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THE NILE TRIBUTARIES OF ABYSSINIA AND THE
SWORD HUNTERS OF THE HAMRAN ARABS

BY SIR SAMUEL W. BAKER, M.A., F.R.G.S.

I DEDICATE THIS BOOK,
WITH SPECIAL PERMISSION,
TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS ALBERT EDWARD,
PRINCE OF WALES,
AS THE FIRST OF
ENGLAND'S ROYAL RACE
WHO HAS SAILED UPON THE WATERS OF
THE NILE;
THE LAKE SOURCES OF WHICH MIGHTY RIVER ARE HONOURED
BY THE NAMES OF
HIS AUGUST PARENTS.

PREFACE.

THE work entitled "The Albert N'yanza Great Basin of the Nile,"
published in 1866, has given an account of the equatorial lake
system from which the Egyptian river derives its source. It has
been determined by the joint explorations of Speke, Grant, and
myself, that the rainfall of the equatorial districts supplies
two vast lakes, the Victoria and the Albert, of sufficient volume
to support the Nile throughout its entire course of thirty
degrees of latitude. Thus the parent stream, fed by never-failing
reservoirs, supplied by the ten months' rainfall of the equator,
rolls steadily on its way through arid sands and burning deserts
until it reaches the Delta of Lower Egypt.

It would at first sight appear that the discovery of the lake
sources of the Nile had completely solved the mystery of ages,
and that the fertility of Egypt depended upon the rainfall of the
equator concentrated in the lakes Victoria and Albert; but the
exploration of the Nile tributaries of Abyssinia divides the Nile
system into two proportions, and unravels the entire mystery of
the river, by assigning to each its due share in ministering to
the prosperity of Egypt.

The lake sources of Central Africa support the life of Egypt, by
supplying a stream, throughout all seasons, that has sufficient
volume to support the exhaustion of evaporation and absorption;
but this stream, if unaided, could never overflow its banks, and
Egypt, thus deprived of the annual inundation, would simply
exist, and cultivation would be confined to the close vicinity of
the river.

The inundation, which by its annual deposit of mud has actually
created the Delta of Lower Egypt, upon the overflow of which the
fertility of Egypt depends, has an origin entirely separate from
the lake-sources of Central Africa, and the supply of water is
derived exclusively from Abyssinia.

The two grand affluents of Abyssinia are, the Blue Nile and the
Atbara, which join the main stream respectively in N. lat. 15
degrees 30 minutes and 17 degrees 37 minutes. These rivers,
although streams of extreme grandeur during the period of the
Abyssinian rains, from the middle of June until September, are
reduced during the dry months to utter insignificance; the Blue
Nile becoming so shallow as to be unnavigable, and the Atbara
perfectly dry. At that time the water supply of Abyssinia having
ceased, Egypt depends solely upon the equatorial lakes and the
affluents of the White Nile, until the rainy season shall again
have flooded the two great Abyssinian arteries. That flood occurs
suddenly about the 20th of June, and the grand rush of water
pouring down the Blue Nile and the Atbara into the parent
channel, inundates Lower Egypt, and is the cause of its extreme
fertility.

Not only is the inundation the effect of the Abyssinian rains,
but the deposit of mud that has formed the Delta, and which is
annually precipitated by the rising waters, is also due to the
Abyssinian streams, more especially to the river Atbara, which,
known as the Bahr el Aswat (Black River), carries a larger
proportion of soil than any other tributary of the Nile;
therefore, to the Atbara, above all other rivers, must the wealth
and fertility of Egypt be attributed.

It may thus be stated: The equatorial lakes FEED Egypt; but the
Abyssinian rivers CAUSE THE INUNDATION.

This being a concise summary of the Nile system, I shall describe
twelve months' exploration, during which I examined every
individual river that is tributary to the Nile from Abyssinia,
including the Atbara, Settite, Royan, Salaam, Angrab, Rahad,
Dinder, and the Blue Nile. The interest attached to these
portions of Africa differs entirely from that of the White Nile
regions, as the whole of Upper Egypt and Abyssinia is capable of
development, and is inhabited by races either Mohammedan or
Christian; while Central Africa is peopled by a hopeless race of
savages, for whom there is no prospect of civilization.

The exploration of the Nile tributaries of Abyssinia occupied the
first twelve months of my journey towards the Nile sources.
During this time, I had the opportunity of learning Arabic and of
studying the character of the people; both necessary
acquirements, which led to my ultimate success in reaching the
"Albert N'yanza." As the readers of the work of that title are
aware, I was accompanied throughout the entire journey by my
wife, who, with extraordinary hardihood and devotion, shared
every difficulty with which African travel is beset.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

ABOVE THE CATARACT.

Sterility--Arrival at Korosko--Twenty-six Days from Cairo--The
Nubian Desert--Nature's Pyramids--Volcanic Bombs--The Stony Sea--
The Camel's Grave--The Crows of Moorahd--A delicious
Draught--Rocks of the Desert--The perished Regiment--Arrival at
the Nile--Distance from Korosko--Gazelles of the Desert--Dryness
of the Atmosphere--Arrival at Berber--Halleem Effendi's
Garden--Halleem gives Advice--The Nile rising--Visit of the
Ladies--The Pillars of Sand--The Governor's Friendship--Save me
from my Friends.

CHAPTER II.

The Cairo Dragoman Mahomet--Mahomet forsakes his Pistols--The
Route to the Atbara--The Dry Bed of the River--The Dome
Palm--Preparation of the Fruit--Pools of the Atbara--Collection
of Birds--Charms of the Desert--Suffering of Men and
Beasts--Collodabad--Hippopotamus kills the Arab--Daring Feat of
the Fish-Eagle--Hippopotamus-shooting--Hippopotami
bagged--Delight of the Arabs--Fishing--Catch a Tartar--Lose my
Turtle Soup--Gazelle-shooting--The Speed of the Gazelle--
Preparation of Water-skins--Tanning the Hides--Shoot a
Crocodile--The River comes down--The mighty Stream of the
Atbara--Change in the Season.

CHAPTER III.

WILD ASSES OF THE DESERT.

My First and Last--Appetite for raw Meat--The Bishareen Arabs--
Gozerajup--The First Rain--Limits of the Desert--The Hadendowa
Arabs--The Wells of Soojalup--Antelopes--Antelope Stalking--Arab
Migrations--The Arab's Prayer--The Barren Women--Difficulty in
fording the River Gash--Arrive at Cassala--Hospitality of the
Greek Merchant.

CHAPTER IV.

ROUTE FROM CASSALA TO SOUAKIM.

Facilities of the Port of Souakim--Fortifications of
Cassala--Conquest of Nubia--Cruel Taxation--Extreme Cheapness of
Corn--Cultivation of Cereals--Arab Bread--Military Position of
Cassala--The Base--Prepare to start from Cassala--Mahomet's
Family Tree--Mahomet meets Relations--We cross the
Gash--Stalking the Ariel--Bagged the Game--Descent of
Vultures--Change of Scenery--The Source of the Delta--The Parent
of Egypt.

CHAPTER V.

THE STORM.

Cotton Farm of Malem Georgis--Ferocious Crocodiles--Shoot a
Monster--The Public Enemy--Resistance of a Crocodile's
Scales--Discover Gold--Heavy Action of the Camel--El Baggar
selects a Hygeen--The Easy-goer, suitable for a Lady--Hooked
Thorns of the Mimosa--We charge a Kittar Bush--The Scorpion's
Sting--Sudden Deluge--A Regiment of Scorpions--Valley of the
Atbara--The Migration of Camels--A Milk Diet--The Arab
Exodus--The Desert Patriarch.

CHAPTER VI.

SHEIK ACHMET ABOU SINN.

The Arab Welcome--Abou Sinn's Advice--Arab Tribes of Nubia--A
Hint to Octogenarians--The Arab Pomade--The Arab Lady's
Perfumery--The fatal Mixture--The Coiffure of the World--The Arab
Woman's Head-dress--"The Dust became Lice through all Egypt"--The
Arab Charms--The Rahat or Arab Kilt--Arab Weddings--No Divorce
Court--Anointing with Oil--Nomadic Habits of the
Arabs--Unchanging Customs of the Arabs--The Hand of God--Religion
of the Arabs.

