Imatges de pÓgina

handsome, intelligent, and of a lively air and carriage; but, besides pushing their frankness to excess, their general demeanour was by no means scrupulous. They used, in particular, the utmost diligence in stealing from Major Denham's person every thing that could be reached, even searching the pockets of his trowsers; and, when detected, only laughing, and calling to each other how sharp he had shown himself. But the darkest feature of savage life was disclosed, when the sultan and his son each sent to solicit poison "that would not lie," to be used against the other. The latter even accompanied the request with a bribe of three lovely black damsels, and laughed at the horror which was expressed at the proposal.

The Loggunese live in a rich country, abounding in grain and cattle, and diversified with forests of lofty acacias and many beautiful shrubs. Its chief scourge consists in the millions of tormenting insects which fill the atmosphere, making it scarcely possible to go into the open air at mid-day without being thrown into a fever; indeed, children have been known to be killed by their stings. The natives have a mode of building one house within another to protect themselves against this scourge; while some kindle a large fire of wet straw and sit in the smoke but this remedy, if it be possible, seems worse than the evil which it is meant to obviate.

Major Denham was much distressed on this journey by the death of his companion Mr Toole; and he could no longer delay his return when he learned that the Begharmis, with a large army, were crossing the Shary to attack Bornou. Soon after his arrival at Kouka the sheik led out his troops, which

he mustered on the plain of Angala, and was there furiously attacked by 5000 Begharmis, led by 200 chiefs. The Begharmi cavalry are individually strong and fierce, and both riders and horses still more thoroughly cased in mail than those of Bornou; but their courage, when brought to the proof, is nearly on a level. The sheik encountered them with his Kanemboo spearmen and a small band of musketeers, when, after a sharp conflict, the whole of this mighty host was thrown into the most disorderly flight; even the Bornou cavalry joined in the pursuit. Seven sons of the sultan, and almost all the chiefs fell; two hundred of their favourite wives were taken, many of whom were of exquisite beauty.

Mr Tyrwhit, a gentleman whom his Majesty's government had sent out to strengthen the party, arrived on the 20th May, and on the 22d delivered to the sheik a number of presents, which were received with the highest satisfaction. In company with this gentleman, Major Denham, eager to explore Africa still further, took advantage of another expedition undertaken against a tribe of Shouaa Arabs, distinguished by the name of La Sala,—a race of amphibious shepherds who inhabit certain islands that extend along the south-eastern shores of the Tchad. These spots afford rich pasture; while the water is so shallow, that, by knowing the channels, the natives can ride without difficulty from one island to the other. Barca Gana led a thousand men on this expedition, and was joined by 400 of a Shouaa tribe, called Dugganahs, enemies to the La Salas. These allies presented human nature under a more pleasing aspect than it had yet been seen in any part of Central Africa. They de

spise the negro nations, and all who live in houses, and still more in cities; while they themselves reside in tents made of skin, collected into circular camps, which they move periodically from place to place. They live in simple plenty on the produce of their flocks and herds, celebrate their joys and sorrows in extemporary poetry, and seem to be united by the strongest ties of domestic affection. Tahr, their chief, having closely examined our traveller as to the motives of his journey, said, "And have you been three years from your home? Are not your dimmed with straining to the north, where all your thoughts must ever be? If my eyes do not see the wife and children of my heart for ten days, they are flowing with tears when they should be closed in sleep." On taking leave, Tahr's parting wish was, "May you die at your own tents, and in the arms of your wife and family." This chief, it is said, might have sat for the picture of a patriarch his fine serious expressive countenance, large features, and long bushy beard, afforded a favourable specimen of the general aspect of his tribe.



The united forces now marched to the shores of the lake, and began to reconnoitre the islands on which the Shouaas with their cattle and cavalry were stationed; but the experienced eye of Barca Gana soon discerned that the channel, though shallow, was full of holes, and had a muddy, deceitful appearance. He proposed, therefore, to delay the attack till a resolute band of Kanemboo spearmen should arrive and lead the way. The lowing, however, of the numerous herds, and the bleating of the flocks on the green islands which lay before them, excited in the troops a degree of hunger as well

as of military ardour, that was quite irrepressible. They called out, "What! be so near them and not eat them? No, no, let us on; this night these flocks and women shall be ours!" Barca Gana suffered himself to be hurried away, and plunged in among the foremost. Soon, however, the troops began to sink into the holes or stick in the mud; their guns and powder were wetted, and became useless; while the enemy, who knew every step, and could ride through the water as quickly as on land, at once charged the invaders in front, and sent round a detachment to take them in the rear. The assault was accordingly soon changed into a disgraceful flight, in which those who had been the most loud in urging to this rash onset set the example. Barca Gana, who had boasted himself invulnerable, was deeply wounded through his coat-of-mail and four cotton tobes, and was with difficulty rescued by his chiefs out of the hands of five La Sala horsemen who had vowed his death. The army returned to their quarters in disappointment and dismay, and with a severe loss. During the whole night the Dugganah women were heard bewailing their husbands who had fallen, in dirges composed for the occasion, and with plaintive notes, which could not be listened to without the deepest sympathy. Major Denham was deterred by this disaster from making any farther attempt to penetrate to the eastern shores of the Tchad.

The Biddoomahs are another tribe who inhabit extensive and rugged islands in the interior of the lake, amid its deep waters, which they navigate with nearly a thousand large boats. They neither cultivate the ground nor rear flocks or herds, while

[ocr errors]

their manners appeared to our traveller the rudest and most savage even of Africans, those of the Musgow always excepted. They are said to have adopted as a religious creed, that God, having withheld from them corn and cattle, which the nations around enjoy, has given in their stead strength and courage, to be employed in taking these good things from all in whose possession they may be found. To this belief they act up in the most devout manner, spreading terror and desolation over all the shores of this inland sea; no part of which, even in the immediate vicinity of the great capitals, is for a moment secure from their ravages. The most powerful and warlike of the Bornou sovereigns, finding among their subjects neither the requisite skill nor experience in navigation, do not attempt to cope with the Biddoomahs on their watery domains; and thus gave up the lake to their undisputed sway.

While Major Denham was thus traversing, in every direction, Bornou and the surrounding countries, Mr Clapperton and Dr Oudney were proceeding through Houssa, by a route less varied and hazardous indeed, but disclosing forms both of nature and of society fully as interesting. They departed from Kouka on the 14th December, 1823, and, after passing the site of Old Birnie, they found the banks of the Yeou fertile, and diversified with towns and villages. On entering Katagum, the most easterly Fellata province, they observed a superior style of culture; two crops of wheat being raised in one season by irrigation, and the grain stored in covered sheds elevated from the ground on posts. The country to the south was covered with extensive swamps and mountains, tenanted by rude and Pagan races, who

« AnteriorContinua »