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it was the grand festival of the Mohammedans, or the 'Aíd el Kebír. Here also in this city, so far remote from the centre of Mohammedan worship, the whole population, on this important day, said their prayers outside the town; but there being no paramount chief to give unity to the whole of the festive arrangements the ceremonies exhibited no striking features, and the whole went off very tamely, only small parties of from six to ten persons forming groups for joining in prayer, while the whole procession comprised scarcely more than thirty horses.
After my fever had abated for a day or two it returned with greater violence on the 17th, and I felt at times extremely unwell and very weak, and in my feverish state was less inclined to bear with tranquillity and equanimity all the exactions and contributions levied upon me by Sidi Alawáte. We had a thunder-storm almost every day, followed now and then by a tolerable quantity of rain; the greatest fall of rain, according to the information which I was able to gather, annually occurring during the month of September, a phenomenon in entire harmony with the northerly latitude of the place. This humidity, together with the character of the open hall in which I used to pass the night as well as the day, increased my indisposition not a little; but the regard for my security did not allow me to seek shelter in the store-room wherein I had placed my luggage, and which, being at the back of the ball, was well protected against cold, and, as it seemed at least, even against wet. For, not to speak of the oppressive atmosphere and almost total darkness which prevailed in that close place, in taking up my residence there I should have exposed myself to the danger of a sudden attack, while from the hall where I was staying I was enabled to observe every thing which was going on in my house; and through the screen which protected the opening, close by the side of my couch, I could observe every body that entered my yard long before they saw me. For this reason I preferred this place even to the room on the terrace, although the latter had the advantage of better air. I may observe that these upper rooms in general form the private residence of most of the people in the town who have the luxury of such an upper story.
Monday, September 26th. About three o'clock in the morning, while I was lying restlessly on my couch, endeavoring in vain to snatch a moment's sleep, the Skeikh Sidi A'hmed el Bakáy arrived. The music, which was immediately struck up in front of
1. First segífa, or, as it is called in Songhay, “ sifa," or ante-room. 2. Second segifa, with a staircase, or tintim," (3) leading to the
terrace, “garbéne," and the front room on the terrace, where three of my people well armed were constantly keep
ing watch. 4. Inner court-yard. 5. Hall, with two open entrances, wherein I had my residence by
night and day, on the reed-bed on the right. 6. Store-room, capable of being locked up. 7. Covered passage, or corridor. 8. Second court-yard, originally intended for the female depart
ment, but where I kept my horse, the surrounding rooms as well as the back wall of the house being in a state of decay.
his house by the women, was ill adapted to procure me rest; while the arrival of my protector, on whose disposition and power the success of my whole undertaking and my own personal safety fully depended, excited my imagination in the highest degree, and thus contributed greatly to increase my
feverish state. The following day I was so ill as to be quite unable to pay my respects to my protector, who sent me a message begging me to quiet myself, as I might rest assured that nothing but my succumbing to illness could prevent me from safely returning to my native home. Meanwhile, as a proof of his hospitable disposition, he sent me a handsome present, consisting of two oxen, two sheep, two large vessels of butter, one camel load, or “suniye," of rice, and another of negro corn, cautioning me, at the same time, against eating any food which did not come from his own house. In order to cheer my spirits he at once begged me to choose between the three roads by which I wanted to return home either through the country of the Fúlbe, or in a boat on the river, or, by land, through the district of the Tawárek.
As from the first I had been fully aware that neither the disposition of the natives, and especially that of the present rulers of the country, the Fúlbe, nor the state of my means, would allow me to proceed westward, and as I felt persuaded that laying down the course of the Niger from Timbuktu to Sáy would far outweigh in importance a journey through the upper country toward the Senegal, I was firm in desiring from the beginning to be allowed to visit Gógó. For, not deeming it prudent, in order to avoid creating unnecessary suspicion, to lay too great stress upon navigating the river, I preferred putting forward the name of the capital of the Songhay empire, as in visiting that place I was sure that I should see at least the greater part of the river, while at the same time I should come into contact with
the Tawárek, who are the ruling tribe throughout its whole course.
But the generous offer of my friend was rather premature; and if at that time I had known that I was still to linger in this quarter for eight months longer, in my then feeble condition, I should scarcely have been able to support such an idea; but fortunately Providence does not reveal to man what awaits him, and he toils on without rest in the dark.
Tuesday, September 27th. This was the anniversary of the death of Mr. Overweg, my last and only European companion, whom I had now outlived a whole year; and whom, considering the feeble state of my health at this time, while my mind was oppressed with the greatest anxiety, I was too likely soon to follow to the grave. Nevertheless, feeling a little better when rising from my simple couch in the morning, and confiding in the protection tendered me by a man whose straightforward character was the theme of general admiration, and which plainly appeared in the few lines which I had received from him, I fondly cherished the hope that this day next year it might be my good fortune to have fairly embarked upon my home journey from Negroland, and perhaps not to be far from home itself. I therefore, with cheerful spirit, made myself ready for my first audience, and leaving my other presents behind, and taking only a small sixbarreled pistol with me, which I was to present to the sheikh, I proceeded to his house, which was almost opposite my own, there intervening between them only a narrow lane and a small square, where the sheikh had established his “msíd,” or daily place of prayer. A’hmed el Bakáy, son of Sídi Mohammed, and grandson of Sídi Mukhtár, * of the tribe of the Kunta, was at that time a man of about fifty years of age, rather above the middle height, full proportioned, with a cheerful, intelligent, and almost European countenance, of a rather blackish complexion, with whiskers of tolerable length, intermingled with some gray hair, and with dark eyelashes. His dress consisted at the time of nothing but a black tobe, a fringed shawl thrown loosely over the head, and trowsers, both of the same color.