CHAPTER VII.

THE DEPARTURE.

First-class Hygeens--Travelling Arrangements--The Evening
Bivouac--The Junction of the Settite River--Sheik Atalan Wat
Said--Abyssinian Frontier--Ismael Pasha burnt alive--Mek
Nimmur--The Enemy of Egypt--Arrival at Sofi--The
Reception--Position of Sofi--Florian, the German Settler--The
Cattle Fly--Peculiarities of the Seasons--The New Camp--I become
a Householder--Arrangement of our Establishment--My "Baby"--An
African Elysium--No Pipe!--The Elements at Work.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE PLAGUES OF EGYPT.

Go into Half Mourning--"Child of the Fever"--The Arab M.D.--Arab
Fondness for Relics--The Pest Spots of the World--The Dangers of
Holy Shrines--Arrival of the Holy Body--The Faky's Grave--Arab
Doctoring--Delights of Arab Surgery--The Pig and the
Koran--Sword Hunters of the Hamran Arabs--The Arab Shields--Hints
for carrying the Sword--Keenness of the Edge--Arab
Swordsmanship--The Aggageers--Elephant-hunting with the
Sword--Arab disabled by his own Sword--Maria Theresa--Great
Failure--The Baboons and the Crocodile--The drowned
Elephant--Game on the East Bank--Capabilities of the
Soil--Tanning of Leather--Native Baskets and Matting--Bacheet is
too attentive--"Oh Bacheet! you Ignoramus!"--Ferocity of the
Seroot Fly--Cross the Atbara--The Impromptu Raft--Stalking
Giraffes--Within Range--The First Rush of the Herd--The Retreat
of the Giraffes--Death of the Giraffes--Passage of the River--
The Giraffe Sentry--A difficult Stalk--The Seroot Fly takes
possession--Giraffe Steaks--A Hunt for the Tetel--Floating Meat
across a River--Buoy for Men and Cargo--Scare the
Crocodiles--The Lions devour the Giraffe--Arab Music--Arrange to
cross the River.

CHAPTER IX.

FORM A RAFT WITH THE SPONGING BATH.

The Impromptu Ferry--Achmet is tempted by Satan--Mahomet's
Relative absconds--End of the Rainy Season--The Seroot Fly
disappears--The "Till"--Preparations for Fishing--"That was a
Monster!"--The "Bayard"--Masara the Slave--Cross the Peninsula to
Settite--Jungle Cooking--A miserable Night--Shoot badly--Fishing
in the Atbara--A good Run--Another Monster--Bacheet lands
him--The Baboons visit us--The Coor--Wild Vegetables--Death of
Atalan Wat Said--Catch a Baggar--Fish-salting--The Arbour.

CHAPTER X.

A FEW NOTES AT EHETILLA.

Fire the Valley--Arrival of Birds--Seized by a
Crocodile--Audacity of the Buzzard--The Abomination of
Thorns--Boa Constrictor--The Baboons hunt for Berries--Masses of
small Birds--Cunning of the Crocodile--Method of seizing its
Prey--Horse-dealing--Arab Saddles and Bits--Arrive at Sherif el
Ibrahim--Arrival at the Settite--Recall of Mahomet--Sheik Achmet
Wat el Negur--Mansfield Parkyns--Advantages of a "Sweet Name"--
Elephants destroy the Crops--An Invitation to shoot--The Hippo
challenges Bacheet--A good Shot--A Rush at the Carcase--Elephants
at Night--Kill an Elephant.

CHAPTER XI.

THE FORD.

Girls carried away by the Rapids--An amphibious Arab Girl--Search
for the drowned Girl--The Corpse recovered--The Sheik lays down
the Law--"The Fact is simply impossible"--The Sheik's Idea of
Matrimony--The Duties of his Four Wives--The Maimed, the Halt,
and the Blind--The Arab Fakeers or Priests--"All the Same with a
little Difference"--The Cure for Frendeet--Arrival at
Katariff--The Market Day--Scenes at the Fair--Custom of
scarifying the Cheeks--The Galla Slave--Purchase her Freedom
--Singular Misunderstanding--Mahomet's Explanation--Mek Nimmur
invades the Frontier--Mek Nimmur's Tactics--Insecurity of the
Country--Mek Nimmur sends me his Compliments--Roder Sheriff's
withered Arm--The Aggageers--Mixture for Bullets--We make
Arrowroot--Florian's Hunter--Arrive at Geera--Follow a Herd of
Elephants--Track up the Elephants--A tremendous Crash--A
critical Position--The Forehead Shot--The Half-pound Explosive
Shell--Recover my old wounded Elephant--Fraternize with the
Sword Hunters.

CHAPTER XII.

OLD NEPTUNE JOINS THE PARTY.

The Arab Centaurs--Wild Arab Horsemanship--Discipline of the
Gun-bearers--Off goes the Gun, and its Master!--Ombrega (Mother
of the Thorn)--Leopard Springs into the Camp--The Dog carried
off--The Bull Elephant--The Forehead Shot fails--The Mountain
Chain of Abyssinia--A Hunt after a Herd of Baboons--The
Prisoners--A Course after a Tetel--The Cry of Buffaloes--We hunt
and capture--The Baboons take leave--The Valley of the
Settite--The Bull Buffalo--The Island Camp--Mahomet hears the
Lions--Tales of the Base.

CHAPTER XIII.

THE LIONS FIND THE BUFFALO.

We seek an Introduction--The Start of the Sword Hunters--The Bull
Elephant--The "Baby" screams at him--The Fight, Sword in
Hand--Abou Do's Blade tastes Blood--We find the Herd--Jali leads
the Party--The Forehead Shot fairly proved--The Charge of the
Phalanx--My "Baby" kicks viciously--Abou Do slashes the
Sinew--The Boar wounds Richarn--Old Moosa, the Sorcerer--Neptune
and his Trident--The Beauty of the Settite--Borders of the
River--The Hippopotamus Hunter--The Hippo is harpooned--A Cheer
for Old Neptune--Death of the Hippopotamus--Character of
Hippopotami--Habits of the Hippopotamus--Its Activity.

CHAPTER XIV.

A FOREBODING OF EVIL.

Jali's Thigh is broken--Abou Do saves Jali--Extraordinary
Dexterity--Jungle Surgery--We lose our best Man--My Tokrooris
determine to desert--A little Diplomacy is required--The Sick are
dosed--"Embrace him!" cried old Moosa--We become staunch
Friends--Abou Do's Weaknesses--The Baobab--The Crop of Gum
Arabic--The Rhinoceros--Now for a "Tally Ho!"--The Hunt--Close to
their Tails--"A Horse! a Horse! my Kingdom for a Horse!"--The
last Moment--Difficulty of Hunting--Power of Scent--Horns of the
Rhinoceros--Peculiarity of the Rhinoceros--Rhinoceros Snare--
Barrake poisons herself--Attractive Food for Elephants--Florian
killed by a Lion--Gloomy Prediction.

CHAPTER XV.

ANTELOPES ON THE SETTITE.

The Camp at Delladila--Trionis Nilotica--Fish linked to
Reptiles--Scenes on the River's Margin--The Nellut (A.
Strepsiceros)--Swimming Rivers with a Horse--The Lion--The Lion
Hunt--The Escape--The Bull Buffalo--Death of the Bull--The
Arabs' Tit-bit--The Arab Plan for making Fire--The Mehedehet
Antelope--Sauve qui peut!--Nearly caught--Fire clears the
Country--Discretion the better Part of Valour--The Camp in
Danger--Nearly burnt out--Crocodile harpooning--The ugly little
Statue--Harpooning the Hippopotamus--The Harpoon fixed--The Hippo
determines to fight--The Lances are blunted--Hor
Mehetape--Geological Features--Unpleasant Report of the Spies.

CHAPTER XVI.

ABOU DO IS GREEDY.

