On the 24th January, Karfa returned to Kamalia, with thirteen prime slaves, whom he had purchased. He also brought a young girl for his fourth wife, whom he had married at Kancaba. She was kindly received by her colleagues, who had swept and whitewashed one of the best huts for her accommodation.
On the day after his arrival, Karfa having observed that Mr. Park's clothes were become very ragged, presented him with a garment and trousers, the usual dress of the country.
Karfa's slaves were all prisoners of war, who had been taken by the Bambarran army. Some of them had been kept three years at Sego in irons, whence they were sent with other captives up the Niger to Yamina, Bammakoo and Kancaba, where they were sold for gold dust. Eleven of them confessed that they had been slaves from their birth, but the other two refused to give any account of themselves to Mr. Park, whom they at first regarded with looks of horror, and repeatedly asked if his countrymen were cannibals. They were very desirous to know what became of the slaves after they had crossed the salt water. Mr. Park told them that they were employed in cultivating the land, but they would not believe him: and one of them putting his hand upon the ground, said with great simplicity, "Have you really got such ground as this to set your feet upon?"
The slaves were constantly kept in irons, and strictly watched. To secure them, the right leg of one and the left of another were fastened by the same pair of fetters, by supporting which with a string, they could walk very slowly. Every four slaves were also fastened together by a rope of twisted thongs; and during the night their hands were fettered, and sometimes a light iron chain was put round their necks. Those who betrayed any symptoms of discontent, were secured by a thick billet of wood about three feet long, which was fastened to the ankle by a strong iron staple. All these fetters were put on as soon as the slaves arrived at Kamalia, and were not taken off until the morning they set out for the Gambia. In other respects, the slaves were not harshly treated. In the morning they were led to the shade of a tamarind tree, where they were encouraged to keep up their spirits by playing different games of chance, or singing. Some bore their situation with great fortitude, but the majority would sit the whole of the day in sullen melancholy, with their eyes fixed on the ground. In the evening, their irons being examined, and their hand-fetters put on, they were conducted into two large huts, and guarded during the night. Notwithstanding this strictness, however, one of Karfa's slaves, about a week after his arrival, having procured a small knife, opened the rings of his fetters, cut the rope, and made his escape, and more might have got off, had not the slave, when he found himself at liberty, refused to stop to assist his companions in breaking the chain, which was round their necks.
All the merchants and slaves who composed the coffle, were now assembled at Kamalia and its vicinity; the day of departure for the Gambia was frequently fixed, and afterwards postponed. Some of the people had not prepared their provisions, others were visiting their friends, or collecting their debts; thus the departure was delayed until February was far advanced, when it was determined to wait until the fast moon was over. "Loss of time," observes Mr. Park, "is of no great importance in the eyes of a negro. If he has any thing of consequence to perform, it is a matter of indifference to him whether he does it to-day or to-morrow, or a month or two hence; so long as he can spend the present moment with any degree of comfort, he gives himself very little concern for the future."
The Rhamadam was strictly observed by the bushreens, and at the close of it, they assembled at the Misura to watch for the new moon, but as the evening was cloudy, they were for some time disappointed, and several had returned home resolving to fast another day, when suddenly the object of their wishes appeared from behind a cloud, and was welcomed by clapping of hands, beating of drums, firing muskets, and other demonstrations of joy. This moon being accounted extremely lucky, Karfa gave orders that the people of the coffle should immediately prepare for their journey, and the slatees having held a consultation on the 16th of April, fixed on the 19th as the day of departure.
This resolution freed Mr. Park from much uneasiness, as he was apprehensive, from the departure having been so long deferred, that the rainy season would again commence before it took place, and although his landlord behaved with great kindness, his situation was very disagreeable. The slatees were unfriendly to him, and three trading Moors, who had arrived at Kamalia during the absence of Karfa, to dispose of salt procured on credit, had plotted mischief against him from the day of their arrival; his welfare thus depended merely upon the good opinion of an individual, who was daily hearing tales to his prejudice. He was somewhat reconciled by time to their manner of living, but longed for the blessings of civilized society.
On the morning of April 19th, the coffle assembled and commenced its journey. When joined by several persons at Maraboo and Bola, it consisted of seventy-three persons, thirty-five of whom were slaves for sale. The free men were fourteen in number, but several had wives and domestic slaves, and the schoolmaster, who was going to his native country Woradoo, had eight of his scholars. Several of the inhabitants of Kamalia accompanied the coffle a short way on its progress, taking leave of their relations and friends. On reaching a rising ground, from which they had a prospect of the town, the people of the coffle were desired to sit down facing the west, and the town's people facing Kamalia. The schoolmaster and two principal slatees, then placed themselves between the two parties, and repeated a long and solemn prayer, after this they walked round the coffle three times, pressing the ground with the end of their spears, and muttering a charm. All the people of the coffle then sprang up and set forwards, without formally bidding their friends farewell. The slaves had all heavy loads upon their heads, and many of them having been long in irons, the sudden exertion of walking quick, caused spasmodic contractions of their legs, and they had scarcely proceeded a mile, when two of them were obliged to be taken from the rope, and suffered to walk more slowly. The coffle after halting two hours at Maraboo, proceeded to Bola, thence to Worumbang, the frontier village of Manding, towards Jallonkadoo.
Here they procured plenty of provisions, as they intended shortly to enter the Jallonka wilderness, but having on the 21st travelled a little way through the woods, they determined to take the road to Kinytakooro, a town in Jallonkadoo, and this being a long day's journey distant, they halted to take some refreshment. Every person, says Mr, Park, opened his provision bag, and brought a handful or two of meal to the place where Karfa and the slatees were sitting. When every one had brought his quota, and whole was properly arranged in small gourd shells, the schoolmaster offered up a short prayer, the substance of which was, that God and the holy prophets might preserve them from robberies and all bad people, that their provisions might never fail them, nor their limbs become fatigued. This ceremony being ended, every one partook of the meal, and drank a little water, after which they set forward, rather running than walking, until they came to the river Kokoro.
This river is a branch of the Senegal, its banks are very high, and from various appearances it was evident, that the water had risen above twenty feet perpendicular during the rainy season, but it was then only a small stream sufficient to turn a mill, and abounding in fish. The coffle proceeded with great expedition until evening, when they arrived at Kinytakooro, a considerable town, nearly square, situated in the midst of an extensive and fertile plain.
In this day's journey, a woman and a girl, two slaves belonging to a slatee of Bola, could not keep up with the coffle from fatigue. They were dragged along until about four in the afternoon, when being both affected with vomiting, it was discovered that they had eaten clay. Whether this practice, which is frequent amongst the slaves, proceeds from a vitiated appetite, or an intention to destroy themselves, is uncertain. Three people remaining to take care of them, the slaves were suffered to lie down in the woods until they were somewhat recovered, but they did not reach the town until past midnight, and were then so exhausted that their master determined to return with them to Bola.
Kinytakooro being the first town beyond the limits of Manding, great ceremony was observed in entering it. The coffle approached it in the following procession: first went the singing men, followed by the other free men, then the slaves, fastened as usual by a rope round their necks, four to a rope, and a man with a spear between each party, after them the domestic slaves, and in the rear the free women. When they came within a hundred yards of the gate, the singing men began a loud song, extolling the hospitality of the inhabitants towards strangers, and their friendship in particular to the Mandingos. Arriving at the Bentang, the people assembled to hear their dentegi (history,) which was publicly recited by two of the singing men. They began with the events of that day, and enumerated every circumstance which had befallen the coffle in a backward series, to their departure from Kamalia. When they had ended, the chief men of the town gave them a small present, and every person of the coffle, both free and enslaved, was entertained and lodged by the inhabitants.
On the 22nd of April, the coffle proceeded to a village seven miles westward. The inhabitants of this village, expecting an attack from the Foulahs of Fooladoo, were constructing small huts among the rocks, on the side of a high hill.
The situation was nearly impregnable, high precipices surrounded it on every side but the eastern, where was left a path broad enough for one person to ascend. On the brow of the hill were collected heaps of large stones, to be thrown down upon the enemy, if an attack on the post was attempted.
The coffle entered the Jallonka wilderness on the 23rd. They passed the ruins of two small towns, burnt by the Foulahs, and the fire had been so intense as to vitrify the walls of several huts, which at a distance appeared as if coloured with red varnish. The coffle crossed the river Wonda, where fish were seen in great abundance. Karfa now placed the guides and young men in the front, the women and slaves in the centre, and the free men in the rear, and in this order they proceeded through a woody beautiful country, abounding with partridges, guinea fowls, and deer. At sunset they arrived at a stream called Comeissang. To diminish the inflammation of his skin, produced by the friction of his dress from walking, and long exposure to the heat of the sun, Mr. Park took the benefit of bathing in the river. They had now travelled about thirty miles, and were greatly fatigued, but no person complained. Karfa ordered one of his slaves to prepare for Mr. Park a bed made of branches of trees, and when they had supped upon kouskous moistened with boiling water, they all laid down, but were frequently disturbed by the howling of the wild beasts, and the biting of small brown ants.
