IV.—The Return to Egypt
Shortly afterwards Socinios, the usurping king, fled on the approach of King Tecla and Ras Michael with 20,000 men. On their entry into the city, those who had sympathised with the usurper were executed in hundreds with a wanton cruelty which shocked and disgusted me. The bodies of the victims were cut in pieces and scattered about the streets, and hundreds of hyenas came down from the neighbouring mountains to feed on the human carrion. I determined to do the best I could to escape from this bloody country, but was constrained to take a part in the civil war, and commanded a force of heavy cavalry in King Tecla's army in the three battles of Serbraxos. My performances so pleased the king that he decorated me with a heavy gold chain containing 184 links. The upshot of the campaign was that Michael was banished to Begender and the former rebel Gusho appointed ras in his place.
After many delays I was allowed to depart for Egypt on September 28, 1771, and, passing through the Shangalla country, I reached, on January 2, 1772, the enchanted mountain country of Tcherkin, which abounded in game—elephants, rhinoceroses, buffaloes, etc. Here they have an extraordinary way of hunting the elephant by severing the tendon above the heel of the hind leg with a sharp sword. At Hor Cacamoot, which means the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I was on January 20 attacked with dysentery, and compelled to remain there until March 17. Many hardships were endured and servants lost in a simoom which overtook us in the march to the Atbara, and after numerous adventures in the country of the Nubas—pagans, negroids, worshippers of the moon—I arrived on April 29 at Sennaar, where I was compelled to remain four months.
Summoned to wait upon the king, I found him in a clay-built palace covering a very extensive area, and of one story. The dress of the king was simply a loose shirt of Surat blue cotton cloth. I was asked to treat medically the three principal queens. The favourite was six feet high, and corpulent beyond all proportion. She seemed to me, next the elephant and the rhinoceros, to be the largest living creature I had ever met. A ring of gold passed through her upper lip and weighed it down like a flap to cover her chin. Her ears reached to her shoulders, and had the appearance of wings. In each was a large ring of gold; she had a gold necklace of several rows, and her ankles bore manacles of gold.
At Sennaar the Nile gets its name of Babar El Azergue, the Blue River. The meat diet of the upper classes is beef, partly roasted and partly raw. That of the common people is camel's flesh, the liver and spare-rib of which are eaten raw. During my stay here I was compelled to part with all but six of the 184 links of the gold chain which I received from the king of Abyssinia, to pay for supplies, and I was glad when permitted to depart on September 2, 1772.
On October 26 we arrived at Gooz, the capital of Barbar. There we made preparations to cross the great desert, beginning the journey on November 9. One day we saw twenty moving pillars of sand. On another occasion we met the simoom, the purple haze in rushing past threatening suffocation. Many of the wells had dried up, our water and our provisions became exhausted, our camels died, all of the party suffered from thirst and fever, and on November 25, in order to save our lives, we abandoned my valuable papers, quadrant, telescopes, and other instruments, at Saffieha.
Two days afterwards we got a view of a range of hills marking the course of the Nile. In the evening we heard the noise of water, and saw a flock of birds. Christians, Moors, and Turks all burst into tears, embracing one another and thanking God for our deliverance. That night we encamped at Seielut, and next morning we came on foot to Assouan. With one accord we ran to the Nile to drink. I sat down under the shade of a palm and fell into a profound sleep. We were received heartily by the aga, and after resting five or six days to recover, we retraced our steps to Saffieha, and I had the satisfaction of recovering all my baggage. On December 11 we left Assouan, and sailed down the Nile for Cairo, where we arrived on January 10, 1773.
JOHN LEWIS BURCKHARDT
Travels in Nubia
I.—On the Eastern Bank of the Nile
John Lewis Burckhardt was born at Lausanne, Switzerland, Nov. 24, 1784. He declined a diplomatic appointment in Germany, and came to England in 1806, bringing with him letters of introduction to Sir Joseph Banks, from Professor Blumenbach, the celebrated naturalist of Goettingen. He tendered his services as an explorer to the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa. His offer was accepted, and Burckhardt left England on March 2, 1809, and proceeded to Syria, where, disguised as an Indian Mohammedan merchant, he spent two and a half years, learning among Arab tribes different dialects of Arabic. In 1812, he went to Egypt, intending to join a caravan for Fezzan in order to explore the sources of the Niger; but, being frustrated in that, he made his two expeditions into Nubia which form the subject of the present epitome. In June, 1815, he returned to Cairo, and prepared his journals for publication. After making a tour to Suez and Sinai in 1816, he was suddenly cut off by dysentery in Cairo on October 15, 1817. Although he did not learn English until he was twenty-four years of age, Burckhardt's journals are written with remarkable spirit, more especially considering that his notes had all to be taken secretly.
I left Assouan on February 24, 1813, to make my journey through Nubia. Assouan is the most romantic spot in Egypt, but little deserving the lofty praise which some travellers have bestowed upon it for its antiquities and those of the neighbouring island of Elephantine. I carried with me nothing but my gun, sabre, and pistol, a provision bag, and a woollen mantle, which served either for a carpet or a covering during the night. I was dressed in the blue gown of the merchants of Upper Egypt. After estimating the expense I was likely to incur in Nubia, I put eight Spanish dollars into my purse in conformity with the principle I have consistently acted upon during my travels—viz., that the less the traveller spends while on the march, and the less money he carries with him, the less likely are his travelling projects to miscarry.
After crossing the mountain opposite Philae, I passed the night in the house of a sheikh at Wady Debot, where I first tasted the country dish which during my journey became my constant food—viz., thin unleavened and slightly-baked cakes of dhourra, served with sweet or sour milk. From here to Dehmyt, the grand chain of mountains on the east side of the Nile is uninterrupted; but from the latter place to the second cataract, beyond Wady Halfa, the mountains are of sandstone, except some granite rocks above Talfa. The shore widens at Korosko, and groves of date-trees adorn the banks all the way past Derr to Ibrim. The rich deposit of the river on the eastern bank yields large crops of dhourra and cotton. It is different on the western shore, where the desert sands, blown by the north-west winds, are swept up to the very brink of the river.
It is near Derr that occurs the most ancient known temple, entirely hewn out of the sandstone rock. The gods of Egypt seemed to have been worshipped here long before they were lodged in the gigantic temples of Karnac and Gorne. At Ibrim there is an aga, independent of the governors of Nubia, and the inhabitants pay no taxes. They are descendants of Bosnian soldiers who were sent by the great Sultan Selym to garrison the castle of Ibrim, now a ruin, against the Mamelouks. In no parts of the Eastern world have I ever found property in such perfect security as in Ibrim. The Ababde Arabs between Derr and Dongola are very poor. They pride themselves on the purity of their race and the beauty of their women, and refuse to intermarry with the Nubians.
Beyond Wady Halfa is the second cataract, and the foaming waters dashing against the black-and-green rocks, or forming quiet pools and lakes, so that the Nile expands to two miles in breadth, is a most impressive sight. The rapids render navigation impossible between here and Sukkot, a distance of a hundred miles, and the river is hemmed in sometimes by high banks, as at Mershed, where I could throw a stone over to the opposite side. The rock, which had been sandstone hitherto, changes its nature at the second cataract to granite and quartz.
At Djebel Lamoule, which we reached on March 9, we had to follow a mountain track, and, on approaching the river again, the Arab who acted as guide tried to extract from me a present by collecting a heap of sand, and placing a stone at each extremity to indicate that a traveller's tomb is made. I immediately alighted from my camel, and began to make another tomb, telling him that it was intended for his own sepulchre, for, as we were brethren, it was but just that we should be buried together. At this he began to laugh. We mutually destroyed each other's labour, and in riding along he exclaimed from the Koran: "No mortal knows the spot on earth where his grave shall be digged." In the plain of Aamara, which begins the district of Say, there is a fine Egyptian temple, the six columns of which are of calcareous stone—the only specimen of that material to be met with, those in Egypt being all sandstone.
On March 13 we reached the territory of Mahass, and at the castle of Tinareh I visited the camp of Mohammed Kashefs, a Mamelouk chief who had captured the castle from a rebel cousin of the Mahass king. He behaved like a madman, got very drunk on palm wine, and threatened to cut off my head on suspicion of my being an agent of the pasha of Egypt, who was the enemy of the Mamelouks. Had it not been for the arrival of the nephew of the governor of Sukkot, the threat would in all probability have been carried into execution.
II.—Discoveries in Egyptian Temples
On March 15 my guide and I escaped from the Mamelouk's camp, and at Kolbe crossed to the west side of the river by swimming at the tail of our camels, each beast having an inflated goatskin tied to its neck. I thought it wise to return down the Nile to Assouan, and we pushed on as hard as our camels could proceed. Passing the cataracts at Wady Samme and Wady Halfa, we came to Wady Fereyg, where there is a mountain on both sides of the Nile. At the bottom of that, on the west side, is a hitherto undiscovered temple named Ebsambal. The temple stands about twenty feet above the surface of the water, entirely cut out of the almost perpendicular rocky side of the mountain, and is in complete preservation. In front of the entrance are six erect colossal figures representing juvenile persons, three on each side of the entrance, in narrow recesses. Their height from the ground to the knee is about 6-1/2 feet. The spaces of the smooth rock between the niches are covered with hieroglyphics, as are also the walls of the interior. The statues represent Osiris, Isis, and a youth, and each has small figures beside it four feet high.
