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Park's First Journey.
As soon as the Association were informed of the fate of Major Houghton, they accepted the offered services of Mr. Mungo Park, a native of Scotland, regularly bred to the medical profession, and just returned from a voyage to India. The committee were satisfied that Mr. Park possessed the requisite qualifications, though they could not yet be aware of the full extent of his courage and perseverance, nor of the unrivalled eminence to which, as a traveller, he was destined to rise under their auspices.
He set sail from Portsmouth on the 22d May, 1795, and on the 21st June arrived at Jillifree on the Gambia. He then proceeded to Pisania, in the fertile kingdom of Yani, where he was detained five months by illness under the hospitable roof of Dr. Laidley. While suffering from the fever of the climate, he acquired the Mandingo language, and obtained considerable information from the negro traders respecting the interior countries. The Gambia at this station was deep and muddy, overshadowed with impenetrable thickets of mangrove, and the stream filled with crocodiles and river-horses.
On the 2d of December, Mr. Park took his departure, attended only by a few negro servants. On the 5th, he arrived at Medina, where the good old king received him with the same hospitality he had so liberally shown to Major Houghton; but earnestly exhorted him to take warning from the fate of that too adventurous traveller, and go no farther. Mr. Park was not to be thus discouraged; but immediately proceeded to enter the great forest or wilderness which separates this country from Bondou. He conformed to the example of his companions in hanging a charm or shred of cloth upon a tree at its entrance, which was completely covered with those guardian symbols. In two days he had passed the wood, and found Bondou a fine champaign country, watered by the Faleme. He had soon, however, to encounter the perils which cannot but await every
single and defenceless traveller who, loaded with valuable goods, passes through a succession of petty kingdoms where law is unknown. At Fatteconda, which he reached on the 21st December, he was obliged to wait upon Almami the king, who had already disgraced himself by the plunder of Major Houghton. Being desirous to preserve a good new blue coat, Mr. Park deemed it the wisest plan to wear it on his person, fondly hoping that it would not be actually stripped off his back. However, after the introductory ceremonial, the king began a warm panegyric on the wealth and generosity of the whites, whence he proceeded to the praises of the coat and its yellow buttons, concluding with expressing the delight with which he should wear it for the sake of his guest. He did not add, that if these hints were disregarded, it would be seized by force; but our traveller, being thoroughly convinced that such was his intention, pulled off the coat, of which he humbly requested his majesty's acceptance. The king then abstained from farther spoil, and introduced him as a curiosity to his female circle. The ladies, after a careful survey, approved of his external appearance, with the exception of the two deformities of a white skin and a high nose; but for these they made ample allowance, being blemishes produced by the false taste of his mother, who had bathed him in milk when young, and, by pinching his nose, elevated it into its present absurd height. Park flattered them on their jet-black skins and beautifully flattened noses; but was modestly warned that honey-mouth was not esteemed in Bondou.
Another forest intervened between that kingdom and Kajaaga, which he crossed by moonlight, when the deep silence of the woods was interrupted only by the howling of wolves and hyenas, which glided like shadows through the thickets. Scarcely was he arrived at Joag, in Kajaaga, when a party from Bacheri the king surrounded him, and declared his property forfeited, in consequence of having entered the country without payment of the duties. Thus he was stripped of all his goods except a small portion which he contrived to hide. Unable to procure a meal, he was sitting disconsolate under a bentang tree, when an aged female slave came up and asked if he had dined. Being told that he had not, and had been robbed of every thing, she presented several handfuls of nuts, and went off before
he could return thanks. Demba Sego, nephew to the king of Kasson, and who happened to be then at Joag endeavouring to negotiate a peace between his uncle and Bacheri, who were at variance, now undertook to guide him into that country, and did so; but exacted so many duties and presents, that Mr. Park was stripped of half his remaining stock. Kasson was found a level, fertile, and beautiful country. At Kooniakary, the capital, our traveller was well received by the king, and forwarded to Kemmoo, the principal town of Kaarta. Daisy, the sovereign of this last, likewise received him with the utmost kindness; but on learning his intention of taking the route to Timbuctoo through Bambarra, he stated this to be impossible, as he himself was then at war with the latter kingdom, and assured him that he would at once be killed if he attempted to enter it from Kaarta. There remained, therefore, no alternative but to go by way of the Moorish kingdom of Ludamar, a perilous and fatal route, in which Major Houghton had already perished. Mr. Park, however, hoped, by proceeding along the southern frontier, to reach Bambarra without coming much into contact with the barbarous and bigoted Moors by whom it was peopled.