The next morning, most of the free people drank some noening, a sort of gruel, which was also given to the slaves that appeared least able to travel, but a female slave of Karfa's who was called Nealee, refused to partake of this refreshment, and was very sullen. The coffle proceeded over a wild and rocky country, and Nealee, soon overcome by fatigue, lagged behind, complaining dreadfully of pains in her legs, on which her load was given to another slave, and she was directed to keep in front. The coffle rested near a small rivulet, and a hive of bees being discovered in a hollow tree, some negroes went in quest of the honey, when an enormous swarm flew out, and attacked the people of the coffle. Mr. Park, who first took the alarm, alone escaped with impunity. The negroes at length again collected together at some distance from the place where they were dispersed, but Nealee was missing, and many of the bundles were left behind. To recover these, they set fire to the grass eastward of the hive, and as the wind drove the fire furiously along, they pushed through the smoke, until they came to the bundles. They also found poor Nealee lying by the rivulet, she had crept to the stream, hoping to defend herself from the bees by throwing water over her body, but she was stung dreadfully. The stings were picked out, and her wounds washed and anointed, but she refused to proceed further. The slatees by the whip forced her to proceed about four or five hours longer, when, attempting to run away, she fell down with extreme weakness. Again was the whip applied, but ineffectually; the unfortunate slave was unable to rise. After attempting to place her upon an ass, on which she could not sit erect, a litter of bamboo canes was made, upon which she was tied with slips of bark, and carried on the heads of two slaves for the remainder of the day. The coffle halted at the foot of a high hill, called Gankaran-kooro. The travellers had only eaten one handful of meal each during the day's journey, exposed to the ardour of a tropical sun. The slaves were much fatigued, and showed great discontent; several snapt their fingers, a certain mark of desperation. They were all immediately put in irons, and those who had shown signs of despondency were kept apart.
In the morning, however, they were greatly recovered, except poor Nealee, who could neither walk nor stand, she was accordingly placed upon an ass, her hands being fastened together under the neck, and her feet under the belly, to secure her situation. The beast, however, was unruly, and Nealee was soon thrown off, and one of her legs was much bruised. As it was found impossible to carry her forward, the general cry of the coffle was, "Kang tegi! kang tegi!" (Cut her throat! cut her throat!) Mr. Park proceeded forwards with the foremost of the coffle, to avoid seeing this operation performed, but soon after he learned that Karfa and the schoolmaster would not agree to have her killed, but had left her on the road. Her fate diffused melancholy throughout the whole coffle, notwithstanding the outcry before mentioned, and the schoolmaster fasted the whole day in consequence of it. The coffle soon after crossed the Furkoomah, a river the same size as the Wonda, and travelled so expeditiously, that Mr. Park with difficulty kept up with it.
On the 26th April, the coffle ascended a rocky hill, called Bokikooro, and in the afternoon, entering a valley, forded the Bold, a smooth and clear river. About a mile westward of this river, discovering the marks of horses' feet, they were afraid that a party of plunderers were in the neighbourhood; and to avoid discovery and pursuit, the coffle travelled in a dispersed manner through the high grass and bushes.
The following day, hoping to reach a town before night, they passed expeditiously through extensive thickets of bamboos. At a stream called Nuncolo, each person ate a handful of meal, moistened with water, in compliance with some superstitious custom. In the afternoon, they arrived at Sooseta, a Jallonka village, in the district of Kullo, a tract of country lying along the banks of the Black River; and the first human habitation they had met with in a journey of five days, over more than a hundred miles. With much difficulty they procured huts to sleep in, but could not obtain any provisions, as there had been a scarcity before the crops were gathered in, during which all the inhabitants of Kullo had subsisted upon the yellow powder of the nitta, a species of the mimosa, and the seeds of the bamboo, which, when properly prepared, tastes nearly similar to rice. As the provisions of the coffle were not exhausted, kouskous was dressed for supper, and several villagers were invited to partake; meanwhile one of the schoolmaster's boys, who had fallen asleep under the bentang, was carried off during the night; but the thief, finding that his master's residence was only three days' journey distant, thinking he could not be retained with security, after stripping him, suffered him to return.
They now crossed the Black River by a bridge of a curious construction. Several tall trees are fastened together by the tops, which float on the water, while the roots rest on the rocks on each side of the river; these are covered with dry bamboos, and the whole forms a passage, sloping from each end towards the middle, so as to resemble an inverted arch. In the rainy season the bridge is carried away, but the natives constantly rebuilt it, and on that account exact a small tribute from every passenger.
Being informed that, two hundred Jalonkas had assembled to intercept and plunder the coffle, they altered their course, and about midnight arrived at a town called Koba. They now discovered that a free man and three slaves were missing; upon which it was concluded that the slaves had murdered the free man, and made their escape, and six people were sent back to the last village to endeavour to procure information. Meanwhile the people of the coffle were ordered to conceal themselves in a cotton field, and no person to speak but in a whisper. Towards morning, the men returned, but without the object of their pursuit. The coffle then entered the town, and purchased a quantity of ground nuts, which were roasted for breakfast; and, being provided with huts, determined to rest there for the day. They were agreeably surprised by the arrival of their companions. One of the slaves had hurt his foot, and as the night was dark, they had lost sight of the coffle, when the free man, who was aware of his danger, insisted on putting the slaves in irons, and as they were refractory, threatened to stab them one by one with his spear; they at last submitted, and in the morning followed the coffle to Koba. In the course of the day, the intelligence concerning the Jalonka plunderers was confirmed, on which Karfa, continuing at Koba until the 30th, hired some persons for protectors, and they proceeded to a village called Tinkingtang.
On the following day, the slaves being greatly fatigued, the coffle only proceeded nine miles, where provisions were procured by the interest of the schoolmaster, who sent a messenger forward to Malacotta, his native town, to acquaint his friends with his arrival, and desire them to provide provisions for the entertainment of the coffle for two or three days.
They halted at another village further on until the return of the messenger from Malacotta. About two the messenger returned, accompanied by the schoolmaster's elder brother. "The interview," says Mr. Park, "between the two brothers, who had not seen each other for nine years, was very natural and affecting. They fell upon each other's neck, and it was some time before either of them could speak. At length, when the schoolmaster had a little recovered himself, he took his brother by the hand, and turning round, 'This is the man,' said he, pointing to Karfa, 'who has been my father in Manding. I would have pointed him out sooner to you, but my heart was too full.'" The coffle then proceeded to Malacotta, where they were well entertained for three days, being each day presented with a bullock from the schoolmaster.
Malacotta is an unwalled town; the huts are made of unsplit canes twisted into wicker work, and plastered over with mud. The inhabitants are active and industrious; they make good soap by boiling ground nuts in water, and adding a lye of wood ashes. They also manufacture excellent iron, which they exchange in Bondou for salt.
A party of traders brought intelligence to this town of a war between the king of Foota Torra and the king of the Jaloffs, which soon became a favourite subject of conversation in this part of Africa. Its circumstances were as follow:—Almami Abdulkader, king of Foota Torra, inflamed with a zeal for propagating the religion of the prophet, sent an ambassador to Damel, king of the Jaloffs, accompanied by two principal bushreens, each bearing a long pole, to the end of which was fixed a large knife. When admitted into the presence of Damel, the ambassador ordered the bushreens to present the emblems of his mission, which he thus explained:—"With this knife," said he, "Abdulkader will condescend to shave the head of Damel, if Damel will embrace the Mahometan faith; and with the other knife, Abdulkader will cut the throat of Damel, if Darnel refuses to embrace it. Take your choice."
The king of the Jaloffs having told the ambassador he chose neither of his propositions, civilly dismissed him. Abdulkader soon after invaded Damel's dominions with a powerful army. As he approached, the towns and villages were abandoned, the wells filled up, and their effects carried off by the inhabitants. He advanced three days into the country of the Jaloffs, without opposition; but his army had suffered so greatly for want of water, that many of his men had died by the way. This compelled him to march to a watering-place in the woods, where his men, having quenched their thirst, and being overcome with fatigue, lay down among the bushes to sleep. Thus situated, they were attacked by the forces of Damel in the night, and completely routed. King Abdulkader himself, with a great number of his followers, being taken prisoners. The behaviour of the king of the Jaloffs on this occasion we shall relate in Mr. Park's own words. "When his royal prisoner was brought before him in irons, and thrown upon the ground, the magnanimous Damel, instead of setting his foot upon his neck, and stabbing him with his spear, according to custom in such cases, addressed him as follows:—'Abdulkader, answer me this question. If the chance of war had placed me in your situation, and you in mine, how would you have treated me ?'—'I would have thrust my spear into your heart,' returned Abdulkader, with great firmness, 'and I know that a similar fate awaits me.'—'Not so,' said Damel; 'my spear is indeed red with the blood of your subjects killed in battle, and I could now give it a deeper stain, by dipping it in your own; but this would not build up my towns, nor bring to life the thousands, who fell in the woods; I will not, therefore, kill you in cold blood, but I will retain you as my slave, until I perceive that your presence in your own kingdom will be no longer dangerous to your neighbours, and then I will consider of the proper way of disposing of you.' Abdulkader was accordingly retained, and worked as a slave for three months, at the end of which period, Damel listened to the solicitations of the inhabitants of Foota Torra. and restored to them their king."
