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FIRST MONTH OF RESIDENCE IN TIMBÚKTU.
It had been arranged that, during the absence of the Sheikh el Bakáy, whose special guest I professed to be, my house should be locked up and no one allowed to pay me a visit. However, while my luggage was being got in, numbers of people gained access to the house, and came to pay me their compliments, and while they scrutinised my luggage, part of which had rather a foreign appearance, some of them entertained a doubt as to my nationality. But of course it could never have been my intention to have impressed these people with the belief of my being a Mohammedan; for having been known as a Christian all along my road as far as Libtáko, with which province the Arabs of A'zawád keep up a continual intercourse, although there the people would scarcely believe that I was a European, the news of my real character could not fail soon to transpire; and it was rather a fortunate circumstance that, notwithstanding our extremely slow progress, and our roundabout direction, the news had not anticipated us. I had been obliged to
adopt the character of a Mohammedan, in order to traverse with some degree of safety the country of the Tawárek, and to enter the town of Timbúktu, which was in the hands of the fanatical Fúlbe of Hamda-Alláhi, while I had not yet obtained the protection of the chief whose name and character alone had inspired me with sufficient confidence to enter upon this enterprise.
Thus I had now reached the object of my arduous undertaking; but it was apparent from the very first, that I should not enjoy the triumph of having overcome the difficulties of the journey in quiet and repose. The continuous excitement of the protracted struggle, and the uncertainty whether I should succeed in my undertaking, had sustained my weakened frame till I actually reached this city; but as soon as I was there, and almost at the very moment when I entered my house, I was seized with a severe attack of fever. Yet never were presence of mind and bodily energy more required; for the first night which I passed in Timbúktu was disturbed by feelings of alarm and serious anxiety.
On the morning of the 8th of September, the first news I heard was, that Hammádi the rival and enemy of El Bakáy had informed the Fúlbe, or Fullán, that a Christian had entered the town, and that, in consequence, they had come to the determination of killing him. However, these rumours did not cause me any great alarm, as I entertained the false hope that I might rely on the person who, for the time,
had undertaken to protect me: but my feeling of security was soon destroyed, this very man turning out my greatest tormentor. I had destined for him a very handsome gift, consisting of a fine cloth bernús, a cloth kaftán, and two tobes, one of silk and the other of indigo-dyed cotton, besides some smaller articles; but he was by no means satisfied with these, and peremptorily raised the present to the following formidable proportions :
Two blue bernúses of the best quality, worth
Shells. 100,000 40,000 15,000 35,500 30,000
While levying this heavy contribution upon me, in order to take from the affair its vexatious character, my host stated, that as their house and their whole establishment were at my disposal, so my property ought to be at theirs. But even this amount of property did not satisfy him, nor were his pretensions limited to this; for, the following day, he exacted an almost equal amount of considerable presents from me, such as two cloth kaftáns, two silk hamáil, or sword belts, three other silk tobes, one of the species called jellábi, one of that called harír, and the third of the kind called filfil, one Núpe tobe, three túrkedís, a small six-barrelled pistol, and many other things. He promised me, however, on his part, that he would not only make presents of several of these articles to the Tawárek chiefs, but that he would also send a handsome gift to the governor of Hamda-Alláhi; but this latter condition at least, although the most important, considering that the town was formally subjected to the supremacy of the ruler of Másina, was never fulfilled ; and although I was prepared to sacrifice all I had for the purposes of my journey, yet it was by no means agreeable to give up such a large proportion of my very limited property to a younger brother of the chief under whose protection I was to place myself.
Thus my first day in Timbúktu passed away, preparing me for a great deal of trouble and anxiety which I should have to go through; even those who professed to be my friends treating me with so little consideration.
However, the second day of my residence here was more promising. I received visits from several respectable people, and I began to enter with spirit upon my new situation, and to endeavour by forbearance to accommodate myself to the circumstances under which I was placed. The state of my health also seemed to improve, and I felt a great deal better than on the preceding day.
I was not allowed to stir about, but was confined within the walls of my house. In order to obviate the effect of this want of exercise as much as possible, to enjoy fresh air and at the same time to be
VIEW OF THE TOWN.
come familiar with the principal features of the town, through which I was not allowed to move about at pleasure, I ascended as often as possible the terrace of my house. This afforded an excellent view over the northern quarters of the town. On the north was the massive mosque of Sánkoré, which had just been restored to all its former grandeur through the influence of the Sheikh el Bakáy, and gave the whole place an imposing character. Neither the mosque Sídi Yahia, nor the “great mosque,” or Jingeré-bér, was seen from this point; but towards the east the view extended over a wide expanse of the desert, and towards the south the elevated mansions of the Ghadámsiye merchants were visible. The style of the buildings was various. I could see clay houses of different characters, some low and unseemly, others rising with a second story in front to greater elevation, and making even an attempt at architectural ornament, the whole being interrupted by a few round huts of matting. The sight of this spectacle afforded me sufficient matter of interest, although, the streets being very narrow, only little was to be seen of the intercourse carried on in them, with the exception of the small market in the northern quarter, which was exposed to view on account of its situation on the slope of the sand-hills which, in course of time, have accumulated round: the mosque.
But while the terrace of my house served to make me well acquainted with the character of the town,