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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 afterward 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 re spectively destined for the king, his wives, and the illus trious 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 gayly 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 began to talk in the most lively and familiar manner; and as Brue was thought to eye with admiration a handsome young princess of seventeen, she was tendered to him in marriage. He excused himself as one already joined in the bonds of matrimony; but the ladies professed themselves quite unable to conceive how this could form an objection, their young relative being of course prepared to share the honour with any reasonable number of rivals. It then behooved the director to explain the matrimonial system of Europe, which furnished, as it always does in Africa, ample ground for wonder and speculation. The lot of the French ladies was pronounced to be truly enviable; but Brue's own situation was much commiserated, especially in his present state of separation from his only wife.
The court being obliged to remove by the annoyance arising from a species of flying insect, Brue had an opportunity of observing the royal procession travelling in order. First came a numerous body of mounted musicians, who, performing on various instruments, produced a noise at once deafening and discordant. Next followed the royal ladies, mounted on the backs of camels in large osier baskets, which so completely enveloped their persons that their heads only were seen peeping above. Their female domestics, riding by their side on asses, endeavoured to enliven them by incessant talk. The baggage behind was borne by a long train of camels and asses; while horsemen, in military array, with the king and his principal nobles at their head, closed the procession. The director and his party, while all this gay train passed by, exchanged with them mutual courtesies and salutations. Having satisfactorily accomplished the immediate object of his journey, Brue returned to St. Louis.
In 1698, the same gentleman undertook another voyage, in which he aimed not merely at the limited objects above stated, but sought to ascend the Senegal as high as possible, and to open a commercial intercourse with the interior. In this voyage he had gained an amicable interview with the Siratik, and employed four of his negroes in destroying an enormous lion which had infested the neighbourhood. Farther on he observed some peculiar forms of the animal creation. The air for two hours was darkened by the passage of a cloud of locusts, and the boats were covered with their filth. Lions and elephants roamed in vast numbers; but the latter were quite tame and harmless unless when attacked. Monkeys swarmed in their usual multitudes; and in one place there was a species of a red colour, which appeared extremely surprised at the view of the strangers, and used to come in successive parties to gaze at them; on which occasion they conversed with each other, and even threw down dry branches upon the boats. The French, we know not why, fired and killed several; upon which they raised an extraordinary commotion, and sought, by throwing stones and sticks, to avenge the fall of their comrades ; but, soon finding the contest unequal, they retired for safety into the woods. The navigators were also introduced to a personage called "The King of the Bees," who, by the use of a particular charm, came to the boat surrounded by thousands of these insects, over which he exercised an absolute sway, guiding them as a shepherd does his sheep, and completely securing all his friends against their formidable stings.
On reaching Gallam, Brue found himself in a somewhat delicate position. Two rival princes disputed the throne, each holding, at his respective residence, a certain sway; but each also claiming for himself the entire homage, and all the presents brought by the director. The legitimate prince, in particular, sent his son to remonstrate that his undoubted claim ought not to be set aside for that of an ephemeral usurper. The European, however, acting steadily on the principle of self-interest, endeavoured to ascertain which of the two sovereigns could most benefit the company; and, finding the real power chiefly in the hands of the rebel, bestowed on him the larger portion of good things. The other party was thereby so incensed that he even threatened
an attack; but the determined language of Brue, and the sight of the great guns which the French had on board, made him relinquish all hostile intentions.
The director now reached Dramanet, a thriving town, inhabited by several rich merchants, who traded as far as Timbuctoo, which, according to their computation, was five hundred leagues in the interior. This position was therefore thought the most convenient place for a fort, which was called St. Joseph, and continued long to be the principal seat of French commerce on the Upper Senegal. Brue then went up to Felu, where a large rock, crossing the river, forms a cataract, which it is almost impossible for vessels to pass. Quitting his boats, he proposed to ascend to the falls of Govinea, about forty leagues higher; but the water was getting so low, that, fearing the navigation downward should be interrupted, he returned to St. Louis.
Brue, in reply to numerous inquiries made by him on this journey, received accounts of the kingdom of Bambarra, of the Lake Maberia (Dibbie of Park), of Timbuctoo, of the caravans which came thither from Barbary, and even of masted vessels which were seen on the waters beyond. But the grand object of his research was the course of the Niger, concerning which he received two quite opposite answers. According to some it flowed westward from the Lake Maberia, till it separated into the two channels of the Gambia and Senegal; but other and juster reports represented it as being distinct from both these rivers, and as passing eastward beyond Timbuctoo. The testimonies transmitted to France in favour of this last opinion must have greatly preponderated, since both the great geographers, Delille and D'Anville, adopted this delineation; and yet the popular opinion in that country, as well as through Europe in general, long continued to regard the Niger and Senegal as one and the same river.
Beyond Gallam lay another more tempting region, Bambouk, which contains mines of gold, the most productive of all that are to be found in the interior of Western Africa. The difficulty of penetrating thither, however, was extreme, the natives having completely barred the frontier against white men, in consequence of the tyranny exercised by the Portuguese, who had ruled and oppressed the district till they were cut off or expelled by a general insurrection.
Many adventurers, after being induced by high bribes to undertake the journey, successively declined the enterprise. At length one Compagnon, laden with valuable presents, ventured to pass the boundary, and by his address succeeded in conciliating the inhabitants of the nearest village. A general alarm, however, spread through the country, when it was known that there was a white man within its precincts; and representations were sent, that, according to the ancient salutary laws, he should forthwith be put to death; yet Compagnon, by presents and address, succeeded in making his way from village to village. He contrived to visit the principal districts, and even to carry off a portion of the ghingan, or golden earth, which forms the pride and wealth of Bambouk. Brue_then_transmitted to France various projects, and among others that of conquering the country, which he undertook to effect with 1200 men; but such a degree of apathy prevailed at home, that none of these propositions made any impression. Subsequent governors, however, directed their attention to the same subject: two of them, Levens and David, even visited Bambouk in person; but no attempt was ultimately made either to conquer or to form settlements in that part of Africa. Indeed, though either step might have been successful in the first instance, the possession of such a territory would in the end have proved both costly and precarious.
From the accounts thus received, and which have been collected by Mr. Golberry, Bambouk appears to consist of a mass of lofty, naked, and barren mountains, and to contain scarcely any treasures, except those which are hid in the bowels of the earth. Besides, it is in the most arid and dreary spot of this gloomy region that the gold is found. Several hills in different quarters, not very high, but of considerable extent, have the same metallic substance distributed throughout, under the form of grains, spangles, and even of small lumps, which are always found larger in proportion to the depth of the bed. In the mine of Natakon the ore is mixed with earth, from which the precious dust is extracted by continued agitation in water; or it adheres to fragments of iron, emery, and lapis lazuli, whence it is easily detached. In the mine of Semayla, on the contrary, it is imbedded in a hard reddish loam, mixed with other substances still harder. from which it can be extracted only by