I was about to climb the mountain to rejoin my guide and the camels, when I fell in with what is yet visible of four immense colossal statues cut out of the rock at a distance of 200 yards from the temple. They stand in a deep recess excavated in the mountain, and are almost entirely buried beneath the sands, which are blown down here in torrents. The entire head and part of the breast and arms of one of the statues are yet above the surface. The head has a most expressive youthful countenance, approaching nearer to the Grecian model of beauty than that of any ancient Egyptian figure I have seen. Indeed, were it not for a thin, oblong beard, it would pass for a head of Pallas. This statue measures seven yards across the shoulders, and could not, if in an upright posture, be less than sixty-five or seventy feet in height. The ear is one yard and four inches in length.
On the wall of the rock in the centre of the four statues is a figure of the hawk-headed Osiris, surmounted by a globe; beyond which, I suspect, could the sand be cleared away, a vast temple would be discovered, to the entrance of which the colossal figures serve as ornaments. I should pronounce these works to belong to the finest period of Egyptian sculpture, and that the hieroglyphics are of the same age as those on the temple of Derr.
I continued my journey along the west bank of the Nile, and in the course of several days inspected the ruins of all the known ancient temples and early Greek churches. Summing up my impressions of the temples, I would say that we find in Nubia specimens of all the different eras of Egyptian architecture and history, which indeed can only be traced in Nubia; for all the remaining temples in Egypt, that of Gorne, perhaps, excepted, appear to have been erected in an age when the science of architecture had nearly attained to perfection.
III.—Across the Nubian Desert
I reached Assouan on March 30, after an absence of thirty-five days, having travelled at the rate of ten hours each day. On April 9, I proceeded to Esne, which I had made my headquarters in Upper Egypt.
I remained at Esne till the spring of 1814, waiting for an opportunity to start with a caravan of slave-traders towards the interior parts of Nubia in a more easterly direction than I had been in my journey towards Dongola. At the end of February I heard that a caravan was on the point of starting from Daraou, three days' journey north of Esne, for the confines of Sennaar, and I determined to accompany it and try my fortune on this new route without any servant and in the garb of a poor trader.
The start was made on March 2, 1814, and from the first day of our departure my companions treated me with neglect, and even with contempt. Although they had no idea I was a Frank, they imagined that I was of Turkish origin, an opinion sufficient to excite the ill-treatment of Arabs, who bear the most inveterate hatred to the Osmanli. From the small quantity of merchandise I had, they considered I was a trader running away from my creditors, but I succeeded in convincing them that I was travelling in search of a lost cousin who had made an expedition to Darfour and Sennaar in Nubia, in which the whole of my property was engaged.
At Wady el Nabeh, the wells of which have a great repute all through Nubia, and which we reached on March 14, we met a band of Ababdes driving thirty slaves before them, which they were taking to sell in Egypt. In general, I found the dreaded Nubian deserts—as far as Shigre, at least, which we reached on March 16 with difficulty, on account of shortage of water—of much less dreary appearance than the great Syrian desert, and still less so than the desert of Suez and Tyh. The high mountains of Shigre consist of huge blocks of granite heaped upon one another in the wildest confusion.
During the whole march we were surrounded on all sides by lakes of mirage, called by the Arabs "serab." Its colour was of the purest azure, and so clear that the shadows of the mountains which bordered the horizon were reflected on it with the greatest precision, and the delusion of its being a sheet of water was thus rendered still more perfect. We experienced great suffering from the reckless waste of water and the dryness of the wells which were expected to yield supplies; and so serious did it become that twelve of the strongest of the camels were selected to hasten forward to fetch a supply of water from the nearest part of the Nile. They returned the following morning from their desperate mission, bringing with them plentiful supplies of the delicious water of the Nile, in which we revelled, enabling us to reach Berber on March 23, the whole desert journey having taken us twenty-two days.
The governor of Berber, which consists of four villages, is called the mek, and is nominated by the king of Sennaar. He, however, exercises a feeble authority over the Arabs. The people of Berber are a handsome race. The men are taller, larger-limbed, and stronger than the Egyptians, and red-brown in colour. The features are not those of the negro, the face being oval, and the nose perfectly Grecian. They say, "We are Arabs, not negroes." The practice of drunkenness and debauchery is universal, and everything discreditable to humanity is found in their character.
I remained a fortnight in Berber, and on April 7 our caravan, reduced to two-thirds of its original numbers, set out for Shendy. Three days afterwards we came to Damer, a town of 500 houses, neat and clean, with regular tree-shaded streets. The inhabitants are Arabs of the tribe of Medja-ydin, and the greater part of them are Fokera, or religious men. They have a pontiff called El Faky El Kebir (the great faky), who is their chief and judge. In the mosque there is a famous school attended by young men from Darfour, Sennaar, Kordofan, and other parts of the Soudan; and the affairs of this little hierarchical state appeared to be conducted with great prudence. From Damer we passed on to Shendy, where we arrived on April 18.
This is a place of 1,000 houses, and the present mek owns large salt-works near the town, where the ground is largely impregnated with salt. Merchants from Sennaar buy up the salt and trade it as far as Abyssinia. Next to Sennaar and Cobbe in Darfour, Shendy is the largest town in the Eastern Soudan. Debauchery and drunkenness are as fashionable here as in Berber. The people are better dressed, and the women have rings of gold in their noses and ears. Shendy is the centre of considerable trade, but its principal market is for slaves, who are chiefly negroes, stolen from the interior.
The Abyssinian slave-women are reckoned the best and most faithful of all, and are bought for the harems of the Arab chiefs. As to the slave-traffic as a whole, laudable as the efforts of England have been to abolish this infamous trade in Western and South-western Africa, there does not appear to be the smallest hope of the abolition of slavery in Africa itself. It is not from foreign nations that the blacks can hope for deliverance. This great work must be effected by themselves, and this can only be done by the education of the sons of Africa in their own country and by their own countrymen.
IV.—Among Savage Arab Tribes
In the caravan for Souakin, which left Shendy on May 17, I joined myself as a poor man to a party of black traders from Western Africa. After five days spent in traversing sandy and gravelly plains, we came to the Atbara river, which has a greater variety of natural vegetation than I had seen anywhere on the banks of the Nile in Egypt. Having crossed the Atbara, our route lay to the S.E., and we soon entered the country of the Bisharein Arabs—a bold and handsome race.
The moral character of both sexes is wholly bad. They are treacherous, cruel, avaricious, and revengeful, and are restrained in the indulgence of their passions by no laws either human or divine. However, they have a dread, especially the women, of a white man, and the latter shriek at the sight of what they consider an out-cast of nature, saying, "God preserve us from the devil." On May 31 the caravan broke into two parts, one taking the direct road through the desert to Souakin, the other proceeding by Taka; and I determined to accompany the latter. We followed the course of the Atbara, and, after crossing stretches of the desert, came, on June 3, to the village of Goz Radjeb, the centre of the country of the Hadendoa, a tribe of the Bisharein. A Hadendoa seldom scruples to kill his companion on the road in order to possess himself of the most trifling article of value, but a retaliation of blood exists in full force. They are not given to hospitality, as other Arabs are, and they boast of their treachery. On June 6, we came to the district of Taka, fertile and populous owing to the regular inundation of the Atbara and its tributaries. A valley in the eastern mountains is noted for its splendid breed of cattle and fine dhourra. The Bisharein here eat the blood of animals coagulated over the fire, and the liver and kidneys raw.
In an adjoining valley we encountered another tribe of Bisharein called the Hallenga, who draw their origin from Abyssinia. They have a horrible custom in connection with the revenge of blood. When the slayer has been seized by the relatives of the deceased, a family feast is proclaimed, at which the murderer is brought into the midst of them, bound upon an angareyg, and while his throat is slowly cut with a razor, the blood is caught in a bowl and handed round amongst the guests, every one of whom is bound to drink of it at the moment the victim breathes his last.
A stay was made at Filik, the principal town of Taka, till June 15, when the caravan struck N.E. by N., and marched alternately through sandy and fertile country, across mountains of no great height, and plains with herds of ostriches and fine cattle. The low grounds were frequently intersected by the beds of torrential streams. One day, we crossed a rocky plain with the soil strongly impregnated with salt, and pastured by large herds of camels which the Arabs here keep for their milk and flesh alone, seldom using them as beasts of burden.
On June 26 we arrived at El Geyf, an environ of Souakin—the town itself, which consists of 600 houses, being on one of the islands in the bay of Souakin. The inhabitants of Souakin are a motley race, and are governed by the Emir el Hadherebe, a chief of the Bisharein tribe on the neighbouring mainland, who is chosen by the five first families of the tribe, but is nominally dependent upon the pasha of Djidda.
