The Belles of Kisemo – Tidings of Livingstone
The Beautiful City of Simbamwenni
Stanley’s expedition camped one evening at a lovely village named Kisemo. It was extremely populous, with there being five villages in a circuit of five miles. Each village was fortified by stakes and thorny bushes.
The belles of Kisemo were famed for their extraordinary natural development. Their vanity found expression in brass wire which adorned their waist and ankles, while their less attractive brothers were content with such adornments as dingy cloths and split ears. Stanley thought it was a very comical picture to see the highly-dressed females with all their magnificent features, engaged in the everyday task of grinding corn for themselves and their families.
The grinding apparatus consisted of two portions: one, a thick pole of hard wood that was about 6 feet long; and the other, a wooden mortar that was 3 feet in height. The swaying motion of the women in handling this huge contraption as they were dressed in all their finery was totally ludicrous to Stanley.
Tidings of Livingstone
The fourth caravan had been making up for lost time by traveling ahead for several days. Stanley met up with them at the village of Muhalleh. Several of the men had fallen sick, so they had to wait for Stanley to come to them with the medicine chest. While staying for two days so that everyone could get better, Stanley met an Arab trader that was bound eastward with a large caravan that was carrying 300 elephant tusks. He welcomed Stanley with a present of rice and gave him news of Livingstone.
He told him that he had met Livingstone at Ujiji and slept in the hut next to him for two weeks. He described him as looking old, with a long gray moustache and beard, having just recovered from a severe illness and looking very pale at that time. Livingstone had told him that when he recovered he planned to visit a country called Manyuema, by way of Marungu.
The Beautiful City of Simbamwenni
The march now followed the valley of teh Ungerengeri until they came to the great city. Stanley thought it was one of the most beautiful cities in Africa of all that he had seen. The town contained about 1,000 homes and had a population of at least 5,000. The houses were African, but were strongly constructed. They were made of stone, and pierced with two rows of loop-holes for musketry.
The size of the town was about half a square mile, with its plan being quadrangular. Well-built towers of stone guarded each corner. There were also four gates that were situated half-way between the guard towers. The gates were closed with solid square doors made of African teak and ornately carved. It was supposed that they were either made at Zanzibar or on the coast, and sent to Simbamwenni plank by plank. There were several splendid craftsmen in the city, though, and they could have been made there instead of being shipped in.
The Sultana, or ruler of this African city, was the eldest daughter of the famous Kisabengo. This man had come from humble ancestry, but became a leader of fugitive slaves and together they commenced on a career of conquest and acquired an immense tract of fertile country. After that they settled down and built the beautiful city whose name meant “The Lion”, or the strongest city. After he became old, Kisabengo became so well known for his robbery and kidnapping that he changed his name to Simbamwenni, after his town. As he was dying, he requested that his eldest daughter should succeed him and bestowed the name of the town upon her also.
Stanley gave immense praise for the town and declared that the railroad could have easily been brought to it. He noted that the temperature here was very pleasant, with the day never exceeding 85° T. The nights were pleasant also, with a person only needing a blanket or two to sleep comfortably.
While passing by this glorious town, though, Stanley was accosted by some soldiers that had been sent out by the Sultana to collect a tribute for the privilege of a passage. He refused to pay anything and sent back word that he recognized no right by which such a demand should be made. He heard nothing further at that time from the princess.
Five miles further on, a cook belonging to the expedition was arrested for stealing. Stanley flogged him with a cowhide over his jacket because it was his fourth offense. It was a hardly a severe punishment with his jacket on. To frighten him, Stanley told him to leave the camp and get back to Zanzibar the best way he could. It scared the man so much that he bolted off into the jungle. Stanley knew that he would really perish if attempted to go the long distance by himself. He hoped that he would come back and he left a donkey tied to a tree so that the man could overtake the caravan again.
Right after that, Bombay went to a stream for water and upon returning found a gun, a pistol, an American axe, a bale of cloth, and some beads had been stolen from him. He was convinced that it had to have been done by the subjects of the Sultana.
The caravan now had to stop while men were sent back to recover the stolen articles and find the culprit who had run off with them if it were possible. After a search of two days the soldiers found the donkey and missing articles in the possession of two natives. He took them to the Sultana where they were charged with murdering the missing man. They strongly denied the charges, but the Sultana believed them guilty and threw them into prison to await the next caravan going to Zanzibar, where they would be sentenced.
The Sultana next ordered Stanley’s three soldiers to be seized and placed in chains. She declared that she would detain them until their master returned and paid her the tribute money that she had demanded the first time they went through her city. The soldiers were kept in chains in the marketplace for 16 hours. There they were exposed to the taunts of the people until they were discovered by a Sheik who had passed Stanley 5 days before. He recognized the men as members of the expedition and went to talk to them.
After he heard the men’s story, he went to the Sultana and told her that what she had done was wrong and would only end in bloodshed. This is what he told her:
“The Musungu is strong, very strong; he has got two guns which shoot forty times without stopping, carrying bullets half an hour’s distance; he has got several guns which carry bullets that burst and tear a man in pieces. He could go to the top of that mountain and could kill every man, woman and child in the town before one of your soldiers could reach the top. The road will then be stopped; Syed Burghash will march against your country; the Wadoe and Wakami will come and take revenge on what is left, and the place that your father made so strong will know the Waseguhha no more. Set free the Musungu’s soldiers; give them their food, and grain for the Musungu; return the guns to the men and let them go; for the white man may even now be on his way here.”
These exaggerated reports of Stanley’s power produced a good effect, for the soldiers were released, their arms and the donkeys restored, and sufficient food was furnished to last them for four days, until they could overtake the caravan. Stanley was very upset over what had happened to his men, but he was too far away already to do very much about it. The runaway cook was not found, though.
The expedition started again for Ugogo after a delay of the four days. It was in the midst of a pelting rain storm which flooded the country and made travel extremely difficult. They soon came to a swamp that was swarming with malaria infestations. Shaw took sick, and the labor of driving the caravan fell entirely on Stanley.
The donkeys stuck in the mire as if they were rooted there. As fast as one was freed, another got stuck. After two hours, they finally got through all the mud. Just as Stanley was about to congratulate himself, they came upon a deep ditch that was filled with rain-water that was flowing breast-deep and very swiftly. At this, they had to unload all the donkeys and lead them through the swift water, then load them all back up again. The whole operation took over an hour to do.
On the following day the party came to another swamp. It was five miles across and one to four feet deep. It was the worst part of the whole expedition, and two carriers and the dog died, twelve donkeys and Stanley himself almost died from fever and acute dysentery.
On May 4th, they ascended a gentle slope to a village named Reheuneko. They stayed there for 4 days so that they could rest and recover from the effects of the fever that they by now were all suffering.