With Stanley on the Congo - M. Douglas

To the Lake Once More

For three days Stanley halted at Banalya. Then the camp was broken up, and the Manyuema were marched up the river bank, while the sick and the baggage were transported to Bungangeta Island, some miles above Banalya. There another camp was formed, and during the remainder of August the men were allowed to rest quietly and try to build up their strength. Stanley meanwhile was busily engaged in rearranging the baggage, writing reports, and interviewing the Manyuema headmen, three of whom, with their men, finally consented to accompany the expedition.

While at Stanley Falls, Jameson had written to Bonny, telling him of his intention of going to Bangala. This letter had apparently been delayed in transit, for it was not delivered until some days after the expedition reached Bungangeta. When it did arrive its contents somewhat annoyed Stanley, who was angry at the loss of his kit, and chose to consider that, in going down to Bangala, Jameson had cut himself off from the expedition. Consequently, in ignorance of Jameson's death, he wrote a sharp reply to the effect that on the day of writing (August 30th) the march would be continued. After describing the route, he went on to say that if Jameson could bring up the missing kit he was welcome to accompany the column if he could catch it up. It would, however, be unsafe to attempt the march with less than forty armed men.

Though the expedition now included a number of sick and feeble men, the advance was rapid, for the sick and the baggage were embarked in the canoes, while the path along the bank had been so far cleared that the land column encountered few obstacles. The march, however, was not without its difficulties, for smallpox was on the increase among the Manyuema, from whom it had spread also to the Madi carriers. With them, fortunately, the disease ended, for the Zanzibaris, having been vaccinated wholesale by Parke on the voyage from Zanzibar, were almost entirely immune.

As the column advanced, the natives, though keeping carefully out of sight, began to hang round in the hope of capturing stragglers. Not content with this, they next took to shooting their poisoned arrows among the men, and many, both of the land column and the canoe party, were wounded. In the majority of cases no serious effects followed, for it was found that carbonate of ammonium injected into the wound neutralized the poison; but occasionally a vital spot was touched, and the victim fell dead before any remedy could be applied. Ulcers, too, were rather prevalent and exceedingly troublesome.

Ugarrowwa's deserted camp was reached on October 23rd. A rest would have been pleasant, but the food supply of the locality was too scanty for the luxury to be a safe one, and the column pressed forward to Andaki, where a plentiful supply of plantains was found. The fruit was not particularly large, but it was in excellent condition; and knowing that days of scarcity lay ahead, Stanley proclaimed a halt, and issued orders that every one should dry and prepare as many plantains as he could possibly carry. The order was duly obeyed, and then the expedition passed on; but four or five days' march beyond Andaki, Stanley noticed that some of the men, in spite of the supplies which had been gathered, began to look weak and tottery. Inquiry elicited the reply that the provisions, which should have lasted for some days, had been carelessly lost or wilfully thrown away; and on November 7th the column was halted, in order that Uledi, with a foraging party, might go in search of food. So weak, however, had some of the people become that before they could start a few handfuls of flour for gruel had to be served out to them.

Sadly and wearily the long days of waiting wore away, but patience was at last rewarded, and on November 10th the foragers returned with a plentiful supply. All immediate danger of famine was averted, but the time of scarcity had had its effect on the weakened frames of the men, and on the following day, when Kilonga-Longa's ferry was reached, six deaths occurred. Illness was considerably on the increase, and it was a relief to all when, on the 14th, after a sharp skirmish with the natives, a halt was called in a large clearing where remarkably fine plantains grew in profusion. Such an opportunity of making up for past deficiencies was not to be neglected, and during the three days that the column remained in camp the people gorged themselves to such an extent that, when the march was resumed, they were in no condition for work.

Food now became more plentiful, and up to a place called Ngwetza, which was reached on December 4th, there was little trouble on the score of provisions. Beyond that point, however, lay a long stretch of foodless country, and orders were issued that every man should provide himself with five days' supply. This was accordingly done; but so thoughtless and improvident were many of the people that during the first two marches many of them threw away their provisions. Consequently, on the third day these foolish fellows had nothing to eat, and that night it was decided that the sick and feeble should halt with Stanley and Bonny, while the strongest men returned to Ngwetza for supplies.

