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CHAPTER VI.

French Discoveries.

FRANCE did not embark so early as some of the other powers in African discovery. Louis XIV., aided by his minister Colbert, was the first prince who studied to raise his kingdom to a high rank as a commercial and maritime power. But, unfortunately, according to the spirit of the time, the only mode in which he ever thought of promoting any branch of trade, was by vesting it in an exclusive company; and when, according to the usual fate of such associations, one was involved in bankruptcy, another immediately supplied its place. Thus four successive companies rose and fell, till at length they all merged in that greatest and most fatal delusion, the Mississippi scheme. However, these copartneries, at their first formation, attracted many individuals of opulence and talent, and generally opened with a spirited career of enterprise and discovery. While the English sought to ascend the Gambia, the Senegal was the Niger to the French—the stream by which they hoped to penetrate upwards to Timbuctoo and the regions of gold. At the mouth of this river, about the year 1626, was founded the settlement of St Louis, which has ever since continued to be the capital of the French possessions in Africa.

The first person who brought home any accounts of French Africa was Jannequin, a young man of some rank, who seeing, as he walked along the quay at Dieppe, a vessel bound for this unknown continent, took a sudden fancy to embark and make the voyage. The adventurers sailed on the 5th November, 1637, and touched at the Canaries; but the first spot on the continent where they landed was a part of the Sahara, near Cape Blanco. Jannequin was struck, in an extraordinary degree, with the desolate aspect of this region. It consisted wholly of a plain of soft sand, in which the feet were buried at every step; and a man, after walking fifty paces, was overwhelmed with fatigue. At Senegal the colony was found in so imperfect a state that the sailors were obliged to rear huts for their own accommodation; and, slight as these were, the labour under a burning sun was very severe. In ascending the river, however, he was delighted with the brilliant verdure of the banks, the majestic beauty of the trees, and the thick impenetrable underwood. Amid the deep solitude which distinguished the country, all the forests were filled with echoes. The natives received him hospitably, and he was much struck by their individual strength and courage, decidedly surpassing, as appeared to him, the similar qualities in Europeans. He saw a Moorish chief, called the Kamalingo, who, mounting on horseback, and brandishing three javelins and a cutlass, engaged a lion in single combat, and vanquished that mighty king of the desert. Flat noses and thick lips, so remote from his own ideas of the beautiful, were considered on the Senegal as forming the perfection of the human visage ; nay, he even fancies that they were produced by artificial processes. He was surprised by the enormous number of greegrees, or charms, in which the chiefs were enveloped. All the perils, of water, of wild beasts, and of battle, had an appropriate charm, by which the owner was secured against them. These potent greegrees were merely slips of paper, which the marabouts, or Mussulman doctors, had inscribed with Arabic characters; and being then enclosed in cases of thick cloth, or even of gold and silver, were hung round the person in such profusion that they actually formed a species of armour. In some instances they composed such a load that the possessor was unable to mount on horseback without assistance.

The Sieur Brue, who, in 1697, was appointed director-general of the Company's affairs, was the person who did most for their prosperity, and made the greatest efforts to penetrate into the interior. In that year he embarked on a visit to the Siratik, or King of the Foulahs, whose territory lay about 400 miles up the Senegal. In ascending that river he was struck, like Jannequin, by the magnificent forests, and the profuse and luxuriant verdure with which they were clothed ; while it was amusing to observe the numberless varieties of the monkey tribe, which were continually leaping from bough to bough. Elephants marched in bands of forty or fifty; and large herds of cattle fed on the rich meadows, though, during the season of inundation, they withdrew to the more elevated spots. At Kahayde, he was received by a chief belonging to the Siratik, accompanied by numerous attendants, among whom were his wife, daughters, and some female slaves, all mounted upon asses. He was cordially

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welcomed; yet the reflection suggested by his dealings with this gay and fair train was, that European beggars, however great their effrontery, might learn much from the example of the higher circles in Africa. When they can no longer ask, they begin to borrow, with the firm resolution of never repaying ; and, what is worst of all, when they make a present, they hold it a deadly offence not to receive at least double the value in return.

Brue sailed up the river, and landed at the port of Ghiorel; then, with a party of armed attendants, set out for Gumel, about ten leagues in the interior, where the Siratik resided. At Ghiorel he was visited by Bukar Siré, one of the young princes, and afterwards by the Kamalingo or general, and the Bouquenet, a venerable and aged negro, who filled an office similar to that of treasurer or prime minister. These two latter personages assured the director of the hearty welcome which awaited him at court; intimating, at the same time, their readiness to receive the presents which he was understood to have brought to the Siratik. These accordingly were spread forth, and consisted of scarlet cloths, coloured worsteds, copper kettles, pieces of coral and amber, brandy, spices, and a few coins, in portions respectively destined for the king, his wives, and the illustrious messengers; yet these liberal gifts, though they amply satisfied the great personages who received them, did not drain the finances of the Company, since the entire cost did not exceed sixty or seventy pounds. The country was found level, well cultivated and filled with such numerous herds that the French with difficulty made their way through them. At a village called Buksar, the Siré and his attendants again met them, brandishing their lances or assagayes, as if in the act to strike. . This being explained as meant for the greatest possible compliment, Brue, in return, cocked his pistol at the young prince, with whom he then spent the evening. After being introduced to several ladies of the court, he was entertained with supper, consisting of fruits, kouskous, and other simple products of African cookery. Then followed the folgar or dance, the favourite amusement of the negroes ; but while all the youth of the village were tripping it gaily upon the green, amid songs and music, he found more gratification in the kalder, or conversation carried on by the old men seated on mats in a circle. Their manners were noble and dignified ; they showed retentive memories and quick apprehensions respecting the objects which came within their limited range of observation.

He set out next morning for the residence of the Siratik, being met and escorted thither by the Kamalingo. He found that prince surrounded by none of those circumstances which constitute in Europe the pomp of royalty. His palace was merely a cluster of mud-cabins surrounded by a hedge of reeds. In one of these huts he reclined on a couch, while several of his wives and daughters sat round him on mats spread on the ground. The reception was perfectly friendly, and Brue even obtained permission to erect forts,—a privilege of which African princes are usually and indeed naturally jealous. The director was allowed full liberty to converse with the female circle, who were by no means held in that state of austere seclusion which gives such a gloom to Mussulman society. The ladies

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