In all probability, this was the lion that was in the habit of visiting our camp, as from that date, although the roars of such animals were our nightly music, we were never afterwards visited so closely.
As game was plentiful, the lions were exceedingly fat, and we preserved a large quantity of this for our lamps. When it was boiled down it was well adapted for burning, as it remained nearly liquid.
We had a large supply of various kinds of fat, including that of elephants, hippopotami, lions, and rhinoceros; but our stock of soap was exhausted, therefore I determined to convert a quantity of our grease into that very necessary article.
Soap-boiling is not so easy as may be imagined; it requires not only much attention, but the quality is dependent upon the proper mixture of the alkalis. Sixty parts of potash and forty of lime are, I believe, the proportions for common soap. I had neither lime nor potash, but I shortly procured both. The hegleek tree (Balanites Egyptiaca) was extremely rich in potash; therefore I burned a large quantity, and made a strong ley with the ashes; this I concentrated by boiling. There was no limestone; but the river produced a plentiful supply of large oyster-shells, that, if burned, would yield excellent lime. Accordingly I constructed a kiln, with the assistance of the white ants. The country was infested with these creatures, which had erected their dwellings in all directions; these were cones from six to ten feet high, formed of clay so thoroughly cemented by a glutinous preparation of the insects, that it was harder than sun-baked brick. I selected an egg-shaped hill, and cut off the top, exactly as we take off the slice from an egg. My Tokrooris then worked hard, and with a hoe and their lances, they hollowed it out to the base, in spite of the attacks of the ants, which punished the legs of the intruders considerably. I now made a draught-hole from the outside base, at right angles with the bottom of the hollow cone. My kiln was perfect. I loaded it with wood, upon which I piled about six bushels of oyster-shells, which I then covered with fuel, and kept it burning for twenty-four hours. This produced excellent lime, and I commenced my soap-boiling. We possessed an immense copper pot of Egyptian manufacture, in addition to a large and deep copper basin called a "teshti." These would contain about ten gallons. The ley having been boiled down to great strength, I added a quantity of lime, and the necessary fat. It required ten hours' boiling, combined with careful management of the fire, as it would frequently ascend like foam, and overflow the edge of the utensils. However, at length, having been constantly stirred, it turned to soap. Before it became cold, I formed it into cakes and balls with my hands, and the result of the manufacture was a weight of about forty pounds of most excellent soap, of a very sporting description, "Savon a la bete feroce." We thus washed with rhinoceros soap; our lamp was trimmed with oil of lions; our butter for cooking purposes was the fat of hippopotami, while our pomade was made from the marrow of buffaloes and antelopes, scented with the blossoms of mimosas. We were entirely independent, as our whole party had subsisted upon the produce of the rod and the rifle.
We were now destined to be deprived of two members of the party. Mahomet had become simply unbearable, and he was so impertinent that I was obliged to take a thin cane from one of the Arabs and administer a little physical advice. An evil spirit possessed the man, and he bolted off with some of the camel men who were returning to Geera with dried meat.*
* Some months afterwards he found his way to Khartoum, where he was imprisoned by the Governor for having deserted. He subsequently engaged himself as a soldier in a slave-hunting expedition on the White Nile; and some years later, on our return from the Albert N'yanza, we met him in Shooa, on 3 degrees north latitude. He had repented—hardships and discipline had effected a change—and, like the prodigal son, he returned. I forgave him, and took him with us to Khartoum, where we left him a sadder but a wiser man. He had many near relations during his long journey, all of whom had stolen some souvenir of their cousin, and left him almost naked. He also met Achmet, his "mothers brother's cousin's sister's mother's son," who turned up after some years at Gondokoro as a slave-hunter; he had joined an expedition, and, like all other blackguards, he had chosen the White Nile regions for his career. He was the proprietor of twenty slaves, he had assisted in the murder of a number of unfortunate negroes, and he was a prosperous and respectable individual.
Our great loss was Barrake. She had persisted in eating the fruit of the hegleek, although she had suffered from dysentery upon several occasions. She was at length attacked with congestion of the liver. My wife took the greatest care of her, and for weeks she had given her the entire produce of the goats, hoping that milk would keep up her strength; but she died after great suffering, and we buried the poor creature, and moved our camp.
WE REACH THE ROYAN.
HAVING explored the Settite into the gorge of the mountain chain of Abyssinia, we now turned due south from our camp of Delladilla, and at a distance of twelve miles we reached the river Royan. The intervening country was the high and flat table-land of rich soil, that characterises the course of the Settite and Atbara rivers; this land was covered with hegleek trees of considerable size, and the descent to the Royan was through a valley, torn and washed by the rains, similar in appearance to that of the Settite, but upon a small scale, as the entire width did not exceed a mile.
Descending the rugged ground, we arrived at the margin of the river. At this season (February) the bed was perfectly dry sand, about ninety yards from bank to bank, and the high-water mark upon the perpendicular sides was a little above nine feet deep. The inclination was extremely rapid: thus the Royan during the rainy season must be a most frightful torrent, that supplies a large body of water to the Settite, but which runs dry almost immediately upon the cessation of the rains.
We descended the bank in a spot that had been broken down by elephants, and continued our course up stream along the sandy bed, which formed an excellent road. The surface was imprinted with the footsteps of every variety of game, and numerous holes about two feet deep had been dug in the sand by the antelopes and baboons to procure water. Great numbers of the oterop, a small reddish-brown antelope without horns (Calotragus Montanus) were drinking at these little watering-places, and did not appear to heed us. We disturbed many nellut and tetel upon the banks, and after having marched about four miles along the river's bed, we halted at a beautiful open forest of large trees at the junction of Hor Mai Gubba. This was a considerable torrent, which is tributary to the Royan; at this spot it had cut through a white sandstone cliff, about eighty feet perpendicular: thus upon either side it was walled in. The word Gubba is Abyssinian for the nabbuk, therefore the torrent was the Nabbuk River: this flowed past the village of Mai Gubba, which is the head-quarters of Mek Nimmur, from which we were not twenty-five miles distant. We camped in a forest of the largest trees that we had as yet seen in Africa, and as we had observed the fresh tracks of horses, on the sand, some of my Arabs went in search of the aggageers of Taher Sheriff's party, whom they had expected to meet at this point. While they were gone, I took a few men to beat the low jungle within the forest for francolin partridge, numbers of which I had seen running through the covert. I went up the dry bed of the river at the junction of the Hor Gubba, while they drove towards me, and I was compelled to fire as fast as I could load, as these beautiful birds flew across the ravine. I shot five brace almost immediately. There is no better game bird than the francolin: the flesh is white, and of a most delicate and rich flavour. My shots had attracted the aggageers, and shortly after my return to camp they arrived with my Arabs, as they had been stationed on the opposite side of the Royan in a forest within a quarter of a mile of us. Taher Sheriff was delighted to see us free from the company of Abou Do. His party had killed several elephants, and had captured two young ones; also, two young rhinoceroses, three giraffes, and several young antelopes; these were to be sold to Johann Schmidt, who contracted to supply the Italian agent at Cassala. I agreed to have a long day's hunt with Taher Sheriff; we were to start before sunrise, as he wished to ride to a spot about twenty-five miles distant, up the course of the Royan, that was a favourite resort for elephants.
That evening we had a delicious dinner of francolin partridges. This species is rather larger than the French partridge: it is dark brown, mottled with black feathers, with a red mark around the eye, and double spurs.
There was a small but deep pool of water in the bed of the river, beneath the high bank about two hundred paces from our camp; this was a mere hole of about twenty feet square, and I expected that large game might come to drink during the night. Accordingly, I determined to watch for elephants, as their tracks were numerous throughout the bed of the river. My wife and two gun-bearers accompanied me, and we sat behind an immense tree that grew on the bank, exactly about the drinking place. I watched for hours, until I fell asleep, as did my men likewise: my wife alone was awake, and a sudden tug at my sleeve attracted my attention. The moon was bright, and she had heard a noise upon the branches of the tree above us: there were no leaves, therefore I quickly observed some large animal upon a thick bough. My Tokrooris had awoke, and they declared it to be a baboon. I knew this to be impossible, as the baboon is never solitary, and I was just preparing to fire, when down jumped a large leopard within a few feet of us, and vanished before I had time to shoot. It must have winded our party, and quietly ascended the tree to reconnoitre. Nothing but hyaenas came to the pool, therefore we returned to camp.
According to my agreement, I went to the aggageers' camp at 5 A.M. with Hadji Ali and Hassan, both mounted on my two horses, Aggahr and Gazelle, while I rode Tetel. Taher Sheriff requested me not to shoot at anything, as the shots might alarm and scare away elephants; therefore I merely carried my little Fletcher, in case of meeting the Base, who hunted in this country. The aggageers mounted their horses; each man carried an empty water-skin slung to his saddle, to be filled at the river should it be necessary to quit its banks. We started along the upward course of the Royan.
For seven hours we rode, sometimes along the bed of the river between lofty overhanging rocks, or through borders of fine forest-trees; at other times we cut off a bend of the stream, and rode for some miles through beautiful country diversified with hills, and abounding in enormous baobab-trees (Adansonia digitata). At length we entered the mountains at the foot of the great chain. Here the views were superb. The Royan was no longer a stream of ninety or a hundred yards in width, but it was reduced to a simple mountain torrent about forty yards across, blocked in many places by masses of rock, while at others it had formed broad pools, all of which were now perfectly dry, and exhibited a bed of glaring sand. Numerous mountain ravines joined the main channel, and as the inclination was extremely rapid, there could be little doubt that the violent storms of the rainy season, descending from the great chain of mountains, would, by concentrating in the Royan, suddenly give birth to an impetuous torrent, that would materially affect the volume of the Settite. The entire country bore witness to the effect of violent rains, as the surface was torn and water-worn.
