Read CHAPTER TEN of Ned Garth, free online book, by W. H. G. Kingston, on ReadCentral.com.

After resting some time Ned recovered sufficiently to converse with Sayd, who, coming up, seated himself by his side.

“I had heard that a young white man had set out with Mohammed-ibn-Nassib, and was acting as his gun-bearer, but little did I expect to find that you were the person spoken of.  How came you to be with him?  Have you run away from your ship?” he inquired.

“No, indeed,” answered Ned; and he explained how he had been made prisoner and ill-treated, until Mohammed took him into his service.  “And how came you to be here?” asked Ned.  “Surely you have not joined company with these men-stealers?”

“Men-stealers!  O no; my friends and I are on an expedition to purchase elephant tusks from the natives far away in the interior, where they are so plentiful that people make their door-posts of them, and we all expect to become immensely rich.”

“I hope that you will succeed,” said Ned; “but I would rather have heard that you were returning to the coast, that I might accompany you, as I am very desirous of getting back to my ship.  Can you, however, assist me?”

“You ask what is impossible.  If you attempt to go alone, you will be murdered by the robbers through whose territory we have passed.  No white men can travel among these savages, unless in considerable numbers well-armed.  If we meet with a caravan on its way seaward you may put yourself under its protection; but I should be sorry, now we have met, to part with you, and would advise you to accompany us until we have accomplished our undertaking.”

“I thank you for the offer; but, if it is possible, I must go back to my ship,” said Ned.

“But I say that it is impossible,” answered Sayd, who evidently did not wish to part with Ned.  “Make up your mind to come with us, and you shall receive a portion of my share of the profits of the expedition.”

Ned again thanked Sayd, adding

“But I have no goods with which to trade, and I would not deprive you of your gains.  My captain will, however, I am sure, repay any one for the expenses of my journey.”

“But you can do without goods; you have Mohammed’s musket, and with it you may shoot some elephants; besides which, it is just possible that we may have to attack some villages if the inhabitants refuse to supply us with tusks or provisions.  It is very likely that some will do so, in which case you will have a right to the booty we may obtain.”

“I thought, friend Sayd, that you were going on a hunting and trading expedition?”

“It is the Arabs’ way of trading when the negroes are obstinate,” answered Sayd, with a laugh.

Ned, on hearing this, became somewhat suspicious of the intentions of the Arabs, but he feared he should be unable to help himself.  He resolved, however, that should an opportunity offer, to get back to the coast at all risks.

The caravan to which Sayd belonged was far larger than that of Mohammed.  It was under the command of a magnificent fellow in appearance, Habib-ibn-Abdullah, to whom his followers looked with reverential awe.  There were numerous other chiefs, each attended by fifty or more black free men or slaves, some armed with muskets or swords, and the rest with spears and knives, or bows and arrows.  Sayd had about fifty of these men under his orders, entrusted to him by his father and other relatives at Zanzibar.

The caravan waited in the entrenched camp, expecting every hour to be attacked; but the negro chiefs had gained information of the number of the garrison, and thought it wiser not to make the attempt, intending probably to way-lay the caravan on its march, and cut it off should an opportunity occur.

Several days passed by; no enemy appearing, Abdullah, mustering his men, ordered the march to begin.  With drums beating, colours flying, and trumpets sounding, they marched out in gallant array, the armed men guarding the pagazis, who carried the bales of cloth, boxes of beads, and coils of wire.  Though they looked so formidable, Ned, after the disgraceful defeat suffered by Mohammed, did not feel that confidence which he might otherwise have experienced.  To avoid the defiles which had proved so disastrous to their friends, Abdullah took a course to the northward, which, after being pursued for a couple of days, was changed to the westward.  Ned looked out anxiously in the hopes of meeting a return caravan; still none appeared, and he was convinced that it would be madness to attempt returning by himself without the means of even paying for his food.  Sayd was as kind and attentive as he could desire, generally marching alongside him, when they managed to converse freely together, the young Arab eking out his English by signs.  A strict watch was kept night and day for enemies, but none ventured to attack them.  Abdullah, however, consented to pay tribute to the various chiefs through whose territory the caravan passed.  It consisted of so many yards of cloth, with a string or two of beads or several lengths of wire.  Although muskets, powder, and shot were in demand, the Arabs refused to part with them, suspecting that the weapons might be turned against themselves when any difficulty might arise.  The country of the more warlike tribes having been passed, the Arabs marched with less caution than before, their hunters being sent out to kill game, which appeared in great abundance elephants, giraffes, buffalo, wild boars, zebras, and deer of various species, besides guinea-fowl, pelicans, and numerous other birds.

