Cultural Intolerance, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Racism, Satire, Social Justice, The Hearthlands of Darkness

Chapter 8: A Dark Remembrance

 

Ah me!” sobbed Miss Cranford “How many dark and onerous days have passed since last I laid eyes upon the beloved face of my poor deceased brother; most beloved padre of the children of RibaKiba. Alas that he who survived so much depredatory wickedness, should have fallen foul of the evils of the Wahiri Hiri Rebellion!”

“The Wahiri Hiri have rebelled?” I cried disbelievingly for I found it hard to imagine such a pale and disinteresting species mounting a regime overthrow of any kind.

“The Wahiri Hiri having conducted much of their business with the Barbary Corsairs, and having seen how well they prosper in their piracy, have become discontented with their lot!” replied Miss Cranford “Hence their desperately wicked rebellion against the forces of the British Empire! Why I myself was forced to flee bible in hand, and many Christian Riba Kiba with me!”

“But what of Captain Jamieson?” Miss Cranford’ became agitated and her face darkened at the mention of his name , I can only conjecture from this that some infamous misfortune had befallen my greatly misled friend. “Kidnapped by the Barbary Corsairs” replied she in a whisper not quite meeting my eye “As were most of the Christian Riba Kiba”

The Barbary Corsair Pirates were infamous throughout North Africa for their dissolute pirating practices, and I could scarce conjecture how they had become involved in the imperial affairs of Umbongo Bongo. The Barbary, wealthy beyond imagining, were a terror to all who encountered them, for though they were generally spoken of as pirates their truer profession was that of white slavers! I One thing now seemed beyond doubt, we must quit this savage outpost at the earliest opportunity.

When first I entered the palace of Professor Powell it had been midday, but now the suns last rays pierced the stained glass windows of that shadowy heathen chamber as I carefully untied Miss Cranford, and gently led her out of that place of heinous depravity. As she wept wildly clinging to my strong masculine shoulder, I led the newly liberated English gentlewoman from the place of her captivity, and she all but collapsed into the arms of Captain Dunrudy once we had reached the camp.

“Mah Gawd! It cannot be!” cried Captain Dunrudy as the poor woman sobbed terribly in his sinewy masculine embrace “Mah Gawd Miss Cranford! What terrible development is this? When last I saw you, you and your saviour were happy and blest! Should you not be at the Riba Kiba Mission with your dear brother the most Reverend Cranford?” alas the woman was unable to respond to his inquiries for she had fainted; and he, deeply moved by the sight, tossed away his flagon of Whisky and scooping up the distressed lady carried her into his tent and laid her on his portable camp bed.

“I’ve been in this bally country for nigh on fifteen year and never laid eyes on a more sinister set of goings-on! An English woman and a missionary held prisoner by natives! Where’d you find er? Professor Powell’s Twerking Harem is what she told me but he couldn’t have!” Captain Dunrudy looked at me “Nay he wouldn’t! No! Not to an English woman!”

“An Englishman who has gawn native and cavorts about in grass skirts is capable of anything” I replied “What is more she says the Wahiri Hiri are at war with the Imperial Army of Umbongo Bongo and in league with the Barbary Corsairs!”

“Bloody hell!” he cried looking about him with dawning horror “Out of the frying pan into the fire! Where’s me whisky!”

“Bismillahi!” Shrieked Pashar Arshad, he glared malevolently at the red nosed sailor,

“You’ve downed enough whisky to merit a thousand lashes many times over! If the Wahiri Hiri have burned down the missionary outpost it will not belong before they turn up here! Do you wish to wind up eating roast Armadillo and pulling an Ox Cart in Morocco? No? Then you had better leave off Shaytan’s juice!”

To be continued……..

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Racism, Satire, Social Justice, The Hearthlands of Darkness

Chapter 7: Sardines & Nederhiwi Red Herrings!

These many weeks the hunt for Professor Powell had occupied my thoughts and filled my waking moments. I who set out upon this dark and shudderingly terrifying adventure, full of all sorts of nightmarish fears and wild apprehensions, have now reached my journey’s ruinous black end. The Professor Powell I knew at New College is a man greatly changed! So preoccupied has he become with the protection of his ever increasing mounds of glorious Ivory, that he has become remiss in his duties towards the Empire.

