« PreviousContinue »
Char. LXI. UNLUCKY FATE OF A LETTER.
become fully aware of his intriguing character; and perhaps it was well that it was so, or I might not have trusted myself into his hands. However, by degrees, I became heartily tired of the long delay which he, together with 'Alí el A'geren, forced upon me. I had long prepared everything for my outset, and on the 20th I finished a letter, which I addressed to Her Majesty's consul at Tripoli, and inclosed it under cover to my friend 'Abd el Káder dan Taffa, in Sókoto, and decided on intrusting it to the care of Dahome, the man who had accompanied me from Gando, and who was to return home from this place, beyond which he enjoyed no authority; but unfortunately he took so little care of the parcel on his journey, when he had to cross a great many swollen rivers, that the outer envelope was destroyed entirely, so that the learned Púllo, not knowing what to make of a letter in a writing which he did not understand, left it with the bearer, with whom I found it on my return to Gando, in the middle of the following year. He had worn it as a sort of charm in his cap, while I expected that it had long reached Europe and informed my friends of my latest proceedings.
UNSETTLED PROVINCES OBSTRUCTED BY NATURE AND INFESTED BY
MAN. - ARIBÍNDA. HÓMBORI.
Thursday. At length I set out on the last and most July 21st dangerous stage of my journey to Timbúktu, thinking at the time that I should be able to reach that celebrated place in about twenty days. But I underrated the distance, such a very different position having been assigned to that mysterious place by geographers; and I had no idea of the difficulties which attended this journey, at least for a Christian, and the delays which would be caused me by the character of the new companion whom I had attached to me.
On leaving the turbulent town of Dóre, a great many armed people accompanied me, much against my inclination; and their conduct was so suspicious that we were obliged to make a halt and send them about their business : for the inhabitants of this place, not long before, had robbed and killed, in a similar manner, a wealthy sherif, whom they pretended to escort, on his way from Sansándi. Just in crossing the shallow concavity where every year a very extensive sheet of water is formed, which often as
sumes the dimensions of an immense lake, and even now was covered with fine fresh turf, we met a large caravan of Mósi traders from Bússumo, their asses heavily laden with immense bundles of tári, or cotton strips, and with Kóla nuts. Further on, where a little cultivation of cotton appeared, the monkey-bread or baobab tree became predominant. Altogether the whole province seemed to be in a miserable state; and the village Dánandé, which we passed after a march of about seven miles, bore evident traces of having suffered from the effects of war. The monotony of the country was pleasingly broken by a small rivulet, which we crossed a few yards beyond the village, and which was bordered by some very fine trees of the mur" kind, which I have mentioned on a former occasion as affording excellent timber for boat-building. The baobab trees, also, were here greatly distinguished, both by their size and their fine foliage.
We took up our quarters this day in Wúlu, a village situated beyond a large sheet of water, or, as it is here called, "wendu,” overgrown by the finest trees. The place is inhabited by Tawárek slaves, who are trilingues, speaking Temáshight as well as Songhay and Fulfulde; but their huts were very miserable indeed, and of mosquitoes there was no end, and we had likewise great difficulty in finding a supply of corn. The hut in which I took up my quarters had been recently built, and on the whole was not so bad, but so choke-full of
simple furniture, such as large jars, pots, dishes, saddles, provision-bags, and numerous other articles, that I could scarcely find room for myself, while the proprietor, when he returned from the fields and found a stranger quartered in the midst of all his treasures, felt so anxious, that he did not stir from the door. However, the west side of the village being bordered by a large sheet of water, or tebki, richly adorned with trees and herbage, I did not remain long in my close quarters, but hastened towards this green open spot, which was delicious in the extreme, but gave birth to a legion of mosquitoes.
We felt the inconvenience of this little hamlet the more, as we were obliged to stay here the following day; for we received a credible report that El Khatír, the most powerful of the neighbouring Tawárek chiefs, intended making a foray against this place, and the inhabitants were in a state of the utmost alarm. But a thunder-storm which broke out the next morning, accompanied with a considerable quantity of rain, relieved us, most providentially, of all danger from this quarter, swelling the many watercourses which intersect this region, to such a degree that they became impassable to the enemy. On the west side of the hamlet where we were encamped there is a considerable suburb of Fülbe cattle-breeders ; and in the evening a great many of them paid me a visit.
We had here entered a district which July 23rd.
was very different from that which we had
Chap. LXII. NUMEROUS SHEETS OF WATER.
hitherto traversed in the province of Libtáko; and the nature of which caused us great delay, and very serious difficulties, on account of the many rivers and swamps which we had to cross. During the first part of our day's march, we had the wéndu of Wúlu for a long time on our right, but, having crossed without much difficulty one considerable branch of it, we came to another water with a strong current, which caused us a long delay, as it was at the time about 400 yards across, and not less than four and a half feet deep in the channel. The water at this spot has a southerly course; but it is difficult to say what greater river it joins.* For several miles the upper course of this same water, as it seemed, was seen at a short distance on our right. Large wide-spreading “mur,” tamarind, and monkey-bread trees everywhere appeared, and we could see the footsteps of a great number of elephants. The country on our left was undulating, and consisted of sandy soil clothed almost exclusively with the kálgo, with its ash-coloured leaves and its long red pods; but, as soon as the river receded, the character of the landscape also changed, the surface becoming rather level, and exhibiting more small brushwood, while numerous water-pools spread out, overgrown with kréb, or the edible Poa, and with molukhía. The district was full of buffaloes; but it was also much infested by a dangerous species of fly, which greatly
* I shall reserve a few further observations on this subject till my return journey along the Niger.