« AnteriorContinuar »
agrees with the description usually given, of its being an elevated plain, presenting to the eye an extended surface of uniform sterility, but broken here and there by small valleys or dells, of a few miles or a few acres, in which a little soil or sand collected and moistened with the scanty rains that fall, produces a glimpse of verdure from a few stunted plants-the only ones noticed by Riley are, a dwarf thorn-bush,' from two to five feet in height, with succulent leaves, strongly impregnated with salt; and two or three prickly plants resembling weeds,' one of which, from its fluted branches, armed with small sharp prickles all over,' and the 'nauseous white liquid' which bites the tongue like aquafortis,' we take to be a species of euphorbium. This is but a miserable catalogue of the vegetable kingdom; and as to animals, they saw none of any description, except the ostrich. Near the skirts of the Desert and on the sea shore about Cape Bojador, the hard, uniform, baked surface of reddish coloured clay is changed into immense heaps of loose saud, forming mountains of from one to three or four hundred feet in height, blown and whirled about by every wind.' Mr. Riley has a theory for the formation of these sand hills, but it unfortunately does not speak much in favour of his intelligence.' This sand, he says, has evidently been driven from the sea shore, and in the same degree as the ocean has retired, by means of the trade-wind blowing constantly on to the Desert through a long succession of ages." Whether the sea has retired is mere matter of conjecture; but the blowing of the trade-wind is matter of fact; and, unluckily for the author's theory, during the succession' of those ages,' since we know any thing about it, instead of blowing on, it has invariably blown off the Desert.
Leaving Mr. Riley, therefore, to the enjoyment of his theory, which he thinks so. 'evident;' and omitting his account of the Emperor of Morocco's dominions, which, though we have the testimony of Mr. Renshaw, the gentleman we have mentioned to be connected with the house of Willshire, as to its accuracy, have been often described by others, and recently noticed by ourselves, we proceed to what we consider as by far the most curious part of the book; treating on a subject which throws open a new field of speculation, by taking a new view of the long agitated question of the course of the Niger. We acquit Mr. Riley of any knowledge or participation in the theories which have been entertained on this interesting subject; he seems to triumph even in his sagacious conjectures and explanations on points which had been conjectured and explained long before his sufferings and captivity,'-but of which he appears to have no knowledge; his map is altogether worthless, and his course of the Niger does not agree with his relation of Sidi Hamet's travels: his countrymen, in fact, are but indifferent geographers.
Sidi Hamet, whom we have had occasion so frequently to mention, remained for a fortnight in Mr. Willshire's house; in the course of conversation, he happened to mention his having been three times at Tombuctoo, and once at another large city far to the southward of it. To a resident at Mogadore, it is no novelty to meet with Moors and Arabs who have accompanied the annual caravans into Soudan from lower Suze; Mr. Dupuis had frequent opportunities of conversing with such persons; and he has borne testimony to the general agreement of their descriptions with the account given by the unlettered seaman, Robert Adams. However, to gratify Riley's curiosity, Sidi Hamet was induced to give an account of his travels, which our author took down in writing. Mr. Riley entertains no doubt of the truth of the Arab's narrative; and says that his description of Tombuctoo agrees in substance with that given by several Moorish merchants of Fez, who came. to Mr. Willshire's house to buy goods, while Sidi Hamet was there; and who said they had known him in Tombuctoo several years ago. We e may add, it agrees too in substance with the description given of this celebrated city by Leo Africanus; and, in all the main points, with the more recent account of Adams. Of the simplicity of Adams's story, and of the veracity of his narrative, we have already delivered our opinion; and we are happy in having it in our power to add to this opinion, the testimony of one far more capable of appreciating the validity of the evidence than we could pretend to be-it is that of the intelligent traveller whom we mentioned in our notice of Mr. Legh's work, and who, at this moment, is probably a resident of Tombuctoo. This person had received, it appears, in the heart of Egypt, and here we must be permitted to indulge a mingled feeling of pride and pleasure at the unbounded circulation of our labours,-that Number of our Journal in which the narrative of Adams is reviewed; and the description there given, he writes, accords exactly with all the information which he had been able to collect of that celebrated city, from the Arab traders met with in Nubia :-the only doubt, he adds, which he entertained of the fidelity of Adams's narrative, was occasioned by that part where, after leaving Tombuctoo, he says that they traversed the Desert for thirty days without water; a circumstance which the traveller above mentioned states to be physically impossible, as no camel, even those of Darfur, which are accounted the best, and able to hold out the longest without water, can proceed beyond ten or twelve days. * The Nubian traveller however ob
