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

Chapter 2: The Error of Captain Jamieson & The Way Of The Wahiri Hiri

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In The Year Of Our Lord 1888

My Dearest  Mater,

Having survived the tumultuous waters of the Luabalaba and the furious onslaught of stray Wahiri Hiri, we have now arrived at the Nederhiwi flatlands. Staggering ashore and dragging our provisions with them, the Umbongo Bongoans were soon able to collect sufficient kindling for a bonfire. This they set to building immediately, setting it alight with a flint that one of them had, had, the foresight to clench between his teeth when we had slipped over the waterfall. But once the fire was lit what a ghastly discovery was made! For Jamieson’s dinner jacket (along with his charcoals for sketching) had been lost to the waters of the Luabalaba! Captain Jamieson put a good front on it however (though I noted with much apprehension, the minute tremor beneath his left eye) and we were soon able to make camp for the night.

My darling, how best may I describe to you the savage wonders of the Nederhiwi? The infernal wonderment that suffused my weakened bosom each time I gazed up towards the stars?  The brooding sense of foreboding that overcame me as I listened to the lurid squawks of the Hysterius Ukippus? I can only quote those phrases handed down to me by my mentor in his last missive,‘Gone! The faces of my loved ones. Gone! The works of Louis Pasteur and Purcell and that cultured enlightenment that can scarce be glimpsed at by these primitive hordes! Gone all vestige of  culture, all civilised pretence. For I too am of Umbongo Bongo and all I may do now is twerk! Clustered around the roaring camp fire, we sipped on our gin and tonics and expressed the hope that we might make good progress towards the Ivory Station tomorrow. “Will there be time to stop by Ribakiba?” Jamieson inquired to which I innocently replied,”Hardly, why?”

“I have a fancy for painting some watercolours of the terrain” was his disingenuous response and this I did not question, for it was well known that Jamieson had a brooding artistic obsession with Umbongo Bongo. But later that evening, when all save I had fallen asleep, Pasher Arshad (our Syrian interpreter) voiced his disquiet. “I do not think sir” he murmured,”That you ought to let Captain Jamieson anywhere near the Ribakiba”

“That’s hardly for you to say!” I retorted, but the deferential manner of Pasha Arshad stopped me dead in my tracks and so I inclined my hand for him to continue,”The Ribakiba are infamous for their cannibalistic practices, Captain Jamieson spoke of this in the hearing of several of the boys, indeed, he purchased several boxes of watercolours and a little girl for the purpose”

“For what purpose?” asked I to which Pasha Arshad calmly replied,”To paint the rituals of cannibalism in the minutest detail

“Dear God! Has he gone mad?!” I cried but Pasha Arshad eyed me sombrely, “No more than any other Englishman I have served” he replied. Such is the nature of the Umbongo Bongo my dear, it makes savages of us all!

The following morning we struck out for the Ivory station and were pleasantly surprised to find that we had not very far to go at all. Indeed, but for the ferocious emergence of a tribe of Moncktus Brenchley we would have reached the Ivory station by noon. T’was as though nature herself conspired against us and had it not been for the bravery of the porters, she would have had her way. As it was our path lay strewn with the mangled bodies of several porters, who had, had, the good fortune to impale themselves on the enemies spears for our sake, and so our journey continued.

How shall I describe that final journey over the heartlands of darkness my dear? How may I best convey the creeping on of shadows, fast obscuring the faltering light of day and the relentless heat? So that as fast as we consumed one flagon of beer, another had to be prepared. It is hard to describe my desperate yearning for the journey’s end and yet the dawning horror of its conclusion. To lay eyes on my mentor at last, to observe what changes this brutal terrain had wrought upon his person. We had left the waters of the Luabalaba lapping seductively against the shore and in its place? We had entered a place of boundless terror, of limitless despair,”What are they?” Jamieson cried out, clutching the little girl tightly by the hand. “Lithuanians” Pasher Arshad murmured,”Perhaps even Poles” he continued unsheathing his sword. “Poles?” I cried, “This far inland? What could they possibly want with us?”

Pashar Arshad shrugged,”Who knows? Maybe they’re between jobs? Try throwing some beer at them” we had wrestled with death and emerged victorious but worse was to come.”Pasher Stanley! Pasher Stanley! Where is Captain Jamieson?”. Oh, we knew beyond any reckoning where he had gone, for the little Wahiri Hiri child was not to be found either, but tempus fugit. I could only hope that Captain Jamieson might remember his breeding, that and the fact that he was heir to a lucrative whisky business, and change his mind.

Pasher Arshad’s distaste, on the other hand, prompted him to draw my attention to article thirty-five of the constitution of Umbongo Bongo, which he assured me dealt with the suppression of savage customs,”Cannibalism” he assured me was such a custom. It was my painful duty to assure him in return that the British Empire could never be signatory to a barbarous convention such as this. Furthermore, next to the acquisition of that Ivory station and the discovery of Mr Livingstone, the death of one Wahiri Hiri was of little consequence.

Pasher Arshad paled, he seemed profoundly shocked by my response, though I could not for the life of me see why, after all had he not stood as military interpreter to General Gordon of Umbongo Bongo?

P.S

Parts of this tale are based on a true story, the question is which parts?