The manners of the people partake of the vices of their neighbours in the desert, and in cruelty surpass them, and the law of the strongest is alone respected. I was ill-treated by the aga, the representative of the Turkish Government, until I produced the firmans which I had concealed in a secret pocket, given me by Mohammed Aly, the viceroy of Egypt, and by Ibrahim Pasha, his son. When the aga saw these with their handsome seals, he regarded me as a great personage; but I refused to take up my abode in his house, which hospitality he offered, and continued to live in the camp of the black merchants on the mainland.
I had intended proceeding to Mokha by ship and then on to Sana, the capital of the Yemen, from which place to make the pilgrimage to Mekka. However, having heard of the war in the Hedjaz in Arabia, I abandoned my project, and sailed from Souakin, on July 6, for Djidda, where I arrived on July 16, and afterwards joined Mohammed Aly.
SIR RICHARD BURTON
Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Meccah
I.—The Pilgrim Ship
Sir Richard F. Burton, K.C.M.G., was born at Barham House, Hertfordshire, England, March 19, 1821. He was intended for the Church, and spent a year at Oxford; but showed no clerical leanings, and found a more congenial profession when he obtained a cadetship in the Indian Army in 1842. During the next few years he acquired an extraordinary knowledge of Mohammedan usages and languages that was afterwards to serve him in good stead. In 1849 he returned to England; in 1851 published three books on Indian subjects, and in April, 1853, set forth on his cherished and daring project of visiting in disguise the sacred cities of Islam. The voyage was a particularly dangerous one, Burton frequently having to defend his life, though in so doing he never took another life during the whole of the journey. The account of his "Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Meccah" was published in 1855. Afterwards he travelled in Somaliland, Central Africa, North and South America, and elsewhere, and unfailingly published books on his journeys. He died at Trieste on October 20, 1890.
Early in the morning of April 4, 1853, a "Persian prince" embarked at Southampton for Alexandria. The "prince" was myself, about to undertake a journey for the purpose of removing that opprobrium to modern adventure, the huge white blot which on our maps still notes the eastern regions of Arabia. I had hoped to make a more extended tour, but the East India Company had only granted me a year's furlough, refusing the three years that I had asked on the ground that my project was too dangerous. The attempt was one that could not be made save in Mohammedan disguise, and in order to conceal my identity effectively, I had thought it prudent to assume this disguise ere leaving England. I was amply supplied with funds by the Royal Geographical Society.
Several months were spent by me at Alexandria and Cairo in thoroughly familiarising myself once again with Moslem tongues and usages, partly forgotten during a four years' stay in the West. I diligently studied the Koran, and became an adept at Mohammedan religious practices; and my knowledge of medicine, by enabling me to set up as a doctor, brought me into the close contact with all classes of Moslems that I required for my purpose. I soon dropped the character of a Persian for that of a wandering dervish; but afterwards a still more convenient disguise occurred to me, and I visited El Medinah and Meccah as an Afghan Pathan who had been educated at Rangoon.
Pilgrims to the holy shrines arriving at Alexandria are divided into bodies, and distributed to the three great roads, namely, Suez, Cosseir, and the Haj route by land round the Gulf of Akabah. My route was by Suez, and at Suez I and my fellow-pilgrims had a long wait for a vessel to convey us to Yambu, the port of disembarkation for El Medinah. During this wait I had vexatious difficulties over my passport, which were only solved by an appeal to the British consul.
I must now briefly describe the party into which fate threw me. First of all comes Omar Effendi, a plump and beardless Circassian, of yellow complexion and bilious temperament; he dresses respectably, pays regularly, hates the fair sex, has a mild demeanour, but when roused becomes furious as a tiger. His confidential negro servant, Saad, known as the Devil, was born and bred a slave, obtained manumission, and has wandered as far afield as Russia and Gibraltar. He is the pure African, merry at one moment and sulky at another, affectionate and abusive, reckless and crafty, quarrelsome and unscrupulous to the last degree.
Shaykh Hamid el Lamman, of El Medinah, is a perfect specimen of the town Arab—his face a dirty brown, his beard untrimmed, his only garment, an ochre-coloured blouse, exceedingly unclean. He can sing, slaughter a sheep, deliver a grand call to prayer, shave, cook, fight, and vituperate. Salih Shakkar is a Turk on his father's side, an Arab on his mother's; he is as avaricious as an Arab, and as supercilious as a Turk. All these people borrowed money from me. To their number must be added Mohammed, a hot-headed Meccan youth, whom I had met in Cairo, and who appointed himself my companion; and Shaykh Nur, my Indian servant.
Through the activity of Saad the Devil—not disinterested activity, for he wanted to pay nothing himself and to make us pay too much—we were at last able to book passages on the vessel Golden Thread. Amid infinite clamour and excitement on a hot July morning we boarded her, only to be threatened with loss of our places on the poop by a rush of Maghrabi pilgrims, men from Western Africa, desperately poor and desperately violent. Saad the Devil disposed of the intruders by the simple process of throwing them into the hold. There the Maghrabis fell out with a few Turks, and in a few minutes nothing was to be seen but a confused mass of humanity, each item indiscriminately scratching, biting, punching, and butting.
A deputation of us waited upon Ali Murad, the owner, to inform him of the crowded state of the vessel. He told us to be good, and not fight; to trust in Allah, and that Allah would make all things easy for us. His departure was the signal for a second fray. This time the Maghrabis swarmed towards the poop like angry hornets; Saad provided us with a bundle of long ashen staves, and we laid on with might and main. At length it occurred to me to roll an earthen jar full of water—weighing about a hundred pounds—upon the assailants. After this they shrank back and offered peace.
It was twelve days before we reached Yambu. The vessel had no compass, no log, no sounding-line, nor even the suspicion of a chart. Each night we anchored, usually in one of the many inlets of the Arabian coast, and when possible we went ashore. The heat during the day was insufferable, the wind like the blast of a lime-kiln; we lay helpless and half senseless, without appetite and without energy, feeling as if a few more degrees of heat would be death. Nothing, on the other hand, could have been more delicious than the hour of sunrise. The air was mild and balmy as that of an Italian spring; the mountains, grim and bare during full daylight, mingled their summits with the jasper tints of the sky; at their base ran a sea of amethyst. Not less lovely was the sunset, but after a quarter of an hour its beauty faded, and the wilderness of white crags and pinnacles was naked and ghastly under the moon.
On arriving at Yambu we had to treat for camels, and make provision for the seven days' journey to El Medinah. As I had injured my foot on the voyage, I bought a shugduf or litter, a vehicle appropriated to women and infirm persons; it had the advantage that notes were more easily taken in it than on a dromedary's back. At 7 p.m. on July 18 we passed through the gate of Yambu, and took a course due east. My companions, as Arabs will do on such occasions, began to sing.
II.—In the Footsteps of Mohammed
Our little party consisted of twelve camels, and we travelled in Indian file, head tied to tail, with but one outrider, Omar Effendi, whose rank required him to mount a dromedary with showy trappings. In two hours we began to pass over undulating ground with a perceptible rise. At three in the morning we reached the halting-place and lay down to sleep; at nine we breakfasted off a biscuit, a little rice, and milkless tea, and slept again. Dinner, consisting chiefly of boiled rice with clarified butter, was at two; and at three we were ready to start. Towards sunset there was a cry of thieves, which created vast confusion; but the thieves were only half a dozen in number, and fled when a few bullets were sent in their direction.
Next day we travelled through a country fantastic in its desolation—a mass of huge hills, barren plains, and desert vales. The third day was spent uncomfortably at El Hamra, a miserable collection of hovels made of unbaked brick and mud. It was reported that Saad, the great robber-chief, was in the field, and there was consequently danger that our march would be delayed. The power of this ruffian is a standing proof of the imbecility of the Turkish Government.
The Holy Land of El Hejaz drains off Turkish gold and blood in abundance, and the lords of the country hold in it a contemptible position. If they catch a thief, they dare not hang him. They must pay blackmail, and yet be shot at in every pass. They affect superiority over the Arabs, hate them, and are despised by them. Happily, we were overtaken at El Hamra by a Meccan caravan which had influence to procure a military escort; so we were able to proceed, with no serious hindrance, to Bir Abbas.
In the evening of our first melancholy day at this hot, sandy, barren spot, firearms were heard in the distance, betokening an engagement between the troops and the Bedouins. It was not until the following night that we were allowed to start. At dawn we entered an ill-famed gorge called the Pilgrims' Pass. Presently, thin blue curls of smoke rose from the cliffs on the left, and there rang out the sharp cracks of the hillmen's matchlocks. From their perches on the rocks they fired upon us with perfect comfort and no danger to themselves, aiming chiefly at our Albanian escort. We had nothing to do but blaze away as much powder, and veil ourselves in as much smoke as possible; we lost twelve men in the affair, besides several of the animals.
We journeyed on through desolate mountain country, all of my companions in the worst of tempers. I spent a whole day trying to recover from Saad the Devil the money I had lent him at Suez. Ultimately, he flung the money down before me without a word. But I had been right in my persistence; had I not forced him to repay me he would have asked for more. At last, after an abominably bad night's travelling, we climbed up a flight of huge steps cut in black basalt. My companions pressed on eagerly, speaking not a word. We passed through a lane of black scoria, with steep banks on both sides.
