. One
great fellow came up to breathe within five yards of the boat, and the
look of astonishment, of alarm, of indignation, in his large,
expressive eyes--as with one vast snort he plunged below--was comical
to see. These creatures are not easy to kill. They bob up in the most
unexpected quarters, and are down again in a second. One does not like
to run the risk of merely wounding them, and the target presented is
small and vanishing. I shot one who sunk with a harsh sort of scream
and thud of striking bullet. We waited about a long time for him to
float up to the surface, but in vain, for he must have been carried
into or under a bed of reeds and could not be retrieved.

  [Illustration: EARLY MORNING ON THE NILE AT FAJAO.]

  [Illustration: FAJAO.]

The Murchison, or Karuma, Falls, as the natives call them, are about
thirty miles distance from the Albert Lake, and as with the current we
made six or seven miles an hour, this part of our journey was short.
Here the Nile offers a splendid waterway. The main channel is at least
ten feet deep, and navigation, in spite of shifting sandbanks,
islands, and entanglements of reeds and other vegetation, is not
difficult. The river itself is of delicious, sweet water, and flows
along in many places half-a-mile broad. Its banks for the first twenty
miles were shaded by beautiful trees, and here and there contained by
bold headlands, deeply scarped by the current. The serrated outline of
the high mountains on the far side of the Albert Nyanza could soon be
seen painted in shadow on the western sky. As the lake is approached
the riparian scenery degenerates; the sandbanks became more intricate;
the banks are low and flat, and huge marshes encroach upon the river
on either hand. Yet even here the traveller moves through an imposing
world.

At length, after five or six hours' steaming, we cleared the mouth of
the Victoria Nile and swam out on to the broad expanses of the lake.
Happily on this occasion it was quite calm. How I wished then that I
had not allowed myself to be deterred by time and croakers from a
longer voyage, and that we could have turned to the south and,
circumnavigating the Albert, ascended the Semliki river with all its
mysterious attractions, have visited the forests on the south-western
shores, and caught, perhaps, a gleam of the snows of Ruenzori! But we
were in the fell grip of carefully-considered arrangements, and, like
children in a Christmas toy shop always looking back, were always
hurried on.

Yet progress offered its prizes as well as delay. Some of my party had
won the confidence of the engineer of the launch, who had revealed to
them a valuable secret. It appeared that "somewhere between Lake
Albert and Nimule"--not to be too precise--there was a place known
only to the elect, and not to more than one or two of them, where
elephants abounded and rhinoceros swarmed. And these rhinoceros, be it
observed, were none of your common black variety with two stumpy horns
almost equal in size, and a prehensile tip to their noses. Not at all;
they were what are called "white" rhino--Burchell's white
rhinoceros,[1] that is their full style--with one long, thin, enormous
horn, perhaps a yard long--on their noses, and with broad, square
upper lips. Naturally we were all very much excited, and in order to
gain a day on our itinerary to study these very rare and remarkable
animals more closely, we decided not to land and pitch a camp, but to
steam on all through the night. Meanwhile our friend the engineer
undertook to accomplish the difficult feat of finding the channel,
with all its windings, in the dark.

The scene as we left the Albert Lake and entered the White Nile was of
surpassing beauty. The sun was just setting behind the high, jagged
peaks of the Congo Mountains to the westward. One after another, and
range behind range, these magnificent heights--rising perhaps to eight
or nine thousand feet--unfolded themselves in waves of dark
plum-coloured rock, crested with golden fire. The lake stretched away
apparently without limit like the sea, towards the southward in an
ever-broadening swell of waters--flushed outside the shadow of the
mountains into a delicious pink. Across its surface our tiny
flotilla--four on a string--paddled its way towards the narrowing
northern shores and the channel of the Nile.

  [Illustration: APPROACH TO LAKE ALBERT, WITH THE CONGO HILLS IN THE
    DISTANCE.]

  [Illustration: WADELAI.]

The White Nile leaves the Albert Lake in majesty. All the way to
Nimule it is often more like a lake than a river. For the first twenty
miles of its course it seemed to me to be at least two miles across.
The current is gentle, and sometimes in the broad lagoons and bays
into which the placid waters spread themselves it is scarcely
perceptible. I slept under an awning in the _Kisingiri_, the last and
smallest boat of the string, and, except for the native steersman and
piles of baggage, had it all to myself. It was, indeed, delightful to
lie fanned by cool breezes and lulled by the soothing lappings of the
ripples, and to watch, as it were, from dreamland the dark outlines of
the banks gliding swiftly past and the long moonlit levels of the
water.

At daybreak we were at Wadelai. In twenty-four hours from leaving
Fajao we had made nearly a hundred miles of our voyage. Without the
sigh of a single porter these small boats and launch had transported
the whole of our "safari" over a distance which would on land have
required the labours and sufferings of three hundred men during at
least a week of unbroken effort. Such are the contrasts which impress
upon one the importance of utilising the water-ways of Central
Africa, of establishing a complete circulation along them, and of
using railways in the first instance merely to link them together.

Wadelai was deserted. Upon a high bank of the river stood a long row
of tall, peaked, thatched houses, the walls of a fort, and buildings
of European construction. All was newly abandoned to ruin. The
Belgians are evacuating all their posts in the Lado enclave except
Lado itself, and these stations, so laboriously constructed, so long
maintained, will soon be swallowed by the jungle. The Uganda
Government also is reducing its garrisons and administration in the
Nile province, and the traveller sees, not without melancholy, the
spectacle of civilization definitely in retreat after more than half a
century of effort and experiment.

We disembarked and climbed the slopes through high rank grass and
scattered boulders till we stood amidst the rotting bungalows and
shanties of what had been a bold bid for the existence of a town.
Wadelai had been occupied by white men perhaps for fifty years. For
half a century that feeble rush-light of modernity, of cigarettes, of
newspapers, of whisky and pickles, had burned on the lonely banks of
the White Nile to encourage and beckon the pioneer and settler. None
had followed. Now it was extinguished; and yet when I surveyed the
spacious landscape with its green expanses, its lofty peaks, its
trees, its verdure, rising from the brink of the mighty and majestic
river, I could not bring myself for a moment to believe that
civilization has done with the Nile Province or the Lado Enclave, or
that there is no future for regions which promise so much.

All through the day we paddled prosperously with the stream. At times
the Nile lost itself in labyrinths of papyrus, which reproduced the
approaches to Lake Chioga, and through which we threaded a tortuous
course, with many bumps and brushings at the bends. But more often the
banks were good, firm earth, with here and there beautiful cliffs of
red sandstone, hollowed by the water, and rising abruptly from its
brim, crowned with luxuriant foliage. In places these cliffs were
pierced by narrow roadways, almost tunnels, winding up to the high
ground, and perfectly smooth and regular in their construction. They
looked as if they were made on purpose to give access to and from the
river; and so they had been--by the elephants. Legions of water-fowl
inhabited the reeds, and troops of cranes rose at the approach of the
flotilla. Sometimes we saw great, big pelican kind of birds, almost as
big as a man, standing contemplative on a single leg, and often on the
tree-tops a fish-eagle, glorious in bronze and cream, sat sunning
himself and watching for a prey.