Departure of the Aggageers--Game returning from the River--A Bull
Rhinoceros--We stalk the Rhinoceros--The Death--The Aggageers
poach upon my Manor--Their Prize dies--Taher Noor faces the
Lion--We start fresh Game--A curious Shot--Bait for the
Lions--Highly exciting--My Tokrooris don't like the Lion--The
dying Lioness--Brought into Camp--Difficulty in tracking the
Lions--The Lion visits our Camp--Vis a vis with a Lion--A
Surprise--Tetel faces the wounded Lion--Wonderful Courage of the
Horse--Lions' Claws worn as a Charm--We commence Soap-boiling--
Savon a la Bete feroce--We bury poor Barrake.

CHAPTER XVII.

WE REACH THE ROYAN.

Hor Mai Gubba--The Francolin Partridge--We watch for Game--Out
with the Aggageers--The Banks of the Royan--We find a Bull
Elephant--Helter- skelter--The Elephant at Bay--Roder with the
withered Arm--The Sword wins the Day--The nimble Base dine
cheaply--The great Whirlpool--The Royan Junction with the
Settite--A Bull Rhinoceros--Bacheet has to run--Visit to Mek
Nimmur--Our Arabs decline to proceed--Obliged to threaten the
Camels--The Troop on a Foray--Narrow Escape--The Rifle bursts--We
march from the Settite--Interesting Route--Mineral Wealth of
Abyssinia--Present to Mek Nimmur--The Abyssinian
Minstrel--Richard Coeur de Lion--I part with my dear Maria
Theresa--The Ghost of the departed Fiddler--The "Lay of the Last
Minstrel"--My Introduction to Mek Nimmur--The Reception--The
poisonous Stream--Unfortunate Contretemps--Nimmur behaves like a
Gentleman--Pharaoh's lean Kine.

CHAPTER XVIII.

A CAMEL FALLS, AND DIES.

Arabs consume the Raw Flesh--Arrival at the Bahr
Salaam--Character of the Torrents--The Junction of the
Angrab--Good Sport--Four lucky Hits--A Fall over a Cliff--We
save the Camel--Narrow Escape--The Hyaena enters the
Tent--Hippotragus Bakerii--The Base of the Abyssinian Alps--
Delightful Country--Follow a Herd of Elephants--Aggahr takes the
Lead--Fall at the Feet of Elephants--Benighted on our Return to
Camp--"All's well that ends well".

CHAPTER XIX.

SEND A PARTY TO RECONNOITRE.

Ahead of the Camels--The Maarif--View from the Peak--The
Rhinoceros attacks the Horse--The Bullet saves him--Arrival of
the Horses--The Rhinoceros Hunt--Ridden to bay--Arrival of Birds
of Prey--Habits of Vultures--The Marabou Stork--Sight, not Scent,
directs the Vulture--Abou Seen--"Last but not least"--Route to
Nahoot Guddabi--Arrive at the Atbara--Last View of the
Atbara--The Atbara Exploration completed.

CHAPTER XX.

ARRIVAL AT METEMMA, OR GALLABAT.

Poisonous Water--The Trade of Abyssinia--We encounter
Missionaries--The theological Blacksmith--The Missionaries'
Medicine-Chest--Jemma, Sheik of the Tokrooris--The Egyptians'
attack upon Gallabat--Settlement of the Tokrooris--Industry of
the Tokrooris--Weapons, Type, and Character--The Colonization by
Tokrooris--Honey Wine of Abyssinia--All drunk last
Night--Distance from an Act of Parliament--We leave Gallabat--A
Row with the Tokrooris--I settle the Tokroori Champion--A real
flat-nosed African Nigger--Death of Aggahr and Gazelle--Forced
March to the Rahad--The River Rahad.

CHAPTER XXI.

FERTILITY OF THE COUNTRY ON THE BANKS OF THE RAHAD.

Journey along the Rahad--Rich Country--We cross over to the
Dinder--Ferocity of Crocodiles in that River--Character of the
Dinder--Activity of the African Elephant--Distinction of
Species--Peculiarity of Form--African and Indian
Elephants--Destruction of Forests--Elephant's Foot a
Luxury--Preservation of Flesh and Fat for the March--Preparation
of Bread for a Journey--The Bos Caffer--The most formidable
Animals--Rifles for wild Countries--Sundry Hints--Bullets for
large Game--Antelopes of Central Africa and Abyssinia.

CHAPTER XXII.

WE LEAVE THE DINDER.

Curious Hunting Party--Character of Abyssinian Rivers--Borassus
AEthiopicus--Rufaar and the Arab Sheik--The Blue Nile--The very
gentlemanly Faky--Regularly "sold"--Arrival at Khartoum--The
British Lion--The Zoological Collection--The Ostriches invite
themselves to Tea--I intercede for Mek Nimmur--King Theodore's
Ultimatum--Climate of the Soudan--The Sageer or
Water-wheel--Uncontrolled Action of the Nile--Suggestions for the
Irrigation of Egypt--Why should not Science create a Delta?--A
Series of Weirs upon the Nile--The Benefits to Egypt and to
Civilization--Ancient Works of Irrigation in Ceylon--Industrious
Population of Egypt--Capabilities for producing Cotton--The Great
Sahara--The Race of Life--Prepare to discover the White Nile
Source.

THE NILE TRIBUTARIES OF ABYSSINIA, AND THE
SWORD HUNTERS OF THE HAMRAN ARABS.

CHAPTER I.

ABOVE THE CATARACT.

WITHOUT troubling the public with a description of that portion
of the Nile to the north of the first cataract, or with a
detailed account of the Egyptian ruins, that have been visited by
a thousand tourists, I will commence by a few extracts from my
journal, written at the close of the boat voyage from Cairo :--

"May 8, 1861.--No air. The thermometer 104 degrees Fahr.; a
stifling heat. Becalmed, we have been lying the entire day below
the ruins of Philae. These are the most imposing monuments of the
Nile, owing to their peculiar situation upon a rocky island that
commands the passage of the river above the cataract. The banks
of the stream are here hemmed in by ranges of hills from 100 to
250 feet high; these are entirely destitute of soil, being
composed of enormous masses of red granite, piled block upon
block, the rude masonry of Nature that has walled in the river.
The hollows between the hills are choked with a yellow sand,
which, drifted by the wind, has, in many instances, completely
filled the narrow valleys. Upon either side of the Nile are
vestiges of ancient forts. The land appears as though it bore the
curse of Heaven; misery, barrenness, and the heat of a furnace
are its features. The glowing rocks, devoid of a trace of
vegetation, reflect the sun with an intensity that must be felt
to be understood. The miserable people who dwell in villages upon
the river's banks snatch every sandbank from the retiring stream,
and immediately plant their scanty garden with melons, gourds,
lentils, &c. this being their only resource for cultivation. Not
an inch of available soil is lost; but day by day, as the river
decreases, fresh rows of vegetables are sown upon the
newly-acquired land. At Assouan, the sandbanks are purely sand
brought down by the cataracts, therefore soil must be added to
enable the people to cultivate. They dig earth from the ruins of
the ancient town; this they boat across the river and spread upon
the sandbank, by which excessive labour they secure sufficient
mould to support their crops.

In the vicinity of Philae the very barrenness of the scenery
possesses a charm. The iron-like sterility of the granite rocks,
naked except in spots where the wind has sheeted them with sand;
the groves of palms springing unexpectedly into view in this
desert wilderness, as a sudden bend of the river discovers a
village; the ever blue and never clouded sky above, and, the only
blessing of this blighted land, the Nile, silently flowing
between its stern walls of rocks towards the distant land of
Lower Egypt, form a total that produces a scene to be met with
nowhere but upon the Nile. In this miserable spot the unfortunate
inhabitants are taxed equally with those of the richer
districts--about fivepence annually for each date palm.

"May 9.--A good breeze, but tremendous heat. Although the floor
and the curtains of the cabin are continually wetted, and the
Venetian blinds are closed, the thermometer, at 4 P.M., stood at
105 degrees in the shade; and upon deck, 137 degrees in the sun.
This day we passed the ruins of several small temples. The
country is generally rocky, with intervals of ten or twelve miles
of desert plains.

