« PreviousContinue »
gave me a fair specimen of what trouble I should have in making my way through those numerous tribes of Tawarek along the river; for, when he begged a present from me, I thought a common blue shirt, or " rishaba," of which kind I had prepared about a dozen, quite sufficient for him, as I had had no dealings whatever with him, and was under no obligation to him; but he returned it to me with the greatest contempt, as unworthy of his dignity.
My supplies at this time were greatly reduced, and in order to obtain a small amount of shells I was obliged to sell a broken musket belonging to me.
Under all these circumstances I was extremely glad when, in the evening of the 3d of April, the provision bags of the sheikh, of which I was assured the half was destined for my own use, were brought out of the town. But, nevertheless, the final arrangements for my departure were by no means settled, and the following day every thing seemed again more uncertain than ever, the kadhi, Weled F'aamme, having arrived with another body of sixty armed men, and with fresh orders to levy contributions of money upon the inhabitants, in order to make them feel the superiority of the ruler of Hamda-Allahi. At the same time the people from Tawat set all sorts of intrigues afoot, in order to prevent the sheikh from leaving the town, being afraid that in his absence they should be exposed to continual vexation on the part of the ruling tribe; for although the Sheikho A'hmedu, in sending presents to Timbuktu, had not neglected El Bakay, yet he had shown his preference for Hammadi, the rival of the latter, in so decided a manner, that my friend could not expect that in leaving the town his interests would be respected ;* and I had to employ the whole of my influence with the sheikh in order to prevent him from changing his plan.
But, gradually, every thing that my host was to take with him on such a journey, consisting of books and provisions, was brought from the town, so that it really looked as if El Bakay was to go himself. His horses had been brought from Kabara on the 9th, and several people, who were to accompany us on our journey eastward, having joined us the following day, the sheikh himself arrived on the 11th, and our encampment became full of bustle. My own little camping-ground also was now enlivened with all my people, who had come to join me; and my small store of
* The present sent by the Sheikho A'hmedu consisted of 800 measures of corn to El Bakar, and as much to Hammadi, besides ten slaves to the latter.
Vol. III.—C C
books, which had been brought from the town, enabled me to give more variety to my entertainment
A rather disagreeable incident now occurred. The Zoghoran officer, the companion of Fe"rreji, had came out on some errand, while I was staying with the three brothers in the large tent, which had been erected for Sidi Mohammed. I wanted to leave, but Bakay begged me to stay. I therefore remained a short time, but became so disgusted with the insulting language of the Zoghoran, that I soon left abruptly, although his remarks had more direct reference to the French, or rather the French and halfcaste traders on the Senegal, than to the English or any other European nation. He spoke of the Christians in the most contemptuous manner, describing them as sitting like women in the bottom of their steam-boats, and doing nothing but eating raw eggs: concluding with the paradoxical statement, which is not very flattering to Europeans, that the idolatrous Bambara were far better people, and much farther advanced in civilization than the Christians. It is singular how the idea that the Europeans are fond of raw eggs (a most disgusting article to a Mohammedan), as already proved by the experience of Mungo Park, has spread over the whole of Negroland, and it can only be partially explained by the great predilection which the French have for boiled eggs.
Altogether my situation required an extraordinary amount of forbearance, for A'lawate also troubled me again with his begging propensities. But when he came himself to take leave of me, I told him the time for presents was now past; whereupon he said, that he was aware that if I wanted to give I gave, meaning that it was only the want of good-will that made me not comply with his wi.sh. I assured him that I had given him a great many presents against my own inclination. lie owned that he had driven a rather hard bargain with me, but, when he wanted me to acknowledge at least that he had done me no personal harm, I told him that the reason was rather his want of power than his want of inclination, and that, although I had nothing to object to him in other respects, I should not like to trust myself in his hands alone in the wilderness.
The difficulties which a place like Timbuktu presents to a free commercial intercourse with Europeans are very great. For while the remarkable situation of the town, at the edge of the desert and on the border of various races, in the present degenerated condiGENERAL POLITICAL RELATIONS. 403
tion of the native kingdoms, makes a strong government very difficult, nay, almost impossible, its distance from either the west coast or the mouth of the Niger is very considerable. But, on the other hand, the great importance of its situation at the northern curve or elbow of that majestic river, which, in an immense sweep encompasses the whole southern half of North-Central Africa, including countries densely populated and of the greatest productive capabilities, renders it most desirable to open it to European commerce, while the river itself affords immense facilities for such a purpose. For, although the town is nearer to the French settlements in Algeria on the one side, and those on the Senegal on the other, yet it is separated from the former by a tract of frightful desert, while between it and the Senegal lies an elevated tract of country, nay, along the nearest road a mountain chain extends of tolerable height. Farther: we have here a family which, long before the French commenced their conquest of Algeria, exhibited their friendly feelings toward the English in an unquestionable manner, and at the present moment the most distinguished member of this family is most anxious to open free intercourse with the English. Even in the event of the greatest success of the French policy in Africa, they will never effect the conquest of this region. On the other hand, if a liberal government were secured to Timbuktu, by establishing a ruler independent of the Fiilbe of Hamda-Allahi, who are strongly opposed to all intercourse with Europeans, whether French or English, an immense field might be opened to European commerce, and thus the whole of this part of the world might again be subjected to a wholesome organization. The sequel of my narrative will show how, under the protection of the Sheikh el Bakay, I endeavored to open the track along the Niger.
