Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. LVIII.

THE SULTAN KHALI'LU.

197

Khalílu succeeded to his brother Mohammed Wani about seventeen years ago, and has since lived in a state of the greatest seclusion, well fitted for a monk, but by no means suited to the ruler of a vast empire, employing one of his brothers in order to keep up a certain show of imperial dignity where it was absolutely necessary. Thus, during the first few years of his reign, he had employed 'Abd el Kádiri, and was now employing Halíru, or, as the name is written, Hadhíru. Even by Mohammedans he is scarcely ever to be seen except on Fridays. It appeared, from my first arrival, extremely doubtful whether he would allow me to see his holy face; and after a vain struggle, merely in order that, by an untimely obstinacy in matters of form, I might not frustrate all my schemes of discovery, I agreed at length to deliver my present to the messengers of the sultan, in his palace, without seeing him. This present consisted of almost the same number of articles as I had given to the emír of Sókoto, with the exception of the silver-mounted pistols. I gave him three bernuses -one of yellow, one of red cloth, and the third of the kind called heláli; a háík or jeríd of the finest quality, a Stambúli carpet, two entire pieces of muslin, a red cap, four loaves of sugar, three phials of rose oil, a pair of razors, five looking-glasses, a pound of cloves, and another of benzoin.

It was very unfortunate that a foreigner and an adventurer, who had no other interest than his own selfishness, became the go-between with me and the

sultan, and found ample opportunities, owing to the monkish character of the latter, for advancing his own interests, in the thousand embarrassments which he caused me. This was El Bakáy, a person who made me hate his very name, though it afterwards became so dear to me on account of my protector in Timbúktu being called by the same. However, he also was an Arab from the west, and from the tribe of the Kunta, but not connected in any way with the family of the sheikh. After having tried his fortune in several other places along the Niger, especially in Zágha and Yélu, he had at length settled down here, constituting himself a sort of consul of the Arabs, and, in the miserable state into which affairs were plunged in this court, soon exercising a great influence over the principal and the secondary rulers; for, besides Khalílu, his several brothers enjoyed a large share of authority, to all of whom I had, in consequence, to make suitable presents besides. The most remarkable amongst them were the above-mentioned Halíru and Bú-Bakr Maiguña, the latter an aspiring and restless man, who occasionally distinguished himself by acts of great violence, and to whom, in consequence, I had to make a more respectable present, in order to ensure myself against any predatory proceedings on his part.

My present to the sultan himself seemed at first to have given great satisfaction; but after a few days, matters assumed a different aspect, and I was told that the pistols which I had given to Aliyu

CAAP. LVIII. DIFFICULT TRANSACTIONS.

199

mo

were of more value than the whole of the presents which Khalílu had received from me, while the empire of the latter extended over a larger tract of country than that of the former; and I was clearly given to understand that it was not in my power either to proceed or even to retrace my steps, unless I gave much larger presents. After a protracted and serious dispute with El Bakáy and my broker ‘Alí el A'geren, I came at length to the determination of sacrificing the second handsome pair of silvermounted pistols which I possessed, and then at length

I had some prospect of being allowed to proceed on my journey, although the state of the country before me was really such as to make progress appear very difficult, and it was certainly very doubtful whether I should be able to reach the river. After much trouble and a great number of presents, however, which I had to give to the crafty Arab, I managed even to obtain a letter of franchise from Khalilu written with his own hand, but in so general a style that it had not much the character externally of an official document, although its contents were altogether very satisfactory, guaranteeing full security to any Englishmen visiting his territories, and commanding the officers of the various provinces to respect their property and to facilitate their proceedings.

Besides the presents to be given to all these people, I had also to make a fresh sacrifice to my Arab ‘Alí el A'geren ; for, notwithstanding the arrange

ere

ment which I had previously made with him, when he saw the difficulties I was in, and being aware that the easy part of my journey was now over, he threatened to leave me if I did not accept the conditions which he prescribed to me. I had also the misfortune to lose, during my stay here, my best camel, which I had bought from the governor of Kátsena for 60,000 shells; so that I was obliged to purchase another animal from Bú Bakr Maiguña at the price he demanded, camels here being very scarce.

Notwithstanding all this disagreeable business, which occasionally cost me much bitter reflection, greatly enhanced by the advance 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 without 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 Chap. LVIII. AH'MED BA'BA'S WORK.

201 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, hemined in as it is in a narrow valley, did not admit of long excursions ; moreover, the insecurity of the neighbourhood 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 (“yáki," 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 unfortunate 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 pasture-grounds of

e

« PreviousContinue »