Ned had a great inclination to join these hunting parties, but Sayd persuaded him to remain in camp, indeed, on most occasions, he felt too much fatigued to take any unnecessary exercise.

An ample supply of meat put the caravan in good spirits, and they marched on, shouting and singing, feeling themselves capable of conquering the world.

“We have now a country before us very different to any we have yet traversed,” observed Sayd.  “The slaves will not sing quite so loudly.”

They had just arrived at a small stream.  Here Abdullah issued the order that every man should fill his water-bottle.

“We will carry a gourd apiece in addition, it will be well worth while bearing the extra weight, for before many days are over we shall esteem a few drops of water of as great value as so many pieces of gold,” observed Sayd.  “See how leaden the sky looks yonder, and how the air seems to dance over the surface of the earth.”

Some of the chiefs desired to camp where they were, but Abdullah was eager to push on, as they had marched but two hours that morning.  A water-hole, he said, would be found before nightfall, or the people might dig and the precious fluid would be discovered beneath the earth.

After a short halt, therefore, they recommenced their march.  The chiefs, who did not carry even their own muskets, found it easy enough, but the pagazis groaned under their heavy loads as they tramped over the baked ground.  Scarcely a tree was to be seen, and such shrubs and plants only as require little water.  The sun sinking towards the horizon appeared like a ball of fire, setting the whole western sky ablaze.  Not a breath of air fanned the cheeks of the weary men.  Ned did not complain, but he felt dreadfully tired, and had to apply so frequently to his gourd that it was nearly empty.

“We have not yet got half-way over the desert,” observed Sayd.  “I advise you, my friend, to husband that precious liquid.”

“But Abdullah believes that there is a water-hole before us.”

“His belief will not bring it there!” answered Sayd.  “It may by this time be dried up, and we may have many a long mile to march before we reach another.”

A few minutes after this a line of trees appeared ahead.  The blacks raised a shout of joy, supposing that beneath their shade the looked-for water would be discovered.  Worn out as many of them were, they hastened their steps until even the carriers broke into a run, and the whole mass rushed eagerly down the bank, but as they reached the bottom a cry of bitter disappointment escaped them; not a drop of liquid was to be seen, only a smooth mass of black mud, with cracks across in all directions, showing that the water had evaporated.

Water must be had at every cost, or the whole party might perish.  Their numbers, their arms, their courage would not avail them.  Those who had before traversed the country immediately set to work with pointed sticks to dig along the bed of what was once a stream, in the hopes of obtaining water, and many dug holes of five and six feet deep, but no water appeared.

“Then, men, you must dig deeper,” shouted the chiefs as they went about among their people.

A little thick liquid bubbled up, the labourers shouted with joy, and several of the more thirsty rushed in, and kneeling down lapped it up, although it was of the consistency of mud.

The men again set to work, and at length a sufficient quantity of water came bubbling up to enable their companions to obtain a few mouthfuls.  The camp fires were then lit, and the men gathered close round them, for it was a locality where a prowling lion was very likely to pay them a visit.

