Topsy Turvy

Page 49

The part best known is that which has been visited by the Englishman Johnston, Count Tekeli and the German doctor Meyer. This mountainous land is under the sovereignty of Sultan Bali-Bali, whose people consist of 30,000 or 40,000 Negroes.

Three degrees below the Equator is situated the chain of Kilimanjaro, which here reaches its greatest altitude. Among other peaks is the Mount of Kibo, with an altitude of 5,704 metres. The important ruler of this region has under his domination towards the south, north, and west the vast and fertile plains of Wamasai, which stretch from the lake of Victoria Nyanza across the province of Mozambique.

A few leagues below Kilimanjaro is the small village of Kisongo, the regular residence of the Sultan. This capital is in reality only a large hamlet. It is occupied by a very intelligent and industrious people, who work themselves as industriously as their slaves under the iron rule which Bali-Bali imposes on them.

This Sultan rightly ranked as one of the most remarkable rulers of those people of Central Africa who try to escape the influence, or more correctly the domination of England. At this capital of Kisongo, President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl accompanied by six men who were devoted to them, arrived in the first week of January of the current year. On leaving the United States, whence their departure was only known to Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt, and J. T. Maston, they had embarked in New York for the Cape of Good Hope, whence a vessel transported them to Zanzibar, on the island of the same name. There a bark secretly chartered by the Sultan brought them to the port of Mombas, on the African border on the other side of the channel. An escort sent by the Sultan waited for them at this port, and after a hard voyage nearly a hundred leagues across this terrible region, obstructed by forests, deep marshes, etc., they arrived at the royal residence. After knowing the calculations of J.T. Maston, President Barbicane had already put himself in communication with Bali-Bali through the help of a Swedish explorer, who had passed several years in this part of Africa. As the Sultan had become one of their most ardent admirers since their trip to the moon, a trip whose reputation had gone as far as these countries, he had a great friendship for these courageous Yankees. Without telling him for what purpose it was, Impey Barbicane had easily obtained permission from the Sultan to undertake important works at the southern foot of Kilimanjaro. In return for a large sum, estimated at $300,000, Bali-Bali had bound himself to furnish them all the workmen necessary. In other words, the captain and his friends were authorized to do at Kilimanjaro whatever they liked to do. They could dispose of the large chain of mountains according to their desires; they could tear them down if they liked, or they could take them away if they would be able to do so. In consequence of these arrangements, which the Sultan had made at his own figure, the North Polar Practical Association was as much proprietor of this country as they already were to the polar region. The reception which President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl received at Kisongo was very cordial. Bali-Bali displayed an admiration amounting to adoration for these celebrated travellers who had made this dangerous voyage to reach the country around the North Pole.

He had in short an extraordinary sympathy for the creators of these mysterious operations which were going to be accomplished in his kingdom. He also promised them absolute secrecy on his part as well as on the part of his people, whose co-operation was assured to them. Not a single Negro who worked at their shop would be allowed to leave them for a single day under pain of the most severe punishment. This is how this operation was veiled in mystery so that the most active and sharpest agents of America and Europe failed to penetrate it. If it was finally discovered it must have been that the Sultan modified his severe rules after the accomplishment of the works and that there were traitors and babblers even amongst the Negroes.

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