« PreviousContinue »
PREPARATIONS TO LEAVE GOʻGO'.
There being no prospect that Alkúttabu would join us here, as we were told that he had gone to drive back a predatory expedition of the Kél-fadaye, I returned the fine black horse which the sheikh had made me a present of, and which I had destined for the chief of the Awelímmiden, to the former, who was going to visit that chief, in order that he might present it to him in my name. I also made ready the present which I intended to make to Thákkefi, the son of the former chief, and El A'gwi, a near relation of his.
The sheikh himself showed his consciousness of our approaching separation by assuming a lively air. In the evening I had a very animated conversation with him and Sídi A'hmed el Wádáwi, the most learned of his pupils, with regard to the shape of the earth, and succeeded, at length, in clearly demonstrating to him its globular shape and the circular motion of the whole system of the planets. He was not a little struck when, speaking of what was above the earth and under. it, I told him that, with regard to the Omnipresent Being, such as we and they recognize the Almighty Creator of the universe to be, the idea of an above and below was not to be entertained, but that such expressions had only reference to human speculation. But although, as a Mohammedan, he could not entirely concur in such a doctrine, being overawed by the authority of the Kurán, yet, having before his eyes the beautiful panorama of the hemisphere, he became quite convinced that on the whole I was right, although, shut up within the narrow walls of his room in the town, he had always thought it both absurd and profane to assert such a thing.
Wednesday, July 5th. All was ready for our departure, when Thákkefi, the cousin of the present ruler of the Awelímmiden, and son of the late powerful chief E' Nábеgha, joined us with a few of his companions, among whom Sohéb was the most conspicuous. The arrival of this important personage caused us fresh delay, which, however, on the whole, was agreeable to me, as he was authorized by Alkúttabu to grant me full franchise and perfect security for all Englishmen traveling or trading in their ter. ritory; and in the course of conversation he even made the remarkable proposal to me that the English should endeavor, by means of a strong expedition up the river, to establish regular intercourse with them.
Meanwhile the chiefs of the Kél e' Súk departed for their respective homes, holding forth the prospect that I myself might soon follow. Thákkefi staid with me almost the whole of the day, inspecting my effects with the greatest curiosity and attention. He was a fine, tall man, possessed of great strength and remarkable intelligence, and had the most ardent wish to see more of our ingenious manufactures. I was very sorry that I was able to show him so little, as almost the whole of my supplies were exhausted. A spear had been thrust through his neck from behind in the sudden attack by the Kel-gerés at Tin-taláit, where his father was slain, and he was very anxious to obtain some efficacious plaster for his wound. Every thing went on so well in my intercourse with this chief, that in the afternoon of the day following his arrival the letter of franchise was written by Daniel, the secretary of Alkúttabu, and the day after Thákkefi himself called upon me in my tent. He appeared to have some particular object in view, and, having carefully secured the entrance of the tent, in order to prevent other people from overhearing our conversation, he expressed his desire and that of his uncle that the English might send three well-armed boats up the river, in order to establish intercourse with them. I took care to point out to him that, however anxious the English were to establish commerce and an exchange of produce with this region, yet the success of their endeavors was dependent on the circumstance whether they would be able to cross the rapids and the rocky passage which obstructed the river lower down, between Búsa and Rába, and that therefore I was unable to promise him any thing with certainty. I gave to this chief, who, besides being possessed of great vigor, had a good deal of good-nature about him, one tobe shahariye, two black tobes, two black shawls, three túrkedés, a silk cord of Fás manufacture for suspending the sword, and sev. eral other smaller articles.
During our stay in this place I had laid down the course of the river between Timbúktu and Gógó on a tolerably large scale, as far as it was possible to do so, written a dispatch to government, and several letters to members of the Royal Geographical Society and other private friends, and, having sealed the parcel, I delivered it to the sheikh in order that he might forward it without delay upon his return to Timbúktu. I am sorry to say, however, that this parcel only arrived a few months ago, having been laid up at Ghadámes for more than two years.
Before leaving Gógó, I was anxious to ascertain exactly the nature of the river along this shore, as on our march both to and SURVEY OF THE RIVER.
493 from the Gá-béro we had kept at some distance from its bank, and I arranged with the sheikh's nephew to survey the shores of the river for some distance downward. When I was about to mount on horseback Thákkefi requested that I would put on my European dress, as he was anxious to see how it looked; but, unfortunately, instead of an officer's dress, which would certainly have pleased them very much, I had no European clothes with me except a black dress suit, which could only impress them with a rather unfavorable idea of our style of clothing; and although they approved of the trowsers, they could scarcely fail to think the shape of the coat highly absurd. But, having never before seen fine black cloth, they were surprised at its appearance, and, at a distance, all the people mistook it for a coat of mail, as most of them had been accustomed to see only red cloth.
Pursuing then my proposed excursion, I observed, also, below the village, some fine groups of date palms. I also assured myself that the creek of Gógó, at least at this season of the year, is quite uņnavigable, although I could not understand why the modern capital of the Songhay empire was not built on the open river, the only advantage derived from its actual situation being that the small creek forms a kind of close harbor, which affords protection to the boats, and may easily be defended in case of need. As for the site of the former capital Kúkiya, or Kúgha, I am sorry I did not arrive at a distinct conclusion respecting it.