"May 10.--Fine breeze, the boat sailing well. Passed several
small temples. The henna grows in considerable quantities on the
left bank of the river. The leaf resembles that of the myrtle;
the blossom has a powerful fragrance; it grows like a feather,
about eighteen inches long, forming a cluster of small yellow
flowers. The day pleasantly cool; thermometer, 95 degrees.

"May 11.--At 5 A.M. we arrived at Korosko; lat. 22 degrees 50
minutes N.; the halting-place for all vessels from Lower Egypt
with merchandise for the Soudan."

At this wretched spot the Nile is dreary beyond description, as
a vast desert, unenlivened by cultivation, forms its borders,
through which the melancholy river rolls towards Lower Egypt in
the cloudless glare of a tropical sun. From whence came this
extraordinary stream that could flow through these burning sandy
deserts, unaided by tributary channels? That was the mysterious
question as we stepped upon the shore now, to commence our land
journey in search of the distant sources. We climbed the steep
sandy bank, and sat down beneath a solitary sycamore.

We had been twenty-six days sailing from Cairo to this point. The
boat returned, and left us on the east bank of the Nile, with the
great Nubian desert before us.

Korosko is not rich in supplies. A few miserable Arab huts, with
the usual fringe of dusty date palms, compose the village; the
muddy river is the frontier on the west, the burning desert on
the east. Thus hemmed in, Korosko is a narrow strip of a few
yards' width on the margin of the Nile, with only one redeeming
feature in its wretchedness--the green shade of the old sycamore
beneath which we sat.

I had a firman from the Viceroy, a cook, and a dragoman. Thus my
impedimenta were not numerous. The firman was an order to all
Egyptian officials for assistance; the cook was dirty and
incapable; and the interpreter was nearly ignorant of English,
although a professed polyglot. With this small beginning, Africa
was before me, and thus I commenced the search for the Nile
sources. Absurd as this may appear, it was a correct
commencement. Ignorant of Arabic, I could not have commanded a
large party, who would have been at the mercy of the interpreter
or dragoman; thus, the first qualification necessary to success
was a knowledge of the language.

After a delay of some days, I obtained sixteen camels from the
sheik. I had taken the precaution to provide water-barrels, in
addition to the usual goat-skins; and, with a trustworthy guide,
we quitted Korosko on the 16th May, 1861, and launched into the
desert.

The route from Korosko across the Nubian desert cuts off the
chord of an arc made by the great westerly bend of the Nile. This
chord is about 230 miles in length. Throughout this barren desert
there is no water, except at the half-way station, Moorahd (from
moorra, bitter); this, although salt and bitter, is relished by
camels. During the hot season in which we unfortunately
travelled, the heat was intense, the thermometer ranging from 106
degrees to 114 degrees Fahr. in the shade. The parching blast of
the simoom was of such exhausting power, that the water rapidly
evaporated from the closed water-skins. It was, therefore,
necessary to save the supply by a forced march of seven days, in
which period we were to accomplish the distance, and to reach
Abou Hammed, on the southern bend of the welcome Nile.

During the cool months, from November until February, the desert
journey is not disagreeable; but the vast area of glowing sand
exposed to the scorching sun of summer, in addition to the
withering breath of the simoom, renders the forced march of 230
miles in seven days, at two and a half miles per hour, the most
fatiguing journey that can be endured.

Farewell to the Nile! We turned our backs upon the life-giving
river, and our caravan commenced the silent desert march.

A few hours from Korosko the misery of the scene surpassed
description. Glowing like a furnace, the vast extent of yellow
sand stretched to the horizon. Rows of broken hills, all of
volcanic origin, broke the flat plain. Conical tumuli of volcanic
slag here and there rose to the height of several hundred feet,
and in the far distance resembled the Pyramids of Lower
Egypt--doubtless they were the models for that ancient and
everlasting architecture; hills of black basalt jutted out from
the barren base of sand, and the molten air quivered on the
overheated surface of the fearful desert. 114 degrees Fahr. in
the shade under the water-skins; 137 degrees in the sun.
Noiselessly the spongy tread of the camels crept along the
sand--the only sound was the rattle of some loosely secured
baggage of their packs. The Arab camel-drivers followed silently
at intervals, and hour by hour we struck deeper into the solitude
of the Nubian desert.

We entered a dead level plain of orange-coloured sand, surrounded
by pyramidical hills: the surface was strewn with objects
resembling cannon shot and grape of all sizes from a 32-pounder
downwards--the spot looked like the old battle-field of some
infernal region; rocks glowing with heat--not a vestige of
vegetation--barren, withering desolation.--The slow rocking step
of the camels was most irksome, and despite the heat, I
dismounted to examine the Satanic bombs and cannon shot. Many of
them were as perfectly round as though cast in a mould, others
were egg-shaped, and all were hollow. With some difficulty I
broke them, and found them to contain a bright red sand: they
were, in fact, volcanic bombs that had been formed by the
ejection of molten lava to a great height from active volcanoes;
these had become globular in falling, and, having cooled before
they reached the earth, they retained their forms as hard
spherical bodies, precisely resembling cannon shot. The exterior
was brown, and appeared to be rich in iron. The smaller specimens
were the more perfect spheres, as they cooled quickly, but many
of the heavier masses had evidently reached the earth when only
half solidified, and had collapsed upon falling. The sandy plain
was covered with such vestiges of volcanic action, and the
infernal bombs lay as imperishable relics of a hail-storm such as
may have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Passing through this wretched solitude we entered upon a scene of
surpassing desolation. Far as the eye could reach were waves like
a stormy sea, grey, cold-looking waves in the burning heat; but
no drop of water: it appeared as though a sudden curse had turned
a raging sea to stone. The simoom blew over this horrible
wilderness, and drifted the hot sand into the crevices of the
rocks, and the camels drooped their heads before the suffocating
wind; but still the caravan noiselessly crept along over the
rocky undulations, until the stormy sea was passed: once more we
were upon a boundless plain of sand and pebbles.

Here every now and then we discovered withered melons (Cucumis
colocynthis); the leaves had long since disappeared, and the
shrivelled stalks were brittle as glass. They proved that even
the desert had a season of life, however short; but the desert
fruits were bitter. So intensely bitter was the dry white
interior of these melons, that it exactly resembled quinine in
taste; when rubbed between the fingers, it became a fine white
powder. The Arabs use this medicinally; a small piece placed in
a cup of milk, and allowed to stand for a few hours, renders the
draught a strong aperient. The sun--that relentless persecutor of
the desert traveller--sank behind the western hills, and the long
wished for night arrived; cool, delicious night! the thermometer
78 degrees Fahr. a difference of 36 degrees between the shade of
day.

The guide commanded the caravan,--he was the desert pilot, and no
one dared question his directions; he ordered a halt for TWO
HOURS' rest. This was the usual stage and halting-place by the
side of a perpendicular rock, the base of which was strewn thick
with camel's dung; this excellent fuel soon produced a blazing
fire, the coffee began to boil, and fowls were roasting for a
hasty dinner. A short snatch of sleep upon the sand, and the
voice of the guide again disturbed us. The camels had not been
unloaded, but had lain down to rest with their packs, and had
thus eaten their feed of dhurra (Sorghum vulgare) from a mat. In
a few minutes we started, once more the silent and monotonous
desert march.

In the cool night I preferred walking to the uneasy motion of the
camel; the air was most invigorating after the intense heat of
the day and the prostration caused by the simoom. The desert had
a charm by night, as the horizon of its nakedness was limited;
the rocks assumed fantastic shapes in the bright moonlight, and
the profound stillness produced an effect of the supernatural in
that wild and mysterious solitude; the Arab belief in the genii
and afreet, and all the demon enemies of man, was a natural
consequence of a wandering life in this desert wilderness, where
nature is hostile to all living beings.

In forty-six hours and forty-five minutes' actual marching from
Korosko we reached Moorahd, "the bitter well."

