The watch of Major Denham pleased him wonderfully at first but after a little time, it was found that looking at himself in the bright part of the inside of the case, gave him the greatest satisfaction; they are vainer than the vainest. Mina Tahr was now habited in the finest clothes that had ever been brought to Beere-Kashifery, and what to him could be so agreeable as contemplating the reflection of his own person so decked out? Major Denham, therefore, could not help giving him a small looking-glass, and he took his station in one corner of the major's tent, for hours, surveying himself with a satisfaction that burst from his lips in frequent exclamations of joy, and which he also occasionally testified by sundry high jumps and springs into the air.
After regaining the road, they moved till noon, when their horses were watered at a well called Kanimani, or the sheep's well, where some really sweet milk was brought to them, in immensely large basket bottles, some holding two gallons and more. They had drank and acknowledged its goodness, and how grateful it was to their weak stomachs, before they found out that it was camel's milk.
No traveller in Africa should imagine that this he could not bear, or that could not be endured. It is most wonderful how a man's taste conforms itself to his necessities. Six months ago camel's milk would have acted upon them as an emetic, now they thought it a most refreshing and grateful cordial.
The face of the country now improved in appearance every mile, and on this day they passed along, what seemed to them a most joyous valley, smiling in flowery grasses, tulloh trees, and kossom. About mid-day, they halted in a luxurious shade, the ground covered with creeping vines of the colycinth, in full blossom, which, with the red flower of the kossom, that drooped over their heads, made their resting place a little Arcadia.
They killed to-day one of the largest serpents they had seen: it is called liffa by the Arabs, and its bite is said to be mortal, unless the part is instantly cut out. It is a mistaken idea that all the serpent tribe are called liffa; this species alone bears the name; it has two horns, and is of a light brown colour. Major Denham's old Choush Ghreneim had a distorted foot, which was but of little use to him except on horseback, from the bite of one of those poisonous reptiles, notwithstanding the part infected was cut out; he was for thirteen months confined to his hut, and never expected to recover.
Arabs are always on the look out for plunder, "'Tis my vocation, Hal," none were ashamed to acknowledge it, but they were on this occasion to act as an escort, to oppose banditti, and not play the part of one. Nevertheless, they were greatly dissatisfied at having come so far, and done so little; they formed small parties for reconnoitering on each side of the road, and were open-mouthed for any thing that might offer. One fellow on foot had traced the marks of a flock of sheep, to a small village of tents to the east of their course, and now gave notice of the discovery he had made, but that the people had seen him, and he believed struck their tents. Major Denham felt that he should be a check upon them in their plunderings, and he, Boo Khaloom, and about a dozen horsemen, with each a footman behind him, instantly started for their retreat, which lay over the hills to the east. On arriving at the spot, in a valley of considerable beauty, where these flocks and tents had been observed, they found the place quite deserted. The poor affrighted shepherds had moved off with their all, knowing too well what would be their treatment from the Naz Abiad (white people), as they call the Arabs. Their caution, however, was made the excuse for plundering them, and a pursuit was instantly determined upon. "What! not stay to sell their sheep—the rogues, we'll take them without payment." They scoured two valleys, without discovering the fugitives, and Major Denham began to hope that the Tibboos had eluded their pursuers, when after crossing a deep ravine, and ascending the succeeding ridge, they came directly on two hundred head of cattle, and about twenty persons, men, women, and children, with ten camels, laden with their tents and other necessaries, all moving off. The extra Arabs instantly slipped from behind their leaders, and with a shout rushed down the hill; part headed the cattle to prevent their escape, and the most rapid plunder immediately commenced. The camels were instantly brought to the ground, and every part of their load rifled; the poor girls and women lifted up their hands to Major Denham, stripped as they were to the skin, but he could do nothing more for them beyond saving their lives. A sheik and a marabout assured Major Denham, it was quite lawful to plunder those, who left their tents instead of supplying travellers. Boo Khaloom now came up and was petitioned. Major Denham saw that he was ashamed of the paltry booty which his followers had obtained, as well as moved by the tears of the sufferers. The major seized the favourable moment, and advised that the Arabs should give every thing back, and have a few sheep and an ox for a bousafer (feast), he accordingly gave the orders, and the Arabs from under their barracans, threw down the wrappers they had torn off the bodies of the Tibboo women, and the major was glad in his heart, when taking ten sheep and a fat bullock, they left these poor creatures to their fate, as had more Arabs arrived, they would most certainly have stripped them of every thing.
On the 31st, Boo Khaloom had thought it right to send on a Tibboo, with the news of their approach to the sheik El Kanemy who, they understood, resided at Kouka, and one was despatched with a camel, and a man of Mina Tahr. On their arrival at Kofei, the Tibboo only, who had been despatched, was found alone and naked, some Tibboo Arabs of a tribe called Wandela, had met them near the well, on the preceding evening, and robbed him even to his cap, and taking from him the letters, saying they cared not for the sheik or Boo Khaloom, tied him to a tree and there left him. In this state he was found by Major Denham's party, and Mr. Clapperton coming up soon afterwards, gave him from his biscuit bag, wherewithal to break his fast, after being twenty-four hours without eating. Eighteen men had stripped him, he said, and taken off the camel and Mina Tahr's man, who, they also said, should be ransomed, or have his throat cut. Mina Tahr represented these people as the worst on the road, in every sense of the word. "They have no flocks," said he, "and have not more than three hundred camels, although their numbers are one thousand and more; they live by plunder, and have no connexion with any other people. No considerable body of men can follow them; their tents are in the heart of the desert, and there are no wells for four days in the line of their retreat. Geddy Ben Agah is their chief, and I alone would give fifty camels for his head: these are the people, who often attack and murder travellers and small kafilas, and the Gundowy, who respect strangers, have the credit of it."
The men of Traita, with their chief Eskou Ben Cogla, came in the evening to welcome them; the well Kofei belongs to them, and greatly enraged they appeared to be at the conduct of the Wandelas. This chief returned to Boo Khaloom his letters, which he said, the chief of the Wandelas had sent him that morning, begging that he would meet the kafila at the well, and deliver them to Boo Khaloom; had he known then what had taken place, "the slave," he said, "should have been stabbed at his father's grave, before he would have delivered them." Boo Khaloom was greatly enraged, and Major Denham was almost afraid, that he would have revenged himself on the Traita chiefs. However the Tibboo courier was again clothed and mounted, and once more started for Bornou.
Their course during the early part of the following day, was due south, and through a country more thickly planted by the all tasteful hand of bounteous nature. Boo Khaloom, Major Denham, and about six Arabs had ridden on in front; it was said they had lost the track, and should miss the well; the day had been oppressively hot—the major's companions were sick and fatigued, and they dreaded the want of water. A fine dust, arising from a light clayey and sandy soil, had also increased their sufferings; the exclamations of the Arab who first discovered the wells, were indeed music to their ears, and after satisfying his own thirst, with that of his weary animals, Major Denham laid himself down by one of the distant wells, far from his companions, and these moments of tranquillity, the freshness of the air, with the melody of the hundred songsters that were perched amongst the creeping plants, whose flowers threw an aromatic odour all around, were a relief scarcely to be described. Ere long, however, the noisy kafila, and the clouds of dust, which accompanied it, disturbed him from the delightful reverie into which he had fallen.
Previously to their arrival at Lari, they came upon two encampments of the Traita Tibboos, calling themselves the sheik's people; their huts were not numerous, but very regularly built in a square, with a space left in the north and south faces of the quadrangle, for the use of the cattle. The huts were entirely of mats, which excluding the sun, yet admitted both the light and the air. These habitations for fine weather are preferable to the bete shars or tents of the Arabs of the north. The interior was singularly neat; clean wooden bowls, with each a cover of basketwork, for holding their milk, were hung against the wall. In the centre of the enclosure were about one hundred and fifty head of cattle, feeding from cradles; these were chiefly milch cows with calves, and sheep. The Tibboos received them kindly at first, but presumed rather too much on sheik Kaneny's protection, which they claim or throw off, it is said, accordingly as it suits their purpose. The modest request of a man with two hundred armed Arabs, for a little milk, was refused, and ready as the Arabs are to throw down the gauntlet, a slight expression of displeasure from their leader, was followed by such a rapid attack on the Tibboos, that before Major Denham could mount, half the stock was driven off, and the sheik well bastinadoed. Boo Khaloom was, however, too kind to injure them, and after driving their cattle for about a mile, he allowed them to return, with a caution to be more accommodating for the future. Accustomed as these people are to plunder one another, they expect no better usage from any one, who visits them, provided they are strong enough, and vice versa. They are perfect Spartans in the art of thieving, both male and female.
An old woman, who was sitting at the door of one of the huts, sent a very pretty girl to Major Denham, as he was standing by his horse, whose massy amber necklace, greased head, and coral nose-studs and ear-rings, announced a person of no common order, to see what she could pick up; and after gaining possession of his handkerchief and some needles, while he turned his head, in an instant thrust her hand into the pocket of the saddle cloth, as she said, to find some beads, for she knew he had plenty.