"O, Allah! This is the sanctuary of the Prophet! O open the gates of Thy mercy!" "O, Allah! Bless the last of Prophets with blessings in number as the stars of heaven!" "Live for ever, O most excellent of Prophets!" Such were the exclamations that burst from our party as the Holy City, the burial place of Mohammed, lay before us in its fertile girdle of gardens and orchards.
At our feet was a spacious plain, bounded in front by undulating ground; on the left by the grim rocks of Mount Ohod; on the right by the gardens of Kuba. On the north-west of the town wall was a tall white-washed fort, partly built upon rock. In the suburb El Munakhah, near at hand, rose the brand-new domes and minarets of the five mosques. Farther away to the east could be seen the gem of El Medinah, the four tall towers, and the flashing green dome under which rest the Prophet's remains.
We proceeded towards the gate, from which an eager multitude poured forth to greet friends in the caravan. I took my abode with Shaykh Hamid, who abandoned his former dirt and shabbiness and appeared clean, well-dressed, and with neatly trimmed moustache and beard. He was to pilot me through the intricate ceremonies of the visits to the Prophet's tomb and the other holy places, and in the evening I set out with him for the Haram, or sanctuary of the Prophet.
The Prophet's mosque at El Medinah is the second of the three most venerable places in the world, according to Islamic belief; it is peculiarly connected with Mohammed, as Meccah is with Abraham, and Jerusalem with Solomon. On entering it, I was astonished at the mean and tawdry appearance of a place so venerated in the Moslem world. There is no simple grandeur about it, as there is about the Kaabah at Meccah; rather does it suggest a museum of second-rate art, decorated with but pauper splendour. The mosque is a parallelogram about 420 feet in length by 340 broad, and the main colonnade in the south of the building, called El Rawzah (the garden), contains all that is venerable. Shaykh Hamid and I fought our way in through a crowd of beggars with our hands behind us, and beginning with the right feet, we advanced towards the holy places. After preliminary prayers at the Prophet's pulpit, we reached the mausoleum, an irregular square in the south-east corner, surrounded by walls and a fence. Three small windows enable one to peer at the three tombs within—Mohammed's, Abubekr's, and Omar's. After long praying I was permitted to look through the window opposite the Prophet's tomb. I could see nothing but a curtain with inscriptions, and a large pearl rosary denoting the exact position of the tomb. Many other sacred spots had to be visited, and many other prayers uttered, ere we left the building.
The principal places of pious visitation in the vicinity of El Medinah are the mosques of Kuba, the cemetery El Bakia, and the martyr Hamzah's tomb at the foot of Mount Ohod, the scene of one of Mohammed's most famous battles. The mosques of Kuba are the pleasantest to visit, lying as they do among the date-palm plantations, amid surroundings most grateful to the eye weary with hot red glare. There were green, waving crops and cool shade; a perfumed breeze, strange luxury in El Hejaz; small birds warbled, tiny cascades splashed from the wells. The Prophet delighted to visit one of the wells at Kuba, the Bir el Aris. He would sit upon its brink with bare legs hanging over the side; he honoured it, moreover, with expectoration, which had the effect, say the historians, of sweetening the water, which before was salt.
On August 28 arrived the great caravan from Damascus, and in the plain outside the city there sprang up a town of tents of every size, colour, and shape. A tribal war prevented me from carrying out my intention of journeying overland to Muscat, so I determined to proceed to Meccah with the Damascus caravan. Accordingly, on August 31 I bade farewell to my friends at El Medinah, and hastened after the caravan, which was proceeding to Meccah along the Darb el Sharki, or eastern road. I had escaped all danger of detection at El Medinah, and was now to travel to Meccah along a route wholly unknown to Europeans.
III.—At the Shrine of the Prophet
Owing to the caravan's annoying practice of night marching, in accordance with the advice of Mohammed, I could see nothing of much of the country through which we travelled. What I did see was mostly a stony and sandy wilderness, with outcrops of black basalt; occasionally we passed through a valley containing camel-grass and acacia trees—mere vegetable mummies—and surrounded with low hills of gravel and clay. At a large village called El Sufayna we encountered the Baghdad caravan, and quarrelled hotly with it for precedence on the route. At the halt before reaching this place a Turkish pilgrim had been mortally wounded by an Arab with whom he had quarrelled. The injured man was wrapped in a shroud, placed in a half-dug grave, and left to die. This horrible fate, I learnt, often befalls poor and solitary pilgrims whom illness or accident incapacitates from proceeding.
At El Zaribah, an undulating plain amongst high granite hills, we were ordered to assume the Ihram, or garb that must be worn by pilgrims at Meccah. It consists simply of two strips of white cotton cloth, with narrow red stripes and fringes. The women donned white robes and hideous masks of palm leaves, for during the ceremonies their veils must not touch their faces. We were warned that we must not quarrel or use bad language; that we must not kill game or cause animals to fly from us; that we were not to shave, or cut or oil our hair, or scratch, save with the open palm; and that we must not cover our heads. Any breach of these and numerous other rules would have to be atoned for by the sacrifice of a sheep.
A short distance beyond this point we had a lively skirmish with robbers, during which I earned a reputation for courage by calling for my supper in the midst of the excitement. Meccah lies in a winding valley, and is not to be seen until the pilgrim is close at hand. At length, at one o'clock in the morning, in the course of our eleventh march since leaving El Medinah, I was aroused by general excitement. "Meccah! Meccah!" cried some voices; "the Sanctuary! O the Sanctuary!" exclaimed others. I looked out from my litter, and saw by the light of the southern stars the dim outlines of a large city. We were passing over the last ridge by an artificial cut, and presently descended to the northern suburb. I took up my lodgings at the home of a boy, Mohammed, who had accompanied me throughout the pilgrimage.
The Kaabah, or House of Allah, at Meccah, which has already been accurately described by the traveller Burckhardt, stands in an oblong square, enclosed by a great wall, 257 paces long, and 210 broad. The open space is surrounded by colonnades united by pointed arches and surmounted by domes. The Kaabah itself is an oblong, flat-roofed structure, 22 paces long and 18 broad; the height appears greater than the length. It is roughly built of large irregular blocks of the grey Meccah stone. It is supposed to have been built and rebuilt ten times—first by the angels of Allah before the creation—secondly by Adam; thirdly by his son Seth; fourthly by Abraham and his son; the eighth rebuilding was during the lifetime of the Prophet.
On the morning of our arrival we bathed and proceeded in our pilgrim garb to the sanctuary. There it lay, the bourne of my long and weary pilgrimage. Here was no Egyptian antiquity, no Greek beauty, no barbaric gorgeousness; yet the view was strange, unique; and how few have looked upon the celebrated shrine! I may truly say that of all the worshippers there, not one felt for the moment a deeper emotion than did the Haji from the far north. But, to confess humbling truth, theirs was the high feeling of religious enthusiasm; mine was the ecstasy of gratified pride.
After drinking holy water, we approached as near as we could to the sacred Black Stone, the subject of so much sacred Oriental tradition, and prayed before it. The stone was surrounded by a crowd of pilgrims, kissing it and pressing their hearts against it. Then followed the ceremony of circumambulation. Seven times we passed round the Kaabah, which was draped in a huge dark curtain, to which pilgrims clung weeping. The boy Mohammed, by physical violence, made a way to the Black Stone. While kissing it, I narrowly observed it, and came away persuaded that it is a big aerolite. After several other ceremonies, I left the holy place thoroughly exhausted.
I did not enter the interior of the Kaabah until later. Nothing could be more simple; a marble floor, red damask hangings, three columns supporting the cross-beams of the ceiling, many lamps said to be of gold, and a safe of aloe-wood, sometimes containing the key of the building, were all that was to be seen. Many pilgrims refuse to enter the Kaabah for religious reasons. Those who tread the hallowed floor are bound, among many other things, never again to walk barefooted, to take up fire with the fingers, or to tell lies. These stipulations, especially the last-named, are too exacting for Orientals.
Meccah is an expensive place during the pilgrimage. The fees levied by the guardians of the Kaabah are numerous and heavy. The citizens make large sums out of the entertainment of pilgrims; they are, for the most part, covetous spendthrifts, who anticipate the pilgrimage by falling into the hands of the usurer, and then endeavour to "skin" the richer Hajis.
On September 12 we set forth for the ceremonies at Mount Arafat, where Adam rejoined Eve after the Fall, and where he was instructed by the archangel Gabriel to erect a house of prayer. At least 50,000 pilgrims were encamped at the foot of the holy mountain. On the day after our arrival we climbed to the sacred spots, and in the afternoon a sermon was preached on the mountain, which I did not hear—being engaged, let me confess, in a flirtation with a fair Meccan. At length the preacher gave the signal to depart, and everyone hurried away with might and main. The plain bristled with tent-pegs, litters were crushed, pedestrians trampled and camels overthrown; single combats with sticks and other weapons took place; briefly, it was a state of chaotic confusion.