I stopped once in the hope of catching butterflies, but found none of
distinction--only a profuse variety of common types, a high level of
mediocrity without beauties or commanders, and swarms of ferocious
mosquitoes prepared to dispute the ground against all comers; and it
was nearly four in the afternoon when the launch suddenly jinked to
the left out of the main stream into a small semi-circular bay, five
hundred yards across, and we came to land at "Hippo Camp."

  [Illustration: THE "KENIA," "JAMES MARTIN," AND "GOOD HOPE" NEARING
    NIMULE.]

  [Illustration: HIPPO CAMP.]

We thought it was much too late to attempt any serious shooting that
day. There were scarcely three and a half hours of daylight. But after
thirty-six hours cramped on these little boats a walk through jungle
was very attractive; and, accordingly, dividing ourselves into
three parties, we started in three different directions--like the
spokes of a wheel. Captain Dickinson, who commanded the escort, went
to the right with the doctor; Colonel Wilson and another officer set
out at right angles to the river bank; and I went to the left under
the guidance of our friend the engineer. I shall relate very briefly
what happened to each of us. The right-hand party got, after an hour's
walking, into a great herd of elephants, which they numbered at over
sixty. They saw no very fine bulls; they found themselves surrounded
on every side by these formidable animals; and, the wind being shifty,
the hour late, and the morrow free, they judged it wise to return to
camp without shooting. The centre party, consisting of Colonel Wilson
and his companion, came suddenly, after about a mile and a half's
walk, upon a fine solitary bull elephant. They stalked him for some
time, but he moved off, and, on perceiving himself followed, suddenly,
without the slightest warning on his part and no great provocation on
theirs, he threw up his trunk, trumpeted, and charged furiously down
upon them; whereupon they just had time to fire their rifles in his
face and spring out of his path. This elephant was followed for some
miles, but it was not for three months afterwards that we learned that
he had died of his wounds and that the natives had recovered his
tusks.

So much for my friends. Our third left party prowled off, slanting
gradually away inland from the river's bank. It was a regular wild
scrub country, with high grass and boulders and many moderate-sized
trees and bushes, interspersed every hundred yards or so by much
bigger ones. Near the Nile extensive swamps, with reeds fifteen feet
high, ran inland in long bays and fingers, and these, we were told,
were the haunts of white rhino. We must have walked along warily and
laboriously for nearly three-quarters of an hour, when I saw through a
glade at about two hundred yards distance a great dark animal. Judging
from what I had seen in East Africa, I was quite sure it was a
rhinoceros. We paused, and were examining it carefully with our
glasses, when all of a sudden it seemed to treble in size, and the
spreading of two gigantic ears--as big, they seemed, as the flaps of
French windows--proclaimed the presence of the African elephant. The
next moment another and another and another came into view, swinging
leisurely along straight towards us--and the wind was almost dead
wrong.

We changed our position by a flank march of admirable celerity, and
from the top of a neighbouring ant-bear hill watched, at the distance
of about one hundred and fifty yards, the stately and awe-inspiring
procession of eleven elephants. On they came, loafing along from foot
to foot--two or three tuskers of no great merit, several large
tuskless females, and two or three calves. On the back of every
elephant sat at least one beautiful white egret, and sometimes three
or four, about two feet high, who pecked at the tough hide--I presume
for very small game--or surveyed the scene with the consciousness of
pomp. These sights are not unusual to the African hunter. Those who
dwell in the wilderness are the heirs of its wonders. But to me I
confess it seemed a truly marvellous and thrilling experience to
wander through a forest peopled by these noble Titans, to watch their
mysterious, almost ghostly, march, to see around on every side, in
large trees snapped off a few feet from the ground, in enormous
branches torn down for sport, the evidences of their giant strength.
And then, while we watched them roam down towards the water, I heard a
soft swishing sound immediately behind us, and turning saw, not forty
yards away, a splendid full-grown rhinoceros, with the long, thin horn
of his rare tribe upon him--the famous white rhinoceros--Burchell
himself--strolling placidly home after his evening drink and utterly
unconscious of the presence of stranger or foe!

We had very carefully judged our wind in relation to the elephants. It
was in consequence absolutely wrong in relation to the rhinoceros. I
saw that in another fifty yards he would walk right across it. For my
own part, perched upon the apex of a ten-foot ant-bear cone, I need
have no misgivings. I was perfectly safe. But my companions, and the
native orderlies and sailors who were with us, enjoyed no such
security. The consequences of not killing the brute at that range and
with that wind would have been a mad charge directly through our
party. A sense of responsibility no doubt restrained me; but I must
also confess to the most complete astonishment at the unexpected
apparition. While I was trying to hustle the others by signals and
whispers into safer places; the rhino moved steadily, crossed the line
of wind, stopped behind a little bush for a moment, and then, warned
of his danger, rushed off into the deepest recesses of the jungle. I
had thrown away the easiest shot I ever had in Africa. Meanwhile the
elephants had disappeared.

  [Illustration: MR. CHURCHILL ON THE OBSERVATION LADDER AT HIPPO CAMP.]

  [Illustration: BANK OF THE VICTORIA NILE.]

We returned with empty hands and beating hearts to camp, not without
chagrin at the opportunity which had vanished, but with the keenest
appetite and the highest hopes for the morrow. Thus in three hours and
within four miles of our landing-place our three separate parties had
seen as many of the greatest wild animals as would reward the whole
exertion of an ordinary big-game hunt. As I dropped off to sleep that
night in the little _Kisingiri_, moored in the bay, and heard the
grunting barks of the hippo floating and playing all around, mingling
with the cries of the birds and the soft sounds of wind and water, the
African forest for the first time made an appeal to my heart,
enthralling, irresistible, never to be forgotten.

At the earliest break of day we all started in the same order, and
with the sternest resolves. During the night the sailors had
constructed out of long bamboo poles a sort of light tripod, which,
serving as a tower of observation, enabled us to see over the top of
the high grass and reeds, and this proved of the greatest convenience
and advantage, troublesome though it was to drag along. We spent the
whole morning prowling about, but the jungle, which twelve hours
before had seemed so crowded with game of all kinds, seemed now
utterly denuded. At last, through a telescope from a tree-top, we saw,
or thought we saw, four or five elephants, or big animals of some
kind, grazing about two miles away. They were the other side of an
enormous swamp, and to approach them required not only traversing
this, but circling through it for the sake of the wind.