Another and much larger nest of the Traitas, lay to the east of their course, a little further on, with numerous flocks and herds. About two in the afternoon, they arrived at Lari, ten miles distant from Mittimee. On ascending the rising ground on which the town stands, the distressing sight presented itself of all the female, and most of the male inhabitants with their families, flying across the plain in all directions, alarmed at the strength of the kafila. Beyond, however, was an object full of interest to them, and the sight of which conveyed to their minds a sensation so gratifying and inspiring, that it would be difficult for language to convey an idea of its force and pleasure. The great Lake Tchad, glowing with the golden rays of the sun in its strength, appeared to be within a mile of the spot on which they stood. The hearts of the whole party bounded within them at the prospect, for they believed this lake to be the key to the great object of their search: and they could not refrain from silently imploring Heaven's continued protection, which had enabled them to proceed so far in health and strength, even to the accomplishment of their task.
It was long before Boo Khuloom's best endeavours could restore confidence; the inhabitants had been plundered by the Tuaricks only the year before, and four hundred of their people butchered, and but a few days before, a party of the same nation had again pillaged them, though partially. When at length these people were satisfied that no harm was intended them, the women came in numbers with baskets of gussub, gafooly, fowls and honey, which were purchased by small pieces of coral and amber of the coarsest kinds, and coloured beads. One merchant bought a fine lamb for two bits of amber, worth about two pence each in Europe; two needles purchased a fowl, and a handful of salt, four or five good-sized fish from the lake.
Lari is inhabited by the people of Kanem, who are known by the name of Kanimboo; the women are good looking, laughing negresses, and all but naked; but this they were now used to, and it excited no emotions of surprise. Most of them had a square of silver or tin hanging at the back of the head, suspended from the hair, which was brought down in narrow plaits, quite round the neck.
The town of Lari stands on an eminence, and may probably contain two thousand inhabitants. The huts are built of the rush which grows by the side of the lake, have conical tops, and look very like well-thatched stacks of corn in England. They have neat enclosures round them, made with fences of the same reed, and passages leading to them like labyrinths. In the enclosure are a goat or two, poultry, and sometimes a cow. The women were almost always spinning cotton, which grows well, though not abundantly, near the town and the lake. The interior of the huts is neat, they are completely circular, with no admission for air or light, except at the door, which has a mat, hung up by way of safeguard. Major Denham entered one of the best appearance, although the owner gave him no smiles of encouragement, and followed close at his heels, with a spear and dagger in his hand. In one corner stood the bed, a couch of rushes lashed together, and supported by six poles, fixed strongly in the ground. This was covered by the skins of the tiger-cat and wild bull. Round the sides were hung the wooden bowls, used for water and milk; his tall shield rested against the wall. The hut had a division of mat-work, one half being allotted to the female part of the family. The owner, however, continued to look at his unexpected visitor with so much suspicion, and seemed so little pleased with his visit, notwithstanding all the endeavours of Major Denham to assure him, he was his friend, that he hurried from the inhospitable door, and resumed his walk through the town.
On quitting Lari, they immediately plunged into a thickly-planted forest of acacias, with high underwood, and at the distance of only a few hundred yards from the town, they came upon large heaps of elephants' dung, forming hillocks three or four feet in height, and marks of their footsteps; the tracks of these animals increased as they proceeded. Part of the day their road lay along the banks of the Tchad, and the elephants' footmarks of an immense size, and only a few hours old, were in abundance. Whole trees were broken down, where they had fed; and where they had reposed their ponderous bodies, young trees, shrubs, and underwood, had been crushed beneath their weight. They also killed an enormous snake, a species of coluber; it was a most disgusting, horrible animal, but not, however, venomous. It measured eighteen feet from the mouth to the tail, it was shot by five balls and was still moving off, when two Arabs, with each a sword, nearly severed the head from the body. On opening the belly, several pounds of fat were found, and carefully taken off by the two native guides, by whom they were accompanied. This they pronounced a sovereign remedy for sick and diseased cattle, and much prized amongst them. Scarcely a mile further, a drove of wild red cattle, which were first taken for deer, were seen bounding to the westward. They were what the Arabs called, bugra hammar wahash (red cow wild.) They appeared to partake of the bullock and buffalo, with a tuft or lump on the shoulder.
They bivouacked near a small parcel of huts, called Nyagami, in a beautiful spot, so thick of wood, that they could scarcely find a clear place for their encampment. While the tents were fixing, an alarm was given of wild boars; one of the party followed the scent, and on his return, said he had seen a lion, and near him seven gazelles. No information could be obtained from the natives of lions ever being seen in the neighbourhood; numerous other animals appeared to abound, and that confirmed the opinion.
They moved for Woodie on the 7th February, accompanied by two Arabs of Boo Saif. Major Denham left the kafila, and proceeded a little to the westward, making a parallel movement with the camels. Birds of the most beautiful plumage were perched on every tree, and several monkeys chattered at them so impudently, that separating one from the rest, they chased him for nearly half an hour; he did not run very fast, nor straight forward, but was constantly doubling and turning, with his head over his shoulder, to see who was close to him. He was a handsome fellow, of a light brown colour, and black about the muzzle. About noon they came to a village of huts, called Barrah, and although only three in number, the natives flew in all directions. On their approaching the town, they beckoned to them, and got off their horses, for the purpose of giving them confidence, and sat down under the shade of a large tamarind tree. An old negro, who spoke a little Arabic, was the first who ventured to approach; seeing that he was not ill-treated, the others soon followed his example. Major Denham begged a little sour milk, a most refreshing beverage after a hot ride, but none was to be found, until they were assured that it should be paid for, and at the sight of the dollar they all jumped and skipped like so many monkeys. Major Denham now began to eat some biscuit which he had in his saddle cloth, which created much astonishment, and the first to whom he offered some, refused to eat it. One, rather bolder than the rest, put a small piece in his mouth, and pronounced it good, with such extravagant gestures, that the visitors all became clamorous. The major refused for a long time the man, who had been suspicious at first, to the great amusement of the rest, who seemed to relish the joke amazingly.
The little nest of thatched huts in which they lived, was most beautifully situated on a rising spot, in the midst of a rich and luxuriant though not thick forest, about three miles to the northeast of Woodie. One of the old men accompanied them, while his son carried a sheep, which the major had purchased at Woodie, for which service he was rewarded by two coral beads and a little snuff.
Close to the town of Woodie, they found the tents. The party had made about fourteen miles, without leaving the banks of the lake at any great distance. Two elephants were seen swimming in the lake this day, and one, belonging to a drove at a distance, absolutely remained just before the kafila. Hillman had gone on in front on his mule, suffering sadly from weakness and fatigue, and had laid himself down in what appeared a delightful shade, to await the arrival of the camels, not expecting to see an elephant. He was actually reposing within a dozen yards of a very large one, without being aware of it; and on an Arab striking the animal with a spear, he roared out, and moved off.
Poor Hillman's alarm was extreme.
The courier had been sent off a second time, after being re-clothed and remounted, to receive the sheik's orders, and they were not to proceed beyond Woodie until his pleasure was known. So jealous and suspicious are these negro princes of the encroachments of the Arabs, that divers were the speculations as to whether the sheik would or would not allow the Arabs to proceed with the party nearer his capital.
A weekly fsug, or market, was held about a mile from the town, and the women, flocking from the neighbouring negro villages, mounted on bullocks, who have a thong of hide passed through the cartilage of the nose when young, and are managed with great ease, had a curious appearance. A skin is spread on the animal's back, upon which, after hanging the different articles they take for sale, they mount themselves. Milk, sour and sweet, a little honey, lowls, gussub, and gafooly, are amongst their wares; fat and meloheea (ochra), a green herb, which, with the bazeen, all negroes eat voraciously, and indeed Christians too, as was afterwards experienced. The men brought oxen, sheep, goats, and slaves; the latter were few in number, and in miserable condition.
Woodie is a capital, or, as they say, blad kebir, and is governed by a sheik, who is a eunuch, and a man of considerable importance; they appear to have all the necessaries of life in abundance, and are the most indolent people which the travellers ever met with. The women spin a little cotton, and weave it into a coarse cloth of about six inches width. The men either lie idling in their huts during the whole of the day, or in the shade of a building formed by four supporters and a thatched roof, which stands in an open space amongst the huts; this is also the court of justice and the house of prayer. The men are considerably above the common stature, and of an athletic make, but have an expression of features particularly dull and heavy. The town stands about one mile west of the Tchad, four short days' march from Bornou.
The women, like the Tibboos, have a square piece of blue or white cloth tied over one shoulder, which forms their whole covering; their hair is, however, curiously and laboriously trained, and it was observed, that no one of tender years had any thing like a perfect head of hair. From childhood the head is shaved, leaving only the top covered; the hair from hence falls down quite round, from the forehead to the pole of the neck, and is there formed into one solid plait, which in front lying quite flat just over the eyes, and, behind, being turned up with a little curl, has just the appearance of an old-fashioned coachman's wig in England; some of them are, however, very pretty.
On the morning of the 10th February, Major Denham went to the eastward, in order to see the extent of the forest, and also, if possible, to get a sight of the herd of upwards of one hundred and fifty elephants, which some of the Arabs had seen the day before, while their camels were feeding. He was not disappointed, for he found them about six miles from the town, on the grounds annually overflowed by the waters of the lake, where the coarse grass is twice the height of a man; they seemed to cover the face of the country, and far exceeded the number which was reported. When the waters flow over these their pasturages, they are forced by hunger to approach the towns, and spread devastation throughout their march; whole plantations, the hopes of the inhabitants for the next year, are sometimes destroyed in a single night.