The coffle resumed their journey on the 7th May, and having crossed a branch of the Senegal, proceeded to a walled town, called Bentingala, where they rested two days. In one day more, they reached Dindikoo, a town at the bottom of a high ridge of hills, which gives the name of Konkodoo to this part of the country; at Dindikoo was a negro of the sort called in the Spanish West Indies, Albinos, or white negroes. His hair and skin were of a dull white colour, cadaverous and unsightly, and considered as the effect of disease.
After a tedious day's journey, the coffle arrived at Satadoo, on the evening of the 11th. Many inhabitants had quitted this town, on account of the plundering incursions of the Foulahs of Foota Jalla, who frequently carried off people from the corn fields and wells near the town.
The coffle crossed the Faleme river on the 12th, and at night halted at a village called Medina, the sole property of a Mandingo merchant, who had adopted many European customs. His victuals were served up in pewter dishes, and his houses were formed in the mode of the English houses on the Gambia.
The next morning they departed, in company with another coffle of slaves, belonging to some Serawoolli traders, and in the evening arrived at Baniserile, after a very hard day's journey.
Mr. Park was invited by one of the slatees, a native of this place, to go home to his house. He had been absent three years, and was met by his friends with many expressions of joy. When he had seated himself upon a mat near the threshold of his door, a young woman, his intended bride, brought some water in a calabash, and, kneeling before him, requested him to wash his hands. This being done, the young woman drank the water; an action here esteemed as the greatest proof that can be given of fidelity and affection.
Mr. Park now arrived on the shores of the Gambia, and on the 10th June 1797 reached Pisania, where he was received as one risen from the dead; for all the traders from the interior had believed and reported, that, like Major Houghton, he was murdered by the Moors of Ludamar. Karfa, his benefactor, received double the stipulated price, and was overpowered with gratitude; but when he saw the commodious furniture, the skilful manufactures, the superiority in all the arts of life, displayed by the Europeans, compared with the attainments of his countrymen, he was deeply mortified, and exclaimed "Black men are nothing," expressing, at the same time his surprise, that Park could find any motive for coming to so miserable a land as Africa.
Mr. Park had some difficulty in reaching home. He was obliged to embark on the 15th June, in a vessel bound to America, and was afterwards driven by stress of weather, into the island of Antigua, whence he sailed on the 24th November, and on the 22nd December landed at Falmouth. He arrived in London before dawn on the morning of Christmas day, and in the garden of the British Museum accidentally met his brother-in-law, Mr. Dickson. Two years having elapsed since any tidings had reached England, he had been given up for lost, so that his friends and the public were equally astonished and delighted by his appearance. The report of his unexpected return, after making such splendid discoveries, kindled throughout the nation a higher enthusiasm than had perhaps been excited by the result of any former mission of the same nature. The Niger had been seen flowing eastward, into the interior of Africa, and hence a still deeper interest and mystery were suspended over the future course and termination of this great central stream. Kingdoms had been discovered, more flourishing and more populous than any formerly known on that continent; but other kingdoms, still greater and wealthier, were reported to exist in regions, which Mr. Park had vainly attempted to reach. The lustre of his achievements had diffused among the public in general an ardour for discovery, which was formerly confined to a few enlightened individuals; it was, however, evident that the efforts of no private association could penetrate the depths of this vast continent, and overcome the obstacles presented by its distance, its deserts, and its barbarism.
It was now thought advisable to trace, without interruption the interesting career of Mr. Park, from its commencement to its close. The enthusiasm for discovery was, however, not confined solely to England; for the return of Park had no sooner reached Germany, than Frederick Horneman, a student of the university of Gottingen, communicated to Blumenbach, the celebrated professor of natural history, his ardent desire to explore the interior of Africa under the auspices of the British African Association. The professor transmitted to the association a strong recommendation of Horneman, as a young man, active, athletic, temperate, knowing sickness only by name, and of respectable literary and scientific attainments. Sir Joseph Banks immediately wrote, "If Mr. Horneman be really the character you describe, he is the very person whom we are in search of."
On receiving this encouragement, Horneman immediately applied his mind to the study of natural history and the Arabic language, and in other respects sought to capacitate himself for supporting the character of an Arab or a Mahometan, under which he flattered himself that he should escape the effects of that ferocious bigotry, which had opposed so fatal a bar to the progress of his predecessors.
In May 1797, Horneman repaired to London, where his appointment was sanctioned by the association, and having obtained a passport from the Directory, who then governed France, he visited Paris, and was introduced to some influential members of the National Institute. He reached Egypt in September, spent ten days at Alexandria, and set out for Cairo, to wait the departure of the Kashna caravan. The interval was employed in acquiring the language of the Mograben Arabs, a tribe bordering on Egypt. While he was at Cairo, intelligence was received of the landing of Buonaparte in that country, when the just indignation of the natives vented itself upon all Europeans, and, amongst others, on Horneman, who was arrested and confined in the castle. He was relieved upon the victorious entry of the French commander, who immediately set him at liberty, and very liberally offered him money, and every other supply which might contribute to the success of his mission.
It was not before the 5th September 1798, that Horneman could meet with a caravan proceeding to the westward, when he joined the one destined for Fezzan. The travellers soon passed the cultivated lands of Egypt, and entered on an expanse of sandy waste, such as the bottom of the ocean might exhibit, if the waters were to retire. This desert was covered with the fragments, as it were, of a petrified forest; large trunks, branches, twigs, and even pieces of bark, being scattered over it. Sometimes these stony remains were brought in as mistake for fuel. When the caravan halted for the night, each individual dug a hole in the sand, gathered a few sticks, and prepared his victuals after the African fashion of kouskous, soups, or puddings. Horneman, according to his European habits, at first employed the services of another, but finding himself thus exposed to contempt or suspicion, he soon followed the example of the rest, and became his own cook.
There are, as usual, oases in this immense waste. Ten days brought the caravan to Ummesogeir, a village situated upon a rock, with 120 inhabitants, who, separated by deserts, from the rest of the world, passed a peaceful and hospitable life, subsisting on dates, the chief produce of their arid and sterile soil.
Another day's journey brought them to Siwah, a much more extensive oasis, the rocky border of which is estimated by Horneman to be fifty miles in circumference. It yields, with little culture, various descriptions of grain and vegetables; but its wealth consists chiefly in large gardens of dates, baskets of which fruit form here the standard of value. The government is vested in a very turbulent aristocracy, of about thirty chiefs, who meet in council in the vicinity of the town wall, and in the contests which frequently arise, make violent and sudden appeals to arms. The chief question in respect to Siwah is, whether it does or does not comprise the site of the celebrated shrine of Jupiter Ammon, that object of awful veneration to the nations of antiquity, and which Alexander himself, the greatest of its heroes, underwent excessive toil and peril to visit and to associate with his name. This territory does in fact contain springs, and a small edifice, with walls six feet thick, partly painted and adorned with hieroglyphics. There are also antique tombs in the neighbouring mountains, but as the subsequent discoveries of Belzoni and Edmonstone have proved that all these features exist in other oases, scattered in different directions along the desert borders of Egypt, some uncertainty must perhaps for ever rest on this curious question.
The route now passed through a region still indeed barren, yet not presenting such a monotonous plain of sand as intervenes between Egypt and Siwah. It was bordered by precipitous limestone rocks, often completely filled with shells and marine remains. The caravan, while proceeding along these wild tracts, were alarmed by a tremendous braying of asses, and, on looking back, saw several hundred of the people of Siwah, armed and in full pursuit, mounted on these useful animals. The scouts, however, soon brought an assurance that they came with intentions perfectly peaceable, having merely understood that in the caravan there were two Christians from Cairo, and on their being allowed to kill them, the others would be permitted to proceed without molestation. All Horneman's address and firmness were required in this fearful crisis. He opposed the most resolute denial to the assertions of the Siwahans, he opened the Koran, and displayed the facility with which he could read its pages. He even challenged his adversaries to answer him on points of mahommedan faith. His companions in the caravan, who took a pride in defending one of their members, insisted that he had cleared himself thoroughly from the imputation of being an infidel, and as they were joined by several of the Siwahans, the whole body finally renounced their bloody purpose, and returned home.
The travellers next passed through Angila, a town so ancient as to be mentioned by Herodotus, but now small, dirty, and supported solely by the passage of the inland trade. They then entered the Black Harutsch, a long range of dreary mountains, the mons ater of the ancients, through the successive defiles of which they found only a narrow track enclosed by rugged steeps, and obstructed by loose stones. Every valley too and ravine into which they looked, appeared still more wild and desolate than the road itself. A scene of a more gay and animated description succeeded, when they entered the district of Limestone Mountains, called the White Harutsch. The rocks and stones here appeared as if glazed, and abounded in shells and other marine petrifactions, which on being broken had a vitrified appearance.