We plunged accordingly into this vast maze of reeds, following the
twisting paths made through them by the game, and not knowing what we
might come upon at every step. The ground under foot was quite firm
between the channels and pools of mud and water. The air was stifling.
The tall reeds and grasses seemed to smother one; and above, through
their interlacement, shone the full blaze of the noonday sun. To wade
and waddle through such country carrying a double-barrelled ·450
rifle, not on your shoulder, but in your hands for instant service,
peering round every corner, suspecting every thorn-bush, for at least
two hours, is not so pleasant as it sounds. We emerged at last on the
farther side under a glorious tree, whose height had made it our
beacon in the depths of the swamp, and whose far-spreading branches
offered a delicious shade.

It was three o'clock. We had been toiling for nine hours and had seen
nothing--literally nothing. But from this moment our luck was
brilliant. First we watched two wild boars playing at fighting in a
little glade--a most delightful spectacle, which I enjoyed for two or
three minutes before they discovered us and fled. Next a dozen
splendid water-buck were seen browsing on the crest of a little ridge
within easy shot, and would have formed the quarry of any day but
this; but our ambition soared above them, and we would not risk
disturbing the jungle for all their beautiful horns. Then, thirdly, we
came slap up against the rhinoceros. How many I am not certain--four,
at least. We had actually walked past them as they stood sheltering
under the trees. Now, here they were, sixty yards away to the left
rear--dark, dim, sinister bodies, just visible through the waving
grass.

When you fire a heavy rifle in cold blood it makes your teeth clatter
and your head ache. At such a moment as this one is almost unconscious
alike of report and recoil. It might be a shot-gun. The nearest rhino
was broadside on. I hit him hard with both barrels, and down he went,
to rise again in hideous struggles--head, ears, horn flourished
agonizingly above the grass, as if he strove to advance, while I
loaded and fired twice more. That was all I saw myself. Two other
rhinos escaped over the hill, and a fourth, running the other way,
charged the native sailors carrying our observation tower, who were
very glad to drop it and scatter in all directions.

  [Illustration: MR. CHURCHILL AND BURCHELL'S WHITE RHINOCEROS.]

To shoot a good specimen of the white rhinoceros is an event
sufficiently important in the life of a sportsman to make the day on
which it happens bright and memorable in his calendar. But more
excitement was in store for us before the night. About a mile from the
spot where our victim lay we stopped to rest and rejoice, and, not
least, refresh. The tower of observation--which had been dragged
so painfully along all day--was set up, and, climbing it, I saw at
once on the edge of the swamp no fewer than four more full-grown
rhinoceros, scarcely four hundred yards away. A tall ant-hill, within
easy range, gave us cover to stalk them, and the wind was exactly
right. But the reader has dallied long enough in this hunter's
paradise. It is enough to say that we killed two more of these
monsters, while one escaped into the swamp, and the fourth charged
wildly down upon us and galloped through our party without apparently
being touched himself or injuring any one. Then, marking the places
where the carcasses lay, we returned homeward through the swamp, too
triumphant and too tired to worry about the enraged fugitives who
lurked in its recesses. It was very late when we reached home, and our
friends had already hewn the tusks out of a good elephant which
Colonel Wilson had shot, and were roasting a buck which had
conveniently replenished our larder.

  [Illustration: COLONEL WILSON'S ELEPHANT.]

  [Illustration: THE "KENIA," "JAMES MARTIN," AND "GOOD HOPE" ON THE
    WHITE NILE.]

Such was our day at Hippo Camp, to which the ardent sportsman is
recommended to repair, when he can get some one to show him the way.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] "I am informed by the courtesy of Mr. Lydekker of the British
Natural History Museum, that the true name of the white rhinoceros
found in Uganda is _Rhinoceros Simus Cottoni_. 'Burchell's white
rhinoceros' is the designation of the southern race; but I have
preserved in the text the name commonly used in Uganda."



CHAPTER X

DOWN THE WHITE NILE


We lingered lovingly around Hippo camp for two more days, moving to
other lagoons and overflows of the river with the launch, and striking
out inland in search of the great herd of elephants. But although
their recent presence was on all sides proclaimed by snapped-off trees
and trampled ground, and broad lanes cut through the grass, we saw
none of them; and a tribe of natives who helped to carry home a
variety of buck one afternoon, informed us upon expert authority that
the whole herd had been alarmed by the arrival of strangers and the
sound of firing, and had retired three days' journey from the river's
bank. These natives--of the Lado Enclave--were gentleman-like folk,
and I parleyed long with them upon their affairs. They were stark
naked and very dignified, with graceful athletic bodies, long
tapering well-bred hands, and bright keen eyes. The local chief
exhibited all these characteristics in a superior degree, and his
natural preeminence was recognized with instantaneous obedience by his
followers. We loaded them with gifts. First, quantities of meat and
hides; then chocolate all round--they love sweet things--three pieces
of sugar for each, at least one empty bottle per man, and tin pots and
card-board boxes almost without limit. The chief showed a fine taste
in all these things, and annexed at once in the Imperial style
whatever took his fancy, to whomsoever it belonged. I cast about for
some means of doing him especial honour, and luckily remembered that I
had bought a Japanese _kimono_ for a dressing-gown in passing through
Port Said on the journey out. With this he was forthwith enrobed, and
I must say he assumed the flowing garment with that easy grace and
natural self-possession which are the gifts of a wilderness life. Thus
the fabrics of Cathay were by the enterprise of Europe introduced into
the heart of Africa.

When, finally, with much reluctance we left this attractive place and
pushed off determinedly into the stream, we lost no time in making
Nimule. Steaming throughout the night and all next day along a broad
flood contained by high and healthy slopes--now clothed with forest,
now with waving grass--we approached, at about four in the afternoon,
the mountains beneath which is the administrative station of Nimule.
Hitherto the course of the Nile since it left the Albert Lake had been
smooth and open--a broad, steady-flowing river everywhere navigable to
vessels of not more than four feet draught. But at Nimule, after a
reach of more than a hundred and seventy miles of unobstructed
waterway, the river turns a sharp right angle and enters a long
succession of granite gorges, through which it plunges in ceaseless
cataract for a hundred and twenty miles. It is here at the head of
these rapids that one of the great reservoirs of the Upper Nile must
some day be constructed. "I spent hours," said Sir William Willcocks,
the "practical mystic" of hydraulic engineering, "looking at the site,
and seeing in a vision a great regulating work of the future." And
indeed the exact scientific control of the whole vast system of
Central African waters, of the levels of every lake, of the flow of
every channel, from month to month and from day to day throughout the
year, is a need so obvious and undisputed as to leave argument
unemployed.

The change in the character of the river separated us finally from our
flotilla. From Nimule to Gondokoro we must again proceed by land, and
the swift and easy progress of the last few days must be exchanged for
the steady grind of marches. It was this stage which had always been
painted to me as the most dangerous and unhealthy in our whole
journey, and I had pictured to myself eight days of toil through swamp
and forest amid miasma and mosquitoes. These anticipations were not
sustained. Of the disadvantages of the track along the river bank I
cannot speak; but the upper road over the hills is certainly excellent
and healthy, and runs throughout over firm dry undulations of a
bright, breezy, scrub-covered country.