This is a mournful spot, well known to the tired and thirsty
camel, the hope of reaching which has urged him fainting on his
weary way to drink one draught before he dies: this is the
camel's grave. Situated half way between Korosko and Abou Hammed,
the well of Moorahd is in an extinct crater, surrounded upon all
sides but one by precipitous cliffs about 300 feet high. The
bottom is a dead flat, and forms a valley of sand about 250 yards
wide. In this bosom of a crater, salt and bitter water is found
at a depth of only six feet from the surface. To this our tired
camels frantically rushed upon being unloaded.

The valley was a "valley of dry bones." Innumerable skeletons of
camels lay in all directions; the ships of the desert thus
stranded on their voyage. Withered heaps of parched skin and bone
lay here and there, in the distinct forms in which the camels had
gasped their last; the dry desert air had converted the hide into
a coffin. There were no flies here, thus there were no worms to
devour the carcases; but the usual sextons were the crows,
although sometimes too few to perform their office. These were
perched upon the overhanging cliffs; but no sooner had our
overworked camels taken their long draught and lain down
exhausted on the sand, than by common consent they descended from
their high places, and walked round and round each tired beast.

As many wretched animals simply crawl to this spot to die, the
crows, from long experience and constant practice, can form a
pretty correct diagnosis upon the case of a sick camel; they had
evidently paid a professional visit to my caravan, and were
especially attentive in studying the case of one particular camel
that was in a very weakly condition and had stretched itself full
length upon the sand; nor would they leave it until it was driven
forward.

The heat of Moorahd was terrific; there was no shade of any kind,
and the narrow valley surrounded by glowing rocks formed a
natural oven. The intense dryness of the overheated atmosphere
was such, that many of our water-skins that appeared full were
nearly empty; the precious supply had evaporated through the
porous leather, and the skins were simply distended by the
expanded air within. Fortunately I had taken about 108 gallons
from Korosko, and I possessed a grand reserve in my two barrels
which could not waste; these were invaluable as a resource when
the supply in the skins should be exhausted. My Arab camel-men
were supposed to be provided with their own private supply; but,
as they had calculated upon stealing from my stock, in which they
were disappointed, they were on exceedingly short allowance, and
were suffering much from thirst. During our forced march of three
days and a half it had been impossible to perform the usual
toilette, therefore, as water was life, washing had been out of
the question. Moorahd had been looked forward to as the spot of
six hours' rest, where we could indulge in the luxury of a bath
on a limited scale after the heat and fatigue of the journey.
Accordingly, about two quarts of water were measured into a large
Turkish copper basin; the tent, although the heat was
unendurable, was the only dressing-room, and the two quarts of
water, with a due proportion of soap, having washed two people,
was about to be thrown away, when the Arab guide, who had been
waiting his opportunity, snatched the basin from the servant, and
in the agony of thirst drank nearly the whole of its contents,
handing the residue to a brother Arab, with the hearty
ejaculation, "El hambd el Illah!" (Thank God!)

My wife was seriously ill from the fatigue and intense heat, but
there can be no halt in the desert; dead or alive, with the
caravan you must travel, as the party depends upon the supply of
water. A few extracts verbatim from my journal will describe the
journey:--

"May 2O.--Started at 12.30 P.M. and halted at 6.30. Off again at
7.30 P.M. till 2.45 A.M. About four miles from Moorahd, grey
granite takes the place of the volcanic slag and schist that
formed the rocks to that point. The desert is now a vast plain,
bounded by a range of rugged hills on the south. On the north
side of Moorahd, at a distance of above eight miles, slate is met
with; this continues for about three miles of the route, but it
is of impure quality, with the exception of one vein, of a
beautiful blue colour. A few miserable stunted thorny mimosas are
here to be seen scattered irregularly, as though lost in this
horrible desert."

Many years ago, when the Egyptian troops first conquered Nubia,
a regiment was destroyed by thirst in crossing this desert. The
men, being upon a limited allowance of water, suffered from
extreme thirst, and deceived by the appearance of a mirage that
exactly resembled a beautiful lake, they insisted on being taken
to its banks by the Arab guide. It was in vain that the guide
assured them that the lake was unreal, and he refused to lose the
precious time by wandering from his course. Words led to blows,
and he was killed by the soldiers, whose lives depended upon his
guidance. The whole regiment turned from the track and rushed
towards the welcome waters. Thirsty and faint, over the burning
sands they hurried; heavier and heavier their footsteps
became--hotter and hotter their breath, as deeper they pushed
into the desert--farther and farther from the lost track where
the pilot lay in his blood; and still the mocking spirits of the
desert, the afreets of the mirage, led them on, and the lake
glistening in the sunshine tempted them to bathe in its cool
waters, close to their eyes, but never at their lips. At length
the delusion vanished--the fatal lake had turned to burning sand!
Raging thirst and horrible despair! the pathless desert and the
murdered guide! lost! lost! all lost! Not a man ever left the
desert, but they were subsequently discovered, parched and
withered corpses, by the Arabs sent upon the search.

"May 21.--Started at 5.45 A.M. till 8.45; again, at 1.45 P.M.
till 7 P.M.; again, at 9.30 P.M. till 4 A.M. Saw two gazelles,
the first living creatures, except the crows at Moorahd, that we
have seen since we left Korosko; there must be a supply of water
in the mountains known only to these animals. Thermometer, 111
degrees Fahr. in the shade; at night, 78 degrees. The water in
the leather bottle that I repaired is deliciously cool. N.B.--In
sewing leather bottles or skins for holding water, no thread
should be used, but a leathern thong, which should be dry; it
will then swell when wetted, and the seam will be watertight.

"May 22.--Started at 5.30 A.M. till 9.30; again, at 2.15 P.M.
till 7.15 P.M. Rested to dine, and started again at 8.30 P.M.
till 4.25 A.M.; reaching Abou Hammed, thank heaven!

"Yesterday evening we passed through a second chain of rugged
hills of grey granite, about 600 feet high, and descended through
a pass to an extensive plain, in which rose abruptly, like huge
pyramids, four granite hills, at great distances apart. So
exactly do they resemble artificial pyramids at a distance, that
it is difficult to believe they are natural objects. I feel
persuaded that the ancient Egyptians took their designs for
monuments and buildings from the hills themselves, and raised in
the plains of Lower Egypt artificial pyramids in imitation of the
granite hills of this form. Their temples were in form like many
of the granite ranges, and were thoroughly encased with stone.
The extraordinary massiveness of these works suggests that Nature
assisted the design; the stone columns are imitations of the date
palms, and the buildings are copies of the rocky hills--the two
common features of Egyptian scenery.

"Throughout the route from Korosko, the skeletons of camels
number about eight per mile, with the exception of the last march
on either side of the watering-place Moorahd, on which there are
double that number, as the animals have become exhausted as they
approach the well. In the steep pass through the hills, where the
heat is intense, and the sand deep, the mortality is dreadful; in
some places I counted six and eight in a heap; and this difficult
portion of the route is a mass of bones, as every weak animal
gives in at the trying place.

"So dreadful a desert is this between Korosko and Abou Hammed,
that Said Pasha ordered the route to be closed; but it was
re-opened upon the application of foreign consuls, as the most
direct road to the Soudan. Our Bishareen Arabs are first-rate
walkers, as they have performed the entire journey on foot. Their
water and provisions were all exhausted yesterday, but
fortunately I had guarded the key of my two water-casks; thus I
had a supply when every water-skin was empty, and on the last day
I divided my sacred stock amongst the men, and the still more
thirsty camels. In the hot months, a camel cannot march longer
than three days without drinking, unless at the cost of great
suffering.

"Having arrived here (Abou Hammed) at 4.25 this morning, 23d May,
I had the luxury of a bath. The very sight of the Nile was
delightful, after the parched desolation of the last seven days.
The small village is utterly destitute of everything, and the
sterile desert extends to the very margin of the Nile. The
journey having occupied ninety-two hours of actual marching
across the desert, gives 230 miles as the distance from Korosko,
at the loaded-camel rate of two and a half miles per hour. The
average duration of daily march has been upwards of thirteen
hours, including a day's halt at Moorahd. My camels have arrived
in tolerable condition, as their loads did not exceed 400 lbs.
each; the usual load is 500 lbs.