After a painful route of sixteen days through this solitary region, the travellers were cheered by seeing before them the great oasis, or small kingdom of Fezzan. Both at Temissa, the first frontier town, and at Zuila, the ancient capital, which is still inhabited by many rich merchants, they were received with rapturous demonstrations of joy. The arrival of a caravan is the chief event which diversifies the existence of the Fezzaners, and diffuses through the country animation and wealth. At Mourzouk, the modern capital, the reception was more solemn and pompous. The sultan himself awaited their arrival on a small eminence, seated in an arm chair, ornamented with cloth of various colours, and forming a species of throne. Each pilgrim, on approaching the royal seat, put off his sandals, kissed the sovereign's hand, and took his station behind, where the whole assembly joined in a chant of pious gratitude.
Fezzan, according to Horneman, has a length of 300, and a breadth of 200 miles, and is much the largest of all the oases, which enliven the immense desert of Northern Africa. It relieves, however, in only an imperfect degree, the parched appearance of the surrounding region. It is not irrigated by a river, nor even a streamlet of any dimensions; the grain produced is insufficient for its small population, supposed to amount to 70,000 or 75,000 inhabitants, and few animals are reared except the ass, the goat, and the camel. Dates, as in all this species of territory, form the chief article of land produce, but Fezzan derives its chief importance from being the centre of that immense traffic, which gives activity and wealth to interior Africa. Mourzouk, in the dry season, forms a rendezvous for the caravans proceeding from Egypt, Morocco and Tripoli, to the great countries watered by the western river. Yet the trade is carried on less by the inhabitants themselves, than by the Tibboos, Tuaricks, and other wandering tribes of the desert, concerning whom Horneman collected some information, but less ample than Lyon and Denham afterwards obtained from personal observation. Of Timbuctoo, he did not obtain much information, Morocco being the chief quarter whence caravans proceed to that celebrated seat of African commerce. In regard, however, to the eastern part of Soudan, he received intelligence more accurate than had hitherto reached Europe. Houssa was for the first time understood to be, not a single country or city, but a region comprehending many kingdoms, the people of which are said to be the handsomest, most industrious, and most intelligent in that part of Africa, being particularly distinguished for their manufacture of fine cloths. Amongst the states mentioned, were Kashna, Kano, Daura, Solan, Noro, Nyffe, Cabi, Zanfara and Guber. Most or all of these were tributary to Bornou, described as decidedly the most powerful kingdom in central Africa, and which really was so regarded before the rise of the Fellatah empire caused in this respect, a remarkable change. The Niger, according to the unanimous belief in the northern provinces, was said to flow from Timbuctoo eastward through Houssa, and holding the same direction till it joined or rather became the Bahr-elabiad, the main stream of the Egyptian Nile. Prevalent as this opinion is amongst the Arabs, late discoveries have proved it to be decidedly erroneous; the river or rivers which water Houssa, being wholly distinct from that great stream which flows through Bambarra and Timbuctoo.
Horneman, after remaining some time at Mourzouk, had resolved to join a caravan about to proceed southwards into the interior, when observing that the cavalcade consisted almost wholly of black traders, any connexion or intercourse with whom was likely to afford him little favour in the eyes of the Moors, he was induced to forego this purpose; more especially as there was the greatest reason to apprehend obstruction in passing through the country of the Turiacks, then at war with Fezzan. He was informed besides, that caravans from Bornou occasionally terminated their journey at Mourzouk, again returning south; by which under more propitious circumstances he hoped to accomplish his object. These considerations determined him to postpone his departure, resolving in the mean while, with the view of forwarding his despatches to the association, to visit Tripoli, where, however, he did not arrive till the 19th August, 1799, having been detained a considerable time by sickness. After remaining in this city about three months he returned to Mourzouk, nor was it till the 6th April, 1800, that he departed thence for the southward, in company with two shereefs, who had given him assurances of friendship and protection. His letters were filled with the most sanguine hopes of success. But the lapse of two years without any tidings, threw a damp on the cheering expectations then raised in the association and the public. In September 1803, a Fezzan merchant informed Mr. Nissen, the Danish consul of Tripoli, that Yussuph, as Horneman had chosen to designate himself, was seen alive and well on his way to Gondasch, with the intention of proceeding to the coast, and of returning to Europe. Another moorish merchant afterwards informed Mr. M'Donogh, British consul at Tripoli, that Yussuph was in safety at Kashna, in June 1803, and was there highly respected as a mussulman, marabout or saint. Major Denham afterwards learned that he had penetrated across Africa as far as Nyffe, on the Niger, where he fell a victim, not to any hostility on the part of the natives, but to disease and the climate. A young man was even met with, who professed to be his son, though there were some doubt as to the grounds of his claim to that character.
The association, when their expectations from Horneman had failed, began to look round for other adventurers, and there were still a number of active and daring spirits ready to brave the dangers of this undertaking. Mr. Nicholls, in 1804, repaired to Calabar, in the Gulf of Benin, with the view of penetrating into the interior by this route, which appeared shorter than any other, but without any presentiment that the termination of the Niger was to be found in that quarter. He was well received by the chiefs on that coast, but could not gain much information respecting that river, being informed that most of the slaves came from the west, and that the navigation of the Calabar stream, at no great distance was interrupted by an immense waterfall, beyond which the surface of the country became very elevated. Unfortunately, of all the sickly climates of Africa, this is perhaps the most pestilential, and Mr. Nicholls, before commencing his journey, fell a victim to the epidemic fever.
Another German named Roentgen, recommended also by Blumenbach, undertook to penetrate into the interior of Africa by way of Morocco. He was described as possessing an unblemished character, ardent zeal in the cause, with great strength both of mind and body. Like Horneman, he made himself master of Arabic, and proposed to pass for a Mahommedan. Having in 1809 arrived at Mogadore, he hired two guides, and set out to join the Soudan caravan. His career, however, was short indeed, for soon after his body was found at a little distance from the place whence he started. No information could ever be obtained as to the particulars of his death, but it was too probably conjectured that his guides murdered him for the sake of his property.
We are now entering upon the narrative of a series of the most extraordinary adventures which ever befel the African travellers, in the person of an illiterate and obscure seaman, of the name of Robert Adams, who was wrecked on the western coast of Africa, in the American ship Charles, bound to the isle of Mayo, and who may be said to have been the first traveller who ever reached the far-famed city of Timbuctoo.
The place where the Charles was wrecked was called Elgazie, and the captain and the whole of the crew were immediately taken prisoners by the Moors. On their landing, the Moors stripped the whole of them naked, and concealed their clothes under ground; being thus exposed to a scorching sun, their skins became dreadfully blistered, and at night they were obliged to dig holes in the sand to sleep in, for the sake of coolness.
About a week after landing, the captain of the ship was put to death by the Moors, for which the extraordinary reason was given, that he was extremely dirty, and would not go down to the sea to wash himself, when the Moors made signs for him to do so.
After they had remained about ten or twelve days, until the ship and its materials had quite disappeared, the Moors made preparations to depart, and divided the prisoners amongst them. Robert Adams and two others of the crew were left in the possession of about twenty Moors, who quitted the sea coast, having four camels, three of which they loaded with water, and the other with fish and baggage. At the end of about thirty days, during which they did not see a human being, they arrived at a place, the name of which Adams did not hear, where they found about thirty or forty tents, and a pool of water surrounded by a few shrubs, which was the only water they had met with since quitting the coast.
In the first week of their arrival, Adams and his companions being greatly fatigued, were not required to do any work, but at the end of that time, they were put to tend some goats and sheep, which were the first they had seen. About this time, John Stevens arrived, under charge of a Moor, and was sent to work in company with Adams. Stevens was a Portuguese, about eighteen years of age. At this place they remained about a month.
It was now proposed by the Moors to Adams and Stevens, to accompany them on an expedition to Soudenny to procure slaves. It was with great difficulty they could be made to understand this proposal, but the Moors made themselves intelligible by pointing to some negro boys, who were employed in taking care of sheep and goats. Being in the power of the Moors, they had no option, and having therefore signified their consent, the party consisting of about eighteen Moors, and the two whites, set out for Soudenny.
Soudenny is a small negro village, having grass and shrubs growing about it, and a small brook of water. For a week or thereabouts, after arriving in the neighbourhood of this place, the party concealed themselves amongst the hills and bushes, lying in wait for the inhabitants, when they seized upon a woman with a child in her arms, and two children (boys), whom they found walking in the evening near the town.