At Nimule we touched the telegraph wire again, and from the Reuter's
accumulations which I studied, I learned that Parliament would not
meet till the 19th of January. This gave another ten days' more rope,
and I began to realize how much the spirit of these wonderful lands
had taken possession of me, for it was only with the greatest
reluctance and difficulty, that I forced myself to continue my
homeward journey without first turning back with the launch and
circumnavigating Lake Albert. No exertion or inconvenience seemed too
great to win a few more glimpses of these enchanted seas and gardens,
on which I may perhaps not look again, but from whose spell I can
never be free. Porters to be fed from day to day, the Sirdar's steamer
waiting at the Soudan frontier, public meetings looming heavily in the
far-off distance, drove me onward; and with feelings of keen and
genuine regret we addressed ourselves to the march to Gondokoro.

  [Illustration: FORDING THE ASUA.]

This was accomplished uneventfully in six stages, three of which were
double marches. The country was pleasant and healthy, the scenery
imposing, and, under a fierce sun, the air was cool. Each morning we
started before dawn, and by noon had camped by the side of one of the
tributary rivers or streams which flow into the Nile. Of these the
Asua was the most important, and the picture of the long _safari_
fording it and coming into camp among the palm-trees of the southern
bank is one which lingers pleasantly in my memory. But this I must
say--somehow after Nimule the charm was broken, and none of the
regions through which the traveller passes in the long-drawn descent
of the Nile revive in any degree those delicious sensations of wonder
and novelty which are associated with the great lakes and the kingdoms
of Uganda, Usoga, and Unyoro, to say nothing of what I have not been
fortunate enough to see--Toro, Ankole, the Semliki, and the Mountains
of the Moon.

At the end of the sixth day we arrived at Gondokoro. The last march
had been long and scorching. The moisture seemed to have gone from the
air, and the vegetation, abundant though it was, seemed parched and
stunted. The approaches to Gondokoro are beset by a herd of three
hundred elephants of peculiar ill-fame. Nearly all the eligible
tuskers have been killed. The females and young bulls are fierce and
wary, and, taught by frequent contact with the white man, and
protected by the sacred game laws, exercise a lawless and tyrannical
power over the whole region. On every side their depredations are to
be seen. Great trees pushed over in careless sport, native plantations
trampled into ruin, the roads rendered precarious for the traveller,
the mails often interrupted for days at a time, and occasional loss of
life, are the features of this domination. And it seems likely to last
a long time, for I was informed that the young bulls would not be
sufficiently grown for about forty years, and even then, as the two
white officers in the station are not allowed to shoot more than one
elephant apiece each year, the nuisance will only gradually be abated.

Rogue elephants are of course fair game at any time, and the day
before we arrived at Gondokoro, the young civil officer of the station
had encountered one in a manner which he was scarcely likely to
forget. For, having pursued this evil-doer for some time, he at last
got into an excellent position, and was about to fire at a distance of
thirty yards when suddenly the elephant, without even trumpeting
rushed furiously upon him, and, paying no attention to the two heavy
bullets which struck him in the head, chased the officer twice round
an uncommonly small bush; and then, distracted by the spectacle of the
native gun-bearer in flight, turned off after this new prey, and,
overtaking the poor wretch, smashed him to pieces with one blow of
his terrible trunk. "Cet animal est très méchant; quand on l'attaque,
il se défend." We reached the bungalow, which serves as the seat of
government, in time to see the tusks of this man-slayer, who had died
of his wounds, brought in by the tribe whose plantations he had so
often ravaged.

Gondokoro, like most of the names which figure so imposingly upon the
African map, is not a numerously populated town. There are about six
houses and a number of native huts. There is, however, a telegraph
station, a prison, a court-house, and the lines of a company of native
police and King's African Rifles. Here the Nile again becomes
navigable, and offers an unbroken waterway open to large vessels until
the Shabluka cataract is reached, a hundred miles below Khartoum and
fifteen hundred miles from Gondokoro. And here at the river's bank,
seen through a tracery of palms, were the white funnel and
superstructure of the Sirdar's steamer with all the letters and
newspapers; and which, instead of pursuing us across Uganda, had "come
through the other way."

"Had come through the other way"--it is an easy phrase to write: but
how much it signifies in the modern history of Africa! Ten or eleven
years ago this journey which I was now able to make so easily, so
prosperously, so comfortably, would have been utterly impossible. The
Dervish empire, stretching from Wady Halfa or Abu Hamed to Wadelai,
interposed a harsh barrier which nothing but a stricken field could
sweep away; and these long reaches of the Nile which now bore a fleet
of fifty steamers were silent in the embrace of a devastating
barbarism. A grim slaughter which had strewn the sands of Kerreri,
twelve hundred miles to the North, with _jibba_-clad corpses "like
snow-drifts" had blasted a passage, and the Nile was free.

Embarked at Gondokoro we passed out of the sphere of the Colonial
Office into the domain of that undefined joint authority which
regulates the Soudan, which flies two flags side by side on every
public building, and which you can only correspond with through the
British Foreign Office.

  [Illustration: THE BELGIAN OFFICIALS AT LADO.]

  [Illustration: GONDOKORO.]

Henceforward our journey was comfortable, and regular. Yet though I
had no official work to do and was merely coming home the shortest
way, I could not traverse the Soudan without the keenest interest.
When one has started from Cairo and padded up the Nile to Wady Halfa,
crossed the desert railway to the Atbara, marched thence two hundred
miles to the battle of Omdurman, one feels one has seen something of
the Nile. Yet now we had followed it the other way from its source for
nearly five hundred miles, and yet twelve hundred more intervened
before even Omdurman was reached; and as the mighty and peerless river
unrolled its length and immemorial history, the feelings of reverence,
without which no traveller can drink its sweet waters, grew in
intensity.

I yield to no one in recognition of the constructive and
reconstructive work which Sir Reginald Wingate and his able officers
have, with scanty means and in spite of grave military dangers,
wrought in the Soudan. Yet it is not possible to descend the Nile
continuously from its source at Ripon Falls without realizing that the
best lies behind one. Uganda is the pearl. The Nile province and the
Lado Enclave present splendid and alluring panoramas. Even the march
from Nimule to Gondokoro is through a fertile and inspiring region.
But thereafter the beauty dies out of the landscape and the richness
from the land. We leave the regions of abundant rainfall, of
Equatorial luxuriance, of docile peoples, of gorgeous birds and
butterflies and flowers. We enter stern realms of sinister and
forbidding aspect, where nature is cruel and sterile, where man is
fanatical and often rifle-armed. Cultivation--nay, vegetation, is but
a strip along the river bank: and even there thorn-bushes and prickly
aloes are its chief constituents. We enter two successive deserts as
contrasted in their character, as redoubtable in their inhospitality,
as Dante's Circles of the Inferno: the Desert of Sudd and the Desert
of Sand.

