« AnteriorContinuar »
bodies, colouring and heightening the natural hideousness of their appearance. I had expected to be cut to pieces in this dreadful affray, but was not injured.'-p. 66.
Riley and the black cook were delivered into the hands of two old women who urged them on with sticks towards the camels; they came to a well the water of which was nearly as black and disgusting as stale bilge water;' but a little sour camel's milk poured from a skin into it made it 'taste delicious, and we all drank of it till our stomachs were literally filled; but this washy and unwholesome swill infected the whole party, as might be expected, with a troublesome. diarrhoea.'
The Arabs themselves had as little to eat as their prisoners; they consisted of about one hundred persons, men, women, and children; and their camels, large and small, from four to five hundred. They now separated into two parties; Mr. Williams, Robbins, Porter, Hogan, Barrett and Burns, mounted on the bare backs of the camels, behind the hump, going off with one party towards the Desert; Riley, Mr. Savage, Clark, Horace, and Dick the black cook remaining with the other. The skins being filled with this nauseous water, and the baskets tied on, in which the women and children were placed, the latter party also began to mount the sand hills up the gully, but the prisoners were obliged to drive the camels on foot, naked as they were, in a scorching sun, sinking to the knee at every step, or the sharp craggy rocks cutting their naked feet; and if they attempted to stop, they were forced on by the application of a stick to their sore backs by their unfeeling drivers, who only laughed at their misery and amused themselves by whipping them forward.
On arriving at the summit they selected five camels which these unfortunate men were ordered to mount. They had no saddles, but were placed behind the humps, to which they were obliged to cling by grasping the long hair with both hands. The back bone,' says Riley, was only covered with skin, and as sharp as the edge of an oar's blade; as steep as the roof of a house, and so broad as to keep the legs extended to their utmost stretch.' The Arabs had small round saddles. Thus mounted, the whole party set off to the westward* at a great trot. The heavy motions of the camel are described as not unlike that of a small vessel tossed by a head-sea, and so violent that they excoriated the lower part of their naked bodies; the inside of my thighs and legs were also dreadfully chafed, so that the blood dripped from my heels, while the intense heat of the sun had scorched and blistered our bodies and the out
He means eastward. It is a singular circumstance, and to us wholly inexplicable, that the opposite point of the compass is almost invariably printed for the real direction in which they travelled.
side of our legs, so that we were covered with sores, and without any thing to administer relief.'
The direction in which they proceeded was about south-east, over a plain, flat, hard surface of sand, gravel, and rock, covered with small sharp stones. When night came on there was no indication of stopping; still they proceeded, and the cold night wind chilled the blood and stopped it from trickling down their lacerated legs; they begged permission to get off, and endeavoured to excite the compassion of the women under whose charge they were left, entreating them for a little water; but these hags paid no attention to their distress, and kept the camels running faster than before, Riley then purposely slipped off his camel at the risk of breaking his neck.
This was the first time I had attempted to walk barefoot since I was a schoolboy; we were obliged to keep up with the camels, running over the stones, which were nearly as sharp as gun-flints, and cutting our feet to the bone at every step. It was here that my fortitude and philosophy failed to support me; I cursed my fate aloud, and wished I had rushed into the sea before I gave myself up to these merciless beings in human forms-it was now too late. I would have put an immediate end to my existence, but had neither knife nor any other weapon with which to perform the deed. I searched for a stone, intending, if I could find a loose one sufficiently large, to knock out my own brains with it; but searched in vain. This paroxysm passed off in a minute or two, when reason returned, and I recollected that my life was in the hand of the Power that gave it, and “that the Judge of all the earth would do right. "-p. 74.
From this time, Riley observes, in all his future trials and sufferings, he never once murmured, but determined to keep up his spirits, and, by precept and practice, endeavoured to persuade his unhappy comrades to do the same. About midnight they halted in a small dell or valley from fifteen to twenty feet below the surface of the Desert, after travelling, as he thinks, about forty miles. Here, for the first time, they got about a pint of pure camel's milk each, which, he says, warmed our stomachs, quenched our thirst in some measure, and allayed, in a great degree, the cravings of hunger.' The wind was chilling cold; they lay on sharp stones, perfectly naked, their bodies blistered and mangled; the stones pierc ing their naked flesh to the ribs these distressing sufferings, added to their sad desponding reflections that would obtrude themselves, rendered the night long and dismal, and none of them closed their eyes.
On the morning of the 11th, a pint of milk was divided among four, being just enough to wet their mouths. The condition of their feet was horrible beyond description, the very recollection of it, ' even at this moment,' says our author, ' makes my nerves thrill and
quiver. They soon came to another small valley, where tents were pitched, and about one hundred and fifty people of all ages and both sexes assembled. Here it appeared they were to be separated, Clark being given to one party, Horace to another, and Riley, with the Cook, remaining with their first master. The women came out of the tents to gaze at them, and, by way of expressing their disgust and contempt, spat upon them as they went along, 'making their faces still more horrid by every possible contortion of their frightful features.' At last an old man came up to Riley, and by his plain and distinct manner of speaking, by his significant signs, and by making use of the words 'O Fransah, O Spaniah,' he understood him to ask what countrymen they were, to which he replied Inglesis; he then asked from what part of the horizonand I pointed,' says Riley, to the north; he then repeated the words Marocksh, Sooltaan, Moolay Solimaan, to all which Riley nodded assent-that he knew him-that he lived in such a direction-and made signs that if they would carry him and his comrades thither they would receive so much money; but they shook their heads, signifying that the distance was great, and that there was nothing to eat or drink on the way either for them or their camels.