During the next four or five days, the party remained concealed, when one evening, as they were all lying on the ground, a large party of negroes, consisting of forty or fifty made their appearance, armed with daggers, and bows and arrows, who surrounded and took them all prisoners, without the least resistance being attempted, and carried them into the town; tying the hands of some, and driving the whole party before them. During the night above one hundred negroes kept watch over them. The next day they were taken before the governor or chief person, named Muhamoud, a remarkably ugly negro, who ordered that they should all be imprisoned. The place of confinement was a mere mud wall, about six feet high, from whence they might readily have escaped, though strongly guarded, if the Moors had been enterprising, but they were a cowardly set. Here they were kept three or four days, for the purpose, as it afterwards appeared, of being sent forward to Timbuctoo, which Adams concluded to be the residence of the king of the country. At Soudenny, the houses have only a ground floor, and are without furniture or utensils, except wooden bowls, and mats made of grass. They never make fires in their houses. After remaining about four days at Soudenny, the prisoners were sent to Timbuctoo, under an escort of about sixty armed men, having about eighteen camels and dromedaries.
During the first ten days they proceeded eastward, at the rate of about fifteen to twenty miles a day, the prisoners and most of the negroes walking, the officers riding, two upon each camel or dromedary. As the prisoners were all impressed with the belief that they were going to execution, several of the Moors attempted to escape, and in consequence, after a short consultation, fourteen were put to death by being beheaded, at a small village at which they then arrived, and as a terror to the rest, the head of one of them was hung round the neck of a camel for three days, until it became so putrid, that they were obliged to remove it. At this village, the natives wore gold rings in their ears, sometimes two rings in each ear. They had a hole through the cartilage of the nose, wide enough to admit a thick quill, in which Adams saw some of the natives wear a large ring of an oval shape, that hung down to the mouth.
They waited, only one day at this place, and then proceeded towards Timbuctoo. Shaping their course to the northward of east, and quickening their pace to the rate of twenty miles a day, they completed their journey in fifteen days.
Upon their arrival at Timbuctoo, the whole party were immediately taken before the king, who ordered the Moors into prison, but treated Adams and the Portuguese boy as curiosities; taking them to his house, they remained there during their residence at Timbuctoo.
For some time after their arrival, the queen and her female attendants used to sit and look at Adams and his companions for hours together. She treated them with great kindness, and at the first interview offered them some bread baked under ashes.
The king and queen, the former of whom was named Woollo, the latter Fatima, were very old grey-headed people. Fatima was like the majority of African beauties, extremely fat. Her dress was of blue nankeen, edged with gold lace round the bosom and on the shoulder, and having a belt or stripe of the same material, half-way down the dress, which came only a few inches down the knees. The dress of the other females of Timbuctoo, though less ornamented than that of the queen, was in the same sort of fashion, so that as they wore no close under garments, they might, when sitting on the ground, as far as decency was concerned, as well have had no covering at all. The queen's head dress consisted of a blue nankeen turban, but this was worn only upon occasions of ceremony, or when she walked out. Besides the turban, she had her hair stuck full of bone ornaments of a square shape, about the size of dice, extremely white; she had large gold hoop ear-rings, and many necklaces, some of them of gold, the others made of beads of various colours. She wore no shoes, and in consequence, her feet appeared to be as hard and dry "as the hoofs of an ass."
The king's house or palace, which is built of clay and grass, not whitewashed, consists of eight or ten small rooms on the ground floor, and is surrounded by a wall of the same materials, against part of which the house is built. The space within the wall is about half an acre. Whenever a trader arrives, he is required to bring his merchandize into this space, for the inspection of the king, for the purpose of duties being charged upon it. The king's attendants, who are with him during the whole of the day, generally consist of about thirty persons, several of whom are armed with daggers, and bows and arrows. Adams did not know if the king had any family.
For a considerable time after the arrival of Adams and his companion, the people used to come in crowds to stare at them, and he afterwards understood that many persons came several days journey on purpose. The Moors remained closely confined in prison, but Adams and the Portuguese boy had permission to visit them. At the end of about six months, a company of trading Moors arrived with tobacco, who after some weeks ransomed the whole party.
Timbuctoo is situated on a level plain [*], having a river about two hundred yards from the town, on the south-east side, named La Mar Zarah. The town appeared to Adams to cover as much ground as Lisbon. He was unable to give any account of number of its inhabitants, estimated by Caillie to amount to 10,000 or 12,000. The houses are not built in streets, nor with any regularity, its population therefore, compared with that of European towns, is by no means in proportion to its size. It has no wall nor any thing resembling fortification. The houses are square, built of sticks, clay, and grass, with flat roofs of the same materials. The rooms are all on the ground-floor, and are without any of furniture, except earthen jars, wooden bowls, and mats made grass, upon which the people sleep. He did not observe a houses, or any other buildings, constructed of stone. The palace of the king he described as having walls of clay, or clay and sand, rammed into a wooden case or frame, and placed in layers, one above another, until they attained the height required, the roof being composed of poles or rafters laid horizontally, and covered with a cement or plaster, made of clay or sand.
[Footnote: This account of Timbuctoo, as given by Adams, by no means corresponds with that which was subsequently given by Caillie. The latter makes it situated on a very elevated site, in the vicinity of mountains; in fact the whole account of that celebrated city, as given by Caillie, is very defective.]
The river La Mar Zarah is about three quarters of a mile wide at Timbuctoo, and appeared in this place to have but little current, flowing to the south-west. About two miles from the town to the southward, it runs between two high mountains, apparently as high as the mountains which Adams saw in Barbary; here the river is about half a mile wide. The water of La Mar Zarah is rather brackish, but is commonly drunk by the natives, there not being, according to the report of Adams, any wells at Timbuctoo.
It must be remarked in this place, that at the time when Adams related the narrative of his residence in Africa, and particularly in the city of Timbuctoo, a very considerable degree of distrust was attached to it; and in order to put the veracity of Adams to a decisive test, the publication of his adventures was delayed until the arrival of Mr. Dupuis, then the British vice-consul at Mogadore, to whose interference Adams acknowledged himself indebted for his ransom, and who, on account of his long residence in Africa, and his intimate acquaintance with the manners and customs of the natives, was fully competent to the detection of any imposition which it might be the intention of Adams to practise upon those, who undertook the publication of his adventures. From this severe ordeal Adams came out fully clear of any intention to impose, and the principal points of his narrative were corroborated by the knowledge and experience of Mr. Dupuis. Thus that gentleman, in allusion to the description which Adams gave of La Mar Zarah, mentions that the Spanish geographer Marmol, who describes himself to have spent twenty years of warfare and slavery in Africa, about the middle of the sixteenth century, mentions the river La-ha-mar as a branch of the Niger, having muddy and unpalatable waters. By the same authority, the Niger itself is called Yea, or Issa, at Timbuctoo, a name which D'Anville has adopted in his map of Africa.
The vessels used by the natives are small canoes for fishing, the largest of which are about ten feet long, capable of carrying three men; they are built of fig-trees hollowed out, and caulked with grass, and are worked with paddles about six feet long.
The natives of Timbuctoo are a stout healthy race, and are seldom sick, although they expose themselves by lying out in the sun at mid-day, when the heat is almost insupportable to a white man. It is the universal practice of both sexes to grease themselves all over with butter produced from goat's milk, which makes the skin smooth, and gives it a shining appearance. This is usually renewed every day: when neglected, the skin becomes rough, greyish, and extremely ugly. They usually sleep under cover at night, but sometimes, in the hottest weather, they will lie exposed to the night air, with little or no covering, notwithstanding that the fog, which rises from the river, descends like dew, and, in fact, at that season supplies the want of rain.
All the males of Timbuctoo have an incision on their faces from the top of the forehead down to the nose, from which proceed other lateral incisions over the eyebrows, into all of which is inserted a blue dye, produced from a kind of ore, which is found in the neighbouring mountains. The women have also incisions on their faces, but in a different fashion; the lines being from two to five in number, cut on each cheek bone, from the temple straight down; they are also stained with blue. These incisions being made on the faces of both sexes when they are about twelve months old, the dyeing material, which is inserted in them, becomes scarcely visible as they grow up.
With the exception of the king and queen, and their immediate companions, who had a change of dress about once a week, the people are in general very dirty, sometimes not washing themselves for twelve or fourteen days together. Besides the queen, who, as has been already stated, wore a profusion of ivory and bone ornaments in her hair, some of a square shape, and others about as thick as a shilling, but rather smaller, strings of which she also wore about her wrists and ankles; many of the women were decorated in a similar manner, and they seemed to consider hardly any favour too great to be conferred on the person who would make them a present of these precious ornaments. Gold ear-rings were much worn, some of the women had also rings on their fingers, but these appeared to Adams to be of brass; and as many of the latter had letters upon them, he concluded, both from this circumstance and from their workmanship, that they were not made by the negroes, but obtained from the moorish traders.
The ceremony of marriage amongst the upper ranks at Timbuctoo is, for the bride to go in the day-time to the king's house, and to remain there until after sunset, when the man who is to be her husband goes to fetch her away. This is usually followed by a feast the same night, and a dance. Adams did not observe what ceremonies were used in the marriages of the lower classes.