  [Illustration: REVIEW AT KHARTOUM.]

  [Illustration: SOUDAN GOVERNMENT STEAMER "DAL."]

About a hundred miles from Gondokoro the White Nile enters and spills
itself in a vast and appalling swamp. Of the action of this tremendous
sponge, whether beneficial in regulating the flow, or harmful in
wasting the water through evaporation, nothing need here be said. But
its aspect is at once so dismal and so terrifying that to travel
through it is a weird experience. Our steamer, with the favouring
current, made at least seven miles an hour, and, as the moon was full,
we travelled night and day. For three days and three nights we were
continuously in this horrible swamp into which the whole of the United
Kingdom could be easily packed. By day from the roof of the high
pilot-house a commanding view revealed hour after hour, in every
direction, one uninterrupted ocean of floating vegetation spreading to
far horizons. The papyrus-plant is in itself a beautiful, graceful,
and venerable thing. To travel through the _sudd_, is to hate it for
evermore. Rising fifteen feet above the level of the water, stretching
its roots twenty or even thirty feet below, and so matted and tangled
together that elephants can walk safely upon its springy surface,
papyrus is the beginning and end of this melancholy world. For
hundreds of miles nothing else is to be perceived--not a
mountain-ridge blue on the horizon, scarcely a tree, no habitation of
man, no sign of beast. The silence is broken only by the croaking of
innumerable frog armies, and the cry of dreary birds.

The vigorous operations of the _sudd_-cutters have opened, and the
constant traffic of steamers has preserved and improved, a channel
about a hundred yards wide, winding by loops and corkscrews through
the swamp. The river presents a depth of thirty feet along this
course, and greater vessels could thread its length for nearly a
thousand miles. The navigation is intricate and peculiar. Indeed, it
would seem to be an art by itself. No effort is made by the Arab
pilots, who alone are employed, to avoid collisions with the banks. On
the contrary, they rely upon them as an essential feature of their
management of the steamer. The vessel bumps regularly at almost every
corner from one cushion of _sudd_ to the other, or plunges its nose
into the reeds and waits for the currents to carry its stern round,
bumps again and recovers its direction. Sometimes where the twists
were very sharp we would turn completely round, not once but two or
three times, and our movements round an S-curve were even more
complicated. The bumps occasionally swept us out of our chairs and
sent us sprawling on the deck. In this strange fashion we waltzed
along at full speed for about seventy or eighty hours.

Meanwhile the Nile was accomplishing its destiny. Its vast tributary
rivers, the Sobat and the Bahr-el-Ghazal, came to reinforce its flow.
The miles spread out behind us in a long succession of hundreds. At
length the _sudd_ expanses begin to contract. Distant mountains rise
against the steel-blue sky in serrated silhouette, and gradually draw
in upon the river. Islands of earth and trees, peaks of sharp rock
break here and there the awful monotony of waving reeds. At last the
banks become firm and clear-cut walls of yellow sand, fringed in
places with palms and shady trees, and everywhere bristling with
undergrowth of thorns. We leave the wilderness of moisture, we
approach the wilderness of drought. But first, in a middle region,
vast areas of dusty scrub-covered plains, not wholly incapable of
cultivation in the rainy season, supporting always flocks and herds,
now flank both sides of the river. The camel caravans pad slowly
across them under the blaze and glitter of the heat. The mirage begins
to twist and blur the landscape with deceptive waters. At intervals of
forty or fifty miles are the stations of the Soudan Government, each
trim and regular with its public buildings, its storehouses, the lines
of beehive huts of its garrison, a tangle of native sailing-craft, and
always, or nearly always, one or two white gunboats of war-time days
now turned policemen of the river.

Thus we reach in time Fashoda--now called Kodok for old sake's sake;
and here are clusters of Shillooks who (by request) stand pensively on
one leg in their natural attitude, and smart companies of Soudanese
troops and British officers, civil and military--the whole clear-cut
under sun-blaze dry light, veiled only in dancing dust-devils
piteously whipped by strong hot winds. All this was like a piece of
the Omdurman campaign to me--the old familiar Soudan, so often made
known to British minds by pen, pencil, and photograph during nearly
twenty years of war, unfolded itself feature by feature. Yet we were
still five hundred miles south of Khartoum!

  [Illustration: A SHELUK AT KODOK (FASHODA).]

At Meshra-er-Zeraf we stopped for two days to shoot, by the Sirdar's
invitation, in the extensive game reserve, and were fortunate in
securing a buffalo and various antelope. We wandered through a harsh
country, of white sand and tussocks of coarse grass, more grey than
green, with leafless black thorn-trees densely tangled; yet it seemed
full of game. In three hours' walk on the second morning I shot a fine
waterbuck, two reed-bucks, and two of a beautiful herd of roan
antelope, who walked slowly down to water past our ambuscade. And,
be it remembered, that the pleasure and excitement of such sport are
in these lands always heightened by the possibility that at any moment
the hunters may come upon game of much more serious quality--lion or
buffalo; so that no one cares to be more than a few yards from his
heavy rifle or give his mind wholly to the buck he stalks. Surely they
are perverse, unenterprising folk who spend fortunes each year in
preserving with so much artificial care, and to the inconvenience of
other dwellers in a small island, well-counted herds of more or less
tame deer, when in a month, and for less expense than the year's rent
of their forests, they could pursue wild animals of every kind in
their natural haunts and gain experiences that would last them all
their lives.

I was so much elated by this jolly morning's sport and the near
approach of civilized conditions--for after all, contrast is an
element in pleasure--that I permitted myself to rejoice at the safe
and happy outcome of this long journey, and to exult in our complete
immunity from serious accident or illness or even fever. How
extravagant were the accounts of the dangers of African travel! How
easy to avoid the evil chances of the road! Reasonable precautions,
steady exercise, regular quinine--were these not in themselves the
guarantees of safety? Thus I reckoned, and with specious reasons, but
in a bad hour. We were not yet at our journey's end.