On his arrival at Jarra, a large town chiefly inhabited by negroes, but entirely under the power of the Moors, he sent to Benowm, the capital, a messenger loaded with presents to negotiate with Ali, their chief, for a passage through his territories. After waiting a fortnight in great anxiety, he received a safe-conduct to Goombo, a place on the frontier of Bambarra. He first proceeded to Deena, a town in the possession of the Moors, who insulted and plundered him in the grossest manner, so that he was happy to escape by setting out at two in the morning of 3d March. He passed next through Sampaka and Dalli, where he was received by the negro inhabitants with the usual kindness and hospitality of that race; he was even induced to stop a day at Dalli under promise of an escort; but this was a fatal pause. At Sami, on the 7th March, a party of Moorish horsemen appeared, for the purpose of telling him that Fatima, the favourite wife of Ali, had been struck with curi osity to see what kind of creature a Christian was; that he must therefore come and show himself; but was assured
that he would be well treated, and on satisfying her ma jesty's wish, would even be forwarded on his journey.
Benowm, the Moorish capital, to which Park was then conveyed, proved to be a mere camp composed of a number of dirty tents, intermingled with herds of camels, horses, and oxen. He was surrounded by crowds actuated partly by curiosity and partly by that malignant feeling which always inflames the Moors against Christians. They snatched off his hat, made him unbutton his clothes to show the whiteness of his skin, and counted his fingers and toes to see if he were really of the same nature with themselves. After being kept for some time in the sun, he was lodged in a hut made of cornstalks, supported by posts, to one of which was tied a wild hog, evidently in derision, and to intimate that they were fit associates for each other. The hog, indeed, would have been the most harmless part of the affair, had not idle boys taken delight in tormenting and working up the animal to a constant state of fury. Crowds of men and women incessantly poured in to see the white man, and he was obliged to continue the whole day buttoning and unbuttoning his clothes, to show his skin, and the European manner of dressing and undressing. When curiosity was satisfied, the next amusement was to plague the Christian, and he became the sport of the meanest and most vulgar members of this rude community. The Moorish horsemen took him out and galloped round him, baiting him as if he had been a wild beast, twirling their swords in his face to show their skill in horsemanship. Repeated attempts were made to compel him to work. One of Ali's sons desired him to mend the lock of a double-barrelled gun, and could scarcely be persuaded that all Europeans did not ply the trade of a smith. He was also installed as barber, and directed to shave the head of a young prince; but not relishing this function, he contrived to give his highness such a cut that Ali took the alarm and discharged him as incapable. That chief, under pretence of securing him against depredation, seized for himself all that remained of the traveller's property. Having examined the instruments, he was greatly astonished at the compass, and particularly at its always pointing towards the Great Desert. Park, thinking it vain to attempt any scientific exposition,
said that its direction was always to the place where his mother dwelt; whereupon Ali, struck with superstitious dread, desired it to be taken away.
Amid these insults, Park's sufferings were the more severe from the very scanty measure of food with which he was supplied. At midnight only he received a small mess of kouskous, not nearly enough to satisfy nature. He had been invited, indeed, to kill and dress his companion the hog; but this he considered as a snare laid for him, believing that the Mohammedans, had they seen him feasting on this impure and hated flesh, would have killed him on the spot. As the dry season advanced, water became scarce and precious, and only a very limited quantity was allowed to reach the infidel, who thus endured the pangs of the most tormenting thirst. On one occasion, a Moor who was drawing water for his cows, yielded to his earnest entreaty that he might put the bucket to his mouth; then, struck with sudden alarm at such a profanation of the vessel, seized it, and poured the liquid into the trough, desiring him to share with the cattle. Park overcame the risings of pride, plunged his head into the water, and enjoyed a delicious draught.
During this dreadful period he contrived, nevertheless, to obtain some information. Even the rudest of his tormentors took pleasure in teaching him the Arabic characters, by tracing them upon the sand. Two Mohammedan travellers came to Benowm, from whom he obtained routes to Morocco, Walet, and Timbuctoo; but they gave the most discouraging report as to the prospects of reaching the latter city. He was told it would not do; the Moors were there entirely masters, and viewed all Christians as children of the Devil and enemies of the prophet.
Fatima, the wife of Ali, whose curiosity to see a Christian he had been brought hither to gratify, was absent all this time and not like to arrive, while the rancour of the Moors, by whom Park was surrounded, became always more imbittered. A party even proposed that he should be condemned to death, though Ali's sons only recommended to put out his eyes, alleging that they resembled those of a cat. Hereupon he began seriously to consider the possibility of escape; but besides his being closely watched, the Desert was now so entirely destitute of water, that he must