We had ridden nearly thirty miles, having seen large quantities of game, including antelopes, buffaloes, giraffes, and rhinoceroses, none of which we had hunted, as we were in search of elephants. This was the country where the aggageers had expected, without fail, to find their game.
They now turned away from the Royan, and descended a sandy valley at the foot of the mountains, the bottom of which appeared to have been overflowed during the wet season. Here were large strips of forest, and numerous sandy watercourses, along the dry bed of which we quickly discovered the deep tracks of elephants. They had been digging fresh holes in the sand in search of water, in which welcome basins we found a good supply; we dismounted, and rested the horses for half an hour, while the hunters followed up the tracks on the bed of the stream. Upon their return, they reported the elephants as having wandered off upon the rocky ground, that rendered further tracking impossible. We accordingly remounted, and, upon arrival at the spot where they had lost the tracks, we continued along the bed of the stream. We had ridden about a mile, and were beginning to despair, when suddenly we turned a sharp angle in the watercourse, and Taher Sheriff, who was leading, immediately reined in his horse, and backed him towards the party. I followed his example, and we were at once concealed by the sharp bend of the river. He now whispered, that a bull elephant was drinking from a hole it had scooped in the sand, not far round the corner. Without the slightest confusion, the hunters at once fell quietly into their respective places, Taher Sheriff leading, while I followed closely in the line, with my Tokrooris bringing up the rear; we were a party of seven horses.
Upon turning the corner, we at once perceived the elephant, that was still drinking. It was a fine bull; the enormous ears were thrown forward, as the head was lowered in the act of drawing up the water through the trunk; these shaded the eyes, and, with the wind favourable, we advanced noiselessly upon the sand to within twenty yards before we were perceived. The elephant then threw up its head, and, with the ears flapping forward, it raised its trunk for an instant, and then slowly, but easily, ascended the steep bank, and retreated. The aggageers now halted for about a minute to confer together, and then followed in their original order up the crumbled bank. We were now on most unfavourable ground; the fire that had cleared the country we had hitherto traversed had been stopped by the bed of the torrent. We were thus plunged at once into withered grass above our heads, unless we stood in the stirrups; the ground was strewed with fragments of rock, and altogether it was ill-adapted for riding. However, Taher Sheriff broke into a trot, followed by the entire party, as the elephant was not in sight. We ascended a hill, and when near the summit, we perceived the elephant about eighty yards ahead. It was looking behind during its retreat, by swinging its huge head from side to side, and upon seeing us approach, it turned suddenly round and halted. "Be ready, and take care of the rocks!" said Taher Sheriff, as I rode forward by his side. Hardly had he uttered these words of caution, when the bull gave a vicious jerk with its head, and with a shrill scream it charged down upon us with the greatest fury. Away we all went, helter skelter, through the dry grass, which whistled in my ears, over the hidden rocks, at full gallop, with the elephant tearing after us for about a hundred and eighty yards at a tremendous pace. Tetel was a sure-footed horse, and, being unshod, he never slipped upon the stones. Thus, as we all scattered in different directions, the elephant became confused, and relinquished the chase; it had been very near me at one time, and in such ground I was not sorry when it gave up the hunt. We now quickly united, and again followed the elephant, that had once more retreated. Advancing at a canter, we shortly came in view. Upon seeing the horses, the bull deliberately entered a stronghold composed of rocky and uneven ground, in the clefts of which grew thinly a few leafless trees, the thickness of a man's leg. It then turned boldly towards us, and stood determinedly at bay.
Now came the tug of war! Taher Sheriff came close to me and said, "You had better shoot the elephant, as we shall have great difficulty in this rocky ground:" this I declined, as I wished to end the fight as it had been commenced, with the sword; and I proposed that he should endeavour to drive the animal to more favourable ground. "Never mind," replied Taher, "Inshallah (please God) he shall not beat us." He now advised me to keep as close to him as possible, and to look sharp for a charge.
The elephant stood facing us like a statue; it did not move a muscle beyond a quick and restless action of the eyes, that were watching all sides. Taher Sheriff and his youngest brother Ibrahim now separated, and each took opposite sides of the elephant, and then joined each other about twenty yards behind it; I accompanied them, until Taher advised me to keep about the same distance upon the left flank. My Tokrooris kept apart from the scene, as they were not required. In front of the elephant were two aggageers, one of whom was the renowned Roder Sheriff, with the withered arm. All being ready for action, Roder now rode slowly towards the head of the cunning old bull, who was quietly awaiting an opportunity to make certain of some one who might give him a good chance.
Roder Sheriff rode a bay mare, that, having been thoroughly trained to these encounters, was perfect at her work. Slowly and coolly she advanced towards her wary antagonist, until within about eight or nine yards of the elephant's head; the creature never moved, and the mise en scene was beautiful; not a word was spoken, and we kept our places amidst utter stillness, which was at length broken by a snort from the mare, who gazed intently at the elephant, as though watching for the moment of attack.
One more pace forward, and Roder sat coolly upon his mare, with his eyes fixed upon those of the elephant. For an instant I saw the white of the eye nearest to me "Look out, Roder! he's coming!" I exclaimed. With a shrill scream, the elephant dashed upon him like an avalanche!
Round went the mare as though upon a pivot, and away, over rocks and stones, flying like a gazelle, with the monkey-like form of little Roder Sheriff leaning forward, and looking over his left shoulder as the elephant rushed after him.
For a moment I thought he must be caught. Had the mare stumbled, all were lost; but she gained in the race after a few quick bounding strides, and Roder, still looking behind him, kept his distance so close to the elephant, that its outstretched trunk was within a few feet of the mare's tail.
Taher Sheriff and his brother Ibrahim swept down like falcons in the rear. In full speed they dexterously avoided the trees, until they arrived upon open ground, when they dashed up close to the hind-quarters of the furious elephant, who, maddened with the excitement, heeded nothing but Roder and his mare, that were almost within its grasp. When close to the tail of the elephant, Taher Sheriff's sword flashed from its sheath, as grasping his trusty blade he leapt nimbly to the ground, while Ibrahim caught the reins of his horse; two or three bounds on foot, with the sword clutched in both hands, and he was close behind the elephant; a bright glance shone like lightning, as the sun struck upon the descending steel; this was followed by a dull crack, as the sword cut through skin and sinews, and settled deep in the bone, about twelve inches above the foot. At the next stride, the elephant halted dead short in the midst of its tremendous charge. Taher had jumped quickly on one side, and had vaulted into the saddle with his naked sword in hand. At the same moment, Roder, who had led the chase, turned sharp round, and again faced the elephant as before; stooping quickly from the saddle, he picked up from the ground a handful of dirt, which he threw into the face of the vicious-looking animal, that once more attempted to rush upon him. It was impossible! the foot was dislocated, and turned up in front like an old shoe. In an instant Taher was once more on foot, and again the sharp sword slashed the remaining leg. The great bull elephant could not move! the first cut with the sword had utterly disabled it; the second was its death blow; the arteries of the leg were divided, and the blood spouted in jets from the wounds. I wished to terminate its misery by a bullet behind the ear, but Taher Sheriff begged me not to fire, as the elephant would quickly bleed to death without pain, and an unnecessary shot might attract the Base, who would steal the flesh and ivory during our absence. We were obliged to return immediately to our far distant camp, and the hunters resolved to accompany their camels to the spot upon the following day. We turned our horses' heads, and rode direct towards home, which we did not reach until nearly midnight, having ridden upwards of sixty miles during the day.
The hunting of Taher Sheriff and his brothers was superlatively beautiful; with an immense amount of dash, there was a cool, sportsman-like manner in their mode of attack, that far excelled the impetuous and reckless onset of Abou Do; it was difficult to decide which to admire the most, whether the coolness and courage of him who led the elephant, or the extraordinary skill and activity of the aggahr who dealt the fatal blow.
On the following day, the hunters started to the dead elephant with camels and sacks, but they returned at night thoroughly disgusted; the nimble Base had been before them, most probably attracted to the carcase by the cloud of vultures that had gathered in the air. Nothing remained but the bones and skull of the elephant, the flesh and the ivory had been stolen. The tracks of a great number of men were left upon the ground, and the aggageers were fortunate to return without an attack from overwhelming numbers.
After hunting and exploring for some days in this neighbourhood, I determined to follow the bed of the Royan to its junction with the Settite. We started at daybreak, and after a long march along the sandy bed, hemmed in by high banks, or by precipitous cliffs of sandstone, we arrived at the junction; this was a curious and frightful spot during the rainy season. The entire course of the Royan was extremely rapid, but at this extremity it entered a rocky pass between two hills, and leapt in a succession of grand falls into a circular basin of about four hundred yards diameter. This peculiar basin was surrounded by high cliffs, covered with trees; to the left was an island formed by a rock about sixty feet high; at the foot was a deep and narrow gorge through which the Settite river made its exit from the circle. This large river entered the basin through a rocky gap, at right angles with the rush of water from the great falls of the Royan, and as both streams issued from gorges which accelerated their velocity to the highest degree, their junction formed a tremendous whirlpool: thus, the basin which was now dry, with the exception of the single contracted stream of the Settite, was in the rainy season a most frightful scene of giddy waters. The sides of this basin were, for about fifty feet from the bottom, sheeted with white sand that had been left there by the centrifugal force of the revolving waters; the funnel-shaped reservoir had its greatest depth beneath the mass of rock that formed a barrier before the mouth of the exit. From the appearance of the high-water mark upon the rock, it was easy to ascertain the approximate depth when the flood was at its maximum. We pitched our camp on the slope above the basin, and for several days I explored the bed of the river, which was exceedingly interesting at this dry season, when all the secrets of its depths were exposed. In many places, the rocks that choked its bed for a depth of thirty and forty feet in the narrow passes, had been worked into caverns by the constant attrition of the rolling pebbles. In one portion of the river, the bottom was almost smooth, as though it had been paved with flagstones; this was formed by a calcareous sediment from the water, which had hardened into stone; in some places this natural pavement had been broken up into large slabs by the force of the current, where it had been undermined. This cement appeared to be the same that had formed the banks of conglomerate, which in some places walled in the river for a depth of ten or fifteen feet, with a concrete of rounded pebbles of all sizes from a nutmeg to a thirty-two pound shot.