Sayd and Ned had a sufficient amount of water to prevent them suffering.  As Ned looked out over the dark plain, he could see objects flitting by.  Sayd thought that they were deer, which, fleet of foot, were passing across the desert to some more fertile region.  Several times the roars of lions were heard, but none ventured near the camp, being scared by the bright blaze kept up.

At an early hour all were again on foot, and eagerly descended into the holes, which now contained rather more water than on the previous evening, but still barely sufficient to quench their thirst.  There was none to fill their water-bottles.  The Arabs, kneeling on their carpets, joined by the Mohammedans among their followers, offered up their prayers to Allah as the first gleam of the sun rose above the horizon; then the morning meal being hastily taken, the pagazis shouldered their loads and the march commenced.

As Sayd had predicted, no songs, no shouts were heard; even the merriest among the blacks were silent.  Scarcely a word was uttered as the caravan moved forward, the dull sound of human feet treading the baked earth alone broke the silence.  On and on they trudged; the sun, as he rose, got hotter and hotter, striking down with intense force on their heads.  Ned marched alongside Sayd.  The latter had two favoured followers young Hassan, partly of Arab birth, who acted as his gun-bearer; and a huge negro, a freed man, Sambroko by name, possessed of prodigious strength and courage.  These two had followed their master’s example, and supplied themselves with gourds of water, two of which the negro carried slung round his neck.

For some hours the caravan proceeded as rapidly as at first.  It was hoped that a stream would be found soon after noon, where Abdullah promised to halt to give the men the rest they so much needed; but noon was passed, already the sun was in their eyes, and no stream was seen.  To halt now would be to lose precious time.  With parched lips and starting eyeballs the men pushed on, and, instead of songs and jokes, cries and groans were heard on every side.  Now a weary pagazi sank down, declaring that he could carry his load no longer; now another and another followed his example.  In vain the Arab leaders urged them to rise with threats and curses, using the points of their spears.  The hapless men staggered on, then dropping their loads attempted to fly.  Two were shot dead as a warning to the rest, and their masters distributed their loads among the others who appeared better able to carry them, but, ere long, others sinking down, stretched themselves on the ground and were left to die in the desert.  Time would have been lost in attempting to carry them.

“Is this the way you Arabs treat your followers?” asked Ned, who felt indignant at the apparent cruelty of the chiefs.

“They are but slaves,” answered Sayd in a careless tone.  “Necessity has no law; let us go forward, or their fate may be ours.”

“Onwards, onwards!” was the cry.  The chiefs shouted to their people to keep together, for already many were straggling behind.  They had started, feeling confident that by their numbers all difficulties would be overcome, but had they mustered ten thousand men the same fate by which they were now threatened might have overtaken them.  Even young Hassan, generally so joyous and dauntless, began to complain; but Sambroko took him by the arm and helped him along, every now and then applying his water-bottle to his lips.

Among the pagazis Ned had observed a young man of pleasing countenance, who had always been amongst the merriest of the merry, though his load was heavier than that of many.  He had never complained, but was now staggering along endeavouring to keep up with the rest.  Ned, seeing how much he was suffering, offered him a draught from his own water-bottle.

“Stop!” cried Sayd.  “You will want it for yourself.”

“I cannot disappoint him,” answered Ned, as he poured the water down the lad’s throat.

The young pagazi’s countenance brightened, and he uttered an expression of gratitude as he again attempted to follow his companions.

“I should like to carry some of his load,” said Ned.  “He is younger than the rest, and it is too much for him.  Here! let me help you along,” he added, making signs of his intention.

“You will bring contempt on yourself if you do that,” observed Sayd.  “No Arab would demean himself by carrying a load.”

“An Englishman thinks nothing derogatory when necessary,” answered Ned, taking the package off the shoulders of the youth, who, while he expressed his gratitude, seemed much astonished at the offer being made.

Ned trudged on with it manfully for some minutes, but soon began to feel the weight oppressive.  Sambroko observed him, and, taking hold of the load, swung it on his own back and carried it a considerable distance.  Then calling to the young pagazi bade him carry it forward.