"May 24.--Rested both men and beasts. A caravan of about thirty
camels arrived, having lost three during the route.

"May 25.--Started at 5 A.M. The route is along the margin of the
Nile, to which the desert extends. A fringe of stunted bushes,
and groves of the coarse and inelegant dome palm, mark the banks
of the river by a thicket of about half a mile in width. I saw
many gazelles, and succeeded in stalking a fine buck, and killing
him with a rifle.

"May 26.--Marched ten hours. Saw gazelles, but so wild that it
was impossible to shoot. Thermometer 110 degrees Fahr.

"May 27.--Marched four hours and forty-five minutes, when we were
obliged to halt, as F. is very ill. In the evening I shot two
gazelles, which kept the party in meat.

"May 28.--Marched fifteen hours, to make up for the delay of
yesterday. Shot a buck on the route.

"May 29.--The march of yesterday cut off an angle of the river,
and we made a straight course through the desert, avoiding a bend
of the stream. At 7.30 this morning we met the Nile again; the
same character of country as before, the river full of rocks, and
forming a succession of rapids the entire distance from Abou
Hammed. Navigation at this season is impossible, and is most
dangerous even at flood-time. The simoom is fearful, and the heat
is so intense that it was impossible to draw the gun-cases out of
their leather covers, which it was necessary to cut open. All
woodwork is warped; ivory knife-handles are split; paper breaks
when crunched in the hand, and the very marrow seems to be dried
out of the bones by this horrible simoom. One of our camels fell
down to die. Shot two buck gazelles; I saw many, but they are
very wild.

"May 3O.--The extreme dryness of the air induces an extraordinary
amount of electricity in the hair, and in all woollen materials.
A Scotch plaid laid upon a blanket for a few hours adheres to it,
and upon being roughly withdrawn at night a sheet of flame is
produced, accompanied by tolerably loud reports.

"May 31.--After an early march of three hours and twenty minutes,
we arrived at the town of Berber, on the Nile, at 9.35 A.M. We
have been fifty-seven hours and five minutes actually marching
from Abou Hammed, which, at two and a half miles per hour, equals
143 miles. We have thus marched 373 miles from Korosko to Berber
in fifteen days; the entire route is the monotonous Nubian
desert. Our camels have averaged twenty-five miles per day, with
loads of 400 lbs. at a cost of ninety piastres (about 19s.) each,
for the whole distance. This rate, with the addition of the
guide's expenses, equals about 5s. 6d. per 100 lbs. for carriage
throughout 373 miles of burning desert. Although this frightful
country appears to be cut off from all communication with the
world, the extremely low rate of transport charges affords great
facility for commerce."*

* Since that date, 31st May, 1861, the epidemic or cattle
plague carried off an immense number of camels, and the
charges of transport rose in 1864 and 1865 to a rate that
completely paralysed the trade of Upper Egypt.

Berber is a large town, and in appearance is similar to the Nile
towns of Lower Egypt, consisting of the usual dusty, unpaved
streets, and flat-roofed houses of sun-baked bricks. It is the
seat of a Governor, or Mudir, and is generally the quarters for
about 1,500 troops. We were very kindly received by Halleem
Effendi, the ex-Governor, who at once gave us permission to pitch
the tents in his garden, close to the Nile, on the southern
outskirt of the town. After fifteen days of desert marching, the
sight of a well-cultivated garden was an Eden in our eyes. About
eight acres of land, on the margin of the river, were thickly
planted with lofty date groves, and shady citron and lemon trees,
beneath which we revelled in luxury on our Persian rugs, and
enjoyed complete rest after the fatigue of our long journey.
Countless birds were chirping and singing in the trees above us;
innumerable ring-doves were cooing in the shady palms; and the
sudden change from the dead sterility of the desert to the scene
of verdure and of life, produced an extraordinary effect upon the
spirits. What caused this curious transition? Why should this
charming oasis, teeming with vegetation and with life, be found
in the yellow, sandy desert? . . . Water had worked this change;
the spirit of the Nile, more potent than any genii of the Arabian
fables, had transformed the desert into a fruitful garden.
Halleem Effendi, the former Governor, had, many years ago,
planted this garden, irrigated by numerous water-wheels; and we
now enjoyed the fruits, and thanked Heaven for its greatest
blessings in that burning land, shade and cool water.

The tents were soon arranged, the camels were paid for and
discharged, and in the cool of the evening we were visited by the
Governor and suite.

The firman having been officially presented by the dragoman upon
our arrival in the morning, the Governor had called with much
civility to inquire into our projects and to offer assistance. We
were shortly seated on carpets outside the tent, and after pipes
and coffee, and the usual preliminary compliments, my dragoman
explained, that the main object of our journey was to search for
the sources of the Nile, or, as he described it, "the head of the
river."

Both the Governor and Halleem Effendi, with many officers who had
accompanied them, were Turks; but, in spite of the gravity and
solidity for which the Turk is renowned, their faces relaxed into
a variety of expressions at this (to them) absurd announcement.
"The head of the Nile!" they exclaimed, "impossible!" "Do they
know where it is?" inquired the Governor, of the dragoman; and
upon an explanation being given, that, as we did not know where
it was, we had proposed to discover it, the Turks merely shook
their heads, sipped their coffee, and took extra whiffs at their
long pipes, until at length the white- haired old Halleem Effendi
spoke. He gave good and parental advice, as follows:--

"Don't go upon so absurd an errand; nobody knows anything about
the Nile, neither will any one discover its source. We do not
even know the source of the Atbara; how should we know the source
of the great Nile. A great portion of the Atbara flows through
the Pasha of Egypt's dominions; the firman in your possession
with his signature, will insure you respect, so long as you
remain within his territory; but if you cross his frontier, you
will be in the hands of savages. The White Nile is the country of
the negroes; wild, ferocious races who have neither knowledge of
God nor respect for the Pasha, and you must travel with a
powerful armed force; the climate is deadly; how could you
penetrate such a region to search for what is useless even should
you attain it? But how would it be possible for a lady, young and
delicate, to endure what would kill the strongest man? Travel
along the Atbara river into the Taka country, there is much to be
seen that is unexplored; but give up the mad scheme of the Nile
source."

There was some sense in old Halleem Effendi's advice; it was the
cool and cautious wisdom of old age, but as I was not so elderly,
I took it "cum grano salis." He was a charming old gentleman, the
perfect beau ideal of the true old style of Turk, but few
specimens of which remain; all that he had said was spoken in
sincerity, and I resolved to collect as much information as
possible from the grey-headed authorities before I should
commence the expedition. I was deeply impressed with one fact,
that until I could dispense with an interpreter it would be
impossible to succeed, therefore I determined to learn Arabic as
speedily as possible.

A week's rest in the garden of Halleem Effendi prepared us for
the journey. I resolved to explore the Atbara river and the
Abyssinian affluents, prior to commencing the White Nile voyage.
The Governor promised me two Turkish soldiers as attendants, and
I arranged to send my heavy baggage by boat to Khartoum, and
secure the advantage of travelling light; a comfort that no one
can appreciate who has not felt the daily delay in loading a long
string of camels. Both my wife and I had suffered from a short
attack of fever brought on by the prostrating effect of the
simoom, which at this season (June) was at its height. The Nile
was slowly rising, although it was still low; occasionally it
fell about eighteen inches in one night, but again rose; this
proved that, although the rains had commenced, they were not
constant, as the steady and rapid increase of the river had not
taken place. The authorities assured me that the Blue Nile was
now rising at Khartoum, which accounted for the increase of the
river at Berber.

The garden of Halleem Effendi was attended by a number of fine
powerful slaves from the White Nile, whose stout frames and
glossy skins were undeniable witnesses of their master's care. A
charmingly pretty slave girl paid us daily visits, with presents
of fruit from her kind master and numerous mistresses, who, with
the usual Turkish compliments as a preliminary message, requested
permission to visit the English lady.