Leo Africanus, who, like Marco Polo, when he speaks of his own knowledge, is generally accurate, observes, that the African camel will travel fifteen days without water. Mr. Riley, indeed, asserts, that a camel will go twenty days without water; but he also says, and believes, that the Arabs of the Desert very frequently attain the age of two hundred yrs, which may be possible, but of which we must take leave to doubt. U 4
serves, that he had not seen the narrative itself, but only that part of it which is contained in the Quarterly Review. We have turned to the Article in question, and though it does not bear the construction put upon it, yet, as we find it liable to be misunderstood, we consider it but just to the reputation of Adams, to take the blame to ourselves for any misunderstanding that may arise. Adams says that, at Tudenny, where there were four wells of excellent water, they remained fourteen days to recruit the strength of the ransomed Moors; that on setting out they loaded their four camels with water, dates, and flour; that from thence they travelled, in one direction, nine and twenty days across the Desert, without meeting with one human being; the whole way being a sandy plain, like a sea, without either tree, shrub, or grass; that at the end of fourteen days, their stock of water began to run short; that, in six days after this, they arrived at a place where it was expected water would be found; but, to their great disappointment, owing to the dryness of the season, there was none; that, at this time, all their stock of water consisted of four goat skins, and those not full, holding from one to two gallons each—but that, as it was known they had yet ten days to travel before they could reckon on a supply, they mixed the remaining water with camel's urine, so as to give to each camel about a quart for the whole ten days, and for each man about half a pint a day. So that, in fact, the camels were only stinted for water the last ten days of the thirty.
But to return to Sidi Hamet. This Arab trader stated that, about ten years before, having married the daughter of Scheik Ali, he and his brother Seid were advised by him to join the caravan at Wed-noon for Tombuctoo; that it consisted of three thousand camels and eight hundred men; the whole under the command of Scheik Ben Soleyman of Woldeleim, (Woled d'leim ;) that having prepared the necessary quantity of charcoal, (for a purpose we shall notice presently,) they first crossed the hard level desert four days, then through the moving sand hills six days, and again over the hard naked surface ten days more, when they reached the watering-place called Biblah, where they stopped seven days. Travelling from hence to the S. W, (it should be S. E.) twenty days, they came to the well called Kiber Jibil, but there was no water in it. They were therefore obliged to go six days towards the sea coast, till they came to a well whose water was very black and salt; but there was nothing for the camels to eat, and they were obliged to give them of the coals to eat, once a day, for many days; this kept them alive, but it made their milk almost as black as the coals themselves.' Feeding camels with charcoal is, we confess, perfectly new to us. At first we apprehended that it was either some mistake of Riley or an error of the press, and
that coals for the camels' meant coals carried by the camels' for dressing the men's victuals in the Desert, where nothing was to be had to kindle a fire; but he repeats it so frequently, and on the second journey observes that they cut wood and burned coals for the camels, for the caravans never attempt to cross the Desert without this article,' that it will not admit of such an explanation. If we could conceive that the water in the living stomach of the camel was liable to become fetid, charcoal, being a well known sweetener of water, might be used to correct this tendency-but neither is this very probable; and we only regret that Mr. Riley has not thought fit to give any explanation of a fact of so novel and extraordinary a nature, in his tedious and unnecessary description of this useful animal. Can it be some particular plant, or part of some plant, which is merely roasted, as we are in the habit of roasting coffee? Something of this sort is the only rational suggestion we are able to form on the subject.* It was four moons before they had crossed the Desert and entered Soudan, in which time more than three hundred camels had died of hunger and fatigue, but not a single man. Two moons more brought them to Tombuc too. It was a year and a half before they again reached Wed-noon, having lost in the whole journey, or killed for food, about five hundred camels: thirty-four of the people together with about eighty slaves had died.
