Page images
PDF
EPUB

Notwithstanding all this disagreeable business, which occasionally cost me much bitter reflection, greatly enhanced by the ad. vance of the season, the month of May being at an end, and that of June having set in with violent rains, I passed the time during my residence in this place not quite uselessly, especially as I was so fortunate as to obtain here, from a learned man of the name of Bokhári, a son of the late Mohammed Wáni, a copy of that most valuable historical work of A’hmed Bábá, to which my friend 'Abd el Káder, in Sókoto, had first called my attention, but with. out being able to satisfy my curiosity; and I spent three or four days most pleasantly in extracting the more important historical data of this work, which opened to me quite a new insight into the history of the regions on the middle course of the Niger, whither I was bending my steps, exciting in me a far more lively interest than I had previously felt in a kingdom the great power of which, in former times, I here found set forth in very clear and distinct outlines, and I only lamented that I had not time enough to copy the whole.

As for the town of Gando itself, there was not much to be seen; and the situation of the place, hemmed in as it is in a nár. row valley, did not admit of long excursions; moreover, the in: security of the neighborhood was so great that it was not possible, at least in a northerly direction, to proceed many yards from the wall. Several times during my stay the alarm was given that the enemy was approaching; and the whole political state of the place was plunged into the most terrible disorder, the enemy being established in several strong places at scarcely half a day's journey distance, Argúngo being the residence of Dáúd, the rebellious chief of the independent Kábáwa. A numerous foray ( yaki,” or, as the Fúlbe say, “konno'') left early in the morning of the 29th of May, but returned the same evening amid the noisy manifestations of the inhabitants. They had, however, only given an additional proof of their cowardly disposition, inasmuch as they had not even dared to attack the enemy, who had just succeeded in ransacking the town of Yára, and were carrying all the unfor. tunate inhabitants into slavery.

The interior of the place was not quite without its charms, the whole of the town being intersected, from north to south, by the broad and shallow bed of a torrent, which exhibited fine pasturegrounds of fresh succulent herbage, while it was skirted on both sides by a dense border of exuberant vegetation, which altogether

[blocks in formation]

is much richer in this place than either Sókoto or Wurnó, being surpassed only by the fine vegetable ornament of Kanó. The rains are extremely plentiful in Gando, causing here quite an exceptional state in the productive power of the soil; and to this circumstance we have partly to ascribe the fact that very fine bananas are grown here in considerable quantity; and the fruit being just ripe at the time, formed a very pleasant variation to my usual food. The onion of Gando is remarkable for its size and quality, compared with that of all the neighboring districts; and it is well for the traveler, in whatever direction he may intend to go, to lay in a supply of this wholesome article. But the place is extremely dull, and the market very insignificant-a fact easily to be explained by the desperate state of the provinces around, although the situation of the capital, as a central place for com. merce, is rather favorable. But the town of Jéga has not yet lost, in this respect, the whole of its former importance, and is still the great entrepôt for that coarse kind of colored silk which is imported from the north, and which, notwithstanding its very inferior character, is nevertheless so greatly sought after by the natives for adorning their leather-work. It is, perhaps, in consequence of the little trade which is carried on that the people of Gando have applied themselves with more industry to supplying their own want of cotton cloth, and no one can deny that their cotton strips are of first-rate quality; their dyeing, on the contrary, is very coarse, and they seem quite unable to give to the dyed cloth that lustre which so eminently distinguishes the manufactures of Núpe and Kanó; but, nevertheless, this cloth of Gan. do is in great demand as far as Libtáko.

The kingdom or empire of Gando, according to its title, comprises a number of wealthy provinces, all lying along that great West-African river which opens such an easy access into this continent or on its branches, although nobody who stays in the capital for any length of time would suppose that it holds such a pre-eminent rank. I shall give some farther details respecting these provinces in the Appendix ;* here I will only enumerate them by name. They are, the western half of Kebbi, Maúri or A'rewá, Zabérma, Déndina (comprising Kénga-koy and Zágha), a great part of Gurma (comprising the provinces of Galaijo, Toróde, Yágha, and Libtáko), with a small portion of Borgu or Barba, a large portion of Yoruba, with the capital Alóri or Ilorin, and, on the east side of the river, the provinces of Yaúra and Núpe or Nyffi. But at that time most of these provinces were plunged into an abyss of anarchy, which could not fail to impart to the capital a more sombre aspect than it may possess in general.

* See Appendix VI.

CHAPTER LIX. THE PROVINCE OF KEBBI AND ITS RIVER.—THE SALT VALLEY

OF FO'GHA.—REACH THE NIGER. Saturday, June 4th. At length I was allowed to proceed on my journey, which now soon promised to become of overwhelming interest, as I was approaching that great African river which has been the object of so much discussion and individual ambition for so long a period. There had been a very heavy thunder-storm during the night, accompanied by a great abundance of rain, which lasted till late in the morning, and delayed my setting out for a considerable time. It was almost eleven o'clock when we at length left the western gate of the town, or the kófa-n-Jéga, and entered the open fields, where the crop was already shooting forth. Keeping along the rocky ground bordering the valley on the north side, we soon had a specimen of the swamps which during the rainy season are formed in these deep valleys of Kebbi, while we beheld here also extensive rice-grounds, the first which I saw under actual cultivation. But the guide, who was to accompany me to the very western extremity of the territory of Khalílu, having not yet arrived, we made only a short march of about six miles, and took up our quarters in a comfortable hut lying outside the walls of Kámbasa, which, by a separate wall, is divided into two distinct quarters.

