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but they were abandoned by the Khalifas, one gathers from the Arab geographers, for want of water, when our era was still young.

Will this mine ever be available again for those in search of the precious mineral ? is the first question that suggests itself. Unfortunately I am no gold expert, and am therefore absolutely unable to give an opinion as to the possibilities of the still existing quartz seams being payable or not, but there is abundance of it both in the Wadi Gabeit and in the collateral valleys, and it is improbable that. the ancients, with their limited knowledge of mining, could have exhausted the place. Specimens of quartz that I picked up at haphazard have been assayed and found to be auriferous, with the gold very finely disseminated : an expert would undoubtedly have selected even more brilliant specimens than these. Against this the absence of water and labour seemed to me at the time to negative any possible favourable results; but, on the other hand, the mine is so conveniently near the sea, with comparatively easy road access, that labour might be imported, and such wonderful things are done nowadays with artesian wells, that if the experts report favourably upon it, there would be every chance of good work being done, and these desert mountains of the Soudan might again ring with the din of industry.

The morning after we reached Wadi Gabeit an express messenger reached us from Sawakin, bidding us return to the coast at once, as we were supposed to be in considerable danger. Dervish raids were expected in this direction, and the authorities were evidently afraid of complications. A solemn palaver forthwith took place, at which our three sheikhs showed that they thought little of the supposed danger, and said that though we were nominally in Dervish country at the time, there was no armed force near of sufficient strength to attack us.

So we decided, and backed up our decision with a promised bribe, to stay another night in Wadi Gabeit, and to continue our course round Mount Erba as we had originally intended, and with us we kept the messenger of woe with his gun and spear as an additional protection.

We left Wadi Gabeit next morning, and on the following day another messenger from Sawakin met us with a similar mandate ; but as we were now journeying in a presumably safe direction we annexed him too, and went on our way rejoicing. Personally we felt that we knew the condition of the country better than the authorities of Sawakin, who had never been there. If our sheikhs had meant treachery they would long ago have put it into practice; our two Kourbab sheikhs, whose property is in and around Mohammed Gol, were ample guarantee for our safety; and, moreover, the country was so absolutely destitute of everything, that we gave the Dervishes credit for better sense than to raid it.

It was at this juncture that we lost our little dog, a pet that had journeyed everywhere with us; when search failed, we gave it

up

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lost, and drew mournful pictures of the dear creature's dying agonies in the desert, foodless and waterless. The clever animal nevertheless retraced its steps, how we know not, to Mohammed Gol in five days, without food and very little water, over the desert paths we had comea distance of about 120 miles, and terrified the governor out of his wits, who naturally thought it was the sole survivor of our expedition. It made its way straight to the jetty and swam to our dhow, and was picked up by our Arab sailors more dead than alive. After resting and feeding on the dhow for two days the dog jumped overboard once more, and went off by itself to the mountains for three days in search of us; when this failed it returned again, and reached our dhow the night before we did, and was ready to welcome us on our return with a wildly demonstrative greeting. We eventually gave it to a sergeant at Sawakin, and have reason to believe that it is at present taking part with its regiment in the Soudan campaign.

The day's journeyings after leaving Wadi Gabeit were very similar to those before reaching it: now a valley of black shale void of verdure, now a sand-choked valley with herbage as black as if it had been burnt, now a valley with a few arrack trees, the mustard tree of the Bible, on which young camels and their mothers were feeding; and as we reached Mount Erba we descended the stupendously lovely Wadi Kour, where many donkeys are bred, and from which, they told us donkeys often escape and form the bread of wild asses, one or two of which we saw among the mountains.

From the heights above us, as we wound our way down Wadi Kour, stones were rolled down on us by natives of hostile intent, and our sheikhs would not let us encamp under the shadow of the rocks, but right in the middle of the valley, for fear of our being treated to a volley of stones during the night. Far richer vegetation here existed at the foot of Mount Erba ; deep pools of water were to be found in the crevasses, trees, plants, and rushes grew here, in the sight of which we revelled after our desert wanderings.

At the instigation of one of our sheikhs we made a long detour from here to visit his father's encampment at a spot called Sellala, concerning which he drew such lively pictures of rich vegetation and plenty that we hoped we were going to a real oasis in the desert, but instead we found a wretched sand-choked spot, and pitched our tents in a raging sandstorm, by no means pleased at the deception that had been played upon us.

