Imatges de pÓgina

Two days after, he entered Kano, the Ghana of Edrisi, and which is now, as it was six hundred years ago, the chief commercial city of Houssa and of all Central Africa. Yet it disappointed our traveller on his first entry, and for a quarter of a mile scarcely appeared a city at all. Even in its more crowded quarters the houses rose generally in clusters, only separated by large stagnant pools. The inhabited part, on the whole, did not appear to comprise more than a fourth of the space enclosed by the walls, while the rest consisted of fields, gardens, and swamps; however, as the whole circuit is fifteen miles, there is space for a population moderately estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000. Its market, the greatest scene of commercial transactions in Africa, is held on a neck of land between two swamps, by which, during the rains, it is entirely overflowed; but in the dry season it is covered with sheds, or stalls of bamboo, arranged into regular streets. Different quarters are allotted for the several kinds of goods; some for cattle, others for vegetables; while fruits of various descriptions, so much neglected in Bornou, are here displayed in profusion. The fine cotton fabrics of the country are sold either in webs, or in what are called tobes and turkadees, with rich silken stripes or borders ready to be added. Among the favourite articles are goora or kolla nuts, which are called African coffee, being supposed to give a peculiar relish to the water drunk after them; and crude antimony, with whose black tint every eyebrow in Houssa must be died. The Arabs also dispose here of sundry commodities that have become obsolete in the north; the cast-off dresses of the Mamelukes and other great men, and old swordblades from Malta. But the busiest scene is the slavemarket, composed of two long ranges of sheds, one for males and another for females. These poor creatures are seated in rows, decked out for exhibition; the buyer scrutinizes them as nicely as a purchaser with us does a horse, inspecting the tongue, teeth, eyes, and limbs, making them cough and perform various movements, to ascertain if there be any thing unsound; and in case of a blemish appearing, or even without assigning a reason, he may return them within three days. As soon as the slaves are sold, the exposer gets back their finery, to be employed in ornamenting others. Most of the captives purchased at Kano are con'veyed across the Desert during which their masters endea

[ocr errors]

vour to keep up their spirits by an assurance that, on passing its boundary, they will be set free and dressed in red, which they account the gayest of colours. Supplies, however, often fail in this dreary journey,—a want felt first by the slaves, many of whom perish with hunger and fatigue. Mr. Clapperton heard the doleful tale of a mother who had seen her child dashed to the ground, while she herself was compelled by the lash to drag on an exhausted frame. Yet when at all tolerably treated, they are very gay, an observation generally made in regard to slaves; but this gayety, arising only from the absence of thought, probably conceals much secret wretchedness.


The regulations of the market of Kano seem to be good, and strictly observed. There is a sheik who regulates the police, and is said even to fix the prices,-which is going too far. The dylalas, or brokers, are men of somewhat high character; packages of goods are often sold unopened, and bearing merely their mark. If the purchaser afterward finds any defect, he returns it to the agent, who must grant compensation. The medium of exchange is not cloth as in Bornou, nor iron as in Loggun, but cowries, or little shells brought from the coast, twenty of which are worth a halfand 480 make a so a pound sterling, one has to count over 9600 cowries. Our countryman admires this currency, as excluding all attempts at forgery; but really we should think its use very tedious and inconvenient. Amid so many strangers there is ample room for the trade of the restaurateur, which is occupied by a female seated on the ground, with a mat on her knees, on which are spread vegetables, gussub-water, and bits of roasted meat about the size of a penny; these she retails to her customers squatted around her. The killing of a bullock forms a sort of festival at Kano; its horns are died red with henna, drums are beat, and a crowd collected, if they approve of the appearance and condition of the animal, readily become purchasers.

Boxing in Houssa, like wrestling in Bornou, forms a favourite exercise, and the grand national spectacle. Mr. Clapperton, having heard much of the fancy of Kano, intimated his willingness to pay for a performance, which was forthwith arranged. The whole body of butchers attended, and acted as masters of the ceremonies; while, as soon as

the tidings spread, girls left their pitchers at the wells, the market people threw down their baskets, and an immense crowd was assembled. The ring being formed, and drums beat, the performers first came forward singly, plying their muscles like a musician tuning his instrument, and each calling out to the bystanders,-"I am a hyena; I am a lion; I can kill all that oppose me." After about twenty had shown off in this manner, they came forward in pairs, wearing only a leathern girdle, and with their hands muffled up in numerous folds of country cloth. It was first ascertained that they were not mutual friends; after which, they closed with the utmost fury, aiming their blows at the most mortal parts, as the pit of the stomach, beneath the ribs, or under the ear: they even endeavoured to scoop out the eyes; so that, in spite of every precaution, the match often terminated in the death of one of the combatants. Whenever Mr. Clapperton saw the affair verging to such an issue, he gave orders to stop; and, after seeing six pairs exhibit, paid the hire and broke up the meeting.