When quite fatigued, Major Denham determined on making for some huts, and begged a little milk, sweet or sour. No knowing landlady of a country ever scanned the character of her customer more than did this untaught, though cunning negro, who was found there. He first denied that he had any, notwithstanding the bowls were scarcely ten paces behind him, and then asked, what they had got to pay for it? Major Denham had in reality nothing with him; and after offering his pocket handkerchief, which was returned to him, as not worth any thing, he was about to depart, though ten long miles from the tents, thirsty as he was, when the Arab pointed to a needle, which was sticking in the major's jacket; for this and a white bead, which the Arab produced, they had a bowl of fine milk and a basket of nuts, which refreshed them much. On their way to the tents, they saw a flock of at least five hundred pelicans, but could not get near enough to fire at them.
On the 11th, two of the sheik's officers arrived, with letters and a present of goroo nuts of Soudan; they have a pleasant bitter taste, and are much esteemed by all the Tripoli people. These letters pressed Boo Khaloom to continue his march towards Kouka, with all his people, a very great proof of his confidence in the peaceable disposition of their chief. In the evening of the same day, they reached a town called Burwha. It is walled, and it was the first negro one they had seen. It may be called in that country a place of some strength, in proof of which, the inhabitants have always defied the Tuarick marauders, who never entered the town. The walls may be about thirteen or fourteen feet high, and have a dry ditch which runs quite round them. The town probably covers an extent equal to three square miles, and contains five or six thousand inhabitants. There is a covered way, from which the defenders lance their spears at the besiegers, and instantly conceal themselves. There are but two gates, which are nearly east and west; and these being the most vulnerable part for an enemy to attack, are defended by mounds of earth thrown up on each side, and carried out at least twenty yards in front of the gate, and have nearly perpendicular faces. These advanced posts are always thickly manned, and they conceive them to be a great defence to their walls; they cannot, however, calculate upon their being abandoned, as an enemy once in possession of them, would so completely command the town, that from thence every part of it may be seen. Nevertheless, Burwha is a strong place, considering the means of attack which the Arabs have.
Major Denham rode nearly the whole of this day with Min Ali Tahar, the Gundowy Tibbo sheik, who was accompanying them to Bornou; he had some little difference with the sheik, of whom he was perfectly independent, and Boo Khaloom, ever politic, undertook to make up the misunderstanding; thereby not only showing his influence, but securing in a manner the future friendship of Tahar, whose district was always considered the most dangerous part of the Tibboo country, on the road to Mourzouk. Tahar was a sharp, intelligent fellow, spoke a little Arabic, and had often asked Major Denham many questions about his country, and his sultan or king, but on this day he was more inquisitive than usual. "Rais Khaleel," said he, "what would your sultan do to Min Ali, if he was to go to England? Would he kill me, or would he keep me there a prisoner? I should like to be there for about a month."
"Certainly neither the one nor the other," replied Major Denham; "he would be much more inclined to make you a handsome present, and send you back again."
"Oh!" exclaimed Min Ali, "I should take him something; but what could I give him? nothing but the skins of a dozen ostriches, some elephants' teeth, and a lion's skin."
"The value of the present," said Major Denham, "could be of no importance to my sultan; he would look at the intention. Do you, however, befriend his people; remember the Inglezi that you have seen; and should any more ever find their way to your tents, give them milk and sheep, and put them in the road they are going. Promise me to do this, and I can almost promise you, that my sultan shall send you a sword, such a one as Hateeta had on my return, without your going to England, or giving him any thing."
"Is he such a man?" exclaimed Min Ali. "Barak Allah! what is his name?"
"George," replied Major Denham.
"George," repeated Min Ali. "Health to George; much of it! Salem Ali; George yassur. Tell him, Min Ali Tahar wishes him all health and happiness; that he is a Tibboo, who can command a thousand spears, and fears no man. Is he liberal? Is his heart large? Gulba kablr, does he give presents to his people?"
"Very much so indeed," replied Major Denham; "some of his people think him too generous."
"By the head of my father!" "Raas el Booe!" exclaimed Min Ali, they are wrong; the sultan of a great people should have a large heart, or he is unworthy of them. Who will succeed him when he dies?"
"His brother," answered Major Denham. "What is his name?" asked Min Ali. "Frederick," replied the major.
"Barak Allah!" cried Min Ali; "I hope he will be like George, matlook (liberal). Salem Ali Frederick! How many wives have they?"
"No Englishman," replied Major Denham, "has more than one."
"A gieb! a gieb! wonderful! wonderful!" exclaimed Min Ali; why, they should have a hundred."
"No, no," said Major Denham, "we think that a sin." "Wallah! really!" (literally, by God!) cried Min Ali; "why, I have four now, and I have had more than sixty. She, however, whom I like best, always says, one would be more lawful; she may be right; you say she is. You are a great people; I see you are a great people, and know every thing. I, a Tibboo, am little better than a gazelle."
The 17th of February was a momentous day to the Europeans, as well as to their conductors. Notwithstanding all the difficulties that had presented themselves at the various stages of their journey, they were at last within a few short miles of their destination; they were about to become acquainted with a people, who had never seen, or scarcely heard of a European, and to tread on ground, the knowledge and true situation of which had hitherto been wholly unknown. These ideas of course excited no common sensations, and could scarcely be unaccompanied by strong hopes of their labours being beneficial to the race amongst whom they were shortly to mix; of their laying the first stone of a work, which might lead to their civilization, if not their emancipation from all their prejudices and ignorance, at the same time open a field of commerce to their own country, which might increase its wealth and prosperity.
The accounts, which they had received of the state of this country, had been so contradictory, that no opinion could be formed as to the real condition, or the number of its inhabitants. They had been told that the sheik's soldiers were a few ragged negroes, armed with spears, who lived upon the plunder of the black kaffir countries, by which he was surrounded, and which he was enabled to subdue by the assistance of a few Arabs, who were in his service; and again they had been assured that his forces were not only numerous, but to a certain degree well trained. The degree of credit which might be attached to these reports, was nearly balanced in the scales of probability, and they advanced towards the town of Kouka, in a most interesting state of uncertainty, whether they should find its chief at the head of thousands, or be received by him under a tree, surrounded by a few naked slaves.
These doubts, however, were quickly removed; Major Denham had ridden on a short distance in front of Boo Khaloom, with his train of Arabs all mounted, and dressed out in their best apparel, and from the thickness of the leaves soon lost sight of them, fancying that the road could not be mistaken. He rode still onwards, and on approaching a spot less thickly planted, was not a little surprised to see in front of him a body of several thousand cavalry, drawn up in a line, and extending right and left as far as he could see; checking his horse, he awaited the arrival of his party, under the shade of a wide-spreading acacia. The Bornou troops remained quite steady without noise or confusion, and a few horsemen, who were moving about in front giving directions, were the only persons out of the ranks. On the Arabs appearing in sight, a shout or yell was given by the sheik's people, which rent the air; a blast was blown from their rude instruments of music equally loud, and they moved on to meet Boo Khaloom and his Arabs. There was an appearance of tact and management in their movements, which astonished every one; three separate small bodies from the centre and each flank, kept charging rapidly towards them, to within a few feet of their horses' heads, without checking the speed of their own, until the movement of their halt, while the whole body moved onwards. These parties, shaking their spears over their heads, exclaimed, Barca! barca! Alla hiakkum, cha, alla cheraga; Blessing! blessing! sons of your country! sons of your country. While all this was going on, they closed in their left and right flanks, and surrounded the little body of Arab warriors so completely, as to give the compliment of welcoming them, very much the appearance of a declaration of their contempt of their weakness. They were all now so closely pressed as to be nearly smothered, and in some danger from the crowding of the horses, and clashing of the spears; moving on was impossible, and they therefore came to a full stop. Boo Khaloom was much enraged, but it was all to no purpose; he was only answered by shrieks of welcome, and the spears most unpleasantly rattled over their heads, expressive of the same feeling. This annoyance, however, was not of long duration. Barca Gana, the sheik's first general, a negro of noble aspect, clothed in a figured silk tobe, and mounted on a beautiful Mandara horse, made his appearance, and after a little delay, the rear was cleared of those, who had pressed in upon the Europeans and Arabs, and they moved on, although very slowly, from the frequent impediments thrown in their way by these wild equestrians.
The sheik's negroes as they were called, meaning the black chiefs and favourites, all raised to that rank by some deed of bravery, were habited in coats of mail composed of iron chain, which covered them from the throat to the knees, dividing behind, and coming on each side of the horse. Their horses heads were also defended by plates of iron, brass, and silver, just leaving sufficient room for the eyes of the animal.