Ned begged Sayd to thank Sambroko, who answered, that though he could no longer bear to see his master’s friend thus fatigue himself, the young pagazi must expect no further help from him.

“But I must try and help him, for I could not bear to see the poor fellow sink down and die as so many are doing.”

“There is nothing strange in that,” remarked Sambroko.  “I once crossed a desert larger than this, and one half our number were left behind; but we got through and returned during the wet season with large cargoes of ivory, and our masters, for I was then a slave, were well content.”

Sayd translated to Ned what was said.

“I wonder the Arabs venture into a country where so many lose their lives,” said Ned.

“The profits are great,” answered Sayd.  “Men will dare and do anything for gain; each hopes to be more fortunate than his predecessor.”

The young slave, greatly rested and refreshed by the water, and even more by the sympathy shown him, marched forward with an almost elastic step.

“O young master!” he said, looking at Ned, “my heart feels light.  I thought no one cared for poor Chando; but I now know that there are kind men in the world.”

Sayd explained the meaning of the black’s words.

“Chando!” repeated Ned.  “I have heard that name before.  Inquire where he comes from, and how long he has been a slave.”

Sayd put the questions.

“From the village of Kamwawi in Warua,” answered the young pagazi without hesitation.  “It is far, far away from here.  It is so long ago since I was taken that I could not find my way back; but were I once there, I should know it again.  The hills around it, the beautiful lake, into which falls many a sparkling stream, rushing down amid rocks and tall trees.  Would that we were there now instead of toiling over this arid desert.  How delightful it would be to plunge into some cool and sheltered pool where no crocodile or hippopotamus could reach us.  What draughts of water we would drink,” and the black opened his mouth as if to pour some of the longed-for fluid down it.

Sayd imitated the movement of his lips as he translated what was said.

“Chando!  Chando!” repeated Ned.  “Ask him if he had a father or mother living when he was carried off to become a slave.”

“I had a mother, but whether or not she escaped from the slaves I cannot say.  I never saw her again.  I once had a father, whom I remember well; he used to carry me in his arms, and give me wild grapes and sweet fruit.  He was either killed by a lion or an elephant, or was captured by the slave hunters, who, it was said, had been prowling about in the neighbourhood at that time, though they did not venture to attack our village, which was too strong for them.”

Ned became very much interested in the account Chando gave of himself.  “Inquire whether he can recollect the name of his father.”

Sayd put the question.

“Yes, I remember it perfectly well.  It was Baraka.”

Ned gave a shout of joy, and forgetting his danger and fatigue, and all that was still before him, he rushed forward, and, grasping Chando’s hand, exclaimed

“I know your father; I promised him that I would search for you, and now I have found you.  There can be no mistake about it.  He told me that his son’s name was Chando, and you say your father’s name was Baraka, that he disappeared, and has never since come back.  I would far rather have found you than made my escape, or returned to the coast the possessor of hundreds of elephants’ tusks.”

Sayd’s exclamations of surprise somewhat interrupted Ned’s remarks as he translated them to Chando.  The latter almost let his load drop in his agitation as he asked, “Is Baraka is my father still alive?  O my young master, can you take me to him?  Can you find my mother, that we may be together and be once more happy as we were before he was carried away to become a slave?”

“The very thing I wish to do,” answered Ned.  “I will try to get your master to give you your freedom at once; or, if he will not now do so, as soon as we return to the coast.”

So deeply interested were Ned and his companions in the discovery he had made, that they forgot for a time their fatigue and their thirst.  Even Sambroko and young Hassan listened eagerly.

“I know where Kamwawi is!” exclaimed the huge black.  “It is to the north-west, but it would take many days to reach.  It is a fine country, and the people are brave and warlike; though the slave hunters sometimes go there to trap the natives, they seldom venture to attack the villages.”