I fired the grass on the west bank of the Royan, and the blaze extended with such rapidity, that in a few hours many miles of country were entirely cleared. On the following morning, the country looked as though covered with a pall of black velvet.
To my astonishment there were the fresh tracks of a rhinoceros within a quarter of a mile of the camp: this animal must have concealed itself in the bed of the Royan during the fire, and had wandered forth when it had passed. I followed up the tracks with Bacheet and two of my Tookrooris. In less than half a mile from the spot, I found it lying down behind a bush, and creeping under cover of an ant-hill, I shot it through the shoulder with a Reilly No. 10; it immediately galloped off, but after a run of a couple of hundred yards it lay down on the edge of thick thorny jungle that bordered the margin of the Royan. I waited, in the expectation that it would shortly die, but it suddenly rose, and walked slowly into the thorns. Determined to cut off its retreat, I pushed through the bushes, intending to reach the dry bed of the Royan and shoot the rhinoceros as it crossed from the narrow belt of the jungle, into which it had retreated; but I had hardly reached half way, when I heard a sound in the bush upon my right, and I saw the wounded beast coming straight for our position, but evidently unconscious of our presence, as we were to leeward. I immediately crouched down, as did my men likewise, lest the animal should observe us. Slowly, but surely, it came on exactly towards us, until it was at last so near as to be unpleasant: I looked behind me, and I saw by the expression of my men that they were thinking of retreat. I merely shook my fist, and frowned at them to give them confidence, and I waited patiently for my opportunity. It was becoming too ridiculous; the rhinoceros was within five or six yards, and was slowly but steadily advancing direct upon us. At the next step that he made, I raised my rifle gently to my shoulder, and whistled sharply: in an instant it tossed its head up, and seeing nothing in front, as my clothes matched with the leafless bushes, it turned its head to the left, and I immediately pulled the trigger. It fell as though smitten by a sledge hammer, and it lay struggling on the ground. Bacheet sprang forward, and with an Arab sword he cut the hamstring of one leg. To the astonishment of us all, the rhinoceros jumped up, and on three legs it sprang quickly round and charged Bacheet, who skipped into the bushes, while I ran alongside the rhinoceros as it attempted to follow him, and, with Fletcher No. 24, I fired through the shoulder, by placing the muzzle within a yard of the animal. It fell dead to this shot, which was another feather in the cap of the good little rifle. The skull of the rhinoceros is very curiously shaped; I had fired for the temple, and had struck the exact point at which I had aimed, but, instead of hitting the brain, the bullet had smashed the joint of the jaw, in which it stuck fast. I never have been able to understand why that powerful rifle was thus baffled, unless there had been some error in the charge of powder. This rhinoceros had no ears, they had been bitten off close to the head by another of the same species, while fighting; this mutilation is by no means uncommon.
From this point I traversed the country in all directions; upon one occasion I took a large supply of water, and penetrated into the very heart of the Base, half way between the Settite and the river Gash or Mareb, near the base of the mountain chain; but, although the redoubtable natives were occasionally seen, they were as shy as wild animals, and we could not approach them.
Having explored the entire country, and enjoyed myself thoroughly, I was now determined to pay our promised visit to Mek Nimmur. Since our departure from the Egyptian territory, his country had been invaded by a large force, according to orders sent from the Governor-General of the Soudan. Mek Nimmur as usual retreated to the mountains, but Mai Gubba and a number of his villages were utterly destroyed by the Egyptians. He would, under these circumstances, be doubly suspicious of strangers.
My camel-men had constantly brought me the news on their return from Geera with corn,* and they considered that it was unsafe to visit Mek Nimmur after his defeat, as he might believe me to be a spy from the Egyptians; he was a great friend of Theodorus, king of Abyssinia, and as at that time he was on good terms with the English, I saw no reason to avoid his country.
* Among other news I was glad to hear that my patient Jali could walk without difficulty.
We arrived at Ombrega, but, instead of camping among the thick jungle as formerly, we bivouacked under four splendid tamarind trees that formed a clump among the rocks on the left bank of the river, and which shaded a portion of its sandy bed; this was a delightful resting-place. We were now only one day from Geera, and we sent a messenger to the sheik of the Hamrans, who shortly returned with a young girl of about seventeen as a corn-grinder in the place of Barrake; she was hired from her owner at a dollar per month.
My camel-men had determined not to proceed to Mek Nimmur's country, as they were afraid that their camels might be stolen by his people; they therefore came to me one evening, and coolly declared that they should return to Geera, as it would be folly to tempt Mek Nimmur. It was in vain that I protested, and reminded them that I had engaged them to accompany me throughout the exploration. They were afraid of losing their camels, and nothing would satisfy them; they declared that they required no wages, as the meat and hide, &c. they had received were sufficient for their services, but through Mek Nimmur's country they were determined not to go. Taher Noor was the only man who was willing, but he had no camel. We had constructed a fence of thorns around our camp, in which the camels were now reposing, and, as the argument had become hot, the Arabs expressed their determination of starting homewards that very instant, and we were to be left alone, unless they could persuade other men of their tribe to join us with their animals. Accordingly, they at once proceeded to saddle their camels for an immediate start. Without saying another word, I quietly took my little Fletcher rifle, and cocked both barrels as I sat within ten yards of the exit from the camp. The men were just ready to depart, and several had mounted their camels. "Good bye," I said; "give my salaams to the sheik when you arrive at Geera; but the first camel that passes the zareeba (camp) I shall shoot through the head." They had heard the sharp click of the locks, and they remembered the firing of the grass on a former occasion when I had nearly burnt the camp;—not a camel moved. My Tokrooris and Taher Noor now came forward as mediators, and begged me not to shoot the camels. As I had the rifle pointed, I replied to this demand conditionally, that the Arabs should dismount and unsaddle immediately: this led to a parley, and I agreed to become responsible for the value of the camels should they be stolen in Mek Nimmur's country. The affair was settled.
On March 16th, the day following this argument, as we were sitting in the evening beneath our trees in the river's bed, I suddenly heard the rattle of loose stones, and immediately after, a man on a white hygeen appeared from the jungle on our side of the river, followed quickly by a string of Arabs, all well mounted, who silently followed in single file towards the ford. They had not noticed us, as we were close to the high rocky bank upon their left, in the deep shade of the tamarind trees. I counted twenty-three; their shields and swords were slung upon their hygeens, and, as their clothes were beautifully clean, they had evidently started that morning from their homes.
The leader had reached the ford without observing us, as in this wild spot he had expected no one, and the whole party were astonished and startled when I suddenly addressed them with a loud "Salaam aleikum" (peace be with you). At first they did not reply, but as I advanced alone, their leader also advanced from his party, and we met half way. These were a troop of Mek Nimmur's people on a foray. I quickly explained who I was, and I invited him to come and drink coffee beneath the shade in our camp. Taher Noor now joined us, and confidence having been established, the leader ordered his party to cross the ford and to unsaddle on the opposite side of the river, while he accompanied me to our camp. At first he was rather suspicious, but a present of a new tarboosh (cap), and a few articles of trifling value, quickly reassured him, and he promised to be our guide to Mek Nimmur in about a couple of days, upon his return from a marauding expedition on the frontier; his party had appointed to unite with a stronger force, and to make a razzia upon the cattle of the Dabaina Arabs.
During the night, the marauding party and their leader departed.
There was no game at Ombrega, therefore I employed the interval of two days in cleaning all the rifles, and in preparing for a fresh expedition, as that of the Settite and Royan had been completed. The short Tatham No.10 rifle carried a heavy cylinder, instead of the original spherical ball. I had only fired two shots with this rifle, and the recoil had been so tremendous, owing to the heavy weight of the projectile, that I had mistrusted the weapon; therefore, when the moment arrived to fire off all the guns preparatory to cleaning, my good angel whispered a providential warning, and I agreed to fire this particular rifle by a long fishing-line attached to the trigger, while the gun should be fastened to a tree. It blew all to pieces! The locks were blown entirely away, and the stock was shattered into fragments: nothing remained but the thick end near the shoulder-plate. I had received a mysterious presentiment of this; had I fired that rifle in the usual manner, I must have been killed on the spot. The charge was five drachms, which was small in proportion to the weight of the cylindrical projectile. This may be a warning to such sportsmen who adopt new-fashioned projectiles to old-fashioned rifles, that were proved with the spherical bullet, which in weight and friction bears no proportion to the heavy cylinder; nevertheless, this rifle should not have burst, and the metal showed great inferiority, by blowing into fragments instead of splitting.
The leader of Mek Nimmur's party returned, as he had promised, to be our guide. I extract from my journal, verbatim, my notes upon that date.