At length, on arriving at the gate of the town, the Europeans, Boo Khaloom, and about a dozen of his followers, were alone allowed to enter the gates, and they proceeded along a wide street, completely lined with spearmen on foot, with cavalry in front of them to the door of the sheik's residence. Here the horsemen were formed up three deep, and they came to a stand; some of the chief attendants came out, and after a great many Barcas! barcas! retired, when others performed the same ceremony. They were now again left sitting on their horses in the sun. Boo Khaloom began to lose all patience, and swore by the bashaw's head, that he would return to the tents, if he was not immediately admitted, he got, however, no satisfaction but a motion of the hand from one of the chiefs, meaning "wait patiently;" and Major Denham whispered to him the necessity of obeying, as they were hemmed in on all sides, and to retire without permission would have been as difficult as to advance. Barca Gana now appeared, and made a sign that Boo Khaloom should dismount; the Europeans were about to follow his example, when an intimation that Boo Khaloom was alone to be admitted, fixed them again to their saddles. Another half hour at least elapsed, without any news from the interior of the building, when the gates opened, and the four Englishmen only were called for, and they advanced to the skiffa (entrance). Here they were stopped most unceremoniously by the black guards in waiting, and were allowed one by one only to ascend a staircase; at the top of which they were again brought to a stand by crossed spears, and the open flat hand of a negro laid upon their breast. Boo Khaloom came from the inner chamber, and asked, "If we were prepared to salute the sheik, as we did the bashaw." They replied, "certainly;" which was merely an inclination of the head, and laying the right hand on the heart. He advised their laying their hands also on their heads—but they replied the thing was impossible. They had but one manner of salutation for any body, except their own sovereign.
Another parley now took place, but in a minute or two he returned, and they were ushered into the presence of the sheik of spears. They found him in a small dark room, sitting on a carpet, plainly dressed in a blue tobe of Soudan, and a shawl turban. Two negroes were on each side of him, armed with pistols, and on his carpet lay a brace of those instruments. Fire arms were hanging in different parts of the room, presents from the bashaw and Mustapha L'Achmar, the sultan of Fezzan, which are here considered as invaluable. His personal appearance was prepossessing, apparently not more than forty-five or forty-six, with an expressive countenance and benevolent smile. They delivered their letter from the bashaw, and after he had read it, he inquired, "What was our object in coming?" They answered, "to see the country merely, and to give an account of its inhabitants, produce, and appearance; as our sultan was desirous of knowing every part of the globe." His reply was, "that we were welcome, and whatever he could show us would give him pleasure; that he had ordered huts to be built for us in the town, and that we might then go, accompanied by one of his people, to see them, and that when we were recovered from the fatigue of our long journey, he would be happy to see us." With this, they took their leave. Their huts were little round mud buildings, placed within a wall, at no great distance from the residence of the sheik. The enclosure was quadrangular, and had several divisions, formed by partitions of straw mats, where nests of huts were built, and occupied by the stranger merchants, who accompanied the kafila. One of these divisions was assigned to the Europeans, and they crept into the shade of their earthly dwellings, not a little fatigued with their entree and presentation.
Their huts were immediately so crowded with visitors, that they had not a moment's peace, and the heat was insufferable. Boo Khaloom had delivered his presents from the bashaw, and brought the Europeans a message of compliment, together with an intimation, that their presents would be received on the following day. About noon, a summons was received for them to attend the sheik, and they proceeded to the palace, preceded by their negroes, bearing the articles destined for the sheik by their government, consisting of a double-barrelled gun, with a box, and all the apparatus complete, a pair of excellent pistols, in a case; two pieces of superfine broad-cloth, red and blue, to which were added a set of china and two bundles of spices.
The ceremony of getting into the presence was ridiculous enough, although nothing could be more plain and devoid of pretension than the appearance of the sheik himself. They entered through passages lined with attendants, the front men sitting on their hams; and when they advanced too quickly, they were suddenly arrested by these fellows, who caught forcibly hold of them by their legs, and had not the crowd prevented their falling, they would most infallibly have become prostrate before arriving in the presence. Previously to entering into the open court in which they were received; their papouches, or slippers, were whipped off by those active, though sedentary gentlemen of the chamber, and they were seated on some clean sand, on each side of a raised bench of earth, covered with a carpet, on which the sheik was reclining. They laid the gun and the pistols together before him, and explained to him the locks, turnscrews, and steel shot cases, holding two charges each, with all of which he seemed exceedingly well pleased; the powder-flask, and the manner in which the charge is divided from the body of the powder, did not escape his observation. The other articles were taken off by the slaves, as soon as they were laid before him. Again they were questioned as to the object of their visit. The sheik, however, showed evident satisfaction at their assurance that the king of England had heard of Bornou and himself, and immediately turning to his kaganawha (counsellors), said, "This is in consequence of our defeating the Begharmis." Upon which the chief who had most distinguished himself in these memorable battles, Ragah Turby, (the gatherer of horses,) seating himself in front of them, demanded, "Did he ever hear of me?" The immediate reply of "Certainly," did wonders for the European cause. Exclamations were general, and "Ah! then your king must be a great man," was re-echoed from every side. They had not any thing offered them by way of refreshment, and took their leave.
It may be here observed, that besides occasional presents of bullocks, camel loads of wheat and rice, leathern skins of butter, jars of honey, and honey in the comb, five or six wooden bowls were sent them morning and evening, containing rice with meat, paste made of barley flour, savoury but very greasy, and on their first arrival, as many had been sent of sweets, mostly composed of curd and honey.
In England a brace of trout might be considered as a handsome present to a traveller sojourning in the neighbourhood of a stream, but at Bornou things are managed differently. A camel load of bream and a sort of mullet were thrown before their huts on the second morning after their arrival, and for fear that should not be sufficient, in the evening another was sent.
The costume of the women, who attended the fsug, or market, was various; those of Kanem and Bornou were most numerous, and the former was as becoming as the latter had a contrary appearance. The variety in costume amongst the ladies consists entirely in the head ornaments; the only difference in the scanty covering which is bestowed on the other parts of the person, lies in the choice of the wearer, who either ties the piece of linen, blue or white, under the arms and across the breasts, or fastens it rather fantastically on one shoulder, leaving one breast naked. The Kanamboo women have small plaits of hair hanging down all round the head, quite to the poll of the neck, with a roll of leather, or string of little brass beads in front, hanging down from the centre on each side of the face, which has by no means an unbecoming appearance; they have sometimes strings of silver rings instead of the brass, and a large round silver ornament in front of their foreheads. The female slaves from Musgow, a large kingdom to the south-east of Mandara, are particularly disagreeable in their appearance, although considered as very trustworthy, and capable of great labour; their hair is rolled up in three large plaits, which extend from the forehead to the back of the neck, like the Bornowy; one larger in the centre, and two smaller on each side; they have silver studs in their nose, and one large one just under the lower lip, of the size of a shilling, which goes quite through into the mouth; to make room for this ornament, a tooth or two are sometimes displaced.
Amongst the articles offered to Major Denham in the market, was a young lion and a monkey; the latter appeared really the more dangerous of the two, and from being a degree or two lighter in complexion than his master, he seemed to have taken a decided aversion to the European.
The lion walked about with great unconcern, confined merely by a small rope round his neck, held by the negro who had caught him when he was not two months old, and having had him for a period of three months, now wished to part with him; he was about the size of a donkey colt, with very large limbs, and the people seemed to go very close to him without much alarm, notwithstanding he struck with his foot the leg of one man who stood in his way, and made the blood flow copiously. They opened the ring which was formed round the noble animal, as Major Denham approached, and coming within two or three yards of him, he fixed his eye upon him, in a way that excited sensations, which it was impossible to describe, and from which the major was awakened, by a fellow calling him to come nearer, at the same time laying his hand on the animal's back; a moment's recollection convinced him, that there could be no more danger nearer, than where he was, and he stepped boldly up beside the negro, and he believed he should have laid his hand on the lion the next moment, but the beast, after looking carelessly at him, brushed past his legs, broke the ring, overturning several who stood before him, and bounded off to another part, where there were fewer people.
It remained that Major Denham should be introduced to the sultan, in his royal residence at Birnie, where all the real state and pomp of the kingdom, with none of its real power were concentrated. On the 2nd March, the English accompanied Boo Khaloom to that city, and on their arrival, the following day was fixed for the interview. Fashion even in the most refined European courts, does not always follow the absolute guidance of taste or reason, and her magic power is often displayed in converting deformities into beauties, but there is certainly no court, of which the taste is so absurd, grotesque, and monstrous, as that to which Major Denham was now introduced. An enormous protruding belly, and a huge misshapen head, are the two features, without which it is vain to aspire to the rank of a courtier, or fine gentleman. The form, valued perhaps as the type of abundance and luxury, is esteemed so essential, that where nature has not bestowed, and the most excessive feeding and cramming cannot supply it, wadding is employed, and a false belly produced, which in riding appears to hang over the saddle. Turbans are also wrapped round the head, in fold after fold, till it appears swelled on one side to the most unnatural dimensions, and only one half of the face remains visible. The fictitious bulk of the lords of Bornou is still further augmented by drawing round them, even in this burning climate, ten or twelve successive robes of cotton or silk, while the whole is covered with numberless charms enclosed in green leathern cases. Yet under all these incumbrances, they do sometimes mount and take the field, but the idea of such unwieldy hogsheads being of any avail in the day of battle, appeared altogether ridiculous, and it proved accordingly, that on such high occasions, they merely exhibited themselves as ornaments, without making even a show of encountering the enemy.