Twenty-four hours' steaming from Meshra-er-Zeraf brought us near
Khartoum. The character of the country was unchanged. Yellow
sand-slopes drank at the Nile brim; thorn-scrub fringed the river on
either side; but date-palms mingled even more frequently and
numerously with the vegetation, and brown mud-built villages with
brown mud-coloured populations multiplied as the miles slipped swiftly
by. At length a solitary majestic tree, beneath whose spacious
branches and luxuriant foliage a hundred persons might have found
shelter from the relentless sun--Gordon's tree--advertised us of the
proximity of Khartoum. Soon on the one bank came into view the vast
mud labyrinth of Omdurman, with forests of masts rising along the
shore, and on the other, among palm-groves ever clustering thicker,
sprang the blue and pink and crimson minarets of new Khartoum.
Khartoum--the new Khartoum, risen from its ruins in wealth and
beauty--a smiling city sitting like a queen throned at the
confluence of the Niles, the heart and centre of a far-reaching and
formidable authority, disclosed herself to the traveller's eye. Sharp
to the right turns the steamer, leaving the dull placid waters of the
sovereign river we have so long followed, and shouldering a more
turbulent current of clearer water, swings up-stream along its noble
feudatory, the Blue Nile. And passing by the side of high stone
embankments crowned by palms, the steamer enters into a modern
Oriental port and city, and is soon surrounded by its palaces, its
mosques, its warehouses and its quays.

  [Illustration: THE PALACE, KHARTOUM.]

Nearly ten years have passed since the Dervish domination was
irretrievably shattered on the field of Omdurman, and every year has
been attended by steady and remarkable progress in every sphere of
governmental activity in every province of the Soudan. Order has been
established, and is successfully, though precariously, maintained even
in the remotest parts of Kordofan. The railway has reached the
Southern bank of the Blue Nile, connects Khartoum with Cairo and with
the Red Sea, waits only for the construction of a bridge to cross the
river and enter the fertile regions of the Ghezireh. A numerous fleet
of steamers maintains swift and regular communication along the great
waterways. The revenue has risen from a few thousands a year in 1899
to considerably over a million pounds in 1907. Improved methods of
agriculture have increased the wealth of the country; the prevention
of massacre and famine has begun to restore its population. Slavery
has been abolished, and without affronting the religion or seriously
disturbing the customs of the people, a measure of education and
craftsmanship has been introduced.

These great changes which are apparent throughout the whole Soudan are
nowhere presented in so striking and impressive form as in the
capital. A spacious palace, standing in a beautiful garden, has risen
from the ruins where Gordon perished. Broad thoroughfares lighted by
electricity, and lined with excellent European shops, lead with
geometrical precision through the city. A system of steam tramways in
connection with ferry boats, patronized chiefly by the natives,
renders communication easy throughout Khartoum, and between Khartoum,
Omdurman, and Halfyah. A semi-circle of substantial barracks, arranged
upon a defensive scheme, protects the landward approaches. The
Gordon College hums with scholarly activity--Moslem and Christian,
letters or crafts; and seven thousand soldiers of all dress march past
the British and Egyptian flags on occasions of ceremony.

  [Illustration: GEORGE SCRIVINGS.]

Yet neither these inspiring facts--the more impressive by contrast
with my memories of ten years before--nor the gracious hospitality of
the Sirdar--more responsible than any other man for the whole of this
tremendous task of reconstruction and revival--were to prevent me from
taking away a sombre impression of Khartoum. As our steamer approached
the landing-stage I learned that my English servant, George Scrivings,
had been taken suddenly ill, and found him in a condition of
prostration with a strange blue colour under his skin. Good doctors
were summoned. The hospital of Khartoum, with all its resources, was
at hand. There appeared no reason to apprehend a fatal termination.
But he had been seized by a violent internal inflammation, the result
of eating some poisonous thing which we apparently had escaped, and
died early next morning after fifteen hours' illness, with almost
every symptom of Asiatic cholera.

Too soon, indeed, had I ventured to rejoice. Africa always claims its
forfeits; and so the four white men who had started together from
Mombasa returned but three to Cairo. A military interment involves the
union of the two most impressive rituals in the world. The day after
the Battle of Omdurman it fell to my lot to bury those soldiers of the
21st Lancers, who had died of their wounds during the night. Now after
nine years, in very different circumstances, from the other end of
Africa, I had come back to this grim place where so much blood has
been shed, and again I found myself standing at an open grave, while
the yellow glare of the departed sun still lingered over the desert,
and the sound of funeral volleys broke its silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The remainder of our journey lay in tourist lands, and the comfortable
sleeping-cars of the Desert Railway, and the pleasant passenger
steamers of the Wady Haifa and Assouan reach soon carried us
prosperously and uneventfully to Upper Egypt; and so to Cairo, London,
and the rest.

  [Illustration: PHILAE.]



CHAPTER XI

THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT RAILWAY


My journey is at an end, the tale is told, and the reader who has
followed so faithfully and so far has a right to ask what message I
bring back. It can be stated in three words. Concentrate upon Uganda!

Over the greater part of the north-east quarter of Africa, British
influence or authority in one form or another is supreme. But when I
turn my mind over all those vast expanses, excluding only Egypt, there
is no region which offers prospects to compare in hopefulness with
those of the Protectorate of Uganda. The Soudan is far greater in
extent and importance, and Great Britain is at no charge in respect to
it. But the Soudan is clearly inferior in fertility. The East African
Protectorate possesses not only enormous coast-lands of great value,
but noble plateaux where the air is as cool as an English spring. But
we already spend on East Africa--and upon the needs of its expensive
white settlers--more than the whole revenue of Uganda; and yet the
promise is not so bright. Northern Somaliland is a desert of rocks and
thorn bushes peopled by rifle-armed fanatics, on which we spend nearly
half as much as the whole annual grant-in-aid of Uganda. And between
Somaliland and Uganda there is this contrast presented in its crudest
form--a barren land with dangerous inhabitants; and a fruitful land
with a docile people. What is least worth having, is most difficult to
hold: what is most worth having, is easiest.

The union under scientific direction in Uganda (and I include in this
popular name Usoga, Unyoro, Toro and Ankole, etc.) of unequalled
fertility with a population of high intelligence and social quality,
in a region of extraordinary waterways, must, unless some grievous
error or neglect should intervene, result in remarkable economic
developments. Already more than half the traffic which passes down the
railway to Mombasa comes from beyond the lake. Yet scarcely any money
has ever been spent on Uganda. No European roads exist, no railways
have been built, no waterfalls are harnessed, no public works of any
serious description have been undertaken. A poor little grant-in-aid
has barely supported the day-to-day cost of European administration,
and practically nothing in cash or credit has been available for the
development of the country. But it is alive by itself. It is vital;
and in my view, in spite of its insects and its diseases, it ought in
the course of time to become the most prosperous of all our East and
Central African possessions, and perhaps the financial driving wheel
of all this part of the world. It is far from my desire to disparage
the East African Protectorate, or to suggest diminution of activity or
support. Both Protectorates are necessary to each other and should
advance together; but in view of their relative positions, and looking
at the situation as it is to-day, my counsel plainly is--"Concentrate
upon Uganda!" Nowhere else in Africa will a little money go so far.
Nowhere else will the results be more brilliant, more substantial or
more rapidly realized.