ABORTIVE ATTEMPT AT DEPARTURE FROM TIMBU'ETIT.
I Had been obliged to leave the town on the 17th of March, in consequence of the brothers of the sheikh having deemed such a step essential for the security of the town, and advantageous to their own personal interest. Since that time my departure had been earnestly discussed almost daily, but, nevertheless, amid infinite delays and procrastinations, the 19th of April had arrived before we at length set out from our encampment, situated at the head of the remarkable and highly-indented creek of Bose-bango.
Notwithstanding the importance of the day, my excellent friend the Sheikh el Bakay could not even then overcome his habitual custom of taking matters easy. He slept till a late hour in the morning, while his pupils were disputing with the owners of the camels which had been hired for the journey, and who would not stir. At length my friend got up, and our sluggish caravan left the encampment. There were, besides our own camels, a good many asses belonging to the Gwanin, and laden with cotton strips. It was past eleven o'clock, and the sun had already become very troublesome, when we left the camp. The chief was so extremely fond of his wife and children, that it was an affair of some importance to take leave of them. I myself had become sincerely attached to his little boys, especially the youngest one, Zen el 'Abidin, who, I am led to hope, will Temember his friend Abd el Kerim; but, notwithstanding my discontent at my protector's want of energy, I could not be angry with him, and, when he asked mc whether he had now deceived me or kept his word, I could not but praise his conduct, although I told him that I must first see the end of it. He smiled, and turning to his companion, the old Ilaiballah (Habfb Allah), who had come from A'zawad to spend some time in his company, asked him whether I was not too mistrustful; but the event unluckily proved that I was not.
The vegetation in the neighborhood of Bose-bango is extremely rich, but, as we advanced, gradually the trees ceased, with the exception of the kalgo, the bush so often mentioned by me in Hausa, and which here begins to be very common. I was greatly disappointed in my expectation of making a good day's march, for, after proceeding a little more than three miles, I saw my tent, which had gone in advance, pitched in the neighborhood of an encampment of Arabs belonging to the tribe of the Ergageda. Here we staid the remainder of the day, enjoying the hospitality of these people, who had to pay dearly for the honor of such a visit; for the pupils of my friend, who had capital appetites, required a great deal of substantial nourishment to satisfy their cravings, and, besides a dozen dishes of rice, and a great quantity of milk, two oxen had to bo slaughtered by our hosts. These Arabs, who formed here an encampment of about twenty-five spacious tents, made of sheepskins or farrwel, have no camels, and possess only a few TAWATtEK ENCAMPMENTS. 405
cows, their principal herds being sheep and goats, besides a large number of asses. They have been settled in this district, near the river, since the time when Sidi Mukhtar, the elder brother of El Bakay, established himself in Timbuktu, that is to say, in the year 1832.
Although I should have liked much better to have made at once a fair start on our journey, I was glad that we had at least set out at all, and, lying down in the shade of a small kalgo-tree, I indulged in the hope that in a period of from forty to fifty days I might reach Sokoto; but I had no idea of the unfavorable circumstances which were gathering to frustrate my hopes.
The whole of this district is richly clothed with siwak, or 'irak (Capparis sodata), and is greatly infested with lions, for which reason we were obliged to surround our camping-ground with a thick fence, or zerfba; and the encampment of the sheikh, for whom an immense leathern tent had been pitched, with his companions, horses, and camels, together with the large fires, presented a very imposing appearance. I was told that the lion hereabout has no mane, or, at least, a very small one, like the lion of A'sben.
Thursday, April 20th. The first part of this day's march led through a flat country, which some time before had been entirely inundated. Even at present, not only on the south side of the path, toward the river, were extensive inundations to be seen, but on the left, or north side, a large open sheet spread out. Having passed numbers of Tawarek, who were shifting their tents, as well as two miserable-looking encampments of the She'mman-A'mmas, whose movements afforded some proofs of the disturbed state of the country, we ascended the higher sandy bank, where I first observed the poisonous euphorbia, called here "abari e' sebiiwa," or "taboru," which generally grows in the shade of the trees, especially in that of acacias, and is said frequently to cause the death of the lion, from which circumstance its name is derived. Pursuing our easterly course, and keeping along the sandy bank, with a deep marshy ground on our right, we then reached a group of two encampments, one belonging to the I'denan, and the other to the Shdmman-A'mmas, and here halted during the hot hours of the day. Both the above-mentioned tribes are of a degraded character; and the women were any thing but decent and respectable in their behavior.
Having here decided that it was better to go ourselves and fetch the rest of our party whom we had sent in advance from Bose