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at present, together with the rising water, which had entirely changed the character of these districts, a lion had entered this desert tract, and one day killed three goats, and the following one two asses, one of which was remarkable for its great strength.
Remaining here a couple of days, on the evening of the 25th we had again a long conversation, which was very characteristic of the different state of mind of the Christian in comparison with that of the Mohammedan. While speaking of European institutions, I informed my host of the manner in which we were accustomed to insure property by sea as well as on land, including even harvests, nay, even the lives of the people. He appeared greatly astonished, and was scarcely able to believe it; and while he could not deny that it was a good "debbára,” or device, for this world, he could not but think, as a pious Moslim, that such proceedings might endanger the safety of the soul in the next. However, he was delighted to see that Christians took such care for the welfare of the family which they might leave behind; and it was an easy task to prove to him that, as to making profits in any way whatever, his co-religionists, who think any kind of usury unlawful, were in no way better than the Christians; for, although the former do not openly take usury, they manage affairs so cleverly that they demand a much higher per centage than any honest Christian would accept. I had a fair opportunity of citing, as an
instance, one of those merchants resident in Timbúktu, to whom I had been recommended by Mr. Dickson, and who had consented to advance me a small loan, under such conditions that he was to receive almost triple the sum which he was to lend.
This day was also an important epoch for the inhabitants of the place, the water
December 25th. having entered the wells, which are situated round the southern and south-western part of the town; and this period, which is said to occur only about every third year, obtains the same importance here as the “lélet e' nuktah " possesses with the inhabitants of Cairo * ; viz. the day or night on which the dyke which separates the canal from the river is cut. The whole road from Kábara was now so inundated that it was no longer passable for asses, and small boats very nearly approached the town.
When my host made his appearance on the morning of the 26th, he was not as usual clad in a black tobe, but in a red kaftán, with a white cloth bernús over it. He began speaking most cheerfully about my approaching departure, and had the camels brought before me, which now looked infinitely better than when they were last conveyed from the other bank of the river; but as I had become fully aware of his dilatory character, I did not place much reliance upon the hope which he held out to me of soon entering upon my home journey. We had heard of
* Lane's Modern Egyptians, ed. 1836, vol. ii. p. 255. VOL. IV.
the messenger whom he had sent to the Awelímmiden, in order to induce the chief of that tribe to come to Timbúktu and to take me under his protection, having reached the settlements of that tribe; but I was aware that the opposite party would do all in their power to prevent the chief from approaching the town, as they were fully conscious that the Sheikh wanted to employ him and his host of warlike people, in order to subdue the Fullán and the faction opposed to his own
- Feeling my head much better, and having December 27th.
recruited my strength with a diet of meat and milk, I began to enjoy the rehála life, and, it being a beautiful morning, I took a good walk to an eminence situated at some distance north of my tent, from whence I had a distant view of the landscape. The country presented an intermediate character between the desert and a sort of less favoured pasture ground, stretching out in an undulating surface, with a sandy soil tolerably well clad with middlesized acacias and with thorny bushes, where the goat finds sufficient material for browsing. The streams of running water which, with their silvery threads, enlivened these bare desert tracts, now extended a considerable distance farther inland than had been the case a few days before; and the whole presented a marvellous and delightful spectacle, which, no doubt, must fill travellers from the north who reach Timbúktu at such a season with astonishment. Hence, on their return home, they spread the report of
those numerous streams which are said to join the river at that remarkable place, while, on the contrary, these streams issue from the river, and after running inland for a short time, return to join the main trunk, though of course with decreased volume, owing to absorption and evaporation.
All the people of the town who did not belong to any trade or profession, together with the inhabitants of the neighbouring districts, were still busily employed with the rice harvest; and this was a serious affair for my horses, a much smaller quantity of býrgu, that is to say, of that excellent nutritious grass of the Niger, which I have had repeatedly occasion to mention, being brought into the town. Meanwhile the price of the merchandise from the north went on increasing. A piece of khárn, or malti (unbleached calico), now sold for 5700 shells (at least on the 26th of January), but in the beginning of February it rose to 7200; this fluctuation in the prices constitutes the profit of the merchants, who buy their supplies on the arrival of a caravan and store it up.
The commercial activity of the town had received some further increase, owing to the arrival of another caravan from Tawát, with black Hausa manufactures, tobacco, and dates, so that I was able to lay in a good store of this latter luxury, which is not always to be got here, but which, in the cold season, is not at all to be despised. Besides receiving a handsome present of dates from my noble Tawáti friend
Mohammed el 'Aish, I bought two measures (neffek) and a half of the kind called tin-áser for 4000 shells; for the“ tin-akór," the most celebrated species of dates from Tawát, were not to be procured at this time. * As for tobacco, I did not care a straw about it, and in this respect I might have been on the very best terms with my fanatical friends, the Fúlbe of Hamda-Allahi, who offer such a determined opposition to smoking upon religious principles. In a commercial respect, however, tobacco forms a more important article in the trade of Timbúktu than dates, although refined smokers here prefer the tobacco of Wádí-Nún to that of Tawát. But even these had an opportunity of gratifying their inclination at this season, for only two days after the arrival of the Tawáti caravan, a small troop of Tájakánt traders, with eighty camels, entered the town. The feud which raged between the different sections of this tribe, which, as I stated before, chiefly keeps up the commercial relations of Timbuktu with the north, on the one hand, and the war raging between the whole of this tribe and the Eʻrgebát on the other, interrupted at this time almost entirely the peaceable intercourse between Timbuktu and the southern region of Morocco.
The arrival of these people enabled me to purchase
* The other kinds of dates of Tawat are : A'hartán, Tigáze, Tazarzay, Tin-wariggelí, Tedemamet, Bú-Makhlúp, Tin-kasseri, Tin-dokán, Tin-nijdel, Tilímsu, Timbozéri, Adikkeli, Gófagus, Dággelet-núr. The district of Aúléf is the most famous for its dates.