With about three hundred of this puissant chivalry before and around him, the sultan was himself seated in a sort of cage of cane or wood near the door of his garden, on a seat, which at the distance appeared to be covered with silk or satin, and through the railing looked upon the assembly before him, who formed a kind of semicircle, extending from his seat to nearly where the English were waiting. The courtiers having taken their seats in due form, the embassy was allowed to approach within about pistol shot of the spot where the sultan was sitting, and desired to sit down, when the ugliest black that can be imagined, his chief eunuch, the only person who approached the sultan's seat, asked for the presents. Boo Khaloom's were produced in a large shawl, and were carried unopened to the presence. The glimpse which the English obtained of the sultan, was but a faint one, through the lattice work of his pavilion, sufficient, however, to show that his turban was larger than any of his subjects, and that his face from the nose downwards was completely covered. A little to the left, and nearly in front of the sultan, was an extempore declaimer, shouting forth praises of his master, with his pedigree; near him was one who bore the long wooden frumfrum, on which ever and anon he blew a blast loud and unmusical. Nothing could be more ridiculous than the appearance of these people, squatting under the weight and magnitude of their bellies, while the thin legs that appeared underneath, but ill accorded with the bulk of the other parts.
This was all that was ever seen of the sultan of Bornou. The party then set out for Kouka, passing on their way through Angornou, the largest city in the kingdom, containing at least thirty thousand inhabitants.
During his residence at Kouka and Angornou, Major Denham frequently attended the markets, where besides the proper Bornouese, he saw the Shouass, an Arab tribe, who are the chief breeders of cattle; the Kanemboos from the north, with their hair neatly and tastefully plaited, and the Musgow, a southern clan of the most savage aspect. A loose robe or shirt of the cotton cloth of the country, often finely and beautifully dyed, was the universal dress, and high rank was indicated by six or seven of these, worn one above another. Ornament was studied chiefly in plaiting the hair, in attaching to it strings of brass or silver beads, in inserting large pieces of amber or coral into the nose, the ear, and the lip, and when to these was added a face, streaming with oil, the Bornouese belle was fully equipped for conquest. Thus adorned, the wife or daughter of a rich Shouaa might be seen entering the market in full style, bestriding an ox, which she managed dexterously, by a leathern thong passed through the nose, and whose unwieldy bulk she even contrived to torture into something like capering and curvetting. Angornou is the chief market, and the crowd there is sometimes immense, amounting to eighty or one hundred thousand individuals. All the produce of the country is bought and sold in open market, for shops and warehouses do not enter into the system of African traffic.
Bornou taken altogether forms an extensive plain, stretching two hundred miles along the western shore of Lake Tchad, and nearly the same distance inland. This sea periodically changes its bed in a singular manner. During the rains, when its tributary rivers pour in thrice the usual quantity of water, it inundates an extensive tract, from which it retires in the dry season. This space, then overgrown with dense underwood, and with grass double the height of a man, contains a motley assemblage of wild beasts—lions, panthers, hyenas, elephants, and serpents of extraordinary form and bulk. These monsters, while undisturbed in this mighty den, remain tranquil, or war only with each other, but when the lake swells, and its waters rush in, they of necessity seek refuge among the abodes of men, to whom they prove the most dreadful scourge. Not only the cattle but the slaves attending the grain, often fall victims; they even rush in large bodies into the towns. The fields beyond the reach of this annual inundation are very fertile, and land may be had in any quantity, by him who has slaves to cultivate it. This service is performed by females from Musgow, who, aiding their native ugliness, by the insertion of a large piece of silver into the upper lip, which throws it entirely out of shape, are estimated according to the quantity of hard work which they can execute. The processes of agriculture are extremely simple. Their only fine manufacture is that of tobes, or vestments of cotton skilfully woven and beautifully dyed, but still not equal to those of Soudan.
The Bornouese are complete negroes both in form and feature; they are ugly, simple, and good natured, but destitute of all intellectual culture. Only a few of the great fighis or doctors, of whom the sheik was one, can read the Koran. "A great writer" is held in still higher estimation than with us, but his compositions consist only of words written on scraps of paper, to be enclosed in cases, and worn as amulets. They are then supposed to defend their possessor against every danger, to act as charms to destroy his enemies, and to be the main instrument in the cure of all diseases. For this last purpose they are assisted only by a few simple applications, yet the Bornou practice is said to be very successful, either through the power of imagination, or owing to the excellence of their constitutions. In the absence of all refined pleasure, various rude sports are pursued with eagerness, and almost with fury. The most favourite is wrestling, which the chiefs do not practise in person, but train their slaves to it as our jockeys do game cocks, taking the same pride in their prowess and victory. Nations are often pitched against each other; the Musgowy and the Bughami being the most powerful. Many of them are extremely handsome, and of gigantic size, and hence their contests are truly terrific. Their masters loudly cheer them on, offering high premiums for victory, and sometimes threatening instant death in case of defeat. They place their trust not in science, but in main strength and rapid movements. Occasionally, the wrestler, eluding his adversary's vigilance, seizes him by the thigh, lifts him into the air, and dashes him against the ground. When the match is decided, the victor is greeted with loud plaudits by the spectators, some of whom even testify their admiration by throwing to him presents of fine cloth. He then kneels before his master, who not unfrequently bestows upon him a robe worth thirty or forty dollars, taken perhaps from his own person. Death or maiming is no unfrequent result of these encounters. The ladies even of rank engage in another very odd species of contest. Placing themselves back to back, they cause certain parts to strike together with the most violent collision, when she who maintains her equilibrium, while the other lies stretched upon the ground, is proclaimed victor with loud cheers. In this conflict the girdle of beads worn by the more opulent females, very frequently bursts, when these ornaments are seen flying about in every direction. To these recreations is added gaming, always the rage of uncultivated minds. Their favourite game is one rudely played with beans, by means of holes made in the sand.
Boo Khaloom having despatched his affairs in Bornou, wished to turn his journey to some farther account, and proposed an expedition into the more wealthy and commercial region of Houssa or Soudan, but the eager wishes of his follower pointed to a different object. They called upon him to lead them into the mountains of Mandara, in the south, to attack a village of the Kerdies or unbelievers, and carry off the people as slaves to Fezzan. He long stood out against this nefarious proposal, but the sheik who also had his own views, took part against him; even his own brother joined the malcontents, and at length there appeared no other mode in which he could return with equal credit and profit. Influenced by these inducements, he suffered his better judgement to be overpowered, and determined to conduct his troops upon this perilous and guilty excursion. Major Denham allowed his zeal for discovery to overcome other considerations, and contrived, notwithstanding the prohibition of the sheik, to be one of the party. They were accompanied by Barca Gana, the principal general, a negro of huge strength and great courage, along with other warriors, and a large troop of Bournouse cavalry. These last are a fine military body in point of external appearance. Their persons are covered with iron plate and mail, and they manage with surprising dexterity their little active steeds, which are also supplied with defensive armour. They have one fault only, but it is a serious one, they cannot stand the shock of an enemy. While the contest continues doubtful, they hover round as spectators, ready, should the tide turn against them, to spur on their coursers to a rapid flight; but if they see their friends victorious, and the enemy turning their backs, they come forward and display no small vigour in pursuit and plunder.
The road to Mandara formed a continual ascent through a fertile country, which contained some populous towns. The path being quite overgrown with thick and prickly underwood, twelve pioneers went forward with long poles, opening a track, pushing back the branches, and giving warning to beware of holes. These operations they accompanied with loud praises of Barca Gana, calling out, "Who is in battle like the rolling of thunder? Barca Gana. In battle, who spreads terror around him like the buffalo in his rage? Barca Gana." Even the chiefs on this expedition carried no provisions, except a paste of rice, flour, and honey, with which they contented themselves, unless when sheep could be procured; in which case, half the animal, roasted over a frame-work of wood, was placed on the table, and the sharpest dagger present was employed in cutting it into large pieces, to be eaten without bread or salt. At length they approached Mora, the capital of Mandara. This was another kingdom, which the energy of its present sultan had rescued from the yoke of the Fellata empire; and the strong position of its capital, enclosed by lofty ridges of hills, had enabled it to defy repeated attacks. It consists of a fine plain, bordered on the south by an immense and almost interminable range of mountains. The eminences directly in front were not quite so lofty as the hills of Cumberland, but bold, rocky, and precipitous, and distant summits appeared towering much higher, and shooting up a line of sharp pinnacles, resembling the Needles of Mont Blanc. It was reported that two months were required to cross their greatest breadth, and reach the other side, where they rose ten times higher, and were called large moon mountains. They there overlooked the plain of Adamowa, through which a great river, that has erroneously been supposed to be the Quorra or Niger, was said to flow from the westward. The hills immediately in view were thickly clustered with villages perched on their sides, and even on their tops, and were distinctly seen from the plain of Mandara. They were occupied by half-savage tribes, whom the ferocious bigotry of the nations in the low country branded as pagans, and whom they claimed a right to plunder, seize, and drive in crowds for sale to the markets of Fezzan and Bornou. The fires, which were visible, in the different nests of these unfortunate beings, threw a glare upon the bold rocks and blunt promontories of granite by which they were surrounded, and produced a picturesque and somewhat awful appearance. A baleful joy beamed on the visage of the Arabs, as they eyed these abodes of their future victims, whom they already fancied themselves driving in bands across the desert. "A Kerdy village to plunder!" was all their cry, and Boo Khaloom doubted not that he would be able to gratify their wishes. Their common fear of the Fellatas had united the sultan of Mandara in close alliance with the sheik, to whom he had lately married his daughter; and the nuptials had been celebrated by a great slave-hunt amongst the mountains, when, after a dreadful struggle, three thousand captives, by their tears and bondage, furnished out the materials of a magnificent marriage festival.
