« AnteriorContinua »
expected every moment the fatal spring; but the savage animal, either not pressed by hunger or struck with some mysterious awe, remained immoveable, and allowed the party to pass unmolested. Real misery arose from a meaner cause, namely, the amazing swarms of mosquitoes which ascend from the swamps and creeks, and to whose attack, from the ragged state of his garments, he was exposed at every point. He was covered all over with blisters, and at night could get no rest. An affecting crisis next arrived. His horse, the faithful and suffering companion of his journey, had been daily becoming weaker. At length, stumbling over some rough ground, he fell all his master's efforts were insufficient to raise him, and no alternative remained but to leave the poor animal; which, after collecting some grass and laying before him, Mr. Park did, not without a sad presentiment that, ere long, he himself might in like manner lie down and perish with hunger and fatigue.
He now resolved to hire a boat, in which he was conveyed up the river to Silla, another large town, where his reception was so inhospitable that the dooty reluctantly permitted him to take shelter from the rain in a damp shed. Halfnaked, worn down by fatigue and sickness, and foreseeing the approach of the rains by which the whole country would be inundated, Mr. Park began seriously to contemplate his situation. All the obstacles now stated were small, when compared to the fact, that, in proceeding eastward, he would still be within the range of Moorish influence. He learned, that at Jenne, though included in Bambarra, the municipal power was chiefly in the hands of these savage and merciless fanatics, who, at Timbuctoo also, held the entire sway. On these grounds he felt convinced that certain destruction awaited him in his progress eastward; that all his discoveries would perish with himself; and that his life would be sacrificed in vain. His only hope, and it was but faint, of ever reaching England, depended upon his return westward, and on his proceeding by the most direct route to the coast. On this course he determined, a decision which was fully approved both by his employers and by the public.
During his stay at Silla, he used every effort to obtain information respecting the more eastern countries, particularly the kingdom of Timbuctoo, and the course of the
Niger. He was told that the next great city along that river was Jenne, which was represented as very flourishing, and larger than Sego or any other place in Bambarra. Lower down, the river spread into an expanse, called Dibbie or the Dark Lake, so extensive that, in crossing it, the canoes for a whole day lost sight of land. On the eastern side the Niger issued out of this lake in two large branches, enclosing the alluvial country of Jinbala, when they again united in one channel, which flowed on to Kabra, the port of Timbuctoo. That town, situated a day's journey north from the Niger, was described to Mr. Park as the great centre of the commerce carried on between the Moors and negroes, by means of which the former people had filled it with Mohammedan converts; it was added, that the king and his principal officers belonged to this faith, which was professed there with even more than the usual bigotry. An old negro related, that, on his entering a public inn, the landlord laid on the floor a mat and a rope, saying, "If you are a Mussulman, you are my friend, sit down on this mat; if not, you are my slave, and with this rope I will lead you to market." The king, named Abu Abrahima, was clothed in silk, lived in great pomp, and possessed immense riches. There has since appeared reason to suspect that, in these reports, both the bigotry and the splendour of Timbuctoo were somewhat exaggerated. Beyond this city, eastward, there was said to be a great kingdom called Houssa, with a capital of the same name, situated on the Niger. This also was somewhat inaccurate. There is no city called Houssa; and the term is applied, not to a kingdom, but to an extensive region comprehending many principalities, and through which the Niger does not pass.
Having formed his resolution, he forthwith began his return to the westward, and at Modiboo met with an unexpected and rather pleasing occurrence. While he was conversing with the dooty, a horse was heard to neigh; upon which the magistrate asked, smiling, if he knew who was speaking to him-and presently going out, led in the traveller's own horse, greatly recruited by rest. Mr. Park at first drove the animal before him, but afterward mounted, and found him of great benefit in passing the swamps and swollen rivulets which obstructed his route. He soon learned that dangers, even greater than he was aware of, had beset his
path. The king of Bambarra had been at last so worked upon by Moorish counsellors, that, repenting even his for ner stinted kindness, he had sent messengers to apprehend Fark, and to bring him a prisoner to Sego; from which fate he escaped only by the retrograde direction he had taken. Thenceforth every door was resolutely shut against him; at Sansanding his best friend Counti Mamadi privately paid him a visit, and advised him to leave the city early next morning, and to make no delay in the vicinity of the capital. Accordingly, at a village near that city, he obtained a confirmation of the above tidings, and was exhorted to lose no time if he wished to get safe out of Bambarra. He then quitted the road, and struck off through fields and swamps. He once intended to swim across the Niger, and push towards the Gold Coast, but afterward resolved to pursue his course westward along the river, and thus ascertain its precise line. He had now nothing to subsist on except what charity bestowed, which was only an occasional handful of raw corn. There was also the greatest difficulty in finding a way through the swampy and inundated grounds. Once his horse and he