The West Africa Company (who commissioned his research) have received not a single consignment from the Nederhiwi Ivory Outpost . What is worse, he has left off wearing the starched shirts and linen suits indicative of his imperial standing amongst the natives, adopting the native garb with all the resolute enthusiasm of a degenerating heathen.

Why even now a ferocious tribe of head shrinking savages, intent upon collecting their share of the Ivory have joined him in dance-combat!. For two days now the drums of the Kon-Kon-Safwo-Redwoods have rung out savagely, and as a blood red sun sets shimmeringly on the horizon and the day draws to a close, I cannot help but to wonder what the outcome will be.

 “Have you had a bite to eat?” enquired Captain Dunrudy as he partook of tinned Sardines delicately mingled with fried Nederhiwi Red Herring. I could not help but to marvel at a man who having imbibed enough whisky rations to have inebriated an entire army, now sat contentedly chewing upon a plateful of pungent smelling fish served up for him by a voluptuous plum skinned Umbongoan maiden, who grimacing broadly offered me some native victuals.

 

From the jovial manner in which Captain Dunrudy chewed upon his food I assume it was most palatable for him. My English constitution I fear is not as robust, for I found the mere smell of the cooked victuals surprisingly repellent, and was forced to fall back upon the remainder of some Kitchener Dried Mule Jerky I had purchased several months ago at the Umbongo Nefertiri Outpost. I soon completed my spartan meal, washing it down with several Gin and Tonics, before wandering off in the direction of that eccentric structure to the left of the Ivory mounds which I’m told was the main headquarters of the outpost. 

“Umbwaaga na butu! Believe me!” Captain Dunrudy declared as he chewed his fish, washing it down with yet more whisky. “He’s built a graveyard behind that lot, and what you’ll find there scarce bares imagining! The natives say there’s at least a dozen imperial administrators buried back there. Right alongside the half a dozen missionaries what thought they’d make civilised Christian Englishmen out of the Nederhiwi, well! They soon learned a thing or two!”

As I walked towards the towering structure from time to time I would glimpse out of the corner of my eye occasional glimmerings such as would suggest the swift, furtive movements of dark skinned savages. Not that I let that put me off my mission which was to acquire what insight I could as to the precise nature of Professor Powell’s barbarous lunacy.

As I approached the wooden structure which alone seemed to tower over that corner of the compound, I was overcome by a sudden desire to mutter the Pater Noster under my breath, and I could not resist crossing myself several times as I entered into the soul-less dark interior of Professor Powell’s home. A ponderous and weighty silence filled each oak panelled chamber, whose tables of sparkling cut-glass and crisp white linen, whose walnut cabinets full of intricately painted bone-china, silver plate and scrimshawed Ivory had been dusted and polished to perfection, t’was most disturbing. 

Travelling deeper into the cavernous interiors of Professors Powell’s home I came upon a chamber whose earthen floor had been polished to such a high shine that one could almost see one’s face in it. An ornately carved chair had been placed in the centre of this room and upon it sat a poor creature in a state of parlous anguish. Her matted hair was loose and lay dishevelled upon the shoulders of a tattered gown and it was impossible at first to discern whether she was of civilisation or merely a tribeswoman of the Wahiri Hiri.

There was an air of tainted purity about her , an aura of almost imperceptible light and as she raised her head from off her chest I saw that she bore a gold crucifix upon it. Could this be an English woman and a missionary?! T’was a terrible shock to perceive an English woman shackled and chained like a savage to a chair owned by the good professor (who had once partaken joyously of high church), and in a room festooned with grotesque Nederhiwi statues, which I took to be representations of the local deities. 

“What is this place?” I asked not wishing to hear what I guessed would be an answer most shocking to my Christian sensibilities.

“T’is the Twerking Chamber of Professor Powell!” she replied “A most barbarous and impious sight you are unlikely to see in any other imperial district! I have been imprisoned for some months merely for seeking to turn the Nederhiwi back from the wilderness of vicious corruption that, that devil (turned heathen!) has urged them to embrace! I have been chained up to the Throne of Ululations for exhorting them to be good Christians! Professor Powell proclaimed that I shall not leave here till I relinquish my faith and twerk!”.

