Imatges de pÓgina

The sole object in this voyage was the discovery of gold. The adventurer landed at various points, washed the sand and examined the rocks. He had carried out not only mercury, aqua regia, and large melting pots, but also a divining rod, which was not found to exhibit any virtue; however, on being laughed at by his companions for his delusive expectations from it, he persuaded himself that this potent instrument had lost its qualities by being dried up during the voyage from England. On one occasion he found a large mass of apparent gold, which proved to be mere spar. The real metal, he observes, is never found in low, fertile, and wooded spots, but always on naked and barren hills, embedded in a reddish earth. At one place, by twenty days' labour, he succeeded in extracting twelve pounds. At length he declares, that he arrived" at the mouth of the mine itself, and saw gold in such abundance as surprised him with joy and admiration." However, he gives no notice of the position of this famous mine, the existence of which has not been confirmed by any subsequent observer.

It was not till 1720 that the spirit of African discovery again revived in England. The Duke of Chandos, then director of the African Company, concerned at the declining state of their affairs, entertained the idea of retrieving them by opening a path into the golden regions still reported to exist in the interior of Africa. At his suggestion the Company, in 1723, furnished Captain Bartholomew Stibbs with the usual means for sailing up the Gambia. On the 7th October, this navigator arrived at James' Island, the English settlement, about thirty miles from the mouth of the river, whence he immediately wrote to Mr Willy, the governor, who happened to be then vi

siting the factory of Joar, more than a hundred miles distant, asking him to engage canoes. He received for answer, that there were none to be had, and was almost distracted to learn that Mr Willy was giving himself no concern about the affair. Some days after, however, a boat brought down the dead body of the governor, who had fallen a victim to the fever of the climate, which had previously affected his brain. Thus, notwithstanding every exertion of Orfeur, who succeeded him, the equipment of the boats was delayed till the 11th December, when the unfavourable season was fast approaching. Stibbs had assigned to him a crew of nineteen white men, of whom one indeed was as black as coal, but being a Christian, ranked as white, and served as interpreter,-likewise twenty-nine grumettas, or hired negroes, with three female cooks; and he afterwards took on board a balafeu, or native musician, to enliven the spirits of the party.

Stibbs set out on the 26th of December, and the voyage proceeded for some time very agreeably. The English were everywhere well received, and at one place even a saphie or charm had been laid upon the bank for the purpose of drawing them on shore. The captain had endeavoured to conceal his object, but in vain; he found himself everywhere pointed out as the person who was come to bring down the gold. The native crew, however, predicted the most fearful disaster if he should attempt to proceed above the falls of Barraconda. As the boats approached that fatal boundary, the Africans came in a body, and stated their firm determination on no account to proceed any farther. No one, they said, had ever gone beyond Barraconda,―Barracon

da was the end of the world, or if there existed any thing beyond, it was a frightful and barbarous region, where life would be in continual danger. A long palaver and a bottle of Stibbs' very best brandy were necessary ere they would agree to accompany him beyond this dreaded boundary of the habitable universe.

The falls of Barraconda were not found so formidable as rumour had represented; they were narrows rather than falls, the channel being confined by rocky ledges and fragments, between which there was only one passage, where the canoes rubbed against the rock on each side. In this region of the Upper Gambia, the natives, belying all slanderous rumours, proved to be a harmless, goodhumoured people, who, wherever the crew landed, met them with presents of fowls and provisions.

The severest exertion now became necessary in order to pass the flats and quicksands, which multiplied in proportion as they ascended, and over which the boats, in some instances, could only be dragged by main force. The wild and huge animals that occupy these regions appeared still more dangerous to the present adventurers than to their predecessors. The elephants which had fled precipitately before Jobson, struck the greatest terror into this party; one of them on a certain occasion putting to flight the whole crew. They were even seen in bands crossing

from one side of the water to the other. The riverhorses also presented themselves everywhere in numerous herds; and though this animal generally moved in a sluggish and harmless manner, yet in the shallow places, when walking along the bottom of the river, he occasionally came into collision with the


boat; incensed at which, he was apt to strike a hole through it with his huge teeth, so as to endanger its sinking. If the courage of the crew against these mighty animals was not very conspicuous, their exertions in dragging the boat over the flats and shallows appear to have been most strenuous; yet so extremely unfavourable was the season, that at the end of two months Stibbs found himself, on the 22d February, when he had reached fifty-nine miles above Barraconda, obliged to stop short even of Tenda, and consequently of the point to which Jobson had formerly attained.

The commander, on his return, after making every allowance for the inauspicious season and circumstances, could not forbear expressing deep disappointment in regard to the expectations with which he had ascended the Gambia. He saw no appearance of that mighty channel which was to lead into the remote interior of Africa, and through so many great kingdoms. He declared his conviction that "its original or head is nothing near so far in the country as by the geographers has been represented." It did not of course appear to him to answer in any respect the descriptions given of the Niger,-it nowhere bore that name,-it did not come out of any lake that he could hear of,—it had no communication with the Senegal or any other great river. The natives reported that at twelve days' journey above Barraconda it dwindled into a rivulet, and "fowls walked over it." These statements were received most reluctantly and sceptically by Moore, now the Company's factor on the Gambia, and a man of spirit and intelligence. He had even acquired some learning on the subject, and endea

voured to overwhelm Stibbs with quotations from Herodotus, Leo, Edrisi, and other high authorities. The mariner, though quite unable to cope with him in this field of discussion, did not the less steadily assert the plain facts which he had seen with his own eyes; and a degree of discouragement was felt, which prevented any other exploratory voyage from being undertaken for a considerable time into that part of the African continent.

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