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CHAP. LXV. INTERVIEW WITH SI'DI A'LAWA'TE. 401
It was an important interview; for, although this was not the person for whom my visit was specially intended, and whose favourable or unfavourable disposition would influence the whole success of my arduous undertaking, yet for the present I was entirely in his hands, and all depended upon the manner in which he received me. Now my two messengers had only disclosed to himself personally, that I was a Christian, while at the same time they had laid great stress upon the circumstance that, although a Christian, I was under the special protection of the Sultan of Stambúl; and Sídi A'lawáte inquired therefore of me, with great earnestness and anxiety, as to the peculiar manner in which I enjoyed the protection of that great Mohammedan sovereign.
Now it was most unfortunate for me that I had no direct letter from that quarter. Even the firmán with which we had been provided by the Bashá of Tripoli had been delivered to the governor for whom it was destined, so that at the time I had nothing with me to show but a firmán which I had used on my journey in Egypt, and which of course had no especial relation to the case in question. The want of such a general letter of protection from the Sultan of Constantinople, which I had solicited with so much anxiety to be sent after me, was in the sequel the chief cause of my difficult and dangerous position in Timbúktu ; for, furnished with such a letter, it would have been easy to have imposed silence upon my adversaries and enemies there, and especially upon the YOL. IV.
merchants from Morocco, who were instigated by the most selfish jealousy to raise all sorts of intrigues against me.
Having heard my address with attention, although I was not able to establish every point so clearly as I could have wished, the sheikh's brother promised me protection, and desired me to be without any apprehension with regard to my safety; and thus terminated my first interview with this man, who, on the whole, inspired me with a certain degree of confidence, although I was glad to think that he was not the man upon whom I had to rely for my safety. Having then had a further chat with his telamíd or pupils, with whom I passed for a Mohammedan, I took leave of the party and retired to rest in the close apartments of the lower story of the house. Wednesday, After a rather restless night, the day September 7th. broke when I was at length to enter Timbúktu ; but we had a good deal of trouble in performing this last short stage of our journey, deprived as we were of beasts of burden; for the two camels which the people had brought from the town in order to carry my boxes, proved much too weak, and it was only after a long delay that we were able to procure eleven donkeys for the transport of all my luggage. Meanwhile the rumour of a traveller of importance having arrived had spread far and wide, and several inhabitants of the place sent a breakfast both for myself and my protector. Just at the moment when we were at length mounting our horses,
it seemed as if the Tárki chief Knéha was to cause me some more trouble, for in the morning he had sent me a vessel of butter in order thus to acquire a fair claim upon my generosity; and coming now for his reward, he was greatly disappointed when he heard that the present had fallen into the hands of other people.
It was ten o'clock when our cavalcade at length put itself in motion, ascending the sandhills which rise close behind the village of Kábara, and which, to my great regret, had prevented my obtaining a view of the town from the top of our terrace. The contrast of this desolate scenery with the character of the fertile banks of the river which I had just left behind was remarkable. The whole tract bore decidedly the character of a desert, although the path was thickly lined on both sides with thorny bushes and stunted trees, which were being cleared away in some places in order to render the path less obstructed and more safe, as the Tawárek never fail to infest it, and at present were particularly dreaded on account of their having killed a few days previously three petty Tawáti traders on their way to A'rawán. It is from the unsafe character of this short road between the harbour and the town, that the spot, about halfway between Kábara and Timbúktu, bears the remarkable name of “Ur-immándes,” “ he does not hear,” meaning the place where the cry of the unfortunate victim is not heard from either side. Having traversed two sunken spots designated by
especial names, where, in certain years when the river rises to an unusual height, as happened in the course of the same winter, the water of the inundation enters and occasionally forms even a navigable channel; and leaving on one side the talha tree of the Welí Sálah, covered with innumerable rags of the superstitious natives, who expect to be generously rewarded by their saint with a new shirt, we approached the town: but its dark masses of clay not being illuminated by bright sunshine, for the sky was thickly overcast and the atmosphere filled with sand, were scarcely to be distinguished from the sand and rubbish heaped all round; and there was no opportunity for looking attentively about, as a body of people were coming towards us in order to pay their compliments to the stranger and bid him welcome. This was a very important moment, as, if they had felt the slightest suspicion with regard to my character, they might easily have prevented my entering the town at all, and thus even endangered my life.
I therefore took the hint of A'lawáte, who recommended me to make a start in advance in order to anticipate the salute of these people who had come to meet us; and putting my horse to a gallop, and gun in hand, I galloped up to meet them, when I was received with many saláms. But a circumstance occurred which might have proved fatal, not only to my enterprise, but even to my own personal safety, as there was a man among the group who addressed me in Turkish, which I had alınost entirely forgotten;