I found my host in the small upper room on the terrace, in company with his young nephew, Mohammed ben Khottár, and two confidential pupils, and, at the very first glance which I obtained of him, I was agreeably surprised at finding a man whose
* For the whole genealogy of the skeikh, sce Appendix VII.
FIRST INTERVIEW WITH THE SHEIKH.
countenance itself bore testimony to a straightforward and manly character; both which qualities I had found so sadly wanting in his younger brother, Sídi A'lawáte. Cheered by the expression of good-nature in his countenance as he rose from his seat to receive me, and, relieved from all anxiety, I paid him my compliments with entire confidence, and entered into a conversation, which was devoid of any affected and empty ceremonious phrases, but from the first moment was an unrestrained exchange of thoughts between two persons who, with great national diversity of manners and ideas, meet for the first time.
The pistol, however, with which I presented him, soon directed our conversation to the subject of the superiority of Europeans in manufacturing skill, and in the whole scale of human existence; and one of the first questions which my host put to me was, whether it was true, as the Ráís (Major Laing) had informed his father, Sídi Mohammed, during his stay in A'zawad, that the capital of the British empire contained twenty times 100,000 people.
I then learned to my great satisfaction what I afterward found confirmed by the facts stated in Major Laing's correspondence, ** that this most enterprising but unfortunate traveler, having been plundered and almost killed by the Tawárekt in the valley Ahénnet, on his way from Tawát, was conducted by his guides to, and made a long stay at the camp or station of the sheikh's father, Sídi Mohammed, in the hillet Sídi el Mukhtar, the place generally called by Major Laing Beled Sídi Mohammed, but sometimes Beled Sidi Mooktar, the major being evidently puzzled as to these names, and apt to confound the then head of the family, Sídi Mohammed, with the ancestor Sídi Mukhtár, after whom that holy place has been called. It is situated half a day's journey from the frequented well Bel Mehán, on the great northerly road, but is at present deserted. I
* See Major Laing's Letters in the Edinburgh Review, vol. xxxviii., 1828, p. 101, et seq., and vol. xxxix.
† There can not be the least doubt that, in addition to the love of plunder, it was also a certain feeling of revenge for the mischief inflicted upon their countrymen by the heroic Mungo Park which prompted this ferocious act of the Tawárek; and it is very curious to observe the presentiment that Major Laing had, on setting out from Tawát, of what awaited him, as most distinctly embodied in some of his letters, dated Tawát, January, 1826, especially in a letter addressed to James Bandinel, Esq., which General Edward Sabine, the great friend of the distinguished traveler, kindly allowed me to inspect.
Instead of communicating the itinerary from Timbuktu to the hillet in my collection of itineraries through the western half of the desert, at the end of the fol
We thus came to speak of Major Laing, here known under the name of E' Ráís (the Major), the only Christian that my host and most of the people hereabouts had ever seen; the French traveler, René Caillié, who traversed this tract in 1828, having, in his poor disguise, entirely escaped their observation, not to speak of the sạilors Adams and Scott, who are said to have visited this place, although their narrative does not reveal a single trait which can be identified with its features.
Major Laing, during the whole time of our intercourse, formed one of the chief topics of conversation, and my noble friend never failed to express his admiration, not only of the major's bodily strength, but of his noble and chivalrous character.* I made immediate inquiries with regard to Major Laing's papers, but unfortunately, not being provided with a copy of the blue book containing all the papers relating to that case, I had not the means of establishing all the points disputed. I only learned that at the time none of those papers were in existence, although the sheikh himself told me that the major, while staying in A'zawad, had drawn up a map of the whole northerly part of the desert from Tawát as far south as the hillet or the place of residence of his father.
Meanwhile, while we were conversing about the fate of my precursor in the exploration of these regions, my host assured me repeatedly of my own perfect safety in the place, and promised that he would send the most faithful of his followers, Mohammed el
lowing volume, where it would be overlooked by the general reader, I prefer inserting it in this place : 14 day, Tenég el hay, or Tenég el háj, a well where all the roads meet. A
great many celebrated localities along this part of the road. 1 day, Tin-tahón, about the heat of the day; a locality so called from an emi
nence, “tahón." 1 day, Worozil, a well with a rich supply of water, about the same time. 1 day, E'n-eláhi, a whole day. From hence to the small town Bú-Jebeha, pass
ing by the well e' Twíl, 2 days. 2 days, Eruk; 3 days from A'rawán; 14 from Bú-Jebéha. Close to Eruk is
Mérizík. I day, Bel-Mehán, a rich and famous well; a long day, keeping along a valley
inclosed between the sand-hills, “E'gif," toward the W., and the black
mountains of A'derár toward the E. 1 day, Hillet e' Sheikh.
* It is highly interesting and satisfactory to observe how Major Laing himself, in the letters published in the Edinburgh Review, speaks of the kind reception given to him, when severely wounded, by the sheikh and maraboot (Merabat) Mooktar, or rather Sidi Mohammed. See, especially, p. 105.