As it is common to have several concubines besides a wife, the women are continually quarrelling and fighting; there is, however, a marked difference in the degree of respect with which they are treated by the husband, the wife always having a decided pre-eminence. The negroes, however, appeared to Adams to be jealous and severe with all their women, frequently beating them apparently for very little cause.
The women appear to suffer very little from child-birth, and they will be seen walking about as usual the day after such an event. It is their practice to grease a child all over soon after its birth, and to expose it for about an hour to the sun. The infants at first are of a reddish colour, but become black in three or four days.
Illicit intercourse appeared to be but little regarded amongst the lower orders, and chastity among the women in general seemed to be preserved only so far as their situations or circumstances rendered it necessary for their personal safety or convenience. In the higher ranks, if a woman prove with child, the man is punished with slavery, unless he will take the woman for his wife, and maintain her. Adams knew an instance of a young man, who, having refused to marry a woman by whom he had a child, was on that account condemned to slavery. He afterwards repented, but was not then permitted to retract his refusal, and was sent away to be sold.
It does not appear that they have any public religion, as they have not any house of worship; no priest, and, as far as Adams could discover, never meet together to pray. He had seen some of the negroes, who were circumcised; but he concluded that they had been in possession of the Moors, or had been resident at Sudenny. On this subject Mr. Dupuis says, "I cannot speak with any confidence of the religion of the negroes of Timbuctoo; I have, however, certainly heard, and entertain little doubt, that many of the inhabitants are Mahommedans; it is also generally believed in Barbary, that there are mosques at Timbuctoo; but, on the other hand, I am confident that the king is neither an Arab nor a Moor, especially as the traders, from whom I have collected these accounts, have been either the one or the other; and I might consequently presume, that, if they did give me erroneous information on any points, it would at least not be to the prejudice, both of their national self-conceit, and of the credit and honour of their religion."
The only ceremony which Adams saw, that appeared like the act of prayer, was on the occasion of the death of any of the inhabitants, when the relatives assembled and sat round the corpse. The burial is not attended with any ceremony whatever; the deceased are buried in the clothes in which they die, at a small distance to the south-west of the town.
Their only physicians are old women, who cure diseases and wounds by the application of simples. Adams had a wen on the back of his right hand, the size of a large egg, which one of the women cured in about a month, by rubbing it and applying a plaster of herbs. They cure the tooth-ache by the application of a liquid prepared from roots, which frequently causes not only the defective tooth to fall out, but one or two of the others.
On referring to the notes of Mr. Dupuis on the subject of the cures performed by the negro women, we read, "I may take this opportunity of observing that he (Adams) recounted, at Mogadore, several stories of the supernatural powers or charms possessed by some of the negroes, and which practised both, defensively to protect their own persons from harm, and offensively against their enemies. Of these details I do not remember more than the following circumstance, which, I think, he told me happened in his presence:—
"A negro slave, the property of a desert Arab, having been threatened by his master with severe punishment, for some offence, defied his power to hurt him, in consequence of a charm by which he was protected. Upon this the Arab seized a gun, which he loaded with a ball, and fired at only a few paces distant from the negro's breast; but the negro, instead of being injured by the shot, stooped to the ground and picked up the ball, which had fallen inoffensive at his feet."
It seems strange that Adams should have omitted their extraordinary stories in his narrative; for he frequently expressed to Mr. Dupuis a firm belief, that the negroes were capable of injuring their enemies by witchcraft; and he once pointed out to him a slave at Mogadore, of whom on that account he stood particularly in awe. He doubtless imbibed this belief, and learned the other absurd stories, which he related, from the Arabs, some of whom profess to be acquainted with the art themselves, and all of whom are, it is believed, firmly persuaded of its existence, and of the peculiar proficiency of the negroes in it.
It is perhaps not unreasonable to suppose, that having found his miraculous stories, and his belief in witchcraft discredited and laughed at, both at Mogadore and Cadiz, Adams should have at length grown ashamed of repeating them, and even outlived his superstitious credulity. This solitary instance of suppression may rather be considered as a proof of his good sense, and as the exercise of a very allowable discretion, than as evidence of an artfulness, of which not a trace had been detected in any other part of his conduct.
Dancing is the principal and favourite amusement of the natives of Timbuctoo; it takes place about once a week in the town, when a hundred dancers or more assemble, men, women, and children, but the greater number are men. Whilst they are engaged in the dance, they sing extremely loud to the music of the tambourine, fife, and bandera, [*] so that the noise they make, may be heard all over the town; they dance in a circle, and when this amusement continues till the night, generally round a fire. Their usual time of beginning is about two hours before sunset, and the dance not unfrequently lasts all night. The men have the most of the exercise in these sports while daylight lasts, the women continuing nearly in one spot, and the men dancing to and from them. During this time, the dance is conducted with some decency, but when night approaches, and the women take a more active part in the amusement, their thin and short dresses, and the agility of their actions are little calculated to admit of the preservation of any decorum. The following was the nature of the dance; six or seven men joining hands, surrounded one in the centre of the ring, who was dressed in a ludicrous manner, wearing a large black wig stuck full of kowries. This man at intervals repeated verses, which, from the astonishment and admiration expressed at them by those in the ring, appeared to be extempore. Two performers played on the outside of the ring, one on a large drum, the other on the bandera. The singer in the ring was not interrupted during his recitations, but at the end of every verse, the instruments struck up, and the whole party joined in loud chorus, dancing round the man in the circle, stooping to the ground, and throwing up their legs alternately. Towards the end of the dance, the man in the middle of the ring was released from his enclosure, and danced alone, occasionally reciting verses, whilst the other dancers begged money from the by-standers.
[Footnote: The bandera is made of several cocoa-nut shells, tied together with thongs of goat-skin, and covered with the same material; a hole at the top of the instrument is covered with strings of leather, or tendons, drawn tightly across it, on which the performer plays with the fingers, in the manner of a guitar.]
It has been already stated, that Adams could not form any idea of the population of Timbuctoo, but on one occasion he saw as many as two-thousand assembled at one place. This happened when a party of five hundred men were going out to make war on Bambarra [*]. The day after their departure, they were followed by a great number of slaves, dromedaries, and heiries laden with previsions. Such of these people as afterwards returned, came back in parties of forty or fifty; many of them did not return at all whilst Adams remained at Timbuctoo; but he never heard that any of them had been killed.
[Footnote: This statement, which is in opposition to the usual opinion, that Timbuctoo is a dependency of Bambarra, receives some corroboration from a passage in Isaaco's journal (p. 205.), where a prince of Timbuctoo is accused by the king of Sego, of having, either personally, or by his people, plundered two Bambarra caravans, and taken both merchandise and slaves.]
About once a month, a party of a hundred or more armed men marched out in a similar manner, to procure slaves. These armed parties were all on foot, except the officers; they were usually absent from one week to a month, and at times brought in considerable numbers. The slaves were generally a different race of people from those of Timbuctoo, and differently clothed, their dress being for the most part of coarse white linen or cotton. He once saw amongst them a woman, who had her teeth filed round, it was supposed, by way of ornament, and as they were very long, they resembled crow quills. The greatest number of slaves that Adams recollects to have seen brought in at one time, were about twenty, and these, he was informed, were from a place called Bambarra, lying to the southward and westward of Timbuctoo, which he understood to be the country, whither the aforesaid parties generally went out in quest of them.
The negro slaves brought to Barbary from Timbuctoo appear to be of various nations, many of them distinguished by the make of their persons and features, as well as by their language. Mr. Dupuis recollects an unusually tall stout negress at Mogadore, whose master assured him that she belonged to a populous nation of cannibals. He does not know whether the fact was sufficiently authenticated, but it is certain that the woman herself declared it, adding some revolting accounts of her own feasts on human flesh.
Adams never saw any individual put to death at Timbuctoo, the punishment for heavy offences being generally slavery; for slighter misdemeanours, the offenders are punished with beating with a stick; but in no case is this punishment very severe, seldom exceeding two dozen blows, with a stick of the thickness of a small walking-cane.
The infrequency of the punishment of death in a community, which counts human life amongst its most valuable objects of trade, is not, however, very surprising; and considerable influence must be conceded to the operation of self-interest, as well as to the feelings of humanity, in accounting for this merciful feature, if it be indeed merciful, in the criminal code of the negroes of Soudan.
During the whole of the residence of Adams at Timbuctoo, he never saw any other Moors than those whom he accompanied thither, and the ten by whom they were ransomed; and he understood from the Moors themselves, that they were not allowed to go in large bodies to Timbuctoo. This statement bears on the face of it a certain degree of improbability; but it loses that character when it is considered that Timbuctoo, although it is become, in consequence of its frontier situation, the port, as it were, of the caravans from the north, which could not return across the desert the same season, if they were to penetrate deeper into Soudan, is yet, with respect to the trade itself, probably only the point whence it diverges to Houssa, Tuarick, &c. on the east, and to Walet, Jinnie, and Sego, on the west and south, and not the mart where the merchandise of the caravans is sold in detail. Such Moors, therefore, as did not return to Barbary with the returning caravan, but remained in Soudan until the following season, might be expected to follow their trade to the larger marts of the interior, and to return to Timbuctoo only to meet the next winter's caravans. Adams arriving at Timbuctoo in February, and departing in June, might therefore miss both the caravans themselves and the traders, who remained behind in Soudan; and, on the same principle, Park might find Moors carrying on an active trade in the summer at Sansanding, and yet there might not be one at Timbuctoo.
