There was a still greater difficulty in connection with the White Nile. For years the infernal traffic in slaves and its attendant horrors had existed like a pestilence in the negro countries, and had so exasperated the tribes that people who in former times were friendly had become hostile to all comers. An exploration to the Nile sources was thus a march through an enemy’s country, and required a powerful force of well-armed men. For the traders there was no great difficulty, as they took the initiative in hostilities, and had fixed camps as “points d’appui;” but for an explorer there was no alternative, but he must make a direct forward march with no communications with the rear. I had but slight hope of success without assistance from the authorities in the shape of men accustomed to discipline. I accordingly wrote to the British consul at Alexandria, and requested him to apply for a few soldiers and boats to aid me in so difficult an enterprise. After some months’ delay, owing to the great distance from Khartoum, I received a reply inclosing a letter from Ismail Pacha (the present Viceroy), the regent during the absence of Said Pacha, REFUSING the application.

I confess to the enjoyment of a real difficulty. From the first I had observed that the Egyptian authorities did not wish to encourage English explorations of the slave-producing districts, as such examinations would be detrimental to the traffic, and would lead to reports to the European governments that would ultimately prohibit the trade. It was perfectly clear that the utmost would be done to prevent my expedition from starting. This opposition gave a piquancy to the undertaking, and I resolved that nothing should thwart my plans. Accordingly I set to work in earnest. I had taken the precaution to obtain an order upon the Treasury at Khartoum for what money I required, and as ready cash performs wonders in that country of credit and delay, I was within a few weeks ready to start. I engaged three vessels, including two large noggurs or sailing barges, and a good decked vessel with comfortable cabins, known by all Nile tourists as a diahbiah.