sunk together to the neck in mud, and came out so completely besmeared, that they were compared by the natives to two dirty elephants. At another time, when he had stripped, and was leading his horse through a river that took him up to the neck, a friendly African called out, that he would perish if he went on, and undertook to procure a canoe; but when he came out, and his white skin was distinctly seen, the stranger put his hand to his mouth, exclaiming, in a low tone of amazement, "God preserve me! what is this?" He continued his kindness, however, and at Taffaro, where our traveller was shut out from every house, and obliged to sleep under a tree, brought him some supper. One of his most disagreeable encounters was at Souha, where the dooty, after a surly refusal of every refreshment, called upon a slave, whom he ordered to dig a pit, uttering, at the same time, expressions of anger and vexation. The hole became always deeper and deeper, till it assumed the appearance of a grave; and Park, who saw no one but himself likely to be put into it, began to think it was high time to be moving off. At length the slave went away, and returned, holding by the leg and arm the naked corpse of a boy about nine years old,
which he threw in with an air of savage unconcern, the dooty exclaiming, "naphula attiniata! money lost, money lost!" Mr. Park withdrew in the deepest disgust at this display of brutal and selfish avarice. The only hearty meal he obtained for many days was from a Moslem convert, who, presenting a board, entreated him to write a sa hie upon it, the return for which would be a good supper of rice and salt. This was too important an offer to be rejected from nice scruples. He therefore covered the board with the Lord's Prayer, which his host carefully washed off and drank, afterward licking the wood with his tongue. For this, in addition to his good rice supper, he received next morning a breakfast of meal and milk.
Our traveller now arrived at Bammakoo, where the level country on this side of the Niger terminates; but, on wishing to cross to the other bank, he was informed that the river would not be fordable for several months, and that no canoe could be procured large enough to transport himself and his horse. At length there was pointed out a path, rocky and difficult, but through which he might contrive to pick a way under the direction of a Jilli-kea, or singing man, who was going to Sibidooloo. The track, however, proved excessively rough and perilous; when his tuneful conductor, finding himself mistaken in the way, sprang up among the cliffs, and quickly disappeared. Mr. Park was obliged to return and search among a number of glens, till he found a track marked by the tread of horses, which led him to Kooma, a beautiful sequestered village in the heart of those barren mountains, where, on the produce of a small fertile valley, the inhabitants lived in peaceful abundance. They showed that kind hospitality which had been bestowed only scantily and occasionally in the still more fruitful regions below. Mr. Park set out next day for Sibidooloo; bu on this route his last and greatest disaster awaited him. In passing a rivulet he found a shepherd, who had been wounded by a party of banditti, and soon after saw a man sitting on the stump of a tree, while from among the grass appeared the heads of six or seven others, with muskets in their hands. Seeing it impossible to escape, he resolved to put the best face he could on his situa tion. Pretending to take them for elephant-hunters, he went up and asked if their chase had been successful.
Instead of answering, one of them ordered him to dismount; but then, as if recollecting himself, waved with his hand to proceed. The traveller had not gone far when he heard voices behind, and, looking round, saw them all in full pursuit, calling to him that they were sent to carry himself and his horse before the king of the Foulahs at Fooladoo. He did not attempt a vain resistance, but accompanied them till they came to a dark spot in the depth of the wood, when one of them said, "This place will do." The same man snatched off Mr. Park's hat; another instantly detached the last remaining button from his waistcoat; the rest searched his pockets, and investigated, with the most scrupulous accuracy, every portion of his apparel; at last they determined to make sure work by stripping him to the skin. As he pointed to his pocket-compass with earnest entreaty, one of them cocked a pistol, threatening, if he should touch it, to shoot him through the head. As they were carrying off every thing, they were seized with a feeling of remorse, and threw to him his worst shirt, a pair of trowsers, and his hat, in the crown of which he kept his memorandums.
After this blow Mr. Park felt a deeper depression than he had experienced under any former disaster. Naked and alone, in a vast wilderness, 500 miles from any settlement, surrounded by savage beasts and by men still more savage, he saw no prospect before him but to lie down and perish. From this depth of despondency his mind was suddenly revived by a mingled impression of nature and of religion. A small moss, in a state of fructification, struck his eye, the delicate conformation of whose roots, leaves, and capsule, could not be contemplated without admiration. He then bethought himself,-"Can that Being who planted, watered, and brought to perfection, in this obscure corner of the world, a thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon the situation and sufferings of creatures formed after his own image?" Inspired by these just and pious reflections, he started up and went on, despite of fatigue; and he soon found deliverance to be nearer than he had any reason to anticipate.
Having arrived at Sibidooloo, he waited on the mansa, or chief ruler of the town, and related his misfortune; when the latter, taking his pipe from his mouth, and tossing up