Next day was performed, at Muna, on the way back to Meccah, the ceremony of stoning the Shaytan el Kabir, or Great Devil, who is represented by a dwarf buttress placed against a rough wall of stones. The buttress was surrounded by a swarm of pilgrims, mounted and on foot, eager to get as near to the Great Devil as possible. I found myself under the stomach of a fallen dromedary, and had great difficulty in extricating myself; the boy Mohammed emerged from the tumult with a bleeding nose. Schooled by adversity, we bided our time ere approaching to cast the seven stones required by the ceremonial.
At Muna sheep were sacrificed by those pilgrims who, like myself, had committed breaches of the rules. Literally, the land stank. Five or six thousand animals were slain and cut up in this Devil's punch-bowl. I leave the reader to imagine the rest. When I had completed El Umrah, or the little pilgrimage—a comparatively simple addition to the other ceremonies—I deemed it expedient to leave Meccah. The danger of detection was constantly before me; for had my disguise been penetrated, even although the authorities had been willing to protect me, I should certainly have been slain by indignant devotees.
Issuing from Meccah into the open plain, I felt a thrill of pleasure—such pleasure as only the captive delivered from his dungeon can experience. At dawn the next morning (September 23) we sighted the maritime plain of Jeddah, situated 44 miles distant from Meccah. Worn out with fatigue, I embarked on a vessel of the Bombay Steam Navigation Company, received the greatest kindness from the officers (I had revealed my identity to the British consul at Jeddah), and in due time arrived at Suez.
Let me conclude in the words of a long-dead brother traveller, Fahian, "I have been exposed to perils, and I have escaped them; and my heart is moved with emotions of gratitude that I have been permitted to effect the objects I had in view."
SIR WILLIAM BUTLER
The Great Lone Land
I.—The Red River Expedition
Sir William Francis Butler, G.C.B., born at Suirville, Tipperary, Ireland, Oct. 31, 1838, was educated at the Jesuit College, Tullabeg, King's County, and joined the British Army as an ensign in the 69th Regiment in 1858. In 1877 he married Miss Thompson, the celebrated painter of "The Roll Call." Sir William Butler is a versatile writer, his works embracing records of travel, histories of military campaigns, biographies, and fiction. His first book was "The Great Lone Land," published in 1872. Half the volume is devoted to a sketch of the early history of the northwest regions of Canada, and to tracing the causes which led to the rebellion of the settlers—principally half-breeds—under Louis Riel, against the Canadian Government in 1870. He describes the romantic part he took in the bloodless campaign of the expeditionary force under Colonel (now Lord) Wolseley, from Lake Superior to Winnipeg, for its suppression. In the other half of the book he describes his journey on a special mission for the Canadian Government to the Hudson Bay forts and Indian camps in the valleys of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers. Sir William, as a writer, has the rich vocabulary of the cultivated Celt; he presents many striking word pictures of the natural scenery of the regions he traversed. He was almost the first to proclaim the possibilities of the settlement of the Saskatchewan prairies, now receiving such an influx of population from all over the world.
It was a period of universal peace over the world. Some of the great powers were even bent on disarming. To be more precise, the time was the close of the year 1869. But in the very farthest West, somewhere between the Rocky Mountains, Hudson Bay, and Lake Superior, along the river called the Red River of the North, a people, of whom nobody could tell who and what they were, had risen in insurrection.
Had the country bordering on the Red River been an unpeopled wilderness, the plan of transferring the land of the Northwest from the Hudson Bay Company to the crown, and from the crown to the Dominion of Canada, might have been an eminently wise one. But, unfortunately, it was a country which had been originally settled by the Earl of Selkirk in 1812 with Scots from the Highland counties and the Orkney Islands, and subsequently by French voyageurs from Lower Canada.
There were 15,000 persons living in peaceful possession of the soil thus transferred, and these persons very naturally objected to have themselves and their possessions signed away without one word of consent or note of approbation. Hence began the rebellion led by Louis Riel, who, with his followers, seized Fort Garry, with all its stores of arms, guns, provisions, dominated the adjacent village of Winnipeg, and established what was called a Provisional Government. The rebels went steadily from violence to pillage, from pillage to robbery, much supplemented by drunkenness and dictatorial debauchery; and, finally, on March 4, 1870, with many accessories of cruelty, shot to death a loyalist Canadian prisoner they had taken, named Thomas Scott.
When, at the beginning of April 1870, news came of the projected dispatch of an armed force from Canada against Louis Riel and his malcontent followers at the Red River, there was one who hailed in the approaching expedition the chance of a solution to the difficulties which had beset him in his career. That one was myself. Going to the nearest telegraph station, I sent a message to the leader: "Please remember me." I sailed at once for Canada, visited Toronto, Quebec, and Montreal, interviewed many personages, and finally received instructions on June 12 from those in authority to proceed west.
The expedition had started some time before for its true base of operations, Fort William, on the north-west shore of Lake Superior. It was to work its way from Lake Superior to the Red River through British territory. My instructions were to pass round by the United States, and, after ascertaining the likelihood of a Fenian intervention from the side of Minnesota and Dakota, to arrange for supplies for the expeditionary force from St. Paul; then to endeavour to reach Colonel Wolseley beyond the Red River, with all the tidings I could gather as to the state of parties and the chances of fight. At St. Paul my position was not at all a pleasant one. My identity as a British officer became known, and to escape unnecessary attention I paid a flying visit to Lake Superior and then pushed on to Fort Abercrombie. I could find no evidence at either place that there was a possibility at Vermilion Lakes, eighty miles north of the latter place, of any filibusters making a dash at the communications of the expeditionary force.
Afterwards, at Frog's Point on the Red River, I joined the steamer International, which took me down to a promontory within a couple of hundred yards of the junction of the Assiniboine and Red rivers, where, with the connivance of the captain, I jumped ashore and escaped Riel's scouts, who had heard of my coming, and had been ordered by their leader to bring me into Fort Garry, "dead or alive." After a pursuit of several hours in the dark, in which I had a narrow "shave" of being captured, I reached the lower fort, occupied by loyalists, and thence passed on next day to an Indian settlement. This was on July 23.
Riel, learning where I was, sent a messenger to say that the pursuit of me had all been a mistake, and that I might safely come to Fort Garry. I was anxious to see the position of affairs at the fort, and I repaired thither, passing without challenge a sentry who was leaning lazily against a wall. There were two flagstaffs; one flew a Union Jack in shreds and tatters, and the other a bit of bunting with a fleur-de-lys and a shamrock on a white field. I was conducted to a house, and asked if I wished to see Mr. Riel. "To call upon him?" "Yes." "Certainly not!" "But if he calls upon you?" "Then I will see him."
A door opened, and there entered a short, stout man with a large head; a sallow, puffy face; a sharp, restless, intelligent eye; his square-cut, massive forehead overhung by a mass of long and thickly clustering hair, and marked with well-cut eyebrows—altogether a remarkable-looking face. This was Louis Riel. He was dressed in a curious mixture of clothing—a black frock coat, vest, trousers, and Indian mocassins. In the course of the interview he denied he was making preparation to resist the approaching British expeditionary force. Everything he had done had been for the sake of peace and to prevent bloodshed; but if the expedition tried to put him out of his position, they would find they could not do it, and he would keep what was his till a proper governor arrived!
Eventually he said: "Had I been your enemy, you would have known it before. I heard you would not visit me, and although I felt humiliated, I came to see you to show my pacific inclinations."
II.—The Expedition in the Wilderness
An hour later I left the fort, hastened to my old quarters at the Indian settlement, and started by canoe to seek the coming expedition. We paddled down the Red River to Lake Winnipeg, crossing which we entered the mouth of the Winnipeg River, and came to Fort Alexandra, a mile up stream.
This river has an immense volume of water. It descends 360 feet in a distance of 160 miles by a series of terraces; it is full of eddies and whirlpools; has every variety of waterfall, from chutes to cataracts; it expands into lonely pine-cliffed lakes and far-reaching island-studded bays. My Ojibway crew with infinite skill accomplished the voyage up-stream, surmounting falls and cataracts by making twenty-seven portages in five days from leaving Fort Alexandra, during which we had only encountered two solitary Indians. It was on the evening of July 30 that we reached the Lake of the Woods. Through a perfect maze of islands, we steered across this wonderfully beautiful sheet of water to the mouth of the Rainy River, up which we paddled to Fort Francis, where we arrived on August 4, and heard, for the first time, news of the expeditionary force.
We were now 400 miles from Fort Garry, and 180 miles beyond the spot where I had counted upon falling in with them. Next morning we paddled up to the foot of a rapid which the river makes as it flows out of the Rainy Lake. Glancing along the broad waters of the lake the glint of something strange caught my sight. Yes, there they were! Coming with the full swing of eight paddles, swept a large North-west canoe, its Iroquois paddlers timing their strokes to an old French chant. We put into the rocky shore, and, mounting upon a crag which guarded the head of the rapid, I waved to the leading canoe as it swept along. In the centre sat a figure in uniform, with a forage-cap on head, and I could see that he was scanning through a field-glass the strange figure that waved a welcome from the rock. Soon they entered the rapid, and at the foot, where I joined the large canoe, Colonel Wolseley called out: "Where on earth have you dropped from?" "From Fort Garry," said I; "twelve days out, sir."
