To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa
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In 1859, at age fourteen, Florence Szász stood before a room full of men and waited to be auctioned to the highest bidder. But slavery and submission were not to be her destiny: Sam Baker, a wealthy English gentleman and eminent adventurer, was moved by compassion and an immediate, overpowering empathy for the young woman, and braved extraordinary perils to help her escape. Together, Florence and Sam -- whose love would remain passionate and constant throughout their lives -- forged into literally uncharted territory in a glorious attempt to unravel a mysterious and magnificent enigma called Africa.
A stunning achievement, To the Heart of the Nile is an unforgettable portrait of an unforgettable woman: a story of discovery, bravery, determination, and love, meticulously reconstructed through journals, documents, and private papers, and told in the inimitable narrative style that has already won Pat Shipman resounding international acclaim.
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people, but the rest and refreshment were much needed. Florence and Sam rode ahead of the caravan with the guides. In the late afternoon, they emerged from the forested country to a prominence where they could see the attractive valley of Tollogo. A high, perpendicular wall of gray granite formed the east wall of the valley; great boulders that had spalled off from it dotted the meadow that formed the valley floor. Villages were scattered among these natural defenses. Mountains formed the western
“What countryman are you?” “An Englishman.” “I have never heard of such people. Are you a Turk?” “All right, I am anything you like.” “And that is your son?” The hunchback pointed to Florence. “No, she is my wife.” “Your wife! What a lie! He is a boy.” This was not the first time this mistake had been made. Not only was Florence young and slender, she was also wearing a hat, a loose blouse, and riding britches like Sam’s. Besides, no white woman had ever been seen in that country. “Not a bit of
waited. People came in droves from all the nearby villages to see Florence and observe her ways, which she found very trying. Everything she did—walking, washing, sitting, sewing, sleeping, even attending to her necessary bodily functions—was watched by dozens of pairs of dark brown eyes. There was no escaping her audience. The bolder ones tried to touch her. When Sam shouted at the people to leave them alone, they would shrink back for a few minutes and then slowly creep nearer again. If he
among the filthiest and most wretched they had yet visited. They were housed in a hut bedded with dirty, used straw clotted with animal droppings. Illness prevented them from making any consistent progress. The expedition marched when they were able and rested when they had to. Contradictory messages arrived from Kamrasi daily. He seemed unable to make up his mind whether the visitors were friend or foe and was too cowardly to meet them. Sam called him a fool and threatened to leave. Kamrasi
idea, Florence!” He had already adopted the English pronunciation of her name, even when he spoke to her in German, and that is how she was known from s h ot s, k n i v e s, y e l ls, co r p s e s, a n d f i r e 19f then onward. I am Florence now, she thought to herself with a certain relief. Barbara was before, when I was little; Florenz was in Viddin, in the haremlik. Now I am Florence. “Just leave me at the hotel,” pleaded the maharajah a trifle wistfully. “Perhaps I can get some luncheon