"March 19, 1862.—Started at 1.30 P.M., and halted at 5 P.M. There is no water for about thirty miles; thus we had watered all the animals at the usual hour (noon), and they will accordingly endure until to-morrow evening. Upon ascending the slope of the Settite valley, the country is an immense plain of fertile soil, about two hundred feet above the river. While on the march, I espied a camel wandering without an owner; this was inmmediately secured as a lawful prize by our guide. This fellow's name is Mahomet; he is, doubtlessly, an out-and-out scoundrel; he is about five feet ten inches in height, and as thin as a live man can be; he is so crafty-looking, and so wiry and eel-like, that if I were to lock him up I should secure the key-hole, as he looks capable of squeezing through anything. We slept on the plain.
"March 20.—Started at 5 A.M., and in three hours we reached the chain of lofty wooded hills that bound the plain. In a march of four hours from this point, we arrived at a hor, or ravine, when we halted beneath a large tamarind tree, and pitched the tent according to the instructions of our guide. The plain from the Settite to the base of the hilly range that we had crossed, is about twenty-two miles wide by forty in length, and, like all the table-land in this country, it is well adapted for cotton cultivation. Were the route secure through the Base country, loaded camels might reach Cassala in six days and from thence to Souakim. All this country is uninhabited. On arrival at the base of the first bill, a grove of tamarinds shades a spring, at which we watered our horses, but the water is impregnated with natron, which is common throughout this country, and appears in many places as an efflorescence on the surface of the ground. From the spring at the eastern base of the hills, we ascended a rugged pass, winding for some miles among ravines, and crossing elevated shoulders of the range. Upon the summit we passed a rich mass of both rose-coloured and white limestone, similar to that we had seen at Geera; this was surrounded by basalt, and the presence of limestone entirely mystifles my ideas of geology. Immense quantities of very beautiful spar lay upon the surface in all directions; some of this was perfectly white, and veined like an agate—I believe it was white cornelian; other fragments, of sizes equalling sixty or seventy pounds weight, were beautifully green, suggesting the presence of copper. Large masses of exquisite bloodstone, the size of a man's head, were exceedingly numerous. Having crossed the hills, we descended to a rich and park-like valley, covered with grass, and ornamented with fine timber. Much dhurra was cultivated, and several villages were passed, that had been plundered by the Egyptians during the recent attack. This country must be exceedingly unhealthy during the rainy season, as the soil is extremely rich, and the valleys, surrounded by hills, would become swamps. From the Settite river, at Ombrega, to our halting-place beneath the tamarind-tree, at this spot, is about thirty-five miles south, 10 degrees east."
Our camp was in a favourable locality, well shaded by large trees, on the margin of a small stream; this was nearly dry at this season, and the water was extremely bad, having a strong taste of copper. I had remarked throughout the neighbourhood unmistakeable evidences of the presence of this metal—the surface of the rocks was in many places bright green, like malachite, and, upon an exploration of the bed of the stream, I found veins of a green substance in the perpendicular cliffs that had been cut through by the torrent. These green veins passed through a bed of reddish, hard rock, glistening with minute crystals, which I believe to have been copper. There is no doubt that much might be done were the mineral wealth of this country thoroughly investigated.
The day following our arrival was passed in receiving visits from a number of Abyssinians, and the head men of Mek Nimmur. There was a mixture of people, as many of the Jaleen Arabs who had committed some crime in the Egyptian territory, had fled across the country and joined the exiled chief of their tribe. Altogether, the society in this district was not creme de la creme, as Mek Nimmur's territory was an asylum for all the blackguards of the adjoining countries, who were attracted by the excitement and lawlessness of continual border warfare. The troop that we had seen at Ombrega returned with a hundred and two head of camels, that they had stolen from the west bank of the Atbara. Mounted upon hygeens, Mek Nimmur's irregulars thought nothing of marching sixty miles in one day; thus their attack and retreat were equally sudden and unexpected.
I had a quantity of rhinoceros hide in pieces of the size required for shields; these were much prized in this fighting country, and I presented them to a number of head men who had honoured us with a visit. I begged them to guide two of my people to the presence of Mek Nimmur, with a preliminary message. This they promised to perform. Accordingly, I sent Taher Noor and Bacheet on horseback, with a most polite message, accompanied with my card in an envelope, and a small parcel, carefully wrapped in four or five different papers; this contained a very beautiful Persian lance-head, of polished steel inlaid with gold, that I had formerly purchased at Constantinople.
During their absence, we were inundated with visitors, the Abyssinians, in their tight pantaloons, contrasting strongly with the loosely-clad Arabs. In about an hour, my messengers returned, accompanied by two men on horseback, with a hospitable message fronm Mek Nimmur, and an invitation to pay him a visit at his own residence. I had some trifling present ready for everybody of note, and, as Taher Noor and my people had already explained all they knew concerning us, Mek Nimmur's suspicions had entirely vanished.
As we were conversing with Mek Nimmur's messengers through the medium of Taher Noor, who knew their language, our attention was attracted by the arrival of a tremendous swell who at a distance I thought must be Mek Nimmur himself. A snow-white mule carried an equally snow-white person, whose tight white pantaloons looked as though he had forgotten his trousers, and had mounted in his drawers. He carried a large umbrella to shade his complexion; a pair of handsome silver-mounted pistols were arranged upon his saddle, and a silver-hilted curved sword, of the peculiar Abyssinian form, hung by his side. This grand personage was followed by an attendant, also mounted upon a mule, while several men on foot accompanied them, one of whom carried his lance and shield. Upon a near approach, he immediately dismounted, and advanced towards us, bowing in a most foppish manner, while his attendant followed him on foot with an enormous violin, which he immediately handed to him. This fiddle was very peculiar in shape, being a square, with an exceedingly long neck extending from one corner; upon this was stretched a solitary string, and the bow was very short and much bent. This was an Abyssinian Paganini. He was a professional minstrel of the highest grade, who had been sent by Mek Nimmur to welcome us on our arrival.
These musicians are very similar to the minstrels of ancient times; they attend at public rejoicings, and at births, deaths, and marriages of great personages, upon which occasions they extemporize their songs according to circumstances. My hunting in the Base country formed his theme, and for at least an hour he sang of my deeds, in an extremely loud and disagreeable voice, while he accompanied himself upon his fiddle, which he held downwards like a violoncello: during the whole of his song he continued in movement, marching with a sliding step to the front, and gliding to the right and left in a manner that, if intended to be graceful, was extremely comic. The substance of this minstrelsy was explained to me by Taher Noor, who listened eagerly to the words, which he translated with evident satisfaction. Of course, like all minstrels, he was an absurd flatterer, and, having gathered a few facts for his theme, he wandered slightly from the truth in his poetical description of my deeds.
He sang of me as though I had been Richard Coeur de Lion, and recounted, before an admiring throng of listeners, how "I had wandered with a young wife from my own distant country to fight the terrible Base; how I had slain them in single combat; and how elephants and lions were struck down like lambs and kids by my hands; that during my absence in the hunt, my wife had been carried off by the Base; that I had, on my return to my pillaged camp, galloped off in chase, and, overtaking the enemy, hundreds had fallen by my rifle and sword, and I had liberated and recovered the lady, who now had arrived safe with her lord in the country of the great Mek Nimmur," &c. &c. &c.
This was all very pretty, no doubt, and as true as most poetical and musical descriptions, but I felt certain that there must be something to pay for this flattering entertainment; if you are considered to be a great man, a present is invariably expected in proportion to your importance. I suggested to Taher Noor that I must give him a couple of dollars. "What!" said Taher Noor, "a couple of dollars! Impossible! a musician of his standing it accustomed to receive thirty and forty dollars from great people for so beautiful and honourable a song."
This was somewhat startling; I began to reflect upon the price of a box at Her Majesty's Theatre in London; but there I was not the hero of the opera; this minstrel combined the whole affair in a most simple manner; he was Verdi, Costa, and orchestra all in one; he was a thorough Macaulay as historian, therefore I had to pay the composer as well as the fiddler. I compromised the matter, and gave him a few dollars, as I understood that he was Mek Nimmur's private minstrel, but I never parted with my dear Maria Theresa* with so much regret as upon that occasion, and I begged him not to incommode himself by paying us another visit, or, should he be obliged to do so, I trusted he would not think it necessary to bring his violin.
* The Austrian dollar, that is the only large current coin in that country.
The minstrel retired in the same order that he had arrived, and I watched his retreating figure with unpleasant reflections, that were suggested by doubts as to whether I had paid him too little or too much; Taher Noor thought that he was underpaid; my own opinion was, that I had brought a curse upon myself equal to a succession of London organ-grinders, as I fully expected that other minstrels, upon hearing of the Austrian dollars, would pay us a visit, and sing of my great deeds.
In the afternoon, we were sitting beneath the shade of our tamarind tree when we thought we could perceive our musical friend returning. As he drew near, we were convinced that it was the identical minstrel, who had most probably been sent with a message from Mek Nimmur: there he was, in snow-white raiment, on the snow-white mule, with the mounted attendant and the violin as before. He dismounted upon arrival opposite the camp, and approached with his usual foppish bow; but we looked on in astonishment: it was not our Paganini, it was ANOTHER MINSTREL! who was determined to sing an ode in our praise. I felt that this was an indirect appeal to Maria Theresa, and I at once declared against music. I begged him not to sing; "my wife had a headache—I disliked the fiddle—could he play anything else instead?" and I expressed a variety of polite excuses, but to no purpose; he insisted upon singing; if I "disliked the fiddle, he would sing without an accompaniment, but he could not think of insulting so great a man as myself by returning without an ode to commemorate our arrival."