Raising a delicate and trembling milk white palm to her pallid face she tilted back her head and fell to laughing hysterically till she howled with anguished tears, finally she let loose such a stream of terrible invectives that it seemed as if she had succumbed to that impenetrable darkness some call Africa. But at last she recovered her composure and I, having stifled my horror and gathered my resolve, drew forth a Maxim Pistol and firing off several shots, freed the unfortunate lady from her chains.“Praise God!” gasped she, her face contorted with joy,

“An Englishman has come! An Englishman has come!”

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, The Hearthlands of Darkness

Chapter 6: Of Ivory & Panama Plums!

Of Commerce & Industry!

Ivory, lots of it, heaped up in vast glistening piles everywhere we looked. Enough riches to buy the City of London many times over. How remarkable that in the midst of this vast and desolate marauding wilderness such riches should exist! Was this why men journeyed fearlessly into the dark inhuman reaches of a jungle infested with Tarantulas, Scorpions and legions of Red Ants? Was this why they came, braving this hotbed of Yellow Fever and Dengue Flu and dying in their legions raving and foaming in the Nederhiwi Bush? All this to secure one’s financial position in English Society indefinitely? 

What monomanic affliction (I wondered) bade the Professor horde up prodigious supplies of that for which men gladly drove themselves mad? Even as I speculated as to what sickness drove my poor friend’s embrace of barbarism and avarice, Captain Dunrudy surveyed the gleaming mounds of Ivory and giggled quietly to himself. He glanced at the Chief Porter whose swarthy visage lit up at the sight of the white tusks and he too giggled,”Moribund moribund tee tee!!” he declared lifting his hands to heaven and giggling some more. Captain Dunrudy clearly agreed with him for “Moribund moribund mayhem gazulu tee tee!” was his guffawing reply “Small wonder the Kon-Konsafwo-Redwoods are on the warpath! “. 

I looked at Captain Dunrudy questioningly, but he merely laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks and pointed towards the dozen or so tethered vultures kept in bamboo cages, nearby the gargantuan mounds of Ivory. “Look at those cages” he said, “If I’m not mistaken those are West Africa Company Carrier Vultures” he chuckled “They only gets sent to the Ivory outposts when Ivory cargoes stop coming altogether!”.

He guffawed so heartily that his face turned redder than usual and his eyes streamed with tears. His humour proved so infectious that the natives were soon rolling around on the ground alongside him clutching their sides. I must confess that I could not see what humour there was in our predicament. The vast heaps of gleaming Ivory should have been despatched to the West Africa Company’s imperial outpost in Nefertiri Umbongo, but for whatever sinister reason, that had not happened. 

Ashar Parshad alone shared my dismay and unease “This is very very bad Mr Stanley, very bad indeed. Professor Powell has taken up arms against that fine bulwark of Englishness, the West Africa Company. Why, they own all the Gold, Gari and Palm Wine Reserves and most of the Ivory Reserves of Umbongo! To go against them is to brave the wrath of the Governor-General of Umbongo Umbongo, and the legions of Glorious British Grenadiers sent to safeguard the Empress of India’s booty!”

“A parlous state of affairs and a puzzling one” I admitted for the Professor Powell who mentored me as a boy at New College in Oxford, professed no interest in the business of Ivory. His had been an anthropological fascination, what lunatick epiphany could have propelled him from those scientific realms he so loved into the very depths of tawdry nativism he had embraced? Why, it hardly bore thinking on and yet as I bit into a Panama Plum I found myself obliged to think on it.

To be continued……

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Hypocritical Cant, Satire, Social Justice, The Hearthlands of Darkness

Chapter 5: Pioneers of Progress!

The day would have begun serenely were it not for the throbbing drums below us and the low, ominous mutterings of the natives. T’was a fitful night we spent, slumbering in the low grass, whilst grasshoppers chittered and Pashar Arshad kept watch through the night. T’was an unrelentingly ominous yet sunny day we found ourselves awaking to. I could not help but to recollect Pashar Arshad’s reminisces about the fall of the heroic city of Khartoum to the massacring Mohammedan hordes of the Mahdi;it had been a scorchingly hot day then too, Pashar assured me. Looking up into the vast empty soul-less sky I cursed the gods that had trapped us between the roaring waters of the Luabalaba and the Nederhiwi Ivory Station. Not for the first time I questioned what dark primeval forces had lured me out of merry old England during cricket season and into the darkest reaches of dimmest Africa. Why on such a morn as this, I should have been drinking chocolate out of a delicate china cup and slowly devouring a plate of Turkey Twizzler Kedgeree.