Adams never proceeded to the southward of Timbuctoo, further than about two miles from the town, to the mountains before spoken of; he never saw the river Joliba or Niger, though he had heard mention made of it. He was told at Tudenny, that the river lay between that place and Bambarra.
This apparently unimportant passage, affords on examination a strong presumption in favour of the truth and simplicity of this part of Adams' narrative.
In the course of his examinations, almost every new inquirer questioned him respecting the Joliba or Niger, and he could not fail to observe, that because he had been at Timbuctoo, he was expected, as a matter of course, either to have seen, or at least frequently to have heard of that celebrated river. Adams, however, fairly admitted that he knew nothing about it, and notwithstanding the surprise of many of his examiners, he could not be brought to acknowledge that he had heard the name even once mentioned at Timbuctoo. All that he recollected was, that a river Joliba had been spoken of at Tudenny, where it was described as lying in the direction of Bambarra.
They who recollect Major Rennell's remarks respecting the Niger, in his Geographical Illustrations, will not be much surprised that Adams should not hear of the Joliba, from the natives of Timbuctoo. At that point of its course, the river is doubtless known by another name, and if the Joliba were spoken of at all, it would probably be accompanied, as Adams states, with some mention of Bambarra, which may be presumed to be the last country eastward, in which the Niger retains its Mandingo name.
The ten Moors who had arrived with the five camels laden with tobacco, had been three weeks at Timbuctoo, before Adams learnt that the ransom of himself, the boy, and the Moors, his former companions, had been agreed upon. At the end of the first week, he was given to understand, that himself and the boy would be released, but that the Moors would be condemned to die; it appeared however afterwards, that in consideration of all the tobacco being given for the Moors, except about fifty pounds weight, which was expended for a man slave, the king had agreed to release all the prisoners.
Two days after their release, the whole party consisting of the ten moorish traders, fourteen moorish prisoners, two white men and one slave quitted Timbuctoo, having only the five camels, which belonged to the traders; those which were seized when Adams and his party were made prisoners, not having been restored. As they had no means left of purchasing any other article, the only food they took with them was a little Guinea corn flour.
On quitting the town they proceeded in an easterly course, inclining to the north, going along the border of the river, of which they sometimes lost sight for two days together. Except the two mountains before spoken of to the southward, between which the river runs, there are none in the immediate neighbourhood of Timbuctoo, but at a little distance there are some small ones.
They had travelled eastward about ten days, at the rate of about fifteen or eighteen miles a day, when they saw the river for the last time; it then appeared rather narrower than at Timbuctoo. They then loaded the camels with water, and striking off in a northerly direction, travelled twelve or thirteen days at about the same pace.
At the end of this time they arrived at a place called Tudenny, or Taudenny, a large village inhabited by Moors and negroes, in which there are four wells of very excellent water. In this place there are large ponds or beds of salt, which both the Moors and negroes come in great numbers to purchase; in the neighbourhood the ground is cultivated in the same manner as at Timbuctoo. From the number of Moors, many, if not all of whom, were residents, it appeared that the restriction respecting them, which was in force at Timbuctoo, did not extend to Tudenny.
The Moors here are perfectly black, the only personal distinction between them and the negroes being, that the Moors had long black hair, and had no scars on their faces. The negroes are in general marked in the same manner as those of Timbuctoo. Here the party stayed fourteen days to give the ransomed Moors, whose long confinement had made them weak, time to recruit their strength; and having sold one of the camels for two sacks of dates and a small ass, and loaded the four remaining camels with water, the dates and the flour, they set out to cross the desert, taking a north-west direction.
They commenced their journey from Tudenny about four o'clock in the morning, and having travelled the first day about twenty miles, they unloaded the camels, and laid down by the side of them to sleep.
The next day they entered the desert, over which they continued to travel in the same direction nine and twenty days, without meeting a single human being. The whole way was a sandy plain like the sea, without either tree, shrub or grass. After travelling in this manner about fourteen days, at the rate of sixteen or eighteen miles a day, the people began to grow very weak; their stock of water began to run short, and their provisions were nearly exhausted. The ass died of fatigue, and its carcass was immediately cut up and laden on the camel, where it dried in the sun, and served for food, and had it not been for this supply, some of the party must have died of hunger. Being asked if ass's flesh was good eating, Adams replied, "It was as good to my taste then, as a goose would be now."
In six days afterwards, during which their pace was slackened to not more than twelve miles a day, they arrived at a place, where it was expected water would be found; but to their great disappointment, owing to the dryness of the season, the hollow place, of about thirty yards in circumference, was found quite dry.
All their stock of water at this time consisted of four goat-skins, and those not full, holding from one to two gallons each; and it was known to the Moors, that they had then ten days further to travel before they could obtain a supply.
In this distressing dilemma it was resolved to mix the remaining water with camels' urine. The allowance of this mixture to each camel was only about a quart for the whole ten days; each man was allowed not more than about half a pint a day.
The Moors, who had been in confinement at Timbuctoo, becoming every day weaker, three of them in the four following days lay down, unable to proceed. They were then placed upon the camels, but continual exposure to the excessive heat of the sun, and the uneasy motion of the animals, soon rendered them unable to support themselves; and towards the end of the second day, they made another attempt to pursue their journey on foot, but could not. The following morning at day-break, they were found dead on the sand, in the place where they had lain down at night, and were left behind, without being buried. The next day, another of them lay down, and, like his late unfortunate companions, was left to perish; but on the following day, one of the Moors determined to remain behind, in the hope that he, who had dropped the day before, might still come up, and be able to follow the party; some provisions were left with him. At this time it was expected, what proved to be the fact, that they were within a day's march of their town, but neither of the men ever after made his appearance, and Adams has no doubt that they perished.
Vled Duleim, the name of the place at which they now arrived, was a village of tents, inhabited entirely by Moors, who, from their dress, manners, and general appearance, seemed to be of the same tribe as those of the encampment to which Adams was conveyed from El Gazie. They had numerous flocks of sheep and goats, and two watering places, near one of which their tents were pitched, but the other lay nearly five miles off.
Vled, or Woled D'leim, is the douar of a tribe of Arabs inhabiting the eastern parts of the desert, from the latitude of about twenty degrees north to the tropic. They are a tribe of great extent and power, inhabiting detached fertile spots of land, where they find water and pasturage for their flocks, but are very ignorant of the commonest principles of agriculture. They are an extremely fine race of men, their complexion very dark, almost as black as that of the negroes. They have straight hair, which they wear in large quantities, aqueline noses, and large eyes. Their behaviour is haughty and insolent, speaking with fluency and energy, and appearing to have great powers of rhetoric. Their arms are javelins and swords.
The first fortnight after the arrival of the party was devoted to their recovery from the fatigues of the journey; but as soon as their strength was re-established, Adams and his companion were employed in taking care of goats and sheep. Having now begun to acquire a knowledge of the moorish tongue, they frequently urged their masters to take them to Suerra, which the latter promised they would do, provided they continued attentive to their duty.
Things, however, remained in this state for ten or eleven days, during which time they were continually occupied in tending the flocks of the Moors. They suffered severely from exposure to the scorching sun, in a state almost of utter nakedness, and the miseries of their situation were aggravated by despair of ever being released from slavery.
The only food allowed to them was barley-flour and camels' and goats' milk; of the latter, however, they had abundance. Sometimes they were treated with a few dates, which were a great rarity, there being neither date-trees, nor trees of any other kind, in the whole of the country round. But as the flocks of goats and sheep consisted of a great number, from one hundred and fifty to two hundred, and as they were at a distance from the town, Adams and his companion sometimes ventured to kill a kid for their own eating, and to prevent discovery of the fire used in cooking it, they dug a cave, in which a fire was made, covering the ashes with grass and sand.
At length, Adams, after much reflection on the miserable state in which he had been so long kept, and was likely to pass the remainder of his life, determined to remonstrate upon the subject. His master, whose name was Hamet Laubed, frankly replied to him, that as he had not been successful in procuring slaves, it was now his intention to keep him, and not, as he had before led him to expect, to take him to Suerra or Mogadore. Upon hearing this, Adams resolved not to attend any longer to the duty of watching the goats and sheep; and in consequence, the following day, several of the young goats were found to have been killed by the foxes.
This led to an inquiry, whether Adams or the boy was in fault, when it appearing that the missing goats were a part of Adams' flock, his master proceeded to beat him with a thick stick; he, however, resisted, and took away the stick, upon which a dozen Moors, principally women, attacked him, and gave him a severe beating.