I was determined that he should NOT sing; he was determined that he WOULD, therefore I desired him to leave my camp; this he agreed to do, provided I would allow him to cross the stream, and sing to my Tokrooris, in my praise, beneath a neighbouring tree about fifty yards distant. He remounted his mule with his violin, to ford the muddy stream, and he descended the steep bank, followed by his attendant on foot, who drove the unwilling mule. Upon arrival at the brink of the dirty brook, that was about three feet deep, the mule positively refused to enter the water, and stood firm with its fore feet sunk deep in the mud. The attendant attempted to push it on behind, at the same time he gave it a sharp blow with his sheathed sword; this changed the scene to the "opera comique." In one instant the mule gave so vigorous and unexpected a kick into the bowels of the attendant, that he fell upon his back, heels uppermost, while at the same moment the minstrel, in his snow-white garments, was precipitated head foremost into the muddy brook, and for the moment disappearing, the violin alone could be seen floating on the surface. A second later, a wretched-looking object, covered with slime and filth, emerged from the slough; this was Paganini the second! who, after securing his fiddle, that had stranded on a mud-bank, scrambled up the steep slope, amidst the roars of laughter of my people and of ourselves; while the perverse mule, having turned harmony into discord, kicked up its heels and galloped off, braying an ode in praise of liberty, as the "Lay of the last Minstrel." The discomfited fiddler was wiped down by my Tokrooris, who occasionally burst into renewed fits of laughter during the operation; the mule was caught, and the minstrel remounted, and returned home completely out of tune.
On the following morning, at sunrise, I mounted my horse, and, accompanied by Taher Noor and Bacheet, I rode to pay my respects to Mek Nimmur. Our route lay parallel to the stream, and, after a ride of about two miles through a fine, park-like country, bounded by the Abyssinian Alps about fifteen miles distant, I observed a crowd of people round a large tamarind tree, near which were standing a number of horses, mules, and dromedaries. This was the spot upon which I was to meet Mek Nimmur. Upon my approach the crowd opened, and, having dismounted, I was introduced by Taher Noor to the great chief. He was a man of about fifty, and exceedingly dirty in appearance. He sat upon an angarep, surrounded by his people; lying on either side upon his seat were two brace of pistols, and within a few yards stood his horse ready saddled. He was prepared for fight or flight, as were also his ruffianly-looking followers, who were composed of Abyssinians and Jaleens.
I commenced the conversation by referring to the hospitality shown by his father to my countryman, Mr. Mansfield Parkyns, and I assured him that such kind attentions were never forgotten by an Englishman, therefore I had determined to visit him, although the Egyptian authorities had cautioned me not to trust myself within his territory. I explained that I was bound towards an unknown point, in search of the sources of the White Nile, which might occupy some years, but that I wished to perfect the exploration by the examination of all the Abyssinian Nile affluents: and I concluded by asking for his assistance in my journey to the Bahr Angrab and the Salaam. He replied very politely, and gave me much local information; he said that the Egyptians gave him no peace, that he was obliged to fight in self-defence; but that, if I could make overtures on his part to the Egyptian authorities, he would engage never to cross the Atbara, provided they observed a similar condition. I promised to represent his offer to the Governor-General on my arrival at Khartoum. He agreed to give me a guide to the rivers Angrab and Salaam, that were not far distant, and he at once pointed out to me the two dark gorges, about twelve and sixteen miles distant, in the chain of precipitous mountains from which they flowed. He described the country upon the other side of the mountains to be the elevated plateau of Abyssinia, and he advised me to visit the king before my departure from his territory; this I could not conveniently accomplish, as my route lay in an opposite direction. He begged me for a telescope, so that he should be able to see the approach of the Turks (Egyptians) from a great distance, as he explained that he had spies upon all the mountain tops, so that no stranger could enter his country without his knowledge. He confessed that my movements while in the Base country had been watched by his spies, until he had felt assured that I had no sinister motive. I laughed at the idea; he replied, that we were most fortunate to have escaped an attack from the natives, as they were far worse than wild beasts, and he immediately pointed out several Base slaves who were present in the crowd, who had been captured when children; they appeared to be the same as the woolly-headed natives of the south bank of the Blue Nile, and not at all peculiar in appearance. He cautioned me against bathing in the stream, or drinking the water in the neighbourhood of our camp, as it was extremely poisonous, and would produce an irritation of the skin. I told him that I had discovered copper, and that I attributed the poisonous quality of the water to the presence of that mineral. This announcement was received with a general expression of approbation. "That is very curious," he said, "that we who live in this country are ignorant, and that you, a stranger, should at once explain the cause of the poison." He at once agreed to the suggestion, as he said, that during the rains, when the torrents were full, the water was not unwholesome, but in the dry weather, when the supply was scanty, and the stream feeble, the strength of the poison was necessarily increased. He assured me that, although the pasturage was excellent, all cattle that drank in that hor or stream became as thin as skeletons.
Mek Nimmur had been ignorant of the existence of copper, but he informed me that gold dust was common in the sand of most of the ravines, and that, if I would remain in his country, I might discover considerable quantities. I informed him that I had already discovered the existence of both gold and lead. He requested me to give him every information respecting the lead, as he should prefer it to gold, as he could manufacture bullets to shoot the Turks (as the Egyptians are called by the neighbouring tribes). After a long and satisfactory conversation, I made my salaam, and retired. Immediately on my arrival at the camp, I despatched Wat Gamma on horseback with Taher Noor, in charge of a pair of beautiful double-barrelled pistols, with the name of Tatham as the manufacturer; these were loaded, and I sent a polite message, begging Mek Nimmur's acceptance of the present; they were accompanied by a supply of ammunition.
In the evening Wat Gamma returned with the pistols; —they had BURST! Mek Nimmur had requested him to fire at a mark, and one barrel of each pistol had given way; thus, the double rifle and the pistols of the same name "Tatham" had all failed; fortunately no one was injured. I was afraid that this would lead to some complication, and I was much annoyed; I had never used these pistols, but I had considered that they were first rate; thus I had given them to Mek Nimmur as a valuable present, and they had proved their utter worthlessness. I immediately mounted my horse, and with my revolver in my belt, and my beautiful single Beattie rifle in my hand, I galloped off to Mek Nimmur; he was seated in the same spot, watching the harvest of dhurra, enormous piles of which were being thrashed by a number of Abyssinians. The instant that I arrived, I went straight to him, and explained my regret and disappointment at the failure of the pistols, and I begged him to take his choice between my rifle and revolver. He behaved remarkably well; he had begged my messenger to leave the broken pistols with him, and not to mention the circumstance to me, as he felt sure that I should feel even more annoyed than himself; he now declined my offer, as he said I should require the weapons during my proposed journey up the White Nile, and he could not deprive me of their use. He was afraid of the revolver, as it was too complicated, but I tore from my note-book a small piece of paper, which I requested one of his people to stick upon a rock about ninety yards distant. I took a steady shot with the single rifle, and was fortunate enough to hit the paper exactly. This elicited general applause, and Mek Nimmur called one of his people, an Abyssinian, who he declared to be a celebrated shot, and he requested that he might be allowed to fire the rifle. I placed a similar mark upon the rock, and the Abyssinian fired from a rest, and struck the stone, in a good line, about six inches below the paper. The crowd were in raptures with the rifle, which I at once insisted upon Mek Nimmur accepting. I then made my salaam, and mounted my horse amidst general expressions of approval.
On the following morning, Mek Nimmur sent us two camel-loads of corn; a large gourd of honey, weighing about fifty pounds; and four cows that must have been a detachment of Pharaoh's lean kine, with a polite message that I was to select the FATTEST. These cattle were specimens of the poisonous qualities of the water; but, although disappointed in the substance of the present, my people were delighted with the acquisition, and they immediately selected a cow; but just as they were licking their lips at the prospect of fresh meat, which they had not tasted for some days, the cow broke away and made off across country. In despair at the loss, my men followed in hot pursuit, and two of the Tokrooris overtook her, and held on to her tail like bull-dogs, although dragged for some distance, at full gallop through thorns and ruts, until the other men arrived and overpowered the thin, but wiry animal. When slaughtered, there was a great squabble between my men and the Abyssinians, who endeavoured to steal the meat.
A CAMEL FALLS, AND DIES.
I EXTRACT a few notes from my journal:—
"March 25, 1862.—Mai Gubba is about twelve miles E.N.E. of our camp. Mek Nimmur's stronghold is upon a lofty table-mountain, due south of this spot, from which great elevation (about 5,000 feet) the granite mountain of Cassala is said to be plainly visible.
"March 27.—We started for the Bahr Salaam, and said good-bye to Mek Nimmur, as we passed his position on our march; he had given us a guide; an awful-looking scoundrel.
"We had hardly marched two miles, when one of the baggage-camels suddenly fell down to die; the Arabs immediately cut its throat with a sword, and Bacheet, having detached one ear as a witness of its death, galloped back to borrow a fresh camel of Mek Nimmur, which he very kindly sent without delay. We were obliged to bivouac on the spot for the night, as the Arabs required the flesh of their camel, which was cut into thin strips. As they were employed in skinning it, they ate large quantities raw and quivering. The stream, or hor, that flows through this country, parallel with our route, is the Ma Serdi; all this district is rich in copper.