Cotton alone should make the fortune of Uganda. All the best qualities
of cotton can be grown in the highest perfection, a hundred thousand
intelligent landowners occupying twenty thousand square miles of
suitable soil are eager to engage in the cultivation. An industrious
and organized population offers the necessary labour. Merely at the
request of the Government cotton has been planted experimentally on a
considerable scale throughout Uganda. The figures of production--though
of course they are only the first beginnings--show a surprising
expansion. Great care is required, and steps have already been taken
to secure that the quality of cotton exported from Uganda is not
deteriorated or its reputation prejudiced by hasty or untutored
action, that only the seeds which yield the best results should be
distributed, and that no indiscriminate mixture should be permitted.
The Government must control the culture. Experts must watch the
ginneries and educate the native cultivator. Roads must be made to
enable the crop to be marketed. The scientific organization of the
cotton-growing resources of Uganda has now been definitely undertaken.
A special grant of £10,000 a year will in future be devoted to this
purpose, and the whole process will be supervised by European officers
in close touch through the Colonial Office with the highest
Manchester authorities and the British Cotton-Growing Association. In
the opinion of the ablest observers the next five years will see a
very remarkable development in cotton production, even though the
means available to foster it continue to be slender.

But cotton is only one of those tropical products for which the demand
of civilized industry is almost insatiable, and which can nowhere in
the world be grown more cheaply, more easily, more perfectly than
between the waters of the two great lakes. Rubber, fibre, cinnamon,
cocoa, coffee, sugar may all be cultivated upon the greatest scale;
virgin forests of rare and valuable timber await the axe; and even
though mineral wealth may perhaps never lend its hectic glory to
Uganda, the economic foundations of its prosperity will stand securely
upon a rich and varied agriculture. A settler's country it can never
be. Whatever may be the destinies of the East African Highlands, the
shores of the great lakes will never be the permanent residence of a
white race. It is a planter's land, where the labours of the native
population may be organized and directed by superior intelligence and
external capital. For my own part I rejoice that the physical
conditions of the country are such as to prevent the growth in the
heart of happy Uganda of a petty white community, with the harsh and
selfish ideas which mark the jealous contact of races and the
exploitation of the weaker. Let it remain a "planter's land." Let the
planters, instead of being the agents of excited syndicates with minds
absorbed in the profits of shareholders thousands of miles away, be
either Europeans of substance and character who have given proofs of
their knowledge of natives and their ability to deal skilfully and
justly with them, or better still--say I--let them be the
disinterested officers of the Government, directing the development of
the country neither in their own, nor any other pecuniary interest,
but for the general good of its people and of the Empire of which it
forms a part.

But if the immediate inflexion of British policy in Eastern Africa
should be, without prejudice, but with precedence of other provinces,
to accelerate the economic and social development of Uganda, what are
the first steps to take? I might have much to say of Forestry and
Agriculture; of an extended system of technical education similar to
that given at the Gordon College at Khartoum, here perhaps in part to
be achieved through grants in aid of the existing missionary schools;
of road-making, indispensable to progress, of motor-transport, and of
water-power. But let me make my message brief and unclouded, and as
before expressed in three words, "Build a Railway."

The clusters of colonial possessions which have been acquired on the
east and west coasts of Africa, so rapidly and with so little cost or
bloodshed, will unquestionably prove an invaluable, if not indeed a
necessary feature of the British Empire. From these vast plantations
will be drawn the raw materials of many of our most important
industries; to them will flow a continuous and broadening train of
British products; and in them the peculiar gifts for administration
and high civic virtues of our race may find a healthy and an
honourable scope. Some of these great estates, like Southern Nigeria
on the west coast, are already so prosperous as not only to be
self-supporting, but able to assist with credit and subvention the
progress of neighbours less far advanced. Others are still a charge
upon our estimates. We are annually put to the expense of
grants-in-aid more or less considerable for Northern Somaliland, the
East African Protectorate, Nyassaland and Uganda. Heavy upon the
finance of all the East Coast hangs the capital charge of the Uganda
Railway. In no way will these charges be eased or removed except by
the rise of one or more of the territories concerned to economic
buoyancy, or by the growth of railway traffic down the Uganda trunk
consequent upon development. Under present conditions the progress
made from year to year is steady and encouraging. The charges upon the
Colonial Estimates diminish regularly every year. Every year the
administration of the different Governments increases in elaboration,
in efficiency and consequently in cost. The extra charge is met ever
more fully by the returning yield of a grateful soil. Except for the
chances of war, rebellion, pestilence, and famine which brood over the
infancy of tropical protectorates, but which may be averted or
controlled, it would be easy to calculate a date--not too remote--by
which all contribution from the British tax-payer would be
unnecessary. The movement of events is encouraging; but there is one
method by which it can be made far more sure and far more swift, by
which all adverse chances are minimized, and all existing resources
stimulated and multiplied--railways.

I would go so far as to say that it is only wasting time and money to
try to govern, or still more develop, a great African possession
without a railway. There can be no security, progress, or prosperity
without at least one central line of rapid communication driven
through the heart of the country. Where, as in Northern Somaliland,
the land itself is utterly valueless, a mere desert of rocks and
scrub, or where the military dangers are excessive and utterly
disproportioned to any results that can ever be reaped--withdrawal and
concentration are the true policy. But if for any reason it be decided
to remain and to administer, a railway becomes the prime of absolute
necessities. Till then all civilized government is extravagant and
precarious, and all profitable commerce practically impossible. These
considerations have lately led a British Government to sanction the
extensive railways, nearly 600 miles long, now being rapidly
constructed in Northern and Southern Nigeria; and the same arguments
apply, though in my view with increased force, to the Uganda
Protectorate.

It is not usually realized that the Uganda railway does not pass
through Uganda. It is the railway _to_ Uganda and not _of_ Uganda. It
stops short of the land from which it takes its name, and falls
exhausted by its exertions and vicissitudes, content feverishly to lap
the waters of the Victoria Nyanza. Uganda is reached, but not
traversed by steam communication in any form. Yet the extension of the
railway from the western shores of the Victoria to the Albert Nyanza
would not only carry it through much of the most valuable and fertile
country within its radius, but as I shall show could far more than
double its effective scope.

It may be accepted as an axiom that in the present state of
development in these African protectorates, it is scarcely ever, and
indeed I think never, worth while to build railways in competition
with waterways. Railways should in new countries be in supplement of,
and not in substitution for, lakes and navigable rivers. No doubt
direct through-routes of railway, where bulk is not broken and all
delays and changings are avoided, show an imposing advantage in
comparison with a mere alternation of water stages and railway links.
There could be no doubt which was the better if only you leave out
the question of cost. But it is just this question of cost which
cannot be left out, which clamorously dominates the proposition from
the beginning. For first-class countries may afford first-class
railways and _trains de luxe_, but second-class countries must be less
ambitious, and young new jungle-born countries are satisfied, or ought
to be, if they get any railway at all. The differences between the
best railway in the world and the worst, are no doubt impressive; but
they become utterly insignificant when contrasted with the difference
between the worst railway in the world and no railway at all. For
observe, the comparison is not with perfect lines of European
communication, nor with anything like them, nor even with a waggon on
a turnpike road. It is with a jogging, grunting, panting, failing line
of tottering coolies, men reduced to beasts of burden, that the new
pioneer line must be compared--that is to say, with the most painful,
most degrading, slowest and feeblest method of transportation which
has ever disgraced the world. And compared with that, any line of
steam-communication, however primitive, however light, however
interrupted, is heaven.