As, notwithstanding what had occurred, Adams persisted in his determination not to resume his task of tending the goats and sheep, his master was advised to put him to death, but this he was not inclined to do, observing to his advisers, that he should thereby sustain a loss, and that if Adams would not work, it would be better to sell him. In the mean time, he remained idle in the tent for three days, when he was asked by his master's wife if he would go to the distant well, to fetch a couple of skins of water, it being of a better quality; to which he signified his consent, and went off the next morning on a camel, with two skins to fetch the water.
On his arrival at the other well, instead of procuring water, he determined to make his escape; and understanding that the course to a place called Wadinoon lay in a direction to the northward of west, he passed the well, and pushing on in a northerly course, travelled the whole of that day, when the camel, which had been used to rest at night, and had not been well broken in, would not proceed any further, and in spite of all the efforts Adams could make, it lay down with fatigue, having gone upwards of twenty miles without stopping. Finding there was not any remedy, Adams took off the rope, with which his clothes were fastened round his body, and as the camel lay with his fore knee bent, he tied the rope round it in a way to prevent its rising, and then laid down by the side of it. This rope, which Adams had brought from Timbuctoo, was made of grass, collected on the banks of the river.
The next morning, at daylight, he mounted again, and pushed on till about nine o'clock, when he perceived some smoke in advance of him, which he approached. There was a small hillock between him and this place, ascending which, he discovered about forty or fifty tents pitched, and on looking back, he saw two camels coming towards him, with a rider on each. Not knowing whether these were in pursuit of him, or strangers going to the place in view, but being greatly alarmed, he made the best of his way forward. On drawing near to the town, a number of women came out, and he observed about a hundred Moors standing in a row, in the act of prayer, having their faces towards the east, and at times kneeling down, and leaning their heads to the ground. On the women discovering Adams, they expressed great surprise at seeing a white man. He inquired of them the name of the place, and they told him it was Hilla Gibla. Soon afterwards the two camels, before spoken of, arriving, the rider of one of them proved to be the owner of the camel on which Adams had escaped, and the other his master. At this time Adams was sitting under a tent, speaking to the governor, whose name was Mahomet, telling him his story; they were soon joined by his two pursuers, accompanied by a crowd of people.
Upon his master claiming him, Adams protested that he would not go back; that his master had frequently promised to take him to Suerra, but had broken his promises, and that he had made up his mind either to obtain his liberty or die. Upon hearing both sides, the governor determined in favour of Adams, and gave his master to understand, that if he was willing to exchange him for a bushel of dates and a camel, he should have them; but if not, he should have nothing. As Adams' master did not approve of these conditions, a violent altercation arose, but at length, finding the governor determined, and that better terms were not to be had, he accepted the first offer, and Adams became the slave of Mahomet.
The natives of Hilla Gibla or El Kabla, appeared to be better clothed, and a less savage race than those of Woled D'leim, between whom there appeared to be great enmity. The governor, therefore, readily interfered in favour of Adams, and at one time threatened to take away the camel, and to put Mahomet Laubed to death. Another consideration by which the governor was probably influenced, was a knowledge of the value of a Christian slave, as an object of ransom, of which Mahomet Laubed seemed to be wholly ignorant.
On entering the service of his new master, Adams was sent to tend camels, and had been so employed about a fortnight, when this duty was exchanged for that of taking care of goats. Mahomet had two wives, who dwelt in separate tents, one of them an old woman, the other a young one; the goats which Adams was appointed to take care of, were the property of the elder one.
Some days after he had been so employed, the younger wife, whose name was Isha, or Aisha, proposed to him that he should also take charge of her goats, for which she would remunerate him, and as there was no more trouble in tending two flocks than one, he readily consented. Having had charge of the two flocks for several days, without receiving the promised additional reward, he at length remonstrated, and after some negotiation on the subject of his claim, the matter was compromised by the young woman's desiring him, when he returned from tending the goats at night, to go to rest in her tent. It was the custom of Mahomet, to sleep two nights with the elder woman, and one with the other, and this was one of the nights devoted to the former. Adams accordingly kept the appointment, and about nine o'clock Aisha came and gave him supper, and he remained in her tent all night. This was an arrangement which was afterwards continued on those nights, which she did not pass with her husband.
Things continued in this state for about six months, and as his work was light, and he experienced nothing but kind treatment, his time passed pleasantly enough. One night his master's son coming into the tent, discovered Adams with his mother-in-law, and informed his father, when a great disturbance took place; but upon the husband charging his wife with her misconduct, she protested that Adams had laid down in her tent without her knowledge or consent, and as she cried bitterly, the old man appeared to be convinced that she was not to blame. The old lady, however, declared her belief that the young one was guilty, and expressed her conviction that she should be able to detect her at some future time.
For some days after, Adams kept away from the lady, but at the end of that time, the former affair appearing to be forgotten, he resumed his visits. One night, the old woman lifted up the corner of the tent, and discovered Adams with Aisha, and having reported it to her husband, he came with a thick stick, threatening to put him to death. Adams being alarmed, made his escape, and the affair having made a great deal of noise, an acquaintance proposed to Adams to conceal him in his tent, and to endeavour to buy him off the governor. Some laughed at the adventure; others, and they by far the greater part, treated the matter as an offence of the most atrocious nature, Adams being "a Christian, who never prayed."
As his acquaintance promised, in the event of becoming a purchaser, to take him to Wadinoon, Adams adopted his advice, and concealed himself in his tent. For several days, the old governor rejected every overture, but at last he agreed to part with Adams for fifty dollars worth of goods, consisting of blankets and dates, and thus he became the property of Boerick, a trader, whose usual residence was at El Kabla.
The frail one ran away to her mother.
The next day Boerick set out with a party of six men and four camels, for a place called, according to the phraseology of Adams, Villa de Bousbach, but the real name of which was Woled Aboussebah, which they reached after travelling nine days at the rate of about eighteen miles a day, directing their course to the north-east. On their route they saw neither houses nor trees, but the ground was covered with grass and shrubs. At this place they found about forty or fifty tents, inhabited by the Moors, and remained five or six days; when there, a Moor, named Abdallah Houssa, a friend of Boerick, arrived from a place called Hieta Mouessa Ali, who informed him that it was usual for the British consul at Mogadore, to send to Wadinoon, where this man resided, to purchase the Christians who were prisoners in that country, and that as he was about to proceed thither, he was willing to take charge of Adams, to sell him for account of Boerick; at the same time, he informed Adams that there were other Christians at Wadinoon. This being agreed to by Boerick, his friend set out in a few days after for Hieta Mouessa Ali, taking Adams with him. Instead, however, of going to that place, which lay due north, they proceeded north-north-west, and as they had a camel each, and travelled very fast, the path being good, they went at the rate of twenty-five miles a day, and in six days reached a place called Villa Adrialla, [*] where there were about twenty tents. This place appeared to be inhabited entirely by traders, who had at least five hundred camels, a great number of goats and sheep, and a few horses. The cattle were tended by negro slaves. Here they remained about three weeks, until Abdallah had finished his business, and then set out for Hieta Mouessa Ali, where they arrived in three days. Adams believed that the reason of their travelling so fast during the last stage was, that Abdallah was afraid of being robbed, of which he seemed to have no apprehension after he had arrived at Villa Adrialla, and therefore they travelled from that place to Hieta Mouessa Ali, at the rate of only about sixteen or eighteen miles a day; their course being due north-west.
[Footnote: It is the opinion of Mr. Dupuis, that this place should be written Woled Adrialla, but he has no knowledge of it.]
Hieta Mouessa Ali was the largest place which Adams saw, in which there were no houses, there being not less than a hundred tents. There was here a small brook issuing from a mountain, being the only one he had seen except that at Soudenny; but the vegetation was not more abundant than at other places. They remained here about a month, during which Adams was as usual employed in tending camels. As the time hung very heavy on his hands, and he saw no preparation for their departure for Wadinoon, and his anxiety to reach that place had been very much excited, by the intelligence that there were other Christians there, he took every opportunity of making inquiry respecting the course and distance; and being at length of opinion that he might find his way thither, he one evening determined to desert, and accordingly he set out foot alone, with a small supply of dried goats' flesh, relying upon getting a further supply at the villages, which he understood were on the road. He had travelled the whole of that night, and until about noon the next day, without stopping, when he was overtaken by a party of three or four men on camels, who had been sent in pursuit of him. It seems they expected that Adams had been persuaded to leave Hieta Mouessa Ali, by some persons who wished to take him to Wadinoon for sale, and they were therefore greatly pleased to find him on foot and alone. Instead of ill treating him as he apprehended they would do, they merely conducted him back to Hieta Mouessa Ali, from whence in three or four days afterwards Abdallah and a small party departed, taking him with them. They travelled five days in a north-west direction at about sixteen miles a day, and at the end of the fifth day, reached Wadinoon. Having seen no habitations on their route, except a few scattered tents within a day's journey of that town.