"March 28.—Started at 5 A.M. course S.W. We crossed two hors, flowing from N.N.W. and joining the Ma Serdi; also a beautiful running stream of deep and clear water twelve miles from our bivouac of last evening: this stream is never dry; it springs from a range of hills about ten miles distant. The whole of this country is well watered by mountain streams, the trees are no longer the thorny mimosas, but as the land is not only fertile, but sufficiently moist, it gives birth to a different kind of vegetation, and the trees are mostly free from thorns, although at this season devoid of foliage. The country is ornamented by extensive cultivation, and numerous villages. We halted at 5 P.M. having marched twenty-one miles. The fertile soil of this country is thoroughly melted by rain during the wet season, and in the intense heat of the drought it becomes a mass of gaping crevices many feet deep, that render hunting on horseback most dangerous. Fortunately, as we halted, I observed a herd of tetel, and three ostriches: the latter made off immediately, but I succeeded in stalking the tetel, and shot two, right and left, one of which escaped, but the other became the prize of my Tokrooris.
"March 29.—Started at 5.30 A.M. and reached the river Salaam at 8 A.M.; the total distance from our camp in Mek Nimmur's country is thirty-five miles S.W. The Bahr Salaam is precisely similar in character to the Settite, but smaller; it has scooped through the rich lands a deep valley, like the latter river, and has transported the fertile loam to the Atbara, to increase the rich store of mud which that river delivers to the Nile. The Salaam is about two hundred yards wide; it flows through perpendicular cliffs that form walls of rock, in many places from eighty to a hundred and fifty feet above its bed; the water is as clear as crystal, and of excellent quality; even now, a strong though contracted stream is running over the rounded pebbles that form its bed, similar to that of the Settite. We descended a difficult path, and continued along the dry portion of the river's bed up the stream. While we were searching for a spot to encamp, I saw a fine bull mehedehet (A. Redunca Ellipsiprymna) by the water side; I stalked him carefully from behind a bed of high rushes, and shot him across the river with the Fletcher rifle; he went on, although crippled, but the left-hand barrel settled him by a bullet through the neck. We camped on the bank of the river.
"March 30.—I went out to explore the country, and, steering due east, I arrived at the river Angrab or Angarep, three miles from the Salaam; from a high rock I could trace its course from the mountain gorge to this spot, the stream flowing N.W. This noble river or mountain torrent is about a hundred and fifty yards wide, although the breadth varies according to the character of the country through which it passes; in most places it rushes through frightful precipices; sometimes it is walled within a channel of only forty or fifty yards, and in such places the cliffs, although at least a hundred feet perpendicular height, bear the marks of floods that have actually overtopped the rocks, and have torn away the earth, and left masses of bamboos and withered reeds clinging to the branches of trees, which, growing on still higher rocks, have dipped in the swollen torrent. I followed the circuitous course of the river for some miles, until, after a most fatiguing exploration among precipices and deep ravines, I arrived at the junction of the Salaam river. On the way, I came upon a fine bull nellut (A. Strepsiceros) beneath a shady nabbuk by the river's side; I could only obtain an oblique shot, as his hind quarters were towards me; the bullet passed through the ribs, and reached the shoulder upon the opposite side. This nellut had the finest horns that I had yet obtained; they measured four feet in the curve, three feet one inch and a half in a straight line, with a spread of two feet seven inches from point to point. I found tracks of hippopotami upon the high grassy hills; these animals climb up the most difficult places during the night, when they ascend from the river to seek for pasturage. I was not far from the tent when I arrived at the junction of the Angrab with the Bahr Salaam, but the rivers were both sunk in stupendous precipices, so that it was impossible to descend. The mouth of the river Angrab was an extraordinary sight; it was not wider than about fifteen yards, although the river averaged a width of at least a hundred and fifty yards. The exit of the water was between two lofty walls of basalt rock, which overhung the stream, which in the rainy season not only forced its way for about a hundred yards through this narrow cleft, but it had left proof of inundations that had leapt over the summit of the obstruction, when the rush of water had been too great for the area of the contracted passage. Altogether, the two rivers Sahaam and Angrab are interesting examples of the destructive effect of water, that has during the course of ages cut through, and hollowed out in the solid rock, a succession of the most horrible precipices and caverns, in which the maddened torrents, rushing from the lofty chain of mountains, boil along until they meet the Atbara, and assist to flood the Nile. No one could explore these tremendous torrents, the Settite, Royan, Angrab, Salaam, and Atbara, without at once comprehending their effect upon the waters of the Nile. The magnificent chain of mountains from which they flow, is not a simple line of abrupt sides, but the precipitous slopes are the walls of a vast plateau, that receives a prodigious rainfall in June, July, August, until the middle of September, the entire drainage of which is carried away by the above-named channels to inundate Lower Egypt."
Not being able to cross the river at the point of junction with the Salaam, I continued along the margin of the precipice that overhangs the latter river, until I should find a place by which we could descend with the camel, as this animal had made a great circuit to avoid the difficulties of the Angrab. We were at length united, and were continuing our route parallel with the river, over undulations of withered grass about three feet high, interspersed with trees, when I perceived above the surface the long horns of a mehedehet (R. Ellipsiprymna). I knew that he must be lying down, and, as he was about a hundred and fifty yards distant, I stalked him carefully from tree to tree; presently I observed three other pairs of horns at various distances; two were extremely large; but, unfortunately, an animal with smaller horns was lying between me and the largest. I could do no more than creep quietly from point to point, until the smaller animal should start and alarm the larger. This it did when I was about a hundred yards from the large bull, and both mehedehets sprang up, and, as is usual with this species, they stood for a few moments seeking for the danger. My clothes and hunting cap matched so well with the bark of the tree behind which I was kneeling, that I was unobserved, and, taking a rest against the stem with the little Fletcher, I fired both barrels, the right at the most distant bull. Both animals simply sprang for an instant upon their hind legs, and fell. This was capital; but at the report of the rifle, up jumped two other mehedehets, which appeared the facsimiles of those I had just shot; having missed their companions, and seeing no one, they stood motionless and gazed in all directions.
I had left my people far behind when I had commenced the stalk, therefore I had no spare rifle. I reloaded behind the tree with all haste. I had capped the nipples, and, as I looked out from my covering point, I saw them still in the same spot; the larger, with superb horns, was about a hundred and twenty yards distant. Again I took a rest, and fired. He sprang away as though untouched for the first three or four bounds, when he leapt convulsively in the air, and fell backwards. This was too much for the remaining animal, that was standing about a hundred yards distant—he bounded off; but the last barrel of the little Fletcher caught him through the neck at full gallop, and he fell all of a heap, stone dead.
These were the prettiest shots I ever recollect to have made, in a very long experience; I had bagged four with the same rifle in as many shots, as quickly as I could load and fire.
My Tokroori, Abdoolahi, who had been intently watching the shots from a distance, came rushing up in hot excitement with one of my sharp hunting knives, and, springing forward to hamstring one of the animals, that was still struggling, he foolishly made a downward cut, and, missing his blow, he cut his own leg terribly across the shin, the knife flying out of his hand as it struck against the bone: he was rendered helpless immediately. I tied up the wound with my handkerchief, and, having at length loaded the camel with as much meat as we could cut off the animals, Abdoolahi was assisted upon its back; my men carried the two finest heads. It was very late, and we now sought for a path by which we could descend to the river.
At length we discovered a dangerous antelope-track, that descended obliquely, by skirting an exceedingly steep side of a hill, with a perpendicular precipice immediately below, that fell for about seventy feet sheer to the river. My horse Tetel was as sure-footed as a goat, therefore, having taken off my shoes to avoid slipping, I led him to the bottom safely. Taher Noor called to the camel-driver not to attempt to follow. Although warned, this fellow persisted in leading the heavily-laden animal down the slippery and dangerous path. Hardly had he gone a few paces, when the camel's feet slipped, and it shot down the rapid incline, and disappeared over the edge of the precipice. I heard the camel roar, and, hastening up the path, I looked over the cliff, holding to a rope that Taher Noor fastened to a tree. I perceived that the animal was fortunately caught upon a narrow ledge of rock, and was prevented from falling to the bottom by a tough bush that grew from a cleft; this alone supported it in mid-air. My Arabs were wild and stupid. Abdoolahi had held on like a leech, and, as we were well provided with strong ropes, we soon hauled him up, but the Arabs declared their camel to be dead, as no power on earth could save it. Having examined the cliff, I felt sure that we could assist the camel, unless it had already broken some bones by the fall; accordingly, I gave orders to the Arabs, who obeyed implicitly, as they were so heart-broken at the idea of losing their animal, that they had lost all confidence in themselves. We lowered down Taher Noor by a rope to the bush, and after some difficulty, he unfastened the load of flesh, which he threw piece by piece to a platform of rock below, about ten feet square, which formed a shelf a few inches above the level of the water. The camel being relieved of both the load and its saddle, I ordered the Arabs to fasten together all their ropes; these, being made of twisted antelope's hide, were immensely strong, and, as I had established a rule that seven extra bundles should invariably accompany the water-camel, we had a large supply. The camel was now secured by a rope passed round the body beneath the forelegs, and the cloths of the Arabs were wrapped around the cord to prevent it from cutting the skin. This being arranged, I took a double turn of the rope round a tree, as thick as a man's thigh, that grew in a cleft of the rock where we stood, and throwing the honey axe to Taher Noor, I told him to cut away the bushes that supported the camel, and I would lower it gently down to the shelf by the water's edge. In a few minutes the bushes were cut away, and the camel, roaring with fright, swung in mid-air. Taher Noor held on to the rope, while I slacked off the line from the tree, and lowered both man and beast safely to the shelf, about seventy feet below. The camel was unhurt, and the Arabs were delighted; two other men now descended. We threw them down a quantity of dry wood to make a fire, and, as they were well off for meat, we left them prisoners upon the ledge of rock with the profoundly deep river before them, walled in by abrupt precipices upon either side.* It was nearly dark, and, having to find my way to the camp among dangerous ravines, I rode fast ahead of my men to discover a ford, and to reach home before complete darkness should increase the danger. Tetel was as sure-footed and as nimble as a cat, but we very nearly ended our days together, as the bank of a precipice gave way while we were skirting the edge. I felt it sinking, but the horse sprang forward and saved himself, as I heard the mass fall beneath.