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

King Leopold’s Soliloquy

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 “Take up the White Man’s burden–

Send forth the best ye breed–

Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another’s profit
And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden,
And reap his old reward–
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?”

– Rudyard Kipling

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Pile on the Black Man’s Burden.

‘Tis nearest at your door;

Why heed long bleeding Cuba,

or dark Hawaii’s shore?

Hail ye your fearless armies,

Which menace feeble folks

Who fight with clubs and arrows

and brook your rifle’s smoke.

Pile on the Black Man’s Burden

His wail with laughter drown

You’ve sealed the Red Man’s problem,

And will take up the Brown,

In vain ye seek to end it,

With bullets, blood or death

Better by far defend it

With honor’s holy breath.

H.T Johnson

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

Chapter 1: The Hearth of Darkness

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As we rowed down the Lualaba River, I could not help but to reflect upon the series of mysterious events that had drawn us onto this quest. We had traversed the hinterlands of Um Bongo Bongo and now journeyed through the dense forests of The-Niger-Farage. At the behest of the British Commissioner we had travelled accompanied by a minimal crew of thirty natives, (most of whom had abandoned us mid-route upon the ferocious emergence of an AdministrataIainusDunkannSmithus, who had slain one of their number). The journey had been as unrelenting as it had been arduous, fierce heat beat down upon our sunburned faces whilst overhead giant Um Bongo Bongoan grasshoppers chittered loudly and leapt from tree to tree. On this stage of the journey we had opportunity to make camp, this we duly did establishing a clearing for ourselves and building a great fire in the midst of it, so that we might have light all around.

I took this occasion to re-read the last ever missive sent by my mentor Professor Powell;

‘The darkness and savagery of Umbongo Bongo is without imagining my dear! It is as if we had travelled backwards in time and become stranded in some pitiless, empty void, one where only the harsh strains of ‘Twerk It’ prevail.There are lap dancing clubs here my love! Places of unimagined and near ungovernable horror!, places where the chidren of Eden (just west of eastern europe) have risen up to dance and play! Oh my dear! The wrath of God! It is limitless!’ here the letter broke off becoming a series of dis-jointed rambling scrawls.

Abandoning all civilised constraint we travelled ever deeper into the dense bosom that was The-Niger-Farage. “I say oughtn’t we to go back? I have a feeling we’re lost!” casting off the remnants of my shirt I shook my head, “Not much further now” I said, “The Lualaba lies dead ahead, if we travel north by north west we should soon reach it”

“But won’t that mean we pass nearby Bulgaria?!!” I nodded,

“Only by fifty thousand miles,there is a shorter path over the snow capped mountains of Kilimanjaro but then we would have had to traverse sixty thousand miles within the multifarious dangers of Romania and few have survived that ordeal!”

We journeyed on from time to time stopping to take a nip of gin & tonic from our canteens. At length the forests of The-Niger-Farage fell away and the rushing, tumultuous waters of the Lualaba lay before us. What an awesome sight! But our travails were not yet over! A lengthy river journey lay before us “I say! That is Captain Dunrudy’s tugboat is it not?” and indeed my friends so it was, for I had arranged for him to join us on this, the second leg of our journey.

“A hale and hearty welcome gentleman welcome aboard!” roared Captain Dunrudy “I trust the waters of the Lualaba find you in good health? I had begun to think you would never arrive, for many have lain down to sleep in the midst of The-Niger-Farage never to arise!”

And indeed Captain Dunrudy looked like one such for I observed with disquiet the cauliflowered nose, the severely ruddied face (too indicative of excessive inebriation) and worst of all the partially unbuttoned trousers, a’las that we had ever left London! The river boat journey begun I drew the Captain’s attention to the sudden appearance of pale, wan faced beings drifting along the length of the river bank. The Captain nodded,”The natives refer to them as the Wahiri Hiri, it is an Umbongo term meaning plenty rouble makers”

“You mean trouble makers surely?” Captain Dunrudy shook his head,”They runs money making presses or so I’m told, renowned they is for the troubles they cause wherever theys apt to migrate theyselves, t’is said they are of Romanian and Bulgarian descent” he shuddered, glancing briefly at their pallid and attentive faces before turning back to the ministrations of his tug-boat. The boat continued on it’s merry way and we made progress ever closer to the Nederhiwi Ivory Station, that place from whence Professor Powell had prophesied ‘rivers of blood’ would hence flow. What foul delusions would have swamped his mind as he moved amongst the Umbongo Bongo, a lone English man in the midst of conquered natives, I could not fathom, suffice it to say that it had been his cry out of the primitive dark that had drawn me forth. And caused me to take upon my lone and narrow shoulders a venture I should never have contemplated otherwise. “Awww my god! Aww mercy! Sweet God! They is ere! They ‘as launched themselves upon us!” so cried out Captain Dunrudy as one by one and then on mass the Wahiri Hiri launched themselves upon us and clung tenaciously to the sides of the boat.

“Oh mah gawd!” screeched the panic stricken Captain “We iz gawn to diiiiiiiee!” and it did indeed seem to be the case for the boat lurching fro to fro sped hastily over the edge of a waterfall which, a’las in his panic, the Captain had forgotten to navigate us away from……

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