It is unnecessary to describe the voyage to Fort Garry along the same route which I had taken in my canoe. The expeditionary force consisted of 400 of the 60th Rifles, soldiers whose muscles and sinews, taxed and tested by continuous toil, had been developed to a pitch of excellence seldom equalled, and whose appearance and physique told of the glorious climate of these northern solitudes. There were also two regiments of Canadian militia, who had undergone the same hardships. Some accidents had occurred during the journey of 600 miles through the wilderness. There had been many "close shaves" of rock and rapid, but no life had been lost.
The expedition camped on August 23 within six miles of Fort Garry. All through the day the river-banks were enlivened with people shouting welcome to the soldiers, and church-bells rang out peals of gladness as the boats passed by. I was scouring the woods, but found no Riel to dispute the passage. Next morning the troops began to disembark from the boats for the final advance to Fort Garry at a bend in the Red River named Point Douglas, two miles from the fort. Preceded by skirmishers and followed by a rear-guard, the little force drew near Fort Garry. There was no sign of occupation; no flag on the flagstaff, no men upon the walls, no sign of resistance visible. The gate facing the Assiniboine River was open, and two mounted men entered the fort at a gallop. On the top steps stood a tall, majestic-looking man—an officer of the Hudson Bay Company, who alternately welcomed with uplifted hat the new arrivals, and denounced in no stinted terms one or two miserable-looking men who cowered beneath his reproaches.
With insult and derision Riel and his colleagues had fled from the scene of their triumph and their crimes. On the bare flagstaff in the fort the Union Jack was once more hoisted, and from the battery found in the square a royal salute of twenty-one guns told settler and savage that the man who had been "elevated by the grace of Providence and the suffrages of his fellow-citizens to the highest position in the government of his country," had been ignominiously expelled therefrom. The breakfast in Government House was found untouched, and thus that tempest in the teacup, the revolt of Red River, found a fitting conclusion in the president's untasted tea!
Colonel Wolseley had been given no civil authority, and a wild scene of drunkenness and debauchery among the voyageurs and Indians followed the arrival of the troops; but when the Hon. Mr. Archibald, the Civil Governor, reached Winnipeg, he set matters completely to rest. Before ten days elapsed the regular troops commenced their return journey to Canada. On September 10, Colonel Wolseley also took his leave, and I was left alone in Fort Garry. The Red River expedition was over. My long journey seemed finished; but I was mistaken, for it was only about to begin.
III.—In the Far North-west
Early in the second week of October the Hon. Mr. Archibald, Lieutenant-governor of Manitoba, offered me, and I accepted, a mission to the Saskatchewan Valley and through the Indian countries of the West, and on the 24th of that month I quitted Fort Garry and commenced my long journey. My instructions were to inquire into the state of affairs in the territory; to obtain every particular in connection with the rise and spread of the scourge of small-pox, from which thousands of Indians, Esquimaux, and others had lately perished; to distribute medicines suitable for its treatment to every fort, post, clergyman, or intelligent person belonging to the settlements, or outside the Hudson Bay Company's posts.
I made the first stage of 230 miles in five days to Fort Ellice, where we stayed a couple of days to make preparations for the winter journey into the Great Lone Land. It was near the close of the Indian summer, and we travelled at the rate of fifty miles a day, I riding my little game horse Blackie, while the Red River cart, containing the baggage and medicines, was drawn by six horses—three in the shafts for a spell, the other three running free alongside.
Between Fort Ellice and Carlton Fort you pass through the region of the Touchwood Hills, around which are immense plains scored with the tracks of the countless buffaloes which, until a few years ago, roamed in vast herds between the Saskatchewan and Assiniboine. On November 4, and on several successive days thereafter, snowstorms burst upon us, and the whole country around was hidden in the dense mist of driving snowflakes.
On the 7th we emerged upon a hill plateau, and 300 feet below was raging the mighty South Saskatchewan, with great masses of floating, grinding ice. We contrived a raft made from the box of the wagon, but we could not accomplish the passage in it. Later on, hard frost having set in, we were able to cross the river on foot, with the loss of my horse Blackie, and when half a dozen of the twenty miles to Carlton Fort had been covered we met a party from it, including the officer in charge. The first question was, "What of the plague?" And the answer was that it had burned itself out.
On November 14, we set out again on our western journey, and crossed the North Saskatchewan. On account of the snow we had discarded our cart and used sleds. Travelling over hill and dale and frozen lake, we lost the way in the wilderness, but, taking a line by myself, steering by the stars, I came on November 17 to Fort Pitt, after having been fifteen hours on end in the saddle.
Fort Pitt was free of small-pox, but 100 Crees had perished close around its stockades. The unburied dead lay for days, until the wolves came and fought over the decaying bodies. The living remnant had fled in despair six weeks before my arrival. When we renewed our journey on November 20, the weather became comparatively mild, and our course lay through rich, well-watered valleys with groves of spruce and pine. Edmonton, which we reached on November 26, is the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company's Saskatchewan trade and the residence of a chief factor of the corporation.
My objective after leaving Edmonton on December 1 was Rocky Mountain House, 180 miles distant by horse-trail. Our way led over hills and plains and the great frozen Gull Lake to the Pas-co-pee, or Blind Man's River, where we camped on December 3. At midnight there was a heavy storm of snow. Next morning we rode through the defiles of the Three Medicine Hills, and after midday, at the western termination of the last gorge, there lay before me a sight to be long remembered. The great chain of the Rocky Mountains rose their snow-clad sierras in endless succession and in unclouded glory. The snow had cleared the atmosphere, the sky was coldly bright.
An immense plain stretched from my feet to the mountains—a plain so vast that every object of hill and wood and lake lay dwarfed into one continuous level. And at the back of this level, beyond the pines and lakes and the river courses, rose the giant range, solid, impassable, silent—a mighty barrier rising amidst an immense land, standing sentinel over the plains and prairies of America, over the measureless solitudes of this Great Lone Land.
That night there came a frost, and on the morning of November 5 my thermometer showed 22 degrees below zero. Riding through the foot hills and pine woods we suddenly emerged on the high banks of the Saskatchewan, and in the mid distance of a deep valley was the Mountain House. There was great excitement at my arrival. My journey from the Red River had occupied 41 days, and I had ridden in that time 1,180 miles.
IV.—On the Dog Trail to Fort Garry
I said good-bye to my friends at the Mountain House on December 12, and once more turned my footsteps eastward. Without incident we reached Edmonton, and there changed horses and travelled thenceforth, setting out on December 20, with three trains of dogs—one to carry myself, and the others to carry provisions and baggage. In fifty days of dog travel we covered a distance of 1,300 miles, with the cold sometimes 45 degrees below zero. Great as were the hardships and privations, the dog trail had many moments of keen pleasure. It was January 19 when we reached the high ground which looks down upon the forks of the Saskatchewan River.
We now entered the great sub-Arctic pine forest, the most important preserve of those animals whose skins are rated in the markets of Europe at four times their weight in gold. On January 22, 1871, we reached Fort-a-la-Corne, where an old travel-worn Indian came with a mail which contained news of the surrender of Metz, the investment of Paris, the tearing up of the Treaty of Paris by the Prussians; and on being questioned the old man said he had heard at Fort Garry that there was war, and that England was gaining the day!
To cross with celerity the 700 miles lying between me and Fort Garry became the chief object of my life. The next morning, with the lightest of equipment, I started for Cumberland House, the oldest post of the Hudson Bay Company in the interior. There I obtained, at fabulous expense, a train of pure Esquimaux dogs, and started on January 31 through a region of frozen swamp for fully 100 miles. On February 7 we reached Cedar Lake, thence sped on to Lake Winnipegoosis and Shoal Lake, across a belt of forest to Waterhen River, which carries the surplus floods of Lake Winnipegoosis to Lake Manitoba, the whole length of which we traversed, camping at night on the wooded shore, and on February 19 arrived at a mission-house fifty miles from Fort Garry. Not without a feeling of regret was the old work of tree-cutting, fire-making, supper-frying, and dog-feeding gone through for the last time.
My mission was accomplished; but in the after-time, 'midst the smoke and hum of cities, 'midst the prayer of churches, it needs but little cause to recall again to the wanderer the message of the immense meadows where far away at the portals of the setting sun lies the Great Lone Land.
The Wild North Land
I.—From Civilisation to Savagery
This was Sir William Francis Butler's second book on the regions and the people of the great Northwest of Canada. The fascination of the wilderness had got a grip upon him, and he conveys something of the same fascination to the reader, whom he allures through the immense and solemn aisles of the great sub-Arctic forest, makes him a joint-hunter after the bison on the Great Prairie, or after the marten and the beaver on the tributary streams to the Saskatchewan and the Assiniboine rivers. The reader is carried into the fastnesses of the rapidly-disappearing Red Man in mid-winter, and there are graphic revelations of the daring deeds of the half-breed descendants of the white pioneers of the Hudson Bay Company and the habitants from Lower Canada, who were the great discoverers and exploiters of the vast country between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains, and beyond to the Pacific. Sir William's story is restrained and convincing, and his descriptions of his adventures in the Wild North Land and its wonderful scenery charm by their eloquence and poetic beauty.