It was midnight before they got any thing either to eat or drink, when some milk and water was given to them. Riley says he this night sunk into a kind of sleep, which was disturbed with the most horrible dreams; that these however were followed by one of a contrary nature, in which he saw a tall young man mounted on a horse, habited in an European dress, who, in his own language, called him brother, and who told him 'to take courage,' for that 'God had decreed he should again embrace his beloved wife and children' at this instant his master called him. 'He awoke, and found it was a dream;' but it was a dream that tended to keep up his spirits, and afterwards, on seeing Mr. Willshire, he immediately recognized the features of the phantom that appeared in his sleep.
In the evening Hogan joined them, when they found they had been purchased by an Arab of the name of Hamet, who about midnight brought each of them a pint of camel's milk. On the morning of the 13th they again set out, continuing their course about south-east. In the course of the day he came up with Mr. Williams, the chief mate, in a most dreadful situation, who told him that he could not possibly survive another day in such misery. If,' said this unhappy man, you should ever get clear from this dreadful place, and be restored to your country, tell my dear wife that my last breath was spent in prayers for her happiness.'-He could say no more; tears and sobs choked his utterance--and they were separated.
The face of the Desert now appeared as smooth as the surface of the ocean when unruffled by winds, and camels could be seen in every direction, like ships at sea when just appearing in the horizon. In the evening, when they halted, Riley asked the women for a little water, but they not only laughed and spat at him, but drove him away from under the shade of the tent.
On the 20th they made a turn towards the N. W. or sea shore, and when they halted, two strangers came up, each having a double barrelled gun; one of the women told Riley it was Sidi Hamet and his brother, from the Sultan's dominions, who had come with blankets and blue cloth to sell. The former came up to them, and asked Riley if he was el rais, (the captain,) and gave him some water to drink. Poor Clark was then apparently in a dying state, 'stretched out on his back, a perfect wreck of almost naked bones; his belly and back nearly collapsed, and breathing like a person in the last agonies of death.' Sidi Hamet, observing him, suffered Riley to carry him also a little water-it was the first fresh water which they had tasted since they left the boat; the poor creature's eyes brightened up-This is good water,' said he, and must have come from a better country than this; if we were once there, and I could get one good drink of such water, I could die with pleasure, but now I cannot live another day.' About midnight a pint of milk was given to each, which Riley thinks saved Člark from dissolution.
Sidi Hamet was an Arab trader, in whom avarice had not altogether subdued the feelings of humanity. After questioning Riley very closely as to his hopes of redemption at Suara or Mogadore, and what money he would ensure his receiving on being carried thither after much hesitation and a great deal of bargaining, he at length concluded a purchase of him from the old Arab, who had claimed him as his slave; and after many entreaties and assurances of a good round sum of money, he was also induced to purchase Horace, Clark, and Savage, but would have nothing to say to Hogan. In addition to the small quantity of milk they had hitherto received, each of them had been enabled, as they travelled along, to pick up a few snails, which seemed to be the only living creature on the Desert. Sidi Hamet now caused an old meagre camel to be killed, which he had purchased for a blanket. A vein in his neck was first opened close to his breast; the blood was received into a kettle, placed over the fire and boiled, stirring it all the time, till it became thick and of the consistence of bullock's liver
our appetites,' says Riley,' were voracious, and we soon filled our stomachs with this, to us, delicious food.' The skin being then taken off, the entrails were rolled out, and put into the kettle, without cleaning; as they had uo water, a slit was cut in the camel's
paunch, into which a bowl was dipped, and the thick contents poured into the kettle; the whole was then boiled, and well stirred, the Arabs now and then taking out a gut, and biting off an end to ascertain whether it was cooked enough.
Before the morning, one half of the meat and bones of the camel's carcass was carried off, without the possibility of Sidi Hamet and his brother, to whom it belonged, being able to prevent it they could scarcely get a bite of the intestines without fighting for it. Burns, who was an old man, now came up, and Sidi Hamet purchased him also for an old blanket. The two brothers, Sidi and Seid, it seems, had expended all their property in this adventure, and were consequently interested in bringing their slaves safe to Mogadore. Riley was now furnished with a check shirt, which Sidi told him he had stolen for him; Clark had met with a piece of an old sail that partly covered him; Burns had procured an old jacket, and Horace and Mr. Savage had obtained goat skins. The distance travelled on the 27th could not be less, Riley says, than 63 miles--yet, for eighteen days the camels had not tasted a drop of water--this we think can scarcely be true, as we shall have occasion to see hereafter. They were themselves reduced to drink the camel's urine. The next day they travelled fifteen hours at the rate of seven miles an hour, making one hundred and five milesthis is possible, but, in their reduced state, we apprehend, not very probable. They lay down on the hard ground, without a morsel to eat, and nothing to quench their thirst but the camel's urine, which Riley observes is bitter but not salt.
On the morning of the 29th, they proceeded in the same direction, when they discovered what appeared to be high land, but it proved to be the opposite bank of what seemed once to have been the bed of a large river, though now perfectly dry; they descended into it down a precipitous bank, four or five hundred feet in height. In this ravine Sidi Hamet questioned Riley very closely about his acquaintance at Suara, made him repeat his bargain, and told him if he deceived him he would certainly cut his throat, for that he and his brother had expended their whole property in the purchase of them on speculation.
At some height on the edge of the northern bank they found a delightful spring of fresh water, covered with a large rock, from fifteen to twenty feet high, cool, clear, fresh, and sweet.' Here they remained some time before they could water their camels, the largest of which drank full sixty gallons, the poor creature not having tasted water, he says, for twenty days before.
Riley calls this valley the bed of an arm of the sea: the high banks, distant from each other eight or ten miles, were worn and