“Oi oi!” cried Captain Dunrudy “There’s movement down below! The gates are being opened, somebody’s coming out!” I looked down upon the Irish man who had crawled halfway down the hill on his belly with a cigarillo dangling from his lips and a telescope extended in front of him. His begrimed britches were partially split around the back, so that the stark white linen of his undergarments shone through, as he wriggled farther down the hill to get a closer look. “Oh ho! It’s a party of natives and that looks like-is that Professor Powell?!” he handed the telescope to me and as I looked a gasp of unsuppressed horror escaped me. 

The burnt low grass scratched my cheeks, and tickled my lips, as I wriggled still further down the hill to more closely view what Africa had wrought upon this once civilised Englishman. For it was clear to me that the most esteemed Professor Powell had gone native. Here was an Englishman-who had been the founder of the New College Drinking Club, a fellow of the Royal Archaeological Society and a lay preacher at Canterbury Cathedral-clad in a grass skirt, fashioned it appeared from Palm fronds. Elephant tusks had been tied to either side of his head beneath a crown of Hysterius Ukippus feathers. Gold and Ivory bracelets adorned his wrists, his chest alone was bare and tanned as dark as a beech-nut. 

“Oi oi! He’s addressing the Kon-Kon-Safwo’s with dance! He’s clearly gawn bonkers!” exclaimed Captain Dunrudy disbelievingly as he crawled still further down the steep stark hill with us crawling along behind him. The drumming had increased in intensity as the Kon-Kon-Safwo-Redwoods shimmied and shook in time to its rhythm. Not to be outdone in aggressive ferocity, Professor Powell shimmied and shook his own lean body with twice the speed and ferocity. 

He twisted, he leapt, he skipped ferociously in a circle with a band of similarly garbed Umbongo Umbongoans dancing sombrely beside him. It seemed to me that some unearthly discourse was taking place, one such as no civilised Englishman could possibly comprehend. Even as we had travelled inland from the outer regions of Umbongo Umbongo we had heard rumours of the godless depths to which he (Professor Powell) had plummeted. The devilish rites to which it was rumoured he had been party, but I had not thought to witness a display so swinishly heathen, for he grimaced and rolled his eyes back in his head broodingly as though he were Umbongoan born and bred, twirling the ivory handled fly swatters in his swarthy hands with joyous abandon.

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“Have you visited the Kalahari desert?” whispered Pashar Arshad ” The Bushmen of the Kalahari perform such heathen feats as these, they call it ‘ungah-wiri’ “

“Tis the Umtargatie-Yaw-Yaw” replied Captain Dunrudy chuckling quietly to himself as he watched the good professor performing a bellicose strutting skip with his sunburned paunch thrust out, and his hands jerking spasmodically at his sides. “The Professor is attempting to perform the Umtargatie-Yaw-Yaw, tis the tribal way of marking out one’s territorial boundaries”

“By God! He’s an Englishman! Can he not simply have the brutes shot and mark out his territorial boundaries that way?” I exclaimed in horror. The Kon-Kon-Safwo-Redwoods seemed terribly excited by the presence of an Englishman in their midst, for the drum beat picked up its pace and now the brutes shook their spears and their grass skirts savagely, so savagely that the grotesque little shrunken German heads attached to them bobbed up and down. 

“Ooooh that don’t look good. If they keep that up he will have to shoot them.” observed Captain Dunrudy uncapping his flask and knocking back a long hard slug of whisky.”Still” he continued, “his loss will be our gain; them gates to the outpost are wide open”. Death lay skulking in the air and if we were not careful it would eat its fill of us,the wide open gates were akin to a luminous flash of hope in that heathen darkness.

Conferring quietly with Pashar Ashad (who in turn instructed the head native-porter) I unholstered my pistol and crawling deeper into the low grass, I made my way carefully downhill. Sweat trickled down my face and neck staining my only remaining pure white bespoke shirt. The ground beneath my dirty fingernails throbbed savagely with the frenzied thud of savage feet on the sun-baked, my head ached so fiercely from the searing heat that I feared I would betray my Britishness by swooning. Still, I made my way onwards, wriggling along the stony ground on my belly till at length I was at the gates of that sparkling sanctuary from barbarism, the Nederhiwi Ivory Station ………

 

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