The expedition obtained a reception quite as favourable as had been expected. In approaching the capital, they were met by the sultan, with five hundred Mandara horse, who, charging full speed, wheeled round them with the same threatening movements which had been exhibited at Bornou. The horses were of a superior breed, most skilfully managed, and covered with cloths of various colours, as well as with skins of the leopard and tiger-cat. This cavalry, of course, made a most brilliant appearance; but Major Denham did not yet know that their valour was exactly on a level with that of their Bornou allies. The party were then escorted to the capital, amid the music of long pipes, like clarionets, and of two immense trumpets. They were introduced next day. The mode of approaching the royal residence is to gallop up to the gate with a furious speed, which often causes fatal accidents, and on this occasion a man was ridden down and killed on the spot. The sultan was found in a dark-blue tent, sitting on a mud bench, surrounded by about two hundred attendants, handsomely arrayed in silk and cotton robes. He was an intelligent little man, about fifty years old, with a beard dyed sky-blue. Courteous salutations were exchanged, during which he steadily eyed Major Denham, concerning whom he at last inquired, and the traveller was advantageously introduced, as belonging to a powerful distant nation, allies of the bashaw of Tripoli. At last, however, came the fatal question,—"Is he moslem?" "La! la!" (No, no.) "What: has the great bashaw caffre friends?" Every eye was instantly averted; the sun of Major Denham's favour was set, and he was never again allowed to enter the palace.
The bigotry of this court seems to have surpassed even the usual bitterness of the African tribes, and our traveller had to undergo a regular persecution, carried on especially by Malem Chadily, the leading fighi of the court. As Major Denham was showing to the admiring chiefs, the mode of writing with a pencil, and effacing it with Indian rubber; Malem wrote some words of the Koran with such force, that their traces could not be wholly removed. He then exclaimed with triumph, "They are the words of God delivered to his prophet. I defy you to erase them." The major was then called upon to acknowledge this great miracle, and as his countenance still expressed incredulity, he was viewed with looks of such mingled contempt and indignation, as induced him to retire. Malem, however, again assailed him with the assurance that this was only one of the many miracles which he could show, as wrought by the Koran, imploring him to turn, and paradise would be his, otherwise nothing could save him from eternal fire. "Oh!" said he, "while sitting in the third heaven, I shall see you in the midst of the flames, crying out to your friend Barca Gana and myself for a drop of water, but the gulf will be between us." His tears then flowed profusely. Major Denham, taking the general aside, entreated to be relieved from this incessant persecution, but Gana assured him that the fighi was a great and holy man, to whom he ought to listen. He then held out not only paradise, but honours, slaves, and wives of the first families, as gifts to be lavished on him by the sheik, if he would renounce his unbelief. Major Denham asked the commander what would be thought of himself, if he should go to England and turn Christian. "God forbid," exclaimed he, "but how can you compare our faiths? mine would lead you to paradise, while yours would bring me to hell. Not a word more." Nothing appears to have annoyed the stranger more than to be told, that he was of the same faith with the Kerdies or savages, little distinction being made between any who denied the Koran. After a long discussion of this question, he thought the validity of his reasoning would be admitted, when he could point to a party of those wretches devouring a dead horse, and appealed to Boo Khaloom if he had ever seen the English do the same; but to this, which after all was not a very deep theological argument, the Arab replied, "I know they eat the flesh of swine, and God knows, that is worse." "Grant me patience," exclaimed the major to himself, "this is almost too much to bear and to remain silent."
The unfortunate Kerdies, from the moment they saw Arab tents in the valley of Mandara, knew the dreadful calamity which awaited them. To avert it and to propitiate the sultan, numerous parlies came down with presents of honey, asses, and slaves. Finally appeared the Musgow, a more distant and savage race, mounted on small fiery steeds, covered only with the skin of a goat or leopard, and with necklaces made of the teeth of their enemies. They threw themselves at the feet of the sultan, casting sand on their heads, and uttering the most piteous cries. The monarch apparently moved by these gifts and entreaties, began to intimate to Boo Khaloom his hopes, that these savages might by gentle means be reclaimed, and led to the true faith. These hopes were held by the latter in the utmost derision, and he privately assured Major Denham, that nothing would more annoy the devout Mussulmans, than to see them fulfilled, whereby he must have forfeited all right to drive these unhappy creatures in crowds, to the markets of Soudan and Bornou. In fact, both the sultan and the sheik had a much deeper aim. Every effort was used to induce Boo Khaloom to engage in the attack of some strong Fellata posts, by which the country was hemmed in, and as the two monarchs viewed the Arabs with extreme jealousy, it was strongly suspected that their defeat would not have been regarded as a public calamity. The royal councils were secret and profound, and it was not known what influences worked upon Boo Khaloom. On this occasion, however, he was mastered by his evil genius, and consented to the proposed attack, but as he came out and ordered his troops to prepare for marching, his countenance bore such marks of trouble, that Major Denham asked, if all went well, to which he Hurriedly answered, "Please God." The Arabs, however, who at all events expected plunder, proceeded with alacrity.
The expedition set out on the following morning, and after passing through a beautiful plain, began to penetrate the mighty chain of mountains, which form the southern border of the kingdom. Alpine heights rising around them in rugged magnificence, and gigantic grandeur, presented scenery which our traveller had never seen surpassed. The passes of Hairey and of Horza, amid a superb amphitheatre of hills, closely shut in by overhanging cliffs, more than two thousand feet high, were truly striking. Here for the first time in Africa, did nature appear to the English to rival in the production of vegetable life. The trees were covered with luxuriant and bright green foliage, and their trunks were hidden by a crowd of parasitical plants, whose aromatic blossoms perfumed the air. There was also an abundance of animal life of a less agreeable description. Three scorpions were killed in the tent, and a fierce but beautiful panther, more than eight feet long, just as he had gorged himself by sucking the blood of a newly-killed negro, was attacked and speared. The sultan and Barca Gana were attended by a considerable body of Bornou and Mandara cavalry, whose brilliant armour, martial aspect, and skilful horsemanship, gave confidence to the European officer, who had not seen them put to the proof.
It was the third day, when the expedition came in view of the Fellata town of Dirkulla. The Arabs, supported by Barca Gana, and about one hundred spearmen marched instantly to the attack, and carried first that place, and then a smaller town beyond it, killing all who had not time to escape. The enemy, however, then entrenched themselves in a third and stronger position, called Musfeia, enclosed by high hills, and fortified in front by numerous swamps and palisades. This was likewise attacked and all its defences forced. The guns of the Arabs spread terror, while Barca Gana threw eight spears with his own hand, every one of which took effect. It was thought, that had the two bodies of cavalry, made even a show of advancing, the victory would have been at once decided, but Major Denham was much surprised to see those puissant warriors, keeping carefully under cover, behind a hill, on the opposite side of the stream, where not an arrow could reach them. The Fellatas seeing that their antagonists were only a handful, rallied on the top of the hills, were joined by new troops, and turned round. Their women behind cheered them on, continually supplied fresh arrows, and rolled down fragments of rock on the assailants. These arrows were tipped with poison, and wherever they pierced the body, in a few hours became black, blood gushed from every orifice, and the victim expired in agony. The condition of the Arabs soon became alarming, scarcely a man was left unhurt, and their horses were dying under them. Boo Khaloom and his charger were both wounded with poisoned arrows. As soon as the Fellatas saw the Arabs waver, they dashed in with their horse, at the sight of which all the heroic squadrons of Bornou and Mandara put spurs to their steeds, the sultan at their head, and the whole became one mass of confused and tumultuous flight. Major Denham saw too late the peril into which he had inconsiderately plunged. His horse, wounded in to the shoulder, could scarcely support his weight, but the cries of the pursuing Fellatas urged him forward. At last the animal fell twice, and the second time threw him against a tree, then, frightened by the noise behind, started up and ran off. The Fellatas were instantly up, when four of his companions were stabbed beside him, uttering the most frightful cries. He himself fully expected the same fate, but happily his clothes formed a valuable booty, through which the savages were loath to run their spears. After inflicting some slight wounds, therefore, they stripped him to the skin, and forthwith began to quarrel about the plunder. While they were thus busied, he contrived to slip away, and though hotly pursued, and nearly overtaken, succeeded in reaching a mountain stream, gliding at the bottom of a deep and precipitous ravine. Here he had snatched the young branches issuing from the stump of a large over-hanging tree, in order to let himself down into the water, when beneath his hand, a large siffa, the most dangerous serpent in this country, rose from its coil, as in the very act of darting upon him. Struck with horror, Major Denham lost all recollection, and fell headlong into the water, but the shock revived him, and with three strokes of his arm, he reached the opposite bank, and felt himself for the moment in safety. Running forward, he was delighted to see his friends Barca Gana and Boo Khaloom, but amidst the cheers with which they were endeavouring to rally their troops, and the cries of those who were falling under the Fellata spears, he could not for some time make himself heard. Then Maramy, a negro appointed by the sheik to attend upon him, rode up and took him on his own horse. Boo Khaloom ordered a bornouse to be thrown over the major—very seasonably, for the burning sun had began to blister his naked body. Suddenly, however, Maramy called out, "See! see! Boo Khaloom is dead," and that spirited chief, overpowered by the wound of a poisoned arrow, dropped from his horse and spoke no more. The others now only thought of pressing their flight, and soon reached a stream, where they refreshed themselves by copious draughts, and a halt was made to collect the stragglers. Major Denham here fell into a swoon, during which, as he afterwards learned, Maramy complained that the jaded horse could scarcely carry the stranger forward, when Barca Gana said, "By the head of the prophet! believers enough have breathed their last to-day, why should we concern ourselves about a Christian's death." Malem Chadily, however, so bitter as a theological opponent, showed now the influence of a milder spirit, and said, "No, God has preserved him; let us not abandon him;" and Maramy declared, his heart told him what to do. They therefore moved on slowly till about midnight, when they passed the Mandara frontier, in a state of severe suffering, but the major met with much kindness from a dethroned prince, Mai Meagamy, who seeing his wounds festering under the rough woollen cloak, which formed his only covering, took off his own trousers and gave them to him.