* On the following morning the camel was safely floated across the river, supported by the inflated skins of the mehedehets.
That night we received a very audacious visit. I was asleep in my tent, when I was suddenly awakened by a slight pull at my sleeve, which was the signal always given by my wife if anything was wrong; on such occasions, I never replied until I had gently grasped my little Fletcher, which always slept with me beneath my mat. She now whispered that a hyaena had been within the tent, but that it had just bolted out, as these animals are so wary that they detect the slightest movement or noise. As a rule, I never shot at hyaenas, but, as I feared it might eat our saddles, I lay in bed with the rifle to my shoulder, pointed towards the tent door through which the moon was shining brightly. In a few minutes, a grey-looking object stood like an apparition at the entrance, peering into the tent to see if all were right before it entered. I touched the trigger, and the hyaena fell dead, with the bullet through its head. This was a regular veteran, as his body was covered with old scars from continual conflicts with other hyaenas. This was the first time that one of these animals had taken such a liberty; they were generally contented with eating the bones that were left from our dinner outside the tent door, which they cleared away regularly every night.
We remained in this beautiful country from March 29th until April 14th, during which time I seldom remained for an hour in camp, from sunrise to sunset; I was always in the saddle or on foot. Two of my best Tokrooris, Hadji Ali and Hassan, usually accompanied me on horseback, while Taher Noor and a couple of Arabs rode upon camels with a good supply of water. In this manner I traversed the entire country, into the base of the great mountain chain, and thence down the course of the river towards the Atbara junction. This district was entirely composed of the most fertile soil, through which the great rivers Angrab and Salaam had cut their way in a similar manner to the Atbara and Settite. The Salaam, after the junction of the Angrab, was equal in appearance to the Atbara, but the inclination of this great mountain torrent is so rapid, that it quickly becomes exhausted at the cessation of rain in the lofty mountains that form its source. Both the Angrab and the Salaam are short rivers, but, as they are the two main channels for the reception of the entire drainage of a vast mountain area, they bring down most violent floods, that materially affect the volume of the main artery.
The whole of this country abounded in game beyond any that I had hitherto seen, and I had most glorious sport. Among the varieties of antelopes, was a new species that I had seen upon several occasions on the Settite, where it was extremely rare. On the high open plains above the valley of the Salaam, this antelope was very numerous, but so wild and wary that it was impossible to approach nearer than from 350 to 500 yards. This magnificent animal, the largest of all the antelopes of Abyssinia and Central Africa, is known to the Arabs as the Maarif (Hippotragus Bakerii). It is a variety of the sable antelope of South Africa (Hippotragus Niger). The colour is mouse-grey, with a black stripe across the shoulders, and black and white lines across the nose and cheeks. The height at the shoulder would exceed fourteen hands, and the neck is ornamented with a thick and stiff black mane. The shoulders are peculiarly massive, and are extremely high at the withers; the horns are very powerful, and, like those of the roan and the sable antelope, they are annulated, and bend gracefully backwards. Both the male and female are provided with horns; those of the former are exceedingly thick, and the points frequently extend so far as to reach the shoulders.
The Maarif invariably inhabits open plains, upon which it can see an enemy at a great distance, thus it is the most difficult of all animals to stalk. Nothing can be more beautiful than a herd of these superb animals, but the only successful method of hunting would be to course them with greyhounds; my dogs were dead, thus I depended entirely upon the rifle. I was also deprived of the assistance of the aggageers, whom I had left at the Royan.
Rhinoceros and giraffes were very numerous throughout this country; but the ground was most unfavourable for riding. The surface resembled a beautiful park, composed of a succession of undulations, interspersed with thornless trees, and watered by streamlets at intervals of five or eight miles, while the magnificent Alps of Abyssinia bounded the view to the south; but there was no enjoyment in this country on horseback. The rainy season converted this rich loam into a pudding, and the dry season baked it into a pie-crust. The entire surface was loose, flaky, and hollow; there was not a yard of ground that was not split into deep crevices, that were regular pitfalls; and so unsound was the general character of the country, that a horse sank above his fetlocks at every footstep. I usually rode during the day when exploring; but whenever I shot, it was necessary to dismount, as it was impossible to follow an animal successfully on horseback. I had on several occasions attempted to ride down a giraffe, but upon such ground I had not the slightest chance; thus the aggageers, who invariably hunt the giraffe by riding at full speed until they can hamstring it with the sword, never visit this country. This accounted for the presence of so large a number of animals, as they were never disturbed by these untiring hunters.
Our camp was pitched at the junction of a torrent, which, flowing from the higher ground, joined the river Salaam in a succession of waterfalls. At this season, a gentle stream, as clear as glass, rippled over a rocky bed about twenty yards wide, and the holes in the flat surface above the fall formed natural basins of the purest water. I frequently strolled for some miles along the bed of the stream, that afforded excellent pasturage for the horses in a sweet, green grass, that was not only an attraction to antelopes and buffaloes (Bos Caffer), but formed a covert for incredible numbers of the beautiful francolin partridge, which might have been shot in hundreds as they rose from the cool herbage that afforded both food and concealment. I was returning late one evening along the bed of the stream, after a day's shooting, during which I had bagged several antelopes and wild boar, when I observed at a distance a dark mass in the bright yellow grass, which I quickly distinguished as a herd of elephants. It was just dusk, and having endeavoured to meet them as they came to drink, but without success, I determined to track them up on the following morning. I started at daybreak, with all my horses and gun-bearers. For about sixteen miles we tracked up the herd to within a short distance of the base of the mountain range. During the march, we had seen large quantities of giraffes, and all the varieties of large antelopes. The country, that had consisted of a vast plain, now changed to rapid undulations; the trees were generally small, and, at this season of intense dryness, were devoid of leaves. At the bottom of one of these undulations, among a number of skeleton trees, that afforded no shade, we discovered the elephants, standing in the high withered grass, that entirely concealed all but the upper portion of their heads; they were amusing themselves by tearing up the trees, and feeding upon the succulent roots. I ordered Taher Noor and Bacheet each to take a horse and rifle, and to lead them, together with my hunter Aggahr, about a hundred yards behind me, while I advanced towards the elephants on foot. At the sound of the first shot they were to mount, and to bring my horse and spare guns as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, the herd was alarmed by a large bull giraffe that was asleep in the grass, which started up within thirty yards of us, and dashed off in terror through the mass of elephants. Their attention was roused, and they moved off to my left, which change of position immediately gave them our wind. There was no time to lose, as the herd was in retreat; and, as they were passing across my path, at about two hundred paces distance, I ran at my best speed, stumbling through the broken pie-crust, and sinking in the yawning crevices, the sides of which were perfectly rotten, until I arrived within shot of about twenty-five elephants. I was just on the point of firing at the temple of a large animal that was within about ten yards, when it suddenly turned, and charged straight at me. With the right-hand barrel of a Reilly No. 10, I was fortunate enough to turn it by a forehead shot, when so close that it was nearly upon me. As it swerved, I fired the remaining barrel exactly through the centre of the shoulder; this dropped and killed the elephant as though it had been shot through the brain.
The difficulties of the ground were such, that the horses were not led as quickly as I had expected; thus I had to reload, which I had just completed when Aggahr was brought by Taher Noor. Springing into the saddle I at once gave chase. The gallant old horse flew along through the high grass, regardless of the crevices and rotten ground. The herd was about three hundred yards ahead, but the long steady stride of Aggahr quickly shortened the distance, and in a few minutes I was riding alongside the elephants, that were shambling along at a great pace. I determined to head them, and drive them back towards my people, in which case I expected that we might be able to surround them. I touched Aggahr with the spur, and he shot ahead of the leading elephants, when I turned sharp to the right exactly before their path, and gave a shout to check their advance; in the same instant, Aggahr turned a complete somersault within a few yards of their feet, having put his fore-leg into a deep crevice, and I rolled over almost beneath the elephants with the heavy rifle in my hand. The horse recovered quicker than I, and, galloping off, he vanished in the high grass, leaving me rather confused from the fall upon my head. The herd, instead of crushing me as they ought to have done, took fright, and bolted off at their best pace. My eyes were dancing with the fall; the mounted gun-bearers were nowhere, as Gazelle would not face the elephants, and Tetel was far behind. My English saddle had vanished with Aggahr, and, as the stirrups of the Arab saddles were simple rings for the accommodation of the big toe, they were unserviceable. Had the aggageers been with me, I should have had great sport with this herd; but, with the exception of Taher Noor, the men were bad horsemen, and even he was afraid of the ground, which was frightfully dangerous.
We discovered that the bullet had passed through the great artery of the heart, which had caused the instantaneous death of the elephant I had shot.
We were now at least seventeen miles from camp, and I feared that Aggahr would be lost, and would most likely be devoured by a lion during the night: thus I should lose not only my good old hunter, but my English saddle. I passed several hours in searching for him in all directions, and, in order to prevent him from straying to the south, we fired the grass in all directions; we thus had a line of fire between the camp and ourselves; this burnt slowly, as the north wind had carried the blaze rapidly in the other direction. We rode along the bottom of a watercourse and reached the Salaam river, thus avoiding the fire; but, some hours before we neared the camp, night had set in. We had beaten the fire, as we had got to windward, and slowly and tediously we toiled along the crumbling soil, stumbling among the crevices, that were nearly invisible in the moonlight.