In the cool hour of evening a bevy of ladies approached through
the dark groves of citron trees, so gaily dressed in silks of the
brightest dyes of yellow, blue, and scarlet, that no bouquet of
flowers could have been more gaudy. They were attended by
numerous slaves, and the head servant politely requested me to
withdraw during the interview. Thus turned out of my tent, I was
compelled to patience and solitude beneath a neighbouring date
palm.

The result of the interview with my wife was most satisfactory;
the usual womanish questions had been replied to, and hosts of
compliments exchanged. We were then rich in all kinds of European
trifles that excited their curiosity, and a few little presents
established so great an amount of confidence that they gave the
individual history of each member of the family from childhood,
that would have filled a column of the Times with births, deaths,
and marriages.

Some of these ladies were very young and pretty, and of course
exercised a certain influence over their husbands; thus, on the
following morning, we were inundated with visitors, as the male
members of the family came to thank us for the manner in which
their ladies had been received; and fruit, flowers, and the
general produce of the garden were presented to us in profusion.
However pleasant, there were drawbacks to our garden of Eden;
there was dust in our Paradise; not the dust that we see in
Europe upon unwatered roads, that simply fills the eyes, but
sudden clouds raised by whirlwinds in the desert which fairly
choked the ears and nostrils when thus attacked. June is the
season when these phenomena are most prevalent. At that time the
rains have commenced in the south, and are extending towards the
north; the cold and heavy air of the southern rain-clouds sweeps
down upon the overheated atmosphere of the desert, and produces
sudden violent squalls and whirlwinds when least expected, as at
that time the sky is cloudless.

The effect of these desert whirlwinds is most curious, as their
force is sufficient to raise dense columns of sand and dust
several thousand feet high; these are not the evanescent
creations of a changing wind, but they frequently exist for many
hours, and travel forward, or more usually in circles, resembling
in the distance solid pillars of sand. The Arab superstition
invests these appearances with the supernatural, and the
mysterious sand-column of the desert wandering in its burning
solitude, is an evil spirit, a "Gin" ("genii" plural, of the
Arabian Nights). I have frequently seen many such columns at the
same time in the boundless desert, all travelling or waltzing in
various directions at the wilful choice of each whirlwind: this
vagrancy of character is an undoubted proof to the Arab mind of
their independent and diabolical origin.

The Abyssinian traveller, Bruce, appears to have entertained a
peculiar dread of the dangers of such sand columns, but on this
point his fear was exaggerated. Cases may have occurred where
caravans have been suffocated by whirlwinds of sand, but these
are rare exceptions, and the usual effects of the dust storm are
the unroofing of thatched huts, the destruction of a few date
palms, and the disagreeable amount of sand that not only half
chokes both man and beast, but buries all objects that may be
lying on the ground some inches deep in dust.

The wind at this season (June) was changeable, and strong blasts
from the south were the harbingers of the approaching rainy
season. We had no time to lose, and we accordingly arranged to
start. I discharged my dirty cook, and engaged a man who was
brought by a coffee-house keeper, by whom he was highly
recommended; but, as a precaution against deception, I led him
before the Mudir, or Governor, to be registered before our
departure. To my astonishment, and to his infinite disgust, he
was immediately recognised as an old offender, who had formerly
been imprisoned for theft! The Governor, to prove his friendship,
and his interest in my welfare, immediately sent the police to
capture the coffee-house keeper who had recommended the cook. No
sooner was the unlucky surety brought to the Divan than he was
condemned to receive 200 lashes for having given a false
character. The sentence was literally carried out, in spite of my
remonstrance, and the police were ordered to make the case public
to prevent a recurrence. The Governor assured me, that as I held
a firman from the Viceroy he could not do otherwise, and that I
must believe him to be my truest friend. "Save me from my
friends," was an adage quickly proved. I could not procure a
cook, neither any other attendants, as every one was afraid to
guarantee a character, lest he might come in for his share of the
200 lashes!

The Governor came to my rescue, and sent immediately the promised
Turkish soldiers, who were to act in the double capacity of
escort and servants. They were men of totally opposite
characters. Hadji Achmet was a hardy, powerful,
dare-devil-looking Turk, while Hadji Velli was the perfection of
politeness, and as gentle as a lamb. My new allies procured me
three donkeys in addition to the necessary baggage camels, and we
started from the pleasant garden of Halleem Effendi on the
evening of the 10th of June for the junction of the Atbara river
with the Nile.

CHAPTER II.

"'Mongst them were several Englishmen of pith,
Sixteen named Thompson, and nineteen named Smith."
DON JUAN.

MAHOMET, Achmet, and Ali are equivalent to Smith, Brown, and
Thompson. Accordingly, of my few attendants, my dragoman was
Mahomet, and my principal guide was Achmet; and subsequently I
had a number of Alis. Mahomet was a regular Cairo dragoman, a
native of Dongola, almost black, but exceedingly tenacious
regarding his shade of colour, which he declared to be light
brown. He spoke very bad English, was excessively conceited, and
irascible to a degree. No pasha was so bumptious or overbearing
to his inferiors, but to me and to his mistress while in Cairo he
had the gentleness of the dove, and I had engaged him at 5l. per
month to accompany me to the White Nile. Men change with
circumstances; climate affects the health and temper; the sleek
and well-fed dog is amiable, but he would be vicious when thin
and hungry; the man in luxury and the man in need are not equally
angelic. Now Mahomet was one of those dragomen who are accustomed
to the civilized expeditions of the British tourist to the first
or second cataract, in a Nile boat replete with conveniences and
luxuries, upon which the dragoman is monarch supreme, a whale
among the minnows, who rules the vessel, purchases daily a host
of unnecessary supplies, upon which he clears his profit, until
he returns to Cairo with his pockets filled sufficiently to
support him until the following Nile season. The short three
months' harvest, from November until February, fills his granary
for the year. Under such circumstances the temper should be
angelic. But times had changed: the luxurious Mahomet had left
the comfortable Nile boat at Korosko, and he had crossed the
burning desert upon a jolting camel; he had left the well-known
route where the dragoman was supreme, and he found himself among
people who treated him in the light of a common servant. "A
change came o'er the spirit of his dream;" Mahomet was no longer
a great man, and his temper changed with circumstances; in fact,
Mahomet became unbearable, and still he was absolutely necessary,
as he was the tongue of the expedition until we should accomplish
Arabic. To him the very idea of exploration was an absurdity; he
had never believed in it from the first, and he now became
impressed with the fact that he was positively committed to an
undertaking that would end most likely in his death, if not in
terrible difficulties; he determined, under the circumstances, to
make himself as disagreeable as possible to all parties. With
this amiable resolution Mahomet adopted a physical infirmity in
the shape of deafness; in reality, no one was more acute in
hearing, but as there are no bells where there are no houses, he
of course could not answer such a summons, and he was compelled
to attend to the call of his own name--"Mahomet! Mahomet!" No
reply, although the individual was sitting within a few feet,
apparently absorbed in the contemplation of his own boots.
"Mahomet!" with an additional emphasis upon the second syllable.
Again no response. "Mahomet, you rascal, why don't you answer?"
This energetic address would effect a change in his position; the
mild and lamb-like dragoman of Cairo would suddenly start from
the ground, tear his own hair from his head in handfuls, and
shout, "Mahomet! Mahomet! Mahomet! always Mahomet! D--n Mahomet!
I wish he were dead, or back in Cairo, this brute Mahomet!" The
irascible dragoman would then beat his own head unmercifully with
his fists, in a paroxysm of rage.

To comfort him I could only exclaim, "Well done, Mahomet! thrash
him; pommel him well; punch his head; you know him best; he
deserves it; don't spare him!" This advice, acting upon the
natural perversity of his disposition, generally soothed him, and
he ceased punching his head. This man was entirely out of his
place, if not out of his mind, at certain moments, and having
upon one occasion smashed a basin by throwing it in the face of
the cook, and upon another occasion narrowly escaped homicide, by
throwing an axe at a man's head, which missed by an inch, he
became a notorious character in the little expedition.