The Arabs lost forty-five of their number, besides their chief; the survivors were in a miserable plight, most of them wounded, some mortally, and all deprived of their camels, and the rest of their property. Renouncing their pride, they were obliged to supplicate from Barca Gana a handful of corn to keep them from starving. The sultan of Mandara, in whose cause they had suffered, treated them with the utmost contumely, which, perhaps, they might deserve, but certainly not from him. Deep sorrow was afterwards felt in Fezzan, when they arrived in this deplorable condition, and reported the fall of their chief, who was there almost idolized. A national song was composed on the occasion, which the following extract will show to be marked by great depth of feeling, and not devoid of poetical beauty:—
"Oh trust not to the gun and the sword: the spear of the unbeliever prevails!
"Boo Khaloom, the good and the brave, has fallen! Fallen has he in his might! Who shall now be safe? Even as the moon amongst the little stars, so was Boo Khaloom amongst men! Where shall Fezzan now look for her protector? Men hang their heads in sorrow, while women wring their hands, rending the air with their cries! As a shepherd is to his flock, so was Boo Khaloom to Fezzan.
"Give him songs! Give him music! What words can equal his praise! His heart was as large as the desert! His coffers were like the rich overflowings from the udder of the she camel, comforting and nourishing those around him.
"Even as the flowers without rain perish in the field, so will the Fezzaners droop; for Boo Khaloom returns no more.
"His body lies in the land of the heathen! the poisoned arrow of the unbeliever prevails!
"Oh trust not to the gun and the sword! The spear of the heathen conquers! Boo Khaloom, the good and the brave, has fallen! Who shall now be safe?"
The sheik of Bornou was considerably mortified by the result of this expedition, and the miserable figure made by his troops, though he sought to throw the chief blame on the Mandara part of the armament. He now invited the major to accompany an expedition against the Mungas, a rebel tribe on his outer border, on which occasion he was to employ his native band of Kanemboo spearmen, who, he trusted, would redeem the military reputation of the monarchy. Major Denham was always ready to go wherever he had a chance of seeing the manners and scenery of Africa. The sheik took the field, attended by his armour-bearer, his drummer, fantastically dressed in a straw hat with ostrich feathers, and followed by-three wives, whose heads and persons were wrapped up in brown silk robes, and each led by a eunuch. He was preceded by five green and red flags, on each of which were extracts from the Koran, written in letters of gold. Etiquette even required that the sultan should follow with his unwieldy pomp, having a harem, and attendance much more numerous; while frumfrums, or wooden trumpets, were continually sounding before him. This monarch is too distinguished to fight in person; but his guards, the swollen and overloaded figures formerly described, enveloped in multiplied folds, and groaning beneath the weight of ponderous amulets, produced themselves as warriors, though manifestly unfit to face any real danger.
The route lay along the banks of the river Yeou, called also Gambarou, through a country naturally fertile and delightful, but presenting a dismal picture of the desolation occasioned by African warfare. The expedition passed through upwards of thirty towns, completely destroyed by the Fellatas in their last inroad, and of which all the inhabitants had been either killed or carried into slavery. These fine plains were now overgrown with forests and thickets, in which grew tamarind and other trees, producing delicate fruits, while large bands of monkeys, called by the Arabs "enchanted men," filled the woods with their cries. Here, too, was found old Birnie, the ancient but now desolate capital, evidently much larger than any of the present cities, covering five or six miles with its ruins. They passed also Gambarou, formerly the favourite residence of the sultans, where the remains of a palace and two mosques gave an idea of civilization superior to any thing that had yet been seen in interior Africa. There were left in this country only small detached villages, the inhabitants of which remained fixed to them by local attachment, in spite of constant predatory inroads of the Tuaricks, who carried off their friends, their children, and cattle. They have recourse to one mode of defence, which consists in digging a number of blaquas, or large pits; these they cover with a false surface of sods and grass, into which the Tuarick with his horse plunges before he is aware, and is received at the bottom upon sharp-pointed stakes, which often kill both on the spot. Unluckily, harmless travellers are equally liable to fall into these living graves. Major Denham was petrified with horror, to find how near he had approached to several of them; indeed one of his servants stepped upon the deceitful covering, and was saved only by an almost miraculous spring. It seems wonderful that the sheik should not have endeavoured to restore some kind of security to this portion of his subjects, and to re-people those fine but deserted regions.
The troops that had been seen hastening in parties to the scene of action were mustered at Kobshary, a town which the Mungas had nearly destroyed. The sheik made a review of his favourite forces, the Kanemboo spearmen, nine thousand strong. They were really a very savage and military-looking host, entirely naked, except a girdle of goat-skin, with the hair hanging down, and a piece of cloth wrapped round the head. They carried large wooden shields, shaped like a gothic window, with which they warded off the arrows of the enemy, while they pressed forward to attack with their own spears. Unlike almost all other barbarous armies, they kept a regular night-watch, passing the cry every half-hour along the line, and, at any alarm, raising a united yell, which was truly frightful. At the review they passed in tribes before the sheik, to whom they showed the most enthusiastic attachment, kneeling on the ground, and kissing his feet. The Mungas again were described as terrible antagonists, hardened by conflicts with the Tuaricks, fighting on foot with poisoned arrows, longer and more deadly than those of the Fellatas.
The sultan, however, contemplated other means of securing success, placing his main reliance on his powers as a mohammedan doctor and writer. Three successive nights were spent in inscribing upon little scraps of paper figures or words, destined to exercise a magical influence upon the rebel host, and their effect was heightened by the display of sky-rockets, supplied by Major Denham. Tidings of his being thus employed were conveyed to the camp, when the Mungas, stout and fierce warriors, who never shrunk from an enemy, yielded to the power of superstition, and felt all their strength withered. It seemed to them that their arrows were blunted, their quivers broken, their hearts struck with sickness and fear, in short, that to oppose a sheik of the Koran, who could accomplish such wonders, was alike vain and impious. They came in by hundreds, bowing themselves to the ground, and casting sand on their heads, in token of the most abject submission. At length, Malem Fanamy, the leader of the rebellion, saw that resistance was hopeless. After vain overtures of conditional submission, he appeared in person, mounted on a white horse, with one thousand followers. He was clothed in rags, and having fallen prostrate, was about to pour sand on his head, when the sultan, instead of permitting this humiliation, caused eight robes of fine cotton cloth, one after another, to be thrown over him, and his head to be wrapped in Egyptian turbans till it was swelled to six times its natural size, and no longer resembled any thing human. By such signal honours the sheik gained the hearts of those whom his pen had subdued, and this wise policy enabled him not only to overcome the resistance of this formidable tribe, but to convert them into supporters and bulwarks of his power.
