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Cuap. LXVIII. TEDIOUSNESS OF POSITION. 487
stay, I was deeply afflicted by the immense delay and loss of time, and did not allow an opportunity to pass by of urging my protector to hasten our departure; and he promised me that, as I was not looking for property, he should not keep me long. But, nevertheless, his slow and deliberate character could not be overcome, and it was not until the arrival of another messenger from Hamda-Allahi, with a fresh order to the Sheikh to deliver me into his hands, that he was induced to return into the town.
My situation in this turbulent place now approached a serious crisis ; but, through the care which my friends took of me, I was not allowed to become fully aware of the danger I was in. The Sheikh himself was greatly excited, but came to no decision with regard to the measures to be taken; and at times he did not see any safety for me except by my taking refuge with the Tawarek, and placing myself entirely under their protection. But as for myself I remained quiet, although my spirits were far from being buoyant; especially as, during this time, I suffered severely from rheumatism; and I had become so tired of this stay outside in the tents, where I was not able to write, that, when the Sheikh went out again in the evening of the 16th, I begged him to let me remain where I was. Being anxious about my safety, he returned the following evening. However, on the 22nd, I was obliged to accompany him on another visit to the tents, which had now been pitched in a different place, on a bleak sandy eminence, about five miles east from the town, but this time he kept his promise of not staying more than twenty-four hours. It was at this encampment that I saw again the last four of my camels, which at length, after innumerable delays, and with immense expense, had been brought from beyond the river, but they were in a miserable condition, and furnished another excuse to my friends for putting off my departure,»the animals being scarcely fit to undertake a journey.
POLITICAL STATE OF THE COUNTRT.— DANGEROUS CRISIS.
In the meantime, while I was thus warding off a decisive blow from my enemies, the political horizon of these extensive regions became rather more turbulent than usual; and war and feud raged in every quarter. Towards the north the communication with Morocco was quite interrupted, the tribe of the Tajakant, who almost exclusively keep up that communication, being engaged in civil war, which had arisen in this way. A "Jakani"» called *Abd Allah Weled Muliid, and belonging to that section of their tribe which is called Drawa, had slain a chief of the E'rgebat who had come to sue for peace, and had been killed in his turn by the chief of his own tribe, a respectable and straightforward man of the name of Mohammed El Mukhtar Merabet. Thus, two factions having arisen, one consisting of the U'jarat and the A'hel e' Sherk, and the other being formed by the Drawa and their allies, a sanguinary war was carried on. But notwithstanding the unfavourable state of this quarter, which is so important for the wellbeing of the town, on account of its intercourse with the north, the Sheikh, who was always anxious to establish peaceable
* That is the singular form of the name Tajakant.
intercourse, repeatedly told me that although he regarded the road along the river, under the protection of the Tawarek, as the safest for myself, he should endeavour to open the northern road for future travellers from Merakesh, or Morocco, by way of Tafilelet, and that he should make an arrangement to this effect with the A'arib and Tajakant, though there is no doubt that it was the A'arib who killed Mr. Davidson, a few days after he had set out from Wadi Nun in the company of the Tajakant. There was just at the time a man of authority, of the name of Hamed Weled e' Sid, belonging to this tribe, present in the town. On one occasion he came to pay me a visit, girt with his long bowie knife. I had however not much confidence in these northern Moors; and seeing him advance through my court-yard in company with another man, I started up from my couch and met him halfway; and although he behaved with some discretion, and even wanted to clear his countrymen from the imputation of having murdered the above-mentioned traveller, I thought it more prudent to beg him to keep at a respectful distance.
Just at this time a large foray was undertaken by a troop of 400 Awelimmiden against the Hogar, but it returned almost empty-handed, and with the loss of one of their principal men. Towards the south, the enterprising chief El Khadir, whom I have mentioned on a former occasion, was pushing strenuously forward against his inveterate enemies the Fiilbe, or Fullan, although the report which we heard at this
time, of his having taken the town of H6mbori, was not subsequently confirmed. But, on the whole, the fact of this Berber tribe pushing always on into the heart of Negroland, is very remarkable; and there is no doubt that if a great check had not been given them by the Fiilbe, they would have overpowered ere this the greater part of the region north of 13° N. latitude. Great merit, no doubt, is due to the Fiilbe, for thus rescuing these regions from the grasp of the Berber tribes of the desert, although as a set-off it must be admitted that they do not understand how to organise a firm and benevolent government, which would give full security to the intercourse of people of different nationalities, instead of destroying the little commerce still existing in these unfortunate regions, by forcing upon the natives their own religious prejudices.
The danger of my situation increased when, on the 17th November, some more messengers from the prince of Hamda-Allahi arrived in order to raise the zeka,*, and at the same time we received authentic information that the Fiilbe had made an attempt to instigate A'wab, the chief of the Tademekket, upon whom I chiefly relied for my security, to betray me into their hands. News also arrived that the Welad Slhnan, that section of the Berabish to which belongs especially the chief Hamed Weled "Abeda, who killed Major Laing, had bound themselves by an oath to put me to death. But my situation became still more
* Of the amount of the zeka, I shall speak in another chapter.