“It is true, it is true!” answered Chando.  “I was captured whilst out hunting elephants with some other lads.  They all died I alone lived; and after being sold several times became the slave of Abdullah.  It was better than being sent away on board a dhow to be carried to some far off land, where I might have been ill-treated by strangers, and have no chance of meeting with any of my own people.”

“We must try to reach Kamwawi, and endeavour to ascertain whether Chando’s mother is still alive.  I promised her husband to bring her back as well as her son if I could find them.  It would be a glorious thing to rescue both,” exclaimed Ned.

“To do that would be impossible,” answered Sayd.  “Abdullah will not lead the caravan so far away for such an object.  Even should we reach the village you speak of, we should be looked upon as enemies, besides which, the woman is by this time dead, or is married to another husband, and she would not wish to quit her home to go to a distant country for the mere chance of finding her husband alive.  You must give up the idea, my friend; the undertaking, I repeat, is impossible.”

Ned made no reply, there was too much truth, he feared, in Sayd’s remarks.  For some time he tramped on, thinking over the matter.  At last he again turned to the Arab

“Sayd,” he exclaimed, “I want you to do me a favour to obtain Chando’s liberty.  If you have to purchase his freedom, as I suppose you must, I will promise, when we return to the coast, to repay you the cost, whatever it may be.”

Sayd smiled at the request.

“Abdullah is not the man willingly to dispose of a healthy slave, who will be able to carry a whole tusk on his shoulders back to the coast,” he answered.  “Perhaps when the journey is over he may be ready to talk over the matter, but he will demand a high price, of that you may be certain.”

“I will pay him any price he may ask.  I am sure I shall find friends ready to help me to advance the money until I can send it to them from England.”

This answer showed that, although Ned was tramping over the desert in the interior of Africa without a penny in his pocket, or any equivalent in his possession, he had not lost his spirits, and was as sanguine as ever as to getting home some day.  As he looked round, however, at the haggard countenances of the Arab leaders and their armed followers, as well as at those of the pagazis, he might with good reason have dreaded that none of them would ever reach the fertile region said to lie beyond the desert.  Already many more had fallen, and their track was strewn with the bodies of dead or dying men.

The survivors staggered on, well knowing that to stop was certain destruction.  The Arabs no longer attempted to drive them forward, or to distribute the loads of those who sank down among the rest.  They themselves were too eager to reach a stream where they might quench their thirst and rest their weary limbs.  They would then send back to recover the loads, and pick up any of the men who might still be alive.  But hour after hour went by, and the hot sun glared in their faces like the flame from a furnace, almost blinding their eyes.  Darkness came on, but still they pushed forward.  The same cry resounded from all parts of the caravan:  “They must march through the night.”  Should they halt, how many would be alive in the morning?  Ned had told Chando to keep close to his side, and had supplied him every now and then with a few drops of water.  Had others seen this, Ned would have run the risk of having his bottle taken from him.  He would, indeed, have been glad to share the water with his companions, but he knew that, divided among many, it would avail them nothing.  Not a word was now exchanged among any of Sayd’s party, but they kept compactly together.  At length Ned caught sight of some objects rising up ahead.  They were tall trees with spreading branches.  They would not grow thus unless with nourishment from below.

The Arabs and their followers raised a shout, and pressed forward.  Every instant they expected to come upon a stream.  Several of the trees were passed, and none was seen.  At length they reached a bank below which the stars were reflected as in a mirror.

“Water! water!” was the cry, and Arabs and soldiers and slaves dashing forward, their strength suddenly revived, plunged their faces into the pool, regardless of the danger they ran.  Some, more prudent, drank the water from their hands, or from cups they carried, but several, exhausted, fell with their heads below the surface.  Some of these were rescued by their comrades, but many were drowned before they could be drawn out.  The leaders now issued the order to encamp, and the pagazis, piling their loads, were compelled to search for wood.