Major Denham, who always sought, with laudable zeal, to penetrate into every corner of Africa, now found his way in another direction. He had heard much of the Shary, a great river flowing into lake Tchad, on whose banks the kingdom of Loggun was situated. After several delays, he set out on the 23d January 1824, in company with Mr. Toole, a spirited young volunteer, who, journeying by way of Tripoli and Mourzouk, had thence crossed the desert to join him. The travellers passed Angornou and Angola, and arrived at Showy, where they saw the river, which really proved to be a magnificent stream, fully half a mile broad, and flowing at the rate of two or three miles an hour. They descended it through a succession of noble reaches, bordered with fine woods and a profusion of variously tinted and aromatic plants. At length, it opened into the wide expanse of the Tchad, after viewing which, they again ascended, and reached the capital of Loggun, beneath whose high walls the river was seen flowing in majestic beauty. Major Denham entered, and found a handsome city, with a street as wide as Pall-Mall, and bordered by large dwellings, having spacious areas in front. Having proceeded to the palace, for the purpose of visiting the sovereign, he was led through several dark rooms into a wide and crowded court, at one end of which a lattice opened, and showed a pile of silk robes, stretched on a carpet, amid which two eyes became gradually visible; this was the sultan. On his appearance, there arose a tumult of horns and frumfrums, while all the attendants threw themselves prostrate, casting sand on their heads. In a voice, which the court fashion of Loggun required to be scarcely audible, the monarch inquired Major Denham's object in coming to this country, observing that, if it was to purchase handsome female slaves, he need go no further, since he himself had hundreds, who could be afforded at a very easy rate. This overture was rejected on other grounds than the price; yet, notwithstanding so decided a proof of barbarism, the Loggunese were found to be a people more advanced in the arts of peace than any hitherto seen in Africa. By a studied neutrality they avoided involving themselves in the dreadful wars, which had desolated the neighbouring countries; manufacturing industry was honoured, and the cloths woven here were superior to those of Bornou, being finely dyed with indigo, and beautifully glazed. There was even a current coin, made of iron, somewhat in the form of a horse-shoe, and rude as this was, none of their neighbours possessed any thing similar. The ladies were handsome, intelligent, and of a lively air and carriage; but, besides pushing their frankness to excess, their general demeanour was by no means scrupulous. They used, in particular, the utmost diligence in stealing from Major Denham's person every thing that could be reached, even searching the pockets of his trousers, and when detected, only laughed, and called to each other, how sharp he was. But the darkest feature of savage life was disclosed, when the sultan and his son each sent to solicit poison "that would not lie," to be used against each other. The latter even accompanied the request with a bribe of three lovely black damsels, and ridiculed the horror which was expressed at the proposal.
The Loggunese live in a country abounding in grain and cattle, and diversified with forests of lofty acacias, and many beautiful shrubs. Its chief scourge consists in the millions of tormenting insects, which fill the atmosphere, making it scarcely possible to go into the open air at mid-day, without being thrown into a fever, indeed, children have been killed by their stings. The natives build one house within another to protect themselves against this scourge, while some kindle a large fire of wet straw, and sit in the smoke; but this remedy seems worse than the evil it is meant to obviate.
Major Denham was much distressed on this journey by the death of his companion, Mr. Toole; and he could no longer delay his return, when he learnt that the Begharmis, with a large army, were crossing the Shary to attack Bornou. Soon after his arrival at Kouka, the sheik led out his troops, which he mustered on the plain of Angola, and was there furiously attacked by five thousand Begharmis, led by two hundred chiefs. The Begharmi cavalry are stout, fierce-looking men, and both riders and horses still more thoroughly cased in mail than those of Bornou; but their courage, when brought to the proof, is nearly on a level. The sheik encountered them with his Kanemboo spearmen and a small band of musketeers, when, after a short conflict, the whole of this mighty host was thrown into the most disorderly flight; even the Bornou cavalry joined in the pursuit. Seven sons of the sultan, and almost all the chiefs fell; two hundred of their favourite wives were taken, many of whom were of exquisite beauty.
Mr. Tyrwhit, a gentleman sent out by government to strengthen the party, arrived on the 20th May, and on the 22nd delivered to the sheik a number of presents, which were received with the highest satisfaction. In company with this gentleman, Major Denham, eager to explore Africa, still further took advantage of another expedition, undertaken against a tribe of Shouaa Arabs, distinguished by the name of La Sala, a race of amphibious shepherds, who inhabit certain islands along the south-eastern shores of the Tchad. These spots afford rich pasture; while the water is so shallow, that, by knowing the channels, the natives can ride without difficulty from one island to the other. Barca Gana led one thousand men on this expedition, and was joined by four hundred of a Shouaa tribe, called Dugganahs, enemies to the La Salas. These allies presented human nature under a more pleasing aspect than it had yet been seen in any part of central Africa. They despise the negro nations, and all who live in houses, and still more in cities, while they themselves reside in tents of skin, in circular camps, which they move periodically from place to place. They live in simple plenty on the produce of their flocks and herds, celebrate their joys and sorrows in extemporary poetry, and seem to be united by the strongest ties of domestic affection. Tahr, their chief, having closely examined our traveller, as to the motives of his journey, said, "And have you been three years from your home? Are not your eyes dimmed with straining to the north, where all your thoughts must ever be? If my eyes do not see the wife and children of my heart for ten days, they are flowing with tears, when they should be closed in sleep." On taking leave, Tahr's parting wish was, "May you die at your own tents, and in the arms of your wife and family." This chief might have sitten for the picture of a patriarch; his fine, serious, expressive countenance, large features, and long bushy beard, afforded a favourable specimen of his tribe.
The united forces now marched to the shores of the lake, and began to reconnoitre the islands on which the Shouaas, with their cattle and cavalry, were stationed; but the experienced eye of Barca Gana soon discerned, that the channel, though shallow, was full of holes, and had a muddy deceitful appearance. He proposed therefore to delay the attack, till a resolute band of Kanemboo spearmen should arrive and lead the way. The lowing, however, of the numerous herds, and the bleating of the flocks on the green islands, which lay before them, excited in the troops a degree of hunger, as well as of military ardour, that was quite irrepressible. They called out, "What! be so near them, and not eat them?—No, no, let us on; this night, these flocks and women shall be ours." Barca Gana suffered himself to be hurried away, and plunged in amongst the foremost. Soon, however, the troops began to sink into the holes, or stick in the mud; their guns and powder were wetted, and became useless; while the enemy, who knew every step, and could ride through the water as quickly as on land, at once charged the invaders in front, and sent round a detachment to take them in the rear. The assault was accordingly soon changed into a disgraceful flight, in which those who had been the loudest in urging to this rash onset set the example. Barca Gana, who had boasted himself invulnerable, was deeply wounded through his coat of mail and four cotton tobes, and with difficulty rescued by his chiefs from five La Sala horsemen, who had vowed his death. The army returned to their quarters in disappointment and dismay, and with a severe loss. During the whole night, the Dugganah women were heard bewailing their husbands, who had fallen, in dirges composed for the occasion, and with plaintive notes, which could not be listened to without the deepest sympathy. Major Denham was deterred by this disaster from making any further attempt to penetrate to the eastern shores of the Tchad.
The Beddoomahs are another tribe who inhabit extensive and rugged islands, in the interior of the lake, amid its deep waters, which they navigate with nearly a thousand large boats. They neither cultivate the ground, nor rear flocks and herds, while their manners appeared to Major Denham, the rudest and most savage observed even among Africans—the Musgows always excepted. They have adopted as a religious creed, that God having withheld from them corn and cattle, which the nations around enjoy, has given in their stead strength and courage, to be employed in taking these good things from all in whose possession they may be found. To this belief they act up in the most devout manner, spreading terror and desolation over all the shores of this inland sea, no part of which, even in the immediate vicinity of the great capitals, is for a moment secure from their ravages. The most powerful and warlike of the Bornou sovereigns, finding among their subjects neither the requisite skill nor experience in navigation, make no attempt to cope with the Biddoomahs on these watery domains, and thus give up the lake to their undisputed sway.
While Major Denham was thus traversing in every direction Bornou, and the surrounding countries, Lieutenant Clapperton and Dr. Oudney were proceeding through Houssa, by a route less varied and hazardous indeed, but disclosing forms both of nature and society fully as interesting. They departed from Kouka on the 14th December 1823, and passing the site of old Birnie, found the banks of the Yeou fertile, and diversified with towns and villages.
On entering Katagum, the most easterly Fellata province, they observed a superior style of culture; two crops of wheat being raised in one season by irrigation, and the grain stored in covered sheds, elevated from the ground on posts. The country to the south was covered with extensive swamps and mountains, tenanted by rude and pagan tribes, who furnish to the faithful an inexhaustible supply of slaves. The practice of travelling with a caravan was found very advantageous, from the help it afforded, as well as from the good reports spread by the merchants, respecting their European companions. In Bornou, these last had been viewed with almost unmingled horror, and for having eaten their bread under the extremest necessity, a man had his testimony rejected in a court of justice. Some young Bornouese ladies, who accosted Major Denham, having ventured to say a word in his favour, an attendant matron exclaimed, "Be silent, he is an uncircumcised kafir—neither washes nor prays, eats pork, and will go to hell." Upon which the others screamed, and ran off. But in Houssa, this horror was not so great, and was mingled with the belief, that they possessed supernatural powers. Not only did the sick come in crowds expecting to be cured, but the ladies solicited amulets to restore their beauty, to preserve the affections of their lovers, and even to destroy a hated rival. The son of the governor of Kano, having called upon Clapperton, stated it was the conviction of the whole city and his own, that the English had the power of converting men into asses, goats, and monkeys, and likewise that by reading in his book, he could at any time commute a handful of earth into gold. The traveller having declared to him the difficulty he often found in procuring both asses and gold, induced him with trembling hands to taste a cup of tea, when he became more composed, and made a sort of recantation of his errors.
As the caravan proceeded they met many other travellers, and found sitting along the road, numerous females selling potatoes, beans, bits of roasted meat, and water with an infusion of gussub-grains; and when they stopped at any place for the night, the people crowded in such numbers as to form a little fair. Clapperton attracted the notice of many of the Fellata ladies, who, after examining him closely, declared, that had he only been less white, his external appearance might have merited approbation.