It was late in the month of September, 1872, when, after a summer of travel in Canada and the United States, I drew near the banks of the Red River of the North. Two years had worked many changes in scene and society. A "city" stood on the spot where, during a former visit, a midnight storm had burst upon me in the then untenanted prairie. Representative institutions had been established in the new province of Manitoba. Civilisation had developed itself in other ways, but amidst these changes of scene and society there was one thing still unchanged on the confines of the Red River. Close to the stream of Frog's Point an old friend met me with many tokens of recognition. It was my Esquimaux dog, Cerf-Vola, who had led my train from Cumberland on the lower Saskatchewan, across the ice of the Great Lakes. To become the owner of this old friend again and of his new companions, Spanker and Pony, was a work of necessity.
In the earliest days of October all phases of civilisation were passed with little regret, and at the Rat Creek, near the southern shore of Lake Manitoba, I bade good-bye to society, pushed on to the Hudson Bay Company's post of Beaver Creek, from which point, with one man, three horses, three dogs, and all the requisites of food, arms and raiment, I started on October 14 for the North-west. I was virtually alone. My only human associate was a worthless half-breed taken at chance. But I had other companions. A good dog is so much more a nobler beast than an indifferent man that one sometimes gladly exchanges the society of the one for that of the other; and Cerf-Vola was that dog.
A long distance of rolling plain, of hills fringed with thickets, of treeless wastes and lakes spreading into unseen declivities, stretches from between the Qu'-Appelle to the Saskatchewan rivers. Through it the great trail to the North lays its long, winding course, and over it broods the loneliness of the untenanted. Alone in the vast waste Mount Spathanaw Watchi lifts his head; a lonely grave at top; around 400 miles of horizon. Reduced thus to its own nakedness, space stands forth with almost terrible grandeur. It was October 25 when I once more drew near the South Saskatchewan, and crossing to the southern shore I turned eastward through a rich undulating land, and made for the Grand Forks of the Saskatchewan, which we reached in the last days of October.
It is difficult to imagine a wilder scene than that presented from the tongue of land which rises over the junction of the North and South Saskatchewan rivers. One river has travelled through 800 miles of rich rolling landscape; the other has run its course of 900 miles through arid solitudes. Both have their sources in mountain summits where the avalanche thundered forth to solitude the tiding of their birth.
II.—The Twin Dwellers of the Prairie
At the foot of the high ridge which marks the junction of these two rivers was a winter hut built by two friends who proposed to accompany me part of the long journey I meant to take into the Wild North Land. Our winter stock of meat had first to be gathered in, and we accordingly turned our faces westward in quest of buffalo. The snow had begun to fall in many storms, and the landscape was wrapped in its winter mantle. The buffalo were 200 miles distant on the Great Prairie. Only two wild creatures have made this grassy desert their home—the Indian and the bison. Of the origin of the strange, wild hunter, the keen untutored scholar of Nature, who sickens beneath our civilisation, and dies amidst our prosperity, fifty writers have broached various theories; but to me it seems that he is of an older and more remote race than our own—a stock coeval with a shadowy age, a remnant of an earlier creation which has vanished from the earth, preserved in these wilds.
As to the other wild creatures who have made their dwelling on the Great Prairie, the millions and millions of dusky bison, during whose migration from the Far South to the Far North the earth trembled beneath their tramp, and the air was filled with the deep, bellowing of their unnumbered throats, no one can tell their origin. Before the advent of the white man these twin dwellers on the Great Prairie are fast disappearing.
It was mid-November before we reached the buffalo, and it was on December 3, having secured enough animals to make the needful pemmican—a hard mixture of fat and dried buffalo meat pounded down into a solid mass—for our long journey, that, with thin and tired horses, we returned to the Forks of the Saskatchewan. The cold had set in unusually early, and even in mid-November the thermometer had fallen to thirty degrees below zero, and unmittened fingers in handling the rifle became frozen. During the sixteen days in which we traversed the Great Prairie on our return journey we had not seen one human being moving over it. The picture of desolation was complete.
When the year was drawing to its close, two Cree Indians pitched their lodge on the opposite side of the North Saskatchewan and afforded us not a little food for amusement in the long winter evenings. In the Red Man's mental composition there is mixed up much simplicity and cunning, close reasoning, and child-like suspicion, much natural quickness, sense of humour, credulousness, power of observation, faith and fun and selfishness.
Preparations had been made for my contemplated journey to the frozen North. I only waited the arrival of the winter packet which was to be carried 3,000 miles to distant stations of the Hudson Bay Company. A score of different dog teams had handled it; it had camped more than 100 nights in the Great Northern forests; but the Indian postman, with dogs and mail, had disappeared in a water-hole in the Saskatchewan river. On February 3, therefore, I set out with my dog team, but without letters.
Two days afterwards we came to Carlton Fort, where there was a great gathering of "agents" from all the forts of the Hudson Bay Company in the north and west, many of them 2,000 miles distant, and one 4,000 miles. These "agents," or "winterers," as they are sometimes called, have to face for a long season hardship, famine, disease, and a rigorous climate. God knows their lives are hard. They hail generally from the remote isles or highlands of Scotland. The routine of their lives is to travel on foot a thousand miles in winter's darkest time, to live upon the coarsest food, to feel cold such as Englishmen in England cannot even comprehend, often to starve, always to dwell in exile from the great world. Perchance, betimes, the savage scene is lost in a dreamy vision of some lonely Scottish loch, some Druid mound in far-away Lewis, some vista of a fireside, when storm howled and waves ran high on the beach at Stornoway.
III.—The Frozen Trail
It was brilliant moonlight on February 11 when we left Fort Carlton, and days of rapid travel carried us far to the north into the great sub-Arctic forest, a line of lakes forming its rampart of defence against the wasting fires of the prairie region. The cold was so intense that, at mid-day with the sun shining, the thermometer stood at 26 degrees below zero. Right in our teeth blew the bitter blast; the dogs, with low-bent heads, tugged steadily onward; the half-breeds and Indians who drove our teams wrapped their blankets round their heads. To run was instantly to freeze one's face; to lie on the sled was to chill through the body to the very marrow. It was impossible to face it long, and over and over again we had to put in to shore amongst the trees, make a fire, and boil some tea. Thus we trudged, until we arrived at the Forks of the Athabasca on the last day of February.
In the small fort at the Forks we camped for four days to enjoy a rest, make up new dog trains—Cerf-Vola never gave out—and partake of the tender steak of the wood-buffalo. For many days I had regularly used snow-shoes, and now I seldom sought the respite of the sled, but tramped behind the dogs. Over marsh and frozen river and portage we lagged till, on March 6, a vast lake opened out upon our gaze, on the rising shore of which were the clustered buildings of a large fort, with a red flag flying above them in the cold north blast. The lake was Athabasca, the clustered buildings Fort Chipewyan, and the flag—well, we all knew it; but it is only when the wanderer's eye meets it in some lone spot like this that he turns to it as the emblem of a home which distance has shrined deeper in his heart.
Athabasca means "the meeting place of many waters." In its bosom many rivers unite their currents, and from its northwestern rim pours the Slave River, the true Mackenzie. Its first English discoverer called it the "Lake of the Hills." A more appropriate title would have been the "Lake of the Winds," for fierce and wild storms sweep over its waves.
Once more the sleds were packed, once more the untiring Cerf-Vola took his place in the leading harness, and the word "march" was given. On the evening of March 12 I camped alone in the wilderness, for the three Indians and half-breeds who accompanied me were alien in every thought and feeling, and on the fourth day after we were on the banks of the Peace River.
Through 300 miles of mountain the Peace River takes its course. Countless creeks and rivers seek its waters; 200 miles from its source it cleaves the main Rocky Mountain chain through a chasm whose straight, steep cliffs frown down on the black water through 6,000 feet of dizzy verge. Farther on it curves, and for 500 miles flows in a deep, narrow valley, from 700 feet to 800 feet below the level of the surrounding plateau. Then it reaches a lower level, the banks become of moderate elevation, the country is densely wooded, the large river winds in serpentine bends through an alluvial valley; the current, once so strong, becomes sluggish, until at last it pours itself through a delta of low-lying drift into the Slave River, and its long course of 1,100 miles is ended.
For 900 miles there are only two breaks in the even flow of its waters—one at a point 250 miles from its mouth, a fall of eight feet with a short rapid above it; the other is the great mountain canyon on the outer and lower range of the Rocky Mountains, where a portage of twelve miles is necessary. This Peace River was discovered in 1792 by a daring Scotsman named Alexander Mackenzie, who was the first European that ever passed the Rocky Mountains and crossed the northern continent of America. The Peace River is the land of the moose, and, winter and summer, hunter and trader, along the whole length of 900 miles, between the Peace and Athabasca, live upon its delicious venison.