Having followed the bank as far as the point where the creek joins the principal branch of the river, I felt myself induced, by the precarious state of my companion's health, to retrace my steps. This indisposition of the sheikh's nephew influenced the choice of my companions on my return-journey, as it had been originally the sheikh's intention to send his nephew along with me as far as Sókoto. In his place another, but more distant relation of the sheikh, Mohammed ben Mukhtar, an energetic and intelligent young man, but of a less noble turn of mind, was appointed; and besides him, there was the Hartáni Málek, son of a freed slave, who was to return with the last-named messenger from Támkala; then Mustafa, and Mohammed Dáddeb, the latter a native of Timbúktu, who were to return from Sokoto, and A’hmed el Wádáwi, and Háj A'hmed, who were to return from Bórnu.
In the evening preceding our departure our camp exhibited a busy scene, as we were engaged in finishing our preparations for the journey, the sheikh undertaking the outfit of one half the
messengers, and I the other; but the presents, also, which the latter destined for the chiefs of Negroland, were delivered to me, in order that I might take them under my care. He had, besides, the goodness to supply me with some native cotton and tobacco, to distribute as presents to the Tawárek and Songhay on our road; he also gave a dress to each of my companions, I doing the same to those among his pupils who had been most attached to me. I even felt induced to make a present of a very handsome tobe from Sansándi, richly ornamented with silk, which I had intended to take with me as a specimen of that very interesting manufacture, to Sídi Mohammed, a son of the sheikh, who had accompanied us, and who, 'on account of our long absence from the town, was rather shabbily dressed at the time.
CHAPTER LXXIX. SEPARATION FROM THE SHEIKH. — CROSS THE RIVER TO THE
SOUTHWESTERN SIDE.–VARIOUS ENCAMPMENTS.-RIVER STUDDED WITH ISLANDS.—ANSO'NGHO.
Saturday, July 8th. At length the day dawned when I was, in reality, to begin my home-journey, for all our former movements along the river had rather resembled the wanderings of the natives themselves than the direct march of a European traveler, and, although I felt sincerely attached to my protector, and under other circumstances might still have found a great many objects worthy of my investigation and research in this region, I could not but feel greatly satisfied at being at length enabled to retrace my steps homeward, with a tolerable guarantee as to my safety. It was highly gratifying to me that when I left this place a great many people wished me a hearty farewell and a prosperous journey; nay, Thákkefi even commissioned me to offer his special regards to Queen Victoria, with whose name I had made him acquainted.
Having then pursued our march through the level tract along the river, which here forms a great northsoutherly reach, and which, from having been full of life, is now empty and desolate, we reached the site of the encampment of the Kél e' Súk on the sandy eminence which we had passed a few days before, but which was now deserted. From thence we descended into the
SEPARATION FROM THE SHEIKH.
495 swampy ground toward the river, and here passed by a Songhay hamlet, the inhabitants of which received us with their usual inhospitality, and even refused us a little water—an unkind feeling which displeased me most from a young newly-married lady, who, standing in front of her neat hut of matting, with her fine figure and varied ornaments of all sorts of beads, presented quite an attractive appearance. Turning then round a creek filled with water we reached an encampment of Kél e' Súk, and pitched our tent; for, although it was our intention to cross the river as soon as possible, yet, no boats having as yet arrived, we were so long delayed that evening came on before we could carry out our design; and, obstinately refusing to be separated from my luggage, I preferred crossing the river together with my people and effects the next morning. Our hosts possessing a great number of cattle, we were well treated, and I was able to indulge in plenty of milk. The Tawárek have a common name for the whole northeasterly bank of the river. They call the whole of it to the northwest of Gógó, Táramt, and to the southeast, A'ghelé.
Sunday, July 9th. This was the day when I had to separate from the person whom, among all the people with whom I had come in contact in the course of my long journey, I esteemed the most highly, and whom, in all but his dilatory habits and phleg. matic indifference, I had found a most excellent and trustworthy man. I had lived with him for so long a time in daily intercourse, and in the most turbulent circumstances, sharing all his perplexities and anxieties, that I could not but feel the parting very severely. Having exhorted the messengers whom he was to send along with me never to quarrel, and to follow my advice implicitly in all cases, but especially with regard to the rate of progress in the journey, as he knew that I was impatiently looking forward to my home-journey, he gave me his blessing, and assured me that I should certainly reach home in safety. Mohammed ben Khottár, who, in consequence of his serious indisposition, was prevented from accompanying me any farther, and the sheikh's eldest son, Sídi Mohammed, did not take leave of me until I was in the boat. When I had safely landed on the opposite shore I fired twice a farewell, in conformity with the request of the sheikh.
The river here, at present, was studded with sand-banks, which greatly facilitated the crossing of my camels and horses, although between the sand-banks and the southwesterly shore there was