On the different bands being mustered by their respective chiefs, nearly half were found missing.  Ned set out to search for Chando, and brought him to Sayd’s fire to hear more of his adventures, but, though generally talkative, he was scarcely able to utter a word.  Directly the scanty meal had been consumed, the weary blacks as well as their masters were asleep.  A few hours only were allowed them to rest, when, their strength being somewhat recovered, a large party with water-bottles were sent along the way they had come to the relief of any who might have survived, and to bring in their loads.  A few lives were thus saved, and much of the property dropped was recovered.

Sayd had lost several of his men, but he took the matter very coolly, observing “that it was the will of Allah, and could not be avoided.”

Heavy as the loss of life had been, the Arabs were still sufficiently numerous to march forward to the rich country where they expected to obtain all their hearts desired.  A halt, however, of several days was absolutely necessary to recruit their strength.  As Sayd was less fatigued than any of the other chiefs, he undertook to go out hunting in order to obtain food, which was greatly required.  Ned offered to accompany him.  He took Sambroko, Hassan, and three more of his own followers, and having permission to select any experienced hunters from among the rest of the men, recollecting what Chando had said, he fixed among others on him.  All were well-armed with muskets, or bows and arrows and spears, and with darts or long knives.  Chando, being the most experienced elephant hunter, was sent ahead to look out for game.

The nature of the forest caused the party to become somewhat separated.  Ned kept as close as he could to Sayd.  Some time had elapsed, when Ned heard a loud trumpeting coming from the forest in front of them.

“That’s an elephant,” shouted Sayd, who was some distance off.  “Move carefully forward, and when the creature appears fire steadily, and then spring on one side, but beware lest he sees you, or he may make a rush at you.”

Ned resolved to follow this advice.  Again they advanced.  Ned saw Sayd enter an open glade.  He had got but a few yards along it, when a crashing sound from the opposite side was heard, followed by a loud trumpeting.  With trunk erect and open mouth a huge elephant dashed out of the cover, catching sight as he came into the open of the Arab.  Ned had his gun ready, and, as the animal drew near, steadying his weapon against the trunk of a tree, he fired.  The bullet struck the creature, but still it advanced, trumpeting loudly, its rage increased, with its keen eyes fixed on Sayd.  The Arab saw it coming, and knowing that, if its progress was not stopped, his destruction was certain, fired at its head, and then, his courage giving way, turned round to fly.  Ned gave up his friend for lost.  The huge brute would break through all impediments to reach his victim.  Just then Ned saw a black form emerging from the wood and springing over the ground at a rate surpassing that of the elephant, against whose thick frontal bone Sayd’s bullet had been ineffective.  With trunk uplifted the animal had got within ten paces of the Arab, when the black overtook it, a sharp sword in his hand; the weapon flashed for an instant, and descended on the elephant’s left hinder leg; then springing on one side the black inflicted another tremendous gash on the right.  The monster staggered on, and was about to seize the Arab with its trunk, when, uttering a shriek of pain and baffled rage, down it came with a crash to the earth.

Sayd, stopping in his flight, turned and saw that his deliverer was the pagazi Chando, while Ned at the same moment springing forward congratulated him on his escape.  Chando, without speaking, plunged his sword in the neck of the elephant.  The rest of the party on hearing the firing made their way up to the spot, and complimented Chando on his achievement.

“I am grateful, and must see how I can reward you,” said Sayd to the young pagazi.

As meat was much wanted at the camp, the party immediately commenced cutting up the elephant, while messengers were despatched to summon carriers to convey the flesh and tusks.  As soon as it was sent off the hunters continued the chase.  Ned shot a zebra, which raised him in the estimation of his companions.  A giraffe was also seen, and creeping up to it among the long grass the party surrounded it.  Before it could escape a bullet from Sayd’s gun wounded it in the shoulder, when spears and javelins thrust at it from every side soon ended its life.  There was great rejoicing when this meat was brought into camp, and the Arabs and their followers feasting luxuriously forgot their toils and sufferings.