His second journey was far more disastrous. His brother and he again joined the great caravan at Wed-noon, consisting of more than one thousand men and four thousand camels, under the command of Sidi Ishrel, but the greater part belonging to the chief Sidi Ishem. They now went the direct course from the south point of Mount Atlas, the usual route of the Morocco caravans, having first cut wood and burned coals for the camels. For fifteen days they travelled over a smooth surface, so hard that not a track was to be seen, shaping their course by the sun and the stars. In one spot only were found shrubs sufficient to satisfy the appetite of the camels, but the wells were dry. At the end of fifteen days, however, they came to a fine deep valley, with twenty wells, of which six only had water in them; but there was sufficient to replenish their skinbags and to satisfy the camels. In three days more they came to drifts of fiue loose sand, among which they travelled other six days, when
Our conjecture was not far from the truth: since this Article went to the press, we have learned from Mr. Renshaw that the pulp of the argan olive, after the oil is extracted, is formed into balls by the Arabs, after undergoing a sort of baking, and that these balls serve them for fuel in the Desert, and food for their camels. We recollect, indeed, that Ali Bey, and some other travellers, mention the pulp of the argan fruit as being good food for cattle. These balls, therefore, which we understand are as black as charcoal, are the food which Riley, through the medium of his Spanish interpreter, mistook for charcoal.
"There began to blow a fierce wind from the south-east, called the wind of the desert, (Shume,) bringing death and destruction with it; we could not advance nor retreat, so we took the loading from off our camels, and piled it in one great heap, and made the camels lie down. The dust flew so thick that we could not see each other nor our camels, and were scarcely able to breathe; so we lay down with our faces in the dust, and cried aloud with one voice to God-"Great and merciful God, spare our lives!" but the wind blew dreadfully for the space of two days, and we were obliged to move ourselves whenever the sand got so heavy on us that it shut out all the air, and prevented us from breathing; but at length it pleased the Most High to hear our supplications: the wind ceased to blow; all was still again; and we crawled out of the sand that had buried us for so long a time-but not all; for when the company was numbered, three hundred were missing. All that were left joined in thanks to God for his mercy in sparing our lives; we then proceeded to dig out the camels from the sand that had buried their bodies, which, together with the re-loading of them, took us two days. About two hundred of them were dead-there was no green thing to be seen, and we were obliged to give the camels a little water from the skins to wash their parched throats, and some charcoal to eat then we kept on twenty-four days as fast as we could through the dry, deep, and hot sand, without finding any green bushes worth noticing for our camels to eat, when we came to a famous valley and watering place, called Haherah.
The camels were dying fast, and they had already been obliged to throw away the salt, which was the heavy part of their loading: the caravan was now reduced to about six hundred men and thirtyfive hundred camels. All authority was at an end. The Scheik proposed that all the camels, except three hundred, should be killed, that the water in their stomachs, together with their blood, might support the rest and the people, till by the aid of Providence they should find water. But when this advice was about to be carried into effect, a furious quarrel arose, and the Scheik, 'though a man of God,' was killed in a moment. Between two and three hundred are stated to have been butchered on that day, and the blood of the slain was drunk to allay the thirst of those who shed it.' Five hundred camels also were slain. Sidi Hamet, and his brother, who was wounded in the affray, killed four out of their six camels, and preserved their blood and the water in their stomachs for the other two; and, with about thirty of their friends, and thirtytwo camels, set off during the night. On the twelfth day the rain fell in torrents, but at this time they had only eighteen camels left, and nine of the people had died; and on coming to a negro town at the foot of the Desert called Wabilt, on the bank of the river Wod Tenij, or, as the negroes call it, Gozen-zair, twelve camels only were remaining. The negroes treated them kindly when they learned their misfortunes and saw them unarmed; these harmless people live in little towns inclosed with fences of strong reeds, covered with clay. In ten days they reached Tombuctoo. Here