Thus we crept onwards; I had found riding impracticable, therefore the horses were led, with much difficulty, as they constantly slipped up to their knees in the numerous fissures. It was difficult to recognise our position in the moonlight, and we were doubtful whether we had not missed our route to the camp. My watch told me that it was past nine o'clock, and we had been sixteen hours in hard work without the slightest rest. We halted to confer about the direction of the camp, when suddenly I heard the report of a gun to our right; we immediately turned, and hastened towards the welcome sound; presently I heard a distant shout. As we approached, this was repeated, and as I hurried forward, I recognised my own name shouted in an agonised voice. I ran on alone at my best speed, after giving a loud shrill whistle upon my fingers. This was quickly replied to, and I repeated the well-known signal, until in about ten minutes I met my wife, who had been wandering about the country half distracted for hours, searching for me in every direction, as my horse Aggahr had returned to the camp with the bridle broken, and the empty saddle scratched by the boughs of trees; she had naturally concluded that some accident had happened. She had immediately armed herself with the little Fletcher that had been left in the camp, being too small for elephants; with this, and several of the Arabs armed with swords and lances, she had been hunting throughout this wild country during the night in a state of terrible anxiety. It was fortunate that she had fired the shot to direct our attention, otherwise we might have passed each other without being seen. "All's well that ends well:" we were about three miles from camp, but the distance appeared short to everybody, as we now knew the true direction, and we at length perceived the glare of a large fire that our people had lighted as a beacon.
The horse, Aggahr, must have found his way without difficulty, as he had arrived a little before sunset. This curious instinct, that enables a horse to find the direction to its last halting-place in a wild and pathless country, was thoroughly appreciated by the Arabs, who had comforted me with the assurance, that no Abyssinian horse would lose his way to the spot where he had last passed the night, if separated from his rider.
SEND A PARTY TO RECONNOITRE.
I HAD thoroughly explored the beautiful country of the Salaam and Angrab; it was the 11th of April, and I intended to push on to Gallabat, the frontier market-town of Abyssinia. We had no guide, as the fellow that had been supplied by Mek Nimmur had absconded the day after our arrival at the Salaam, but during the march he had pointed out a blue outline of a distant mountain in the south, that was called Nahoot Guddabi, or the Saddle of Guddabi. This was an unmistakeable landmark, as it exactly resembled an Arab saddle; at the foot of this mountain was the Tokroori village of Guddabi, the first habitation, at a distance of about fifty miles from the Bahr Salaam. Although, from the experience I had had in this neighbourhood, I had little doubt of the supply of water on the road, I sent three of my Tokrooris upon as many camels with water-skins, to reconnoitre before I should move the camp.
On the second day they returned, and reported the existence of several small streams, all of which produced excellent water.
We started on the following afternoon, and, with Hassan as our guide, and Taher Noor upon a camel, my wife and I cantered ahead of the main body, over a high ridge of stony, and accordingly firm ground. Upon arrival at the summit, we had a lovely view of the surrounding country, and we commenced a gentle descent into a vast plain sparsely covered with small trees. In the extensive prospect before us, the dark green veins of foliage in the otherwise yellow surface of withered grass marked out distinctly the course of small rivulets. We hurried on, sometimes over blackened ashes, where the fire had swept all before it, at other times through withered grass, that had been saved from destruction through the intervention of some ravine. At 7.30 P.M. we arrived at an excellent halting place, by a beautiful but small stream of water, shaded by a fringe of dome palms; this was by dead reckoning seventeen miles from our last camp. It had been pleasant travelling, as the moon was full; we had ridden fast, therefore it was useless to expect the camels for some hours; we accordingly spread the carpet on the ground, and lay down to sleep, with the stocks of the rifles for pillows, as we had frequently done on former occasions.
On the following morning I sent a couple of men on camels to reconnoitre the country in advance, towards Guddabi, and to return with the report of the supply of water. This country abounded with large game, especially with the beautiful antelope already described, the maarif; they were as usual extremely wild, but I succeeded in breaking the hip of a fine bull at a long range; and, separating him from the herd, I ran the wounded antelope until I was thoroughly exhausted in the intense heat of the sun, but I lost it in the thick bush not far from our camp. That night we heard a lion roaring close to us, and, upon searching at daybreak I found the remains of a maarif, which I imagine must have been my wounded bull.
I mounted my horse Tetel, and, with Taher Noor and two of my Tokrooris, Hadji Ali and Hassan, I rode towards a pyramidical hill about three miles distant, which I intended to ascend in order to obtain a panoramic view of the country. This hill was about three hundred feet high, and, as the fire had swept away a portion of the grass for several miles around, I should obtain a clear view of all living animals that might be in the neighbourhood. Upon arrival at the base of the hill I dismounted, and led my horse up the steep inclination of broken basalt that had fallen from the summit. From the top of the peak I had a superb panorama of the country, the mountain Nahoot Guddabi bearing S.W. about thirty miles distant. I had a complete bird's-eye view of great extent, and I immediately distinguished, in various positions, giraffes, buffaloes, tetel, and boars. At this season the trees were leafless, thus any animal upon the low ground would be at once discovered from this elevated point. I extract from my journal the account of this day's hunt, as it was written immediately upon my return to camp.
"I had been observing the country for some time from my high station, when I suddenly perceived two rhinoceros emerge from a ravine; they walked slowly through a patch of high grass, and skirted the base of the hill upon which we were standing: presently they winded something, and they trotted back and stood concealed in the patch of grass. Although I had a good view of them from my present position, I knew that I should not be able to see them in their covert, if on the same level; I therefore determined to send to the tent for my other horses, and to ride them down, if I could not shoot them on foot; accordingly, I sent a man off, directing him to lead Tetel from the peak, and to secure him to a tree at the foot of the hill, as I was afraid the rhinoceros might observe the horse upon the sky line. This he did, and we saw him tie the horse by the bridle to the branch of a tree below us, while he ran quickly towards the camp. In the mean time I watched the rhinoceros; both animals lay down in the yellow grass, resembling masses of stone. They had not been long in this position, before we noticed two pigs wandering through the grass directly to windward, towards the sleeping rhinoceros; in an instant these animals winded the intruders, and starting up, they looked in all directions, but could not see them, as they were concealed by the high grass. Having been thus disturbed, the rhinoceros moved their quarters, and walked slowly forward, occasionally halting, and listening; one was about a hundred yards in advance of the other. They were taking a direction at the base of the hill that would lead them directly upon the spot where Tetel was tied to the tree. I observed this to Taher Noor, as I feared they would kill the horse. 'Oh, no,' he replied, 'they will lie down and sleep beneath the first tree, as they are seeking for shade—the sun is like fire.' However, they still continued their advance, and, upon reaching some rising ground, the leading rhinoceros halted, and I felt sure that he had a clear view of the horse, that was now about five hundred yards distant, tied to the tree. A ridge descended from the hill, parallel with the course the animals were taking; upon this, I ran as quickly as the stony slope permitted, keeping my eye fixed upon the leading rhinoceros, who, with his head raised, was advancing directly towards the horse. I now felt convinced that he intended to attack it. Tetel did not observe the rhinoceros, but was quietly standing beneath the tree. I ran as fast as I was able, and reached the bottom of the hill just as the wilful brute was within fifty yards of the horse, which now for the first time saw the approaching danger; the rhinoceros had been advancing steadily at a walk, but he now lowered his head, and charged at the horse at full speed.
"I was about two hundred yards distant, and for the moment I was afraid of shooting the horse, but I fired one of the Reilly No. 10 rifles; the bullet, missing the rhinoceros, dashed the sand and stones into his face, as it struck the ground exactly before his nose, when he appeared to be just into the unfortunate Tetel. The horse in the same instant reared, and, breaking the bridle, it dashed away in the direction of the camp, while the rhinoceros, astonished at the shot, and most likely half blinded by the sand and splinters of rock, threw up his head, turned round, and trotted back upon the track by which he had arrived. He passed me at about a hundred yards distance, as I had run forward to a bush, by which he trotted with his head raised, seeking for the cause of his discomfiture. Crack! went a bullet against his hide, as I fired my remaining barrel at his shoulder; he cocked his tail, and for a few yards he charged towards the shot; but he suddenly changed his course, and ran round several times in a small circle; he then halted, and reeling to and fro, he retreated very slowly, and lay down about a hundred yards off. Well done, Reilly! I knew that he had his quietus, but I was determined to bag his companion, who in alarm had now joined him, and stood looking in all quarters for the source of danger; but we were well concealed behind the bush. Presently, the wounded rhinoceros stood up, and walking very slowly, followed by his comrade, he crossed a portion of rising ground at the base of the hill, and both animals disappeared. I at once started off Hassan, who could run like an antelope, in search of Tetel, while I despatched another man to the summit of the peak to see if the rhinoceros were in view; if not, I knew they must be among the small trees and bushes at the foot of the hill. I thus waited for a long time, until at length the two greys, Aggahr and Gazelle, arrived with my messenger from the camp. I tightened the girths of the Arab saddle upon Aggahr, and I had just mounted, cursing all Arab stirrups, that are only made for the naked big toe, when my eyes were gladdened by the sight of Hassan cantering towards me upon Tetel, but from the exact direction the rhinoceros had taken. 'Quick! quick!' he cried, 'come along! One rhinoceros is lying dead close by, and the other is standing beneath a tree not far off.'