Imatges de pÓgina

that the discoverers were to see during a long march of thirteen days. In these wilds, where the constant drift causes hills to rise or disappear in the course of a night, all traces of a road are soon obliterated, and the eye of the traveller is guided only by dark rocks which, at certain intervals, raise their heads amid the sterile waste. Sometimes the sand is formed into hills with perpendicular sides, from twenty to sixty feet high. These the camels are made to slide down; in which operation they can only be kept steady by the driver hanging with all his weight on the tail, otherwise they would tumble forward, and throw the load over their heads. "Tremendously dreary are these marches; as far as the eye can reach, billows of sand bound the prospect." Whenever the wind was high, volumes of this substance darkened the air, through which it was sometimes impossible to attempt a passage.

After a fortnight spent in the Desert, the expedition saw symptoms of a return to the region of life. There appeared scattered spots of thin herbage; little valleys watered by springs were filled with the shrub called suag, on which grew delicate berries; small herds of gazelles fed in these retreats; even the droves of hyenas indicated the revival of animal nature. As the travellers advanced, the country improved; at every mile the valleys became more gay and verdant; and the creeping vines of the colocynth in full bloom, with the red flowers of the kossom, converted many of these spots into a little Arcadia. The freshness of the air, with the melody of the hundred songsters that were perched among the creeping plants, whose flowers diffused an aromatic odour, formed the most delightful contrast to the de

solate region through which they had passed. Here again were found Tibboos, of the tribe called Gunda, a more alert and active people than the former; the men still uglier, the girls still handsomer and more delicately formed. This sept have about 5000 camels, on whose milk alone they support themselves for half the year, and their horses for the whole year; the little crop of gussub and millet being too precious for these animals, which drink camels' milk, sweet or sour, and by this strange diet are kept in the highest health and condition. The chief, Mina Tahr, or the Black Bird, waited upon the party, and was presented by Boo Khalloom with a coarse scarlet burnouse and a tawdry silk caftan: these paltry dresses, being the finest that had ever invested the person of this chieftain, threw him into ecstasies of delight, which he continued for hours to testify by joyful shouts and high leaps into the air. Major Denham's watch singularly delighted him; but solely, as soon appeared, from the pleasure of seeing his own person in the bright metallic case; so that a very small mirror was deemed still more precious.

In this approach to the territory of Soudan the English began to witness the exercise of mutual plunder between the caravan and the natives. Every animal which straggled from the main body was instantly carried off; even a dog had been eaten up, and only the bones left. A herald, handsomely equipped, who had been sent forward to the Sultan of Bornou, was found stripped, and tied naked to a tree. On the other hand, no sooner did the caravan come in view of any village than the inhabitants were descried on the plain beyond in full flight with all their effects. The Arabs pursued, in indignation

only, as they pretended, at not being allowed to purchase what they wanted; but the conduct of the poor natives was evidently the result of long experience; and Major Denham saw executed on one party the most rapid process of plunder he ever witnessed. In a few seconds the camels were eased of their loads, and the poor women and girls stripped to the skin. Boo Khalloom, on this and other occasions, interposed, and insisted on restitution; but whether he would equally have done so without the urgent remonstrances of the English appears to be doubtful.

The expedition, now advancing rapidly, entered Kanem, the most northern province of Bornou, and soon arrived at Lari, a town of two thousand inhabitants, composed of clusters of rush-huts, conical at top, and looking like well-thatched corn-stacks. This place formed a remarkable stage in their progress; for, from the rising ground in front of it was seen stretching out the boundless expanse of the great interior sea of Africa, the lake Tchad, "glowing with the golden rays of the sun." Major Denham, who saw here the key to his grand scheme of discovery, hastened down to the shores of this mighty water. These were darkened with the varied and beautiful plumage of ducks, geese, pelicans, and cranes four or five feet high, immense spoonbills of snowy whiteness, yellow-legged plovers, with numerous unknown waterfowl, sporting around, and quietly feeding at half pistol shot. It is not to be wondered at, that Major Denham should have felt reluctant to invade the profound tranquillity of these feathered tribes, and betray the confidence with which they received him. At last, overcoming his scruples,


[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

he took up his gun, and soon filled a large basket. It was evident here, that remarkable changes in the bed of the Tchad had recently taken place; for, though this was not the rainy season, long stalks of the grain called gussub were growing amid the waters on ground formerly dry.

The caravan now marched along the shores of the lake, and arrived in two days at Woodie, a large town, the first which was found thoroughly negro. The inhabitants lived in sluggish plenty, on the produce of a fertile country, without any attempt to obtain either elegancies or luxuries. It was resolved that the caravan should pause here, till a messenger could be sent forward to obtain for them invitation, or permission, to present themselves before the Sheik of Bornou. The political State of that country was at this time somewhat singular. Twenty years before it had been overrun and completely conquered, with the most dreadful devastation, by the Fellatas, a western people, to whose empire Bornou seemed to have been finally annexed. There still remained, however, a spirit in the people which spurned at a foreign yoke. The present sheik, a native of Kanem, of humble birth, but of superior talents and energy, rallied round him a band of bold spearmen, and, animating them by a pretended vision of the prophet, hoisted the green flag, and attacked the invaders. His success was such, that in ten months the Fellatas were completely driven out of Bornou, which they had never since re-entered, though desultory hostilities were still waged between the two nations. This leader, idolized by the army who had conquered under him, was now the real master of the country; yet the reverence of

« AnteriorContinua »