Early on December 9th the foragers set out, and for six miserable days those left behind existed rather than lived. The small supply of plantains which the more provident were able to contribute for the general support came to an end, and then a thin, weak broth made of hot water flavoured with butter and tinned milk was served out daily. It barely sufficed to keep body and soul together, and in their raging hunger many of the people wandered for miles searching for wild fruits and mushrooms.

On December 14th Bonny, in desperation, offered to take charge of the camp while Stanley returned to Ngwetza to search for the men and obtain food. To this Stanley at once agreed, and on the 15th he started with between seventy and eighty men, women, and lads, some hobbling, some almost too weak to travel, and all hungry and wretched. That night they camped supperless and miserable in the bush. But relief was at hand, for in the morning voices were heard ahead, and in a few moments the long-desired foragers appeared heavily laden with plantains. To light fires and set some of the fruit to roast was the work of a few minutes; and strengthened and refreshed by a plentiful meal, the united party hastened back to the camp. This timely supply of food brought troubles to an end; for the Ihuru lay less than one march ahead, and two days after crossing that stream the column was warmly welcomed by the Fort Bodo garrison.

Both parties had much to tell; but while Stanley's tale was of hardships and difficulties, the garrison had little but good to relate. There had been eight deaths, it was true; and at first the natives had given some trouble by their frequent raids on the plantations, where also some damage had been done by wild elephants. Then on September 1st a hurricane, accompanied by violent hail, had destroyed more than half the standing corn. But with these exceptions all had gone well. No news had been received of either Emin or Jephson, so the only course open was to go to look for them. On December 23rd the fort, having served its purpose, was set on fire; and while the invalids and the goods, under the care of Stairs, Parke, and Bonny, were ensconced in a comfortable camp near the Ituri, Stanley, with the able-bodied of the column, began the final march to the Nyanza. This time ho special difficulties were encountered, and on January 16, 1889, the camp was pitched only one long march from the lake. Here Stanley was met by letters from Emin Pasha and Jephson, which told him startling news. Some of the Egyptians had rebelled against Emin in the previous August, and he and Jephson had been made prisoners and taken to Duffle, far up the Nile, where for some weeks they were held captive. Then a sudden turn in the affairs of the rebels led to the release of the prisoners, who, about the middle of December, had reached Tunguru, a station on the northwest shore of the Nyanza. Jephson's letter concluded by warning Stanley not on any account to venture to Nsabe, but to camp at Mbiassa's village, and thence send word of his arrival.

To Mbiassa's village the camp was therefore removed, and letters were dispatched to Jephson and Emin, requesting them to come down without loss of time, as commissariat difficulties rendered it impossible for the expedition to halt long in the neighbourhood. Should Emin, however, decide to remain in the country, Stanley professed his readiness to deliver the ammunition and other stores to any one whom the pasha might authorize to receive them.

Jephson made his appearance on February 5th, but it was not until the 17th that the pasha arrived with his caravan of about sixty-five persons. He had at last made up his mind to leave the country, though before a move could be made there was still much to be done, and Selim Bey, one of his officers, asked for time to bring up the soldiers and their families from Wadelai. Stanley, of course, granted the request, and it was arranged that Emin, with Selim Bey and other Egyptian officers, should return to the lake to arrange for the transport of the party.

Meanwhile Stairs, Parke, and Bonny, with their party of convalescents, marched in from the Ituri, and by the evening of February 18th the camp on the plateau had developed into a well-ordered village of over five hundred inhabitants of various races and colours.

Stanley's wanderings in the Congo region were now practically ended, for it had been decided that the expedition should convoy Emin to Zanzibar by way of the Victoria Nyanza. All that remained, therefore, was to bring Emin's people and goods up from the lake; but owing to the weight and variety of the baggage, and the various delays caused by his men, this work occupied much more time than had been expected, and it was not until April 10th that the camp was finally broken up. Mazamboni's territory was reached on the 12th, and here Stanley was seized with severe internal inflammation, which at one time threatened his life, and kept the force in camp for many days. But at length he was well enough to travel, and on May 8th, Mazamboni, with three hundred of his men, escorted the expedition on the first stage of the long journey, which, nearly eight months later, finally ended at Zanzibar.