At Sellala is a deep and probably ancient well, which is the point of assemblage for many Bedouins with their camels and their flocks. Ali Hamed, the aged sheikh of this branch of the Kourbab tribe, here has his settlement, the largest we had seen anywhere in this district, and actually consisting of ten huts. He is a wicked old man to look upon, with a hooked nose and cunning eye, with a widespread reputation, doubtless well deserved, of being a hardened old

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slave-trader; he was very civil to us nevertheless, and in his village we sat for some time and purchased various native commodities—a gold nose ring and earrings, and elegant camel trappings, for the evidence of wealth here was in excess of any we had yet seen. But the greatest good that accrued to us from our visit to Sellala was a long ride. Ali Hamed's son Mohammed took us to see some rock scribblings, and I am confident they were the best 'antikas ’ he had to show us, for he was very jealous of the interest we had taken in those in Debalop's country. On a knoll covered with basaltic rocks we found the smooth surfaces completely covered with representations of various animals, similar to those we had seen in the Wadi Gabeit, only a larger assortment. Here we recognised the elephant, the mongoose, the gazelle, and the camel, and interspersed amongst them were two letters of the Sabæan alphabet, suggestive of the theory that visitors from South Arabia had done them. The spot was only a few miles from the sea, and the tiny harbour of Salaka, the port of Ali Hamed's country, and we naturally connected these scribblings with the gold industry inland, and came to the conclusion that this harbour was one frequented by the ancient miners. Near the mound was another of the curious towers in ruins, but otherwise the country around was void of all interest—an absolutely barren expanse of desert sand.

Before finally returning to Mohammed Gol and our dhow, we decided to pass a few pleasant days in exploring the fastnesses of Mount Erba and its spurs. One of our party was exceedingly anxious to in pursuit of the ibex, which occur in great numbers on this rocky mountain. So accordingly we clambered up the Wadi Ambaya, which penetrates far into the heart of the mountain, and pitched our tents in the dry bed of the mountain stream amid gigantic boulders. It was a perfectly delightful change to be amongst these mountain gorges with streams of water and rich vegetation, and no fear of Dervishes to prevent us wandering hither and thither, where we wished.

Nabidua, Sherbuk, and Emeri are the three highest peaks of Erba, the former reaching an elevation of 7,500 feet, and running like needles into the sky. The scenery is exceedingly wild and rocky, and in whichever direction we turned the rise was very precipitous. Scattered up the valleys are several native settlements, the huts being hardly distinguishable from the boulders around them; the pasturage seemed exceedingly good, and we regaled ourselves with the luxury of an unlimited supply of milk. These mountain Bedouins have dogs of a breed peculiarly their own, which they keep for the chase of the ibex; and these people here are exceedingly lithe and active, leaping from rock to rock, with their shields and spears, with the nimbleness of goats.

In the lower valleys gazelle and antelope are very numerous, and

these the natives trap with a peculiar snare manufactured by themselves, consisting of a ring in which many thin strips of wood are fastened, meeting in the centre. This ring is just covered with sand and tied to a tree, so that when the animal steps upon it its leg is caught and it is easily captured; there are great numbers of these ingenious traps to be found in every hut.

We spent one pleasant day on an expedition to a mountain hamlet high up in the recesses of Kokout-a spur of Erba, and approached by a curious gorge, so narrow in places that we thought it must end soon, and requiring considerable agility to get up. The women were all busy making butter by shaking the milk in skins tied to a tree, which product is the principal one on which they subsist for a livelihood; their children were learning the art of war with toy shields and toy swords, and the men played us tunes on long reed pipes, most suitable to their pastoral pursuits and wild surroundings, and on our return home we had ibex for dinner, which we did not like much, being in flavour too closely related to old goat.

Then we bid adieu to our wild roving life, and returned to our dhow, which took us in two days to Sawakin, where war and rumours of war were the order of the day.

J. THEODORE BENT.

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COUNTY COUNCILS & RURAL EDUCATION

The following pages upon the recent educational proposals of the Government are in no sense prompted by political considerations. They are simply intended to embody certain conclusions suggested by a long and fairly wide interest and experience in connection with rural elementary schools, and by the experience gained and the interest awakened in secondary education in the conduct of the business (as chairman of the Technical Education Committee of the Devon County Council, which was appointed immediately upon the passing of the Act in 1890. That committee has worked zealously and steadily, and with a measure of success such as only the boldest and most sanguine would have ventured to predict from the reception which was usually accorded to their proposals during the first four or five years. It is some satisfaction to be able to remark that the lines upon which they have principally run have been in most matters closely paralleled by the lines followed in other counties of a comparable size and of circumstances at all similar; and this fact to some extent justifies the inference that the conclusions to be drawn from our experience in Devonshire and the western counties are far from being inapplicable to other rural districts.

I have therefore ventured to put forward these suggestions solely from a sincere anxiety to promote, as far as in me lies, sound permanent progress in education, both elementary and secondary, in rural districts. In urban districts the solution of the problem is as child's play compared with the overcoming of the difficulties that attend its solution in the country;' and it is mainly with country matters' that county councils have to do. It is of rural and not urban districts that I write. And it may be well to remind the reader that while it is with regard to rural districts that those interested in education find the most numerous and the most serious obstacles in their path, it is also in rural districts that the need for energetic action is greatest and the reward of success would be the most encouraging

It would be difficult to say which were the greater, the hopes or the fears excited by the educational project so unexpectedly sprung

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