I am endeavouring to guide the reader to a positive proposal of a
modest and practical character, I mean the construction of a new
railway which might be called "The Victoria and Albert Railway,"
although it would virtually be an extension of the existing Uganda
line. This railway should traverse the country between the great
lakes, and join together these two noble reservoirs with all their
respective river connections. The distance is not great. Two hundred
and fifty miles would exceed the largest computation; and perhaps a
line of one hundred and fifty miles would suffice. If the cost of this
railway were estimated, as I am informed is reasonable, at a maximum
figure of £5,000 a mile, the total sum involved would be between
£1,250,000 and £750,000.

The supreme advantage of making a railway debouch upon a great lake,
is that every point on the lake shore is instantly put in almost equal
communication with railhead. Steamers coast round on circular tours,
and whatsoever trade or traffic may offer along the whole
circumference, is carried swiftly to the railway. Lakes are in fact
the catchment areas of trade, and it is by tapping and uniting them
that the economic life of Central Africa can be most easily and
swiftly stimulated.

Two routes present themselves with various competing advantages by
which the Victoria and Albert Railway may proceed. The first, the most
obvious, most desirable and most expensive, is straight across the
Highlands of Toro, through the best of the cotton country, from a
point on the Victoria Lake in the neighbourhood of Entebbe, to where
the Semliki river runs into the southern end of Lake Albert. The
second would practically follow the footsteps recorded in these pages.
It does not offer a direct line. It does not pass during the whole of
its length through cultivated and inhabited country. It does not reach
the Albert Lake at the most convenient end. But it is far cheaper than
the other. It is only 135 miles long instead of nearly 250. It
connects not only the two great lakes, but also Lake Chioga with all
its channels and tributaries, in one system of unbroken steam
communication.

Briefly this latter project would consist of two links of railway: the
first about sixty miles long from Jinja (or Ripon Falls) to Kakindu,
the first point where the Victoria Nile becomes navigable: the second
about seventy-five miles long from the neighbourhood of Mruli to the
Nile below the Murchison Falls and near its mouth on the Albert. By
these two sections of railway, together only 135 miles in length, a
wonderful extent of waterways would be commanded; to wit: 1. Thirty
miles of the Victoria Nile navigable from Kakindu to Lake Chioga. 2.
Lake Chioga itself, with its long arms and gulfs stretching deeply
into the whole of the fertile regions to the south-west of Mount
Elgon, and affording a perimeter of navigable coastline accessible by
steamers, of certainly not less than 250 miles. 3. All that reach of
the Victoria Nile navigable from Lake Chioga to Foweira when the
rapids ending in the Murchison Falls begin again--70 miles. 4. Thirty
miles from below the falls to the Albert Lake. 5. The whole of the
Albert Lake shores--250 miles. 6. The Semliki river navigable (once a
sandbar has been passed) for sixty miles. 7. The glorious open reach
of the White Nile from the Albert Lake to Nimule--120 miles. Thus by
the construction of only 135 miles of railroad, swift modern
communication would be established over a total range of 800 miles: or
for an addition of one-fifth to its length and one-eighth to its cost
the effective radius of the Uganda railway would be more than doubled.
Such railway propositions are few and far between.

I do not prejudge the choice of these two routes. Both are now being
carefully surveyed. The advantages of the longer and more ambitious
line across Toro are perhaps superior. But the cost is also nearly
twice as great; and cost is a vital factor--not merely to the
government called upon to find money, but still more to the commercial
soundness of an enterprise which is permanently crippled, if its
original capital charges are allowed notably to exceed what the
estimated earnings would sustain. The question is one which will
require severe and patient examination, the nicest balancings between
competitive advantages, the smoothest compromises between the
practical and the ideal.

But let us now look forward to a time--not, I trust, remote--when by
one route or the other the distance between the Victoria and Albert
Lakes has been spanned by a railway, and when the Mountains of the
Moon are scarcely four days' journey from Mombasa. The British
Government will then be possessed of the shortest route to the
Eastern Congo. The Uganda railway will be able to offer rates for
merchandise and railway material with which no other line that can
ever be constructed will ever be able to compete. The whole of that
already considerable, though as yet stifled trade, which feebly
trickles back half across Africa by Boma to the Atlantic, which is
looking desperately for an outlet to the northward, which percolates
in driblets through Uganda to-day, will flow swiftly and abundantly to
the benefit of all parties concerned down the Uganda trunk, raising
that line with steady impulse from the _status_ of a political railway
towards the level of a sound commercial enterprise. In no other way
will the British tax-payer recover his capital. The advantages are
great and the expense moderate. Larger considerations may postpone,
and the imperative need of the fullest surveys will in any case delay
construction; but I cannot doubt that the Victoria and Albert railway
is now the most important project awaiting action in the whole of that
group of Protectorates which Sir Frederick Lugard used proudly to call
"our East African Empire."

But let us proceed one step further in the development of the
communications of north-east Africa. When an extension of the Uganda
railway has reached the Albert Nyanza, only one link will be missing
to connect the whole of the rail and waterway system of East Africa
and Uganda with the enormous system of railways and riverways of Egypt
and the Soudan, to connect the Uganda with the Desert railway, to join
the navigation of the great lakes to the navigation of the Blue and
White Niles. Only one link will be missing, and that a very short one;
the distance of 110 miles from Nimule to Gondokoro, where the Nile is
interrupted by cataracts. Of the commercial utility of such a link _in
itself_ I have nothing to say; but as a means of marrying two gigantic
systems of steam communication, it will some day possess a high
importance; and thereafter over the whole of the north-east quarter of
the African continent under the influence or authority of the British
Crown, comprising a total mileage by rail and river of perhaps 20,000
miles, uninterrupted steam communication will prevail.

The adventurous and the imaginative may peer out beyond these compact
and practicable steps into a more remote and speculative region.
Perhaps by the time that the junction between the Uganda and Soudan
rail and water systems has been effected, the Rhodes Cape to Cairo
railway will have reached the southern end of Lake Tanganyika: and
then only one comparatively short hiatus will bar a complete
transcontinental line, if not wholly of railroad, at least of steam
traffic and of comfortable and speedy travel.

Then, perhaps it will be time to make another journey; but as the
reader, who will no doubt take care to secure a first-class tourist
ticket, will no longer require my services as guide, I shall take this
opportunity of making him my bow.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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