This town lies on the north side of a large swamp, which fills the bottom of the fäddama, and affords excellent grounds for the cultivation of rice. The governor treated me hospitably, sending me every thing that was wanted for a good African dinner, from a sheep down to a bit of salt and a few cakes of dodówa, and I made him a suitable present in return. During the night we suffered greatly from musquitoes, giving us a fair idea of what we were to expect on our journey through these swampy valleys.

Sunday, June 5th. Another storm again delayed our departure this morning; and being now in the middle of the rainy season,

LEAVING GANDO.—KAMBAʼSA.

119 I had a fair sample of what I should have to endure on my long journey to Timbúktu. In consequence of the rain, it was again eleven o'clock before we could start. The principal road leads along the northern bank of the fáddama, by way of Zóro, the residence of Cháfo, a son of Khalílu; but it was deemed too unsafe in the present unsettled state of the country, that very town of Zóro, although situated on the north side of the fáddama, at present being only accessible from the south; and it was decided, therefore, to cross the swamp close to Kámbasa, in order that it might afford us protection, in our farther progress through this unsafe region, against any sudden attack from the rebels in the northern part of the province. Thus proceeding along the south side of the sheet of water here, about 200 yards broad, and thickly overgrown with tall reeds of different species, including a large proportion of papyrus, we reached, after a little less than two miles, another walled town, likewise called Kámbasa, a civil war having broken out among the inhabitants of the former town, and a portion of them having separated from the original tribe, and settled in this place. We then continued along the southern side of the valley, till, after a march of about four miles, we had to cross a small branch which joins the chief trunk of the valley from the south, and opened a view of Mount Bóbye, over the saddle of which the road leads from Támbawel to Jéga, the great market-place of this quarter of the country, while the fäddama, here spreading out in a large sheet of water, receded behind a walled town called Badda-badda. A track frequented by the elephant, of which for a long time I had seen no traces, led through the rich pasture-ground to the edge of the water. Almost the whole cul. tivation along this fertile but swampy valley consisted of rice. It was about 1200 yards broad, and even at the present season, before the rains had set in, was full of water. A couple of months later it inundates its low borders, and almost precludes any passage, so that, on my home-journey from the west, I was obliged to pursue another path. The crops of negro corn were here already three inches high, numbers of people being busily employed in the labors of the fields, while an isolated deleb palm gave a peculiar character to the landscape. The prevailing representatives of the vegetable kingdom were the dorówa and the useful kadeña-tree. The pasture-grounds were full of cattle; and every thing testified to the rich nature of the district, which is still very populous. After passing another walled town, perched on the high border of the

[ocr errors]

swampy valley, three miles and a half beyond Badda-badda, we reached Gaúmaché, at present reduced to a small hamlet, or rather "rúmde,” inhabited exclusively by slaves, and adorned by a few specimens of the butter-tree and the dorówa. It was once a large walled town; but in the sanguinary war between the native Kábáwa and the conquering tribe of the Fülbe, it was destroyed by the former.

Having crossed here a considerable stream of running water, which testified to the quantity of rain which had fallen in this district, we passed, on our left, the large walled town of Talba, where the beating of drums gave proof of warlike preparation. The fields around were adorned with numbers of deléb palms.

At a short distance from Talba lies Dáube. The whole of this district had attained a high degree of power and prosperity under the dominion of the Kanta, and had only recently begun, in consequence of the war of independence, to lose many of its former centres of human industry.

An obvious illustration of this desolation was afforded by the little town of Yára, which we reached after another three miles. We had left the fáddama at some distance on our right, and kept along rocky ground occasionally broken by patches of fine sandy soil. But we were urgently warned, by people whom we met on our road, of the danger of an approaching ghazzia.

This place, which a short time ago was the seat of human wellbeing, had been destroyed by the enemy on the 29th of the preceding month, and all the inhabitants carried into slavery, notwithstanding the presence of the expedition which, as I have mentioned above, marched out from Gando to the succor of their country. men. The aspect of the place was doleful and melancholy in the extreme, corresponding well with the dangerous situation in which we found ourselves; and while traversing the half-ruined village, which from a bustling little place had become the abode of death, I almost involuntarily snatched my gun, and held it steadily in my nand. But life and death in these regions are closely allied; and we had scarcely left the ruined village behind us, when, in a widening of the fäddama, which again opened on our right, we were greeted by a most luxuriant rice-field, where the crops were already almost three feet high, and girt by the finest border of a rich variety of shady trees, such as the dorówa, kadé, and kágim, overtopped by a number of tall deléb palms, the golden fruit of which, half ripe, was starting forth from under the feathery foliage. But our

« PreviousContinue »