This, too, is the country of the Beaver Indians. It is not uncommon for a single Indian to render from his winter trapping 200 marten skins, and not less than 20,000 beavers are annually killed by the tribe. Towards the end of March the sun had become warm enough to soften the surface snow, and therefore we were compelled to travel during the night, when the frost hardened it, and sleep all day.
On April 1, approaching the fort of Dunvegan, we were steering between two huge walls of sandstone rock which towered up 700 feet above the shore. Right in our onward track stood a large, dusky wolf. My dogs caught sight of him, and in an instant they gave chase. The wolf kept the centre of the river, and the carriole bounded from snow-pack to snow-pack, or shot along the level ice. The wolf, however, sought refuge amidst the rocky shore, and the dogs turned along the trail again. Two hours later we reached Dunvegan, after having travelled incessantly for four-and-twenty hours. Here I rested for three days, and then pushed on to Fort St. John—our last dog march.
IV.—Through Canyon and Rapid
The time of winter travel had drawn to its close; the ice-road had done its work. From April 15 the river began to break its ice covering, and on April 20 spring had arrived; and with bud and sun and shower came the first mosquito. I left Fort St. John on April 22, having parted with my dog train, except the faithful, untiring Cerf-Vola; crossed the river on an ice bridge at great risk, and horses and men scrambled up 1,000 feet to the top of the plateau. There we mounted our steeds, and for two days followed the trail through a country the beauty of which it is not easy to exaggerate, and reached Half-way River, which we forded at infinite risk on a roughly constructed raft, the horses being compelled to swim the torrent.
Crossing the Peace River at the fort known as Hudson's Hope in a frail canoe, I narrowly escaped drowning by the craft upsetting, losing gun and revolver, although, wonderful to relate, the gun was recovered next day by my half-breed attendant, who dredged it with a line and fish-hook! From Hudson's Hope we made the portage of ten miles which avoids the great canyon of the Peace River at the farther end of which the river becomes navigable for canoes; and there we waited till April 29, when the ice in the upper part of the river broke up.
I took the opportunity of the delay to explore the canyon, which at this point is 900 feet deep. Advancing cautiously to the smooth edge of the chasm, I seized hold of a spruce-tree and looked down. Below lay one of those grim glimpses which the earth holds hidden, save from the eagle and the mid-day sun. Caught in a dark prison of stupendous cliffs, hollowed beneath so that the topmost ledge literally hung over the boiling abyss of water, the river foamed and lashed against rock and precipice. The rocks at the base held the record of its wrath in great trunks of trees, and blocks of ice lying piled and smashed in shapeless ruin. It is difficult to imagine by what process the mighty river had cloven asunder this wilderness of rock—giving us the singular spectacle, after it had cleared the canyon, of a wide, deep, tranquil stream flowing through the principal mountain range of the American continent.
On May Day we started, a company of four—Little Jacques (a French miner and trapper) as captain of the boat, another miner, my Scottish half-breed servant, Kalder, myself, and Cerf-Vola—to pole and paddle up-stream, fighting the battle with the current. Many a near shave we had with the ice-floes and ice-jams. A week afterwards we emerged from the pass to the open country, and before us lay the central mountain system of north British Columbia, the highest snowcapped peak of which I named Mount Garnet Wolseley, and there we camped. A mile from camp a moose emerged from the forest; I took bead on him and fired, aiming just below his long ears. There was a single plunge in the water; the giant head went down, and all was quiet. We towed him ashore and cut him up as he lay stranded like a whale. Directly opposite the camp a huge cone mountain arose up some eight or nine thousand feet above us, and just ere evening fell his topmost peak, glowing white in the sunlight, became mirrored in the clear, quiet river, while the life stream of the moose flowed out over the tranquil surface, dyeing the nearer waters into brilliant crimson.
We came to the forks of the Peace River on May 9, took that branch known as the Ominica, and through perils without number attempted to conquer in our canoe the passage of the deep black canyon. Again and again we were beaten back, and even lost our canoe in the rapids, although we afterwards recovered it by building a raft. We discovered a mining prospector who had a canoe at the upper end of the canyon, and agreed to exchange canoes—he taking ours for his voyage down the river, while we took his, after making a portage to a spot above the canyon, where it had been cached.
Three days after we entered the great central snowy range of north British Columbia; and on the night of May 19 camped at last at the mouth of the Wolverine Creek by quiet water. There we parted with the river, having climbed up to near the snow-line, and next day reached the mining camp of Germansen, where I stayed several days and became acquainted personally or by reputation with the leading "boys" of the northern mining country. Twelve miles from Germansen there was another mining camp, the Mansen, and from thence on to May 25 I started, in company with an express agent, to walk across the Bald Mountains, on the topmost ridge of which the snow ever dwells. On the other side of the mountains we packed our goods on horses which we had obtained, and pushed forward, only to encounter storms of snow and sleet on the summit of the table-land which divides the Arctic and the Pacific Oceans.
Then followed the trail of the long ascent up Look-Out Mountain, from which we gazed on 500 snowy peaks along the horizon, while the slopes immediately beneath us were covered with the Douglas pine, the monarch of the Columbian forest. It was May 29 when we entered the last post of the Hudson Bay Company, St. James Fort on the southeast shore of the beautiful Stuart's Lake, the favourite home of innumerable salmon and colossal sturgeon, some of the latter weighing as much as 800 lb. After a day's delay I parted with my half-breed Kalder, took canoe down the Stuart River to the spot where the trail crosses the stream, and then camped for the night. Having procured horses, we rode through a rich land which fringes the banks of the Nacharcole River. Then during the first two days of June we journeyed through a wild, undulating country, filled with lakes and rolling hills, and finally drew rein on a ridge overlooking Quesnelle. Before me spread civilisation and the waters of the Pacific; behind me vague and vast, lay a hundred memories of the Wild North Land; and for many reasons it is fitting to end this story here.
Voyages Round the World
I.—To the South Seas
Captain James Cook, son of a farm labourer, was born at Martin Cleveland, England, on October 27, 1728. Picking up knowledge at the village school, tending cows in the fields, apprenticed at Staithes, near Whitby, the boy eventually ran away to sea. In 1755, volunteering for the Royal Navy, he sailed to North America in the Eagle; then, promoted to be master of the Mercury, he did efficient service in surveying the St. Lawrence in co-operation with General Wolfe. His first voyage of discovery was in the Endeavour with a party to observe the transit of Venus in 1768, and after three years he returned, to start again, on his second voyage, in 1772, with the Resolution and Adventure to verify reports of a southern continent in the Pacific. His third and last voyage in the Resolution led him to explore the coast of North America as far as Icy Cape, and returning to the Sandwich Islands, he met his death while pacifying some angry natives on the shore of Owhyhee (Hawaii), on February 14, 1779. The original folio edition of the "Voyages" was published in 1784, compiled from journals of Cook, Banks, Solander, and others who accompanied him.
We left Plymouth Sound on August 26, 1768, and spent five days at Madeira, where Nature has been very liberal with her gifts, but the people lack industry. On reaching Rio de Janeiro, the captain met with much incivility from the viceroy, who would not let him land for a long time; but when we walked through the town the females showed their welcome by throwing nosegays from the windows. Dr. Solander and two other gentlemen of our party received so many of these love-tokens that they threw them away by hatfuls.
When we came in sight of Tierra del Fuego, the captain went ashore to discourse with the natives, who rose up and threw away the small sticks which they held in their hands, as a token of amity. Snow fell thick, and we were warned by the doctor that "whoever sits down will sleep, and whoever sleeps will wake no more." But he soon felt so drowsy that he lay down, and we could hardly keep him awake. Setting sail again, we passed the strait of Le Maire and doubled Cape Horn, and then, as the ship came near to Otaheite, where the transit of Venus was observed, the captain issued a new rule to this effect: "That in order to prevent quarrels and confusion, every one of the ship's crew should endeavour to treat the inhabitants of Otaheite with humanity, and by all fair means to cultivate a friendship with them."
On New Year's Day, 1770, we passed Queen Charlotte's Sound, calling the point Cape Farewell. We found the natives of New Zealand modest and reserved in their behaviour, and, sailing northward for New Holland, we called a bay Botany Bay because of the number of plants discovered there, and another Trinity Bay because it was discovered on Trinity Sunday. After much dangerous navigation, the ship was brought to in Endeavour River to be refitted. On a clear day, Mr. Green, the astronomer, and other gentlemen had landed on an island to observe the transit of Mercury, and for this reason this spot was called Mercury Bay.
Later, we discovered the mainland beyond York Islands, and here the captain displayed the English colours, and called it New South Wales, firing three volleys in the name of the king of Great Britain. After we had left Booby Island in search of New Guinea, we came in sight of a small island, and some of the officers strongly urged the captain to send a party of men on shore to cut down the cocoanut-trees for the sake of the fruit. This, with equal wisdom and humanity, he peremptorily refused as unjust and cruel, sensible that the poor Indians, who could not brook even the landing of a small party on their coast, would have made vigorous efforts to defend their property.