From Kano he set out under the guidance of Mohammed Jollie, leader of an extensive caravan intended for Sackatoo, capital of the sultan of the Fellatas. The country was perhaps the finest in Africa, being under high cultivation, diversified with groves of noble trees, and traversed in a picturesque manner by ridges of granite. The manners of the people, too, were pleasing and pastoral. At many clear springs gushing from the rocks young women were drawing water. As an excuse for engaging in talk, our traveller asked several times for the means of quenching his thirst. "Bending gracefully on one knee, and displaying at the same time teeth of pearly whiteness, and eyes of the blackest lustre, they presented a gourd, and appeared highly delighted when I thanked them for their civility, remarking to one another,Did you hear the white man thank me?"" But the scene was changed when the traveller reached the borders of the provinces of Goober and Zamfra, which were in a state of rebellion against Sackatoo. The utmost alarm at that moment prevailed; men and women, with their bullocks, asses, and camels, all struggled to be foremost, every one crying out, "Wo to the wretch that falls behind! he will be sure to meet an unhappy end at the hands of the Gooberites." There was danger even of being

[ocr errors]

thrown down and trampled to death by the bullocks, which were furiously rushing backward and forward; however, through the unremitting care of the escort, Clapperton made his way safely, though not without much fatigue and annoyance, along this perilous frontier.

On the 16th March, 1824, after passing through the hilly district of Kamoon, the valleys began to open, and crowds of people were seen thronging to market with wood, onions, indigo, and other commodities. This indicated the approach to Sackatoo, which they soon saw from the top of a hill, and entered about noon. A multitude flocked to see the white stranger, and received him with cheers of welcome. The sultan was not yet returned from a ghrazzie or slave-hunt; but the gadado, or minister, performed handsomely the honours of the place. Next day the chief arrived, and instantly sent for Clapperton. The palace, as usual in Africa, consisted of a sort of enclosed town, with an open quadrangle in front. The stranger, on entering the gate, was conducted through three huts serving as guard-houses, after which he found Sultan Bello seated on a small carpet in a sort of painted and ornamented cottage Bello had a noble and commanding figure, with a high forehead and large black eyes. He gave the traveller a hearty welcome, and, after inquiring the particulars of his journey, proceeded to serious affairs. He produced books belonging to Major Denham, which had been taken in the disastrous battle of Dirkullah; and, though he expressed a feeling of dissatisfaction at the Major's presence on that occasion, readily accepted an apology, and restored the volumes. He only asked to have the subject of each explained, and to hear the sound of the language, which he declared to be beautiful. He then began to press his visiter with theological questions, and showed himself not wholly unacquainted with the controversies which have agitated the Christian world; indeed he soon went beyond the depth of his visiter, who was obliged to own that he was not versant in the abstruser mysteries of divinity.

The sultan now opened a frequent and familiar communication with the English envoy, in which he showed himself possessed of a good deal of information. The astronomical instruments, from which, as from implements of magic,

many of his attendants started with horror, were examined by the monarch with an intelligent eye. On being shown the planisphere, he proved his knowledge of the planets, and even of many of the constellations, by repeating their Arabic names. The telescope, which presented objects inverted -the compass, by which he could always turn to the east in praying and the sextant, which he called "the lookingglass of the sun," excited peculiar interest. Being desirous to see an observation performed with the latter instrument, Clapperton, who had lost the key of the artificial horizon, asked a dagger to break it open; upon which the sultan started, and half-drew his sword, trembling like an aspen leaf. The other very prudently took no notice of this excitement, but quietly opened his box, when the exhibi tion soon dispelled all unfavourable impressions. The sultan, however, inquired with evident jealousy into some points of English history that had come to his knowledge; as, the conquest of India, which the traveller endeavoured to represent as a mere arrangement to protect the natives, and particularly the Moslem population. The attack on Algiers, being also alluded to, was justly declared to have been made solely on account of her atrocious piracies.

Sackatoo appeared to Mr. Clapperton the most populous city he had seen in the interior of Africa. The houses stand more closely together than in most other towns of Houssa, and are laid out in regularly well-built streets. It is surrounded by a wall between twenty and thirty feet high, with twelve gates, which are punctually shut at sunset. The dwellings of the principal inhabitants consist of clusters of cottages and flat-roofed houses, in the Moorish style, enclosed by high walls. There are two mosques, one of which, then in progress of building, was 800 feet long, adorned with numerous pillars of wood plastered with clay, and highly ornamented.

Mr. Clapperton, desirous to accomplish what had all along been his main object, solicited a guide to the western countries and the Gulf of Benin. By this route he might investigate the course of the Niger and the fate of Park; he might also pave the way for a commercial intercourse, which would be of some benefit to Britain, and of great advantage to Africa. The sultan at first gave assurances of permission and aid in travelling through every part of his domi

« AnteriorContinua »