We left Berber in the evening at sunset; we were mounted upon
donkeys, while our Turkish attendants rode upon excellent
dromedaries that belonged to their regiment of irregular cavalry.
As usual, when ready to start, Mahomet was the last; he had piled
a huge mass of bags and various luggage upon his donkey, that
almost obscured the animal, and he sat mounted upon this pinnacle
dressed in gorgeous clothes, with a brace of handsome pistols in
his belt, and his gun slung across his shoulders. Upon my
remonstrating with him upon the cruelty of thus overloading the
donkey, he flew into a fit of rage, and dismounting immediately,
he drew his pistols from his belt and dashed them upon the
ground; his gun shared the same fate, and heaving his weapons
upon the sand, he sullenly walked behind his donkey, which he
drove forward with the caravan.

We pushed forward at the usual rapid amble of the donkeys; and,
accompanied by Hadji Achmet upon his dromedary, with the
coffee-pot, &c. and a large Persian rug slung behind the saddle,
we quickly distanced the slower caravan under the charge of Hadji
Velli and the sullen Mahomet.

There was no difficulty in the route, as the sterile desert of
sand and pebbles was bounded by a fringe of bush amid mimosa that
marked the course of the Nile, to which our way lay parallel.
There was no object to attract particular attention, and no sound
but that of the bleating goats driven homeward by the Arab boys,
and the sharp cry of the desert sand grouse as they arrived in
flocks to drink in the welcome river. The flight of these birds
is extremely rapid, and is more like that of the pigeon than the
grouse; they inhabit the desert, but they travel great distances
both night and morning to water, as they invariably drink twice
a day. As they approach the river they utter the cry "Chuckow,
chuckow," in a loud clear note, and immediately after drinking
they return upon their long flight to the desert. There are
several varieties of the sand grouse. I have met with three, but
they are dry, tough, and worthless as game.

We slept in the desert about five miles from Berber, and on the
following day, after a scorching march of about twenty miles, we
arrived at the junction of the Atbara river with the Nile.
Throughout the route the barren sand stretched to the horizon on
the left, while on the right, within a mile of the Nile, the soil
was sufficiently rich to support a certain amount of
vegetation--chiefly dwarf mimosas and the Asclepias gigantea. The
latter I had frequently seen in Ceylon, where it is used
medicinally by the native doctors; but here it was ignored,
except for the produce of a beautiful silky down which is used
for stuffing cushions and pillows. This vegetable silk is
contained in a soft pod or bladder about the size of an orange.
Both the leaves and the stem of this plant emit a highly
poisonous milk, that exudes from the bark when cut or bruised;
the least drop of this will cause total blindness, if in contact
with the eye. I have seen several instances of acute ophthalmia
that have terminated in loss of sight from the accidental rubbing
of the eye with the hand when engaged in cutting firewood from
the asclepias. The wood is extremely light, and is frequently
tied into fagots and used by the Arabs as a support while
swimming, in lieu of cork. Although the poisonous qualities of
the plant cause it to be shunned by all other animals, it is
nevertheless greedily devoured by goats, who eat it unharmed.

It was about two hours after sunset when we arrived at the steep
bank of the Atbara river. Pushing through the fringe of young
dome palms that formed a thick covert upon the margin, we
cautiously descended the bank for about twenty-five feet, as the
bright glare of the river's bed deceived me by the resemblance to
water. We found a broad surface of white sand, which at that
season formed the dry bed of the river. Crossing this arid bottom
of about 400 yards in width, we unsaddled on the opposite side,
by a bed of water melons planted near a small pool of water. A
few of these we chopped in pieces for our tired donkeys, and we
shared in the cool and welcome luxury ourselves that was most
refreshing after the fatigue of the day's journey. Long before
our camels arrived, we had drunk our coffee and were sound asleep
upon the sandy bed of the Atbara.

At daybreak on the following morning, while the camels were being
loaded, I strolled to a small pool in the sand, tempted by a
couple of wild geese; these were sufficiently unsophisticated as
to allow me to approach within shot, and I bagged them both, and
secured our breakfast; they were the common Egyptian geese, which
are not very delicate eating. The donkeys being saddled, we at
once started with our attendant, Hadji Achmet, at about five
miles per hour, in advance of our slower caravan. The route was
upon the river's margin, due east, through a sandy copse of
thorny mimosas which fringed the river's course for about a
quarter of a mile on either side; beyond this all was desert.

The Atbara had a curious appearance; in no part was it less than
400 yards in width, while in many places this breadth was much
exceeded. The banks were from twenty-five to thirty feet deep:
these had evidently been over-flowed during floods, bnt at the
present time the river was dead; not only partially dry, but so
glaring was the sandy bed, that the reflection of the sun was
almost unbearable.

Great numbers of the dome palm (Hyphoene Thebaica, Mart.) grew
upon the banks; these trees are of great service to the Arab
tribes, who at this season of drought forsake the deserts and
flock upon the margin of the Atbara. The leaves of the dome
supply them with excellent material for mats and ropes, while the
fruit is used both for man and beast. The dome palm resembles the
palmyra in the form and texture of its fan-shaped leaves, but
there is a distinguishing peculiarity in the growth: instead of
the straight single stem of the palmyra, the dome palm spreads
into branches, each of which invariably represents the letter Y.
The fruit grows in dense clusters, numbering several hundred, of
the size of a small orange, but of an irregular oval shape; these
are of a rich brown colour, and bear a natural polish as though
varnished. So hard is the fruit and uninviting to the teeth, that
a deal board would be equally practicable for mastication; the
Arabs pound them between stones, by which rough process they
detach the edible portion in the form of a resinous powder. The
rind of the nut which produces this powder is about a quarter of
an inch thick; this coating covers a strong shell which contains
a nut of vegetable ivory, a little larger than a full-sized
walnut. When the resinous powder is detached, it is either eaten
raw, or it is boiled into a delicious porridge, with milk; this
has a strong flavour of gingerbread.

The vegetable ivory nuts are then soaked in water for about
twenty-four hours, after which they are heaped in large piles
upon a fire until nearly dry, and thoroughly steamed; this
process renders them sufficiently tractable to be reduced by
pounding in a heavy mortar. Thus, broken into small pieces they
somewhat resemble half-roasted chestnuts, and in this state they
form excellent food for cattle. The useful dome palm is the chief
support of the desert Arabs when in times of drought and scarcity
the supply of corn has failed. At this season (June) there was
not a blade of even the withered grass of the desert oases. Our
donkeys lived exclusively upon the dhurra (Sorghum Egyptiaca)
that we carried with us, and the camels required a daily supply
of corn in addition to the dry twigs and bushes that formed their
dusty food. The margin of the river was miserable and uninviting;
the trees and bushes were entirely leafless from the intense
heat, as are the trees in England during winter. The only shade
was afforded by the evergreen dome palms; nevertheless, the Arabs
occupied the banks at intervals of three or four miles, wherever
a pool of water in some deep bend of the dried river's bed
offered an attraction; in such places were Arab villages or
camps, of the usual mat tents formed of the dome palm leaves.

Many pools were of considerable size and of great depth. In
flood-time a tremendous torrent sweeps down the course of the
Atbara, and the sudden bends of the river are hollowed out by the
force of the stream to a depth of twenty or thirty feet below the
level of the bed. Accordingly these holes become reservoirs of
water when the river is otherwise exhausted. In such asylums all
the usual inhabitants of this large river are crowded together in
a comparatively narrow space. Although these pools vary in size,
from only a few hundred yards to a mile in length, they are
positively full of life; huge fish, crocodiles of immense size,
turtles, and occasionally hippopotami, consort together in close
and unwished-for proximity.

The animals of the desert--gazelles, hyaenas, and wild asses--are
compelled to resort to these crowded drinking-places, occupied by
the flocks of the Arabs equally with the timid beasts of the
chase. The birds that during the cooler months would wander free
throughout the country, are now collected in vast numbers along
the margin of the exhausted river; innumerable doves, varying in
species, throng the trees and seek the shade of the dome palms;
thousands of desert grouse arrive morning and evening to drink
and to depart; while birds in multitudes, of lovely plumage,
escape from the burning desert, and colonize the poor but welcome
bushes that fringe the Atbara river.

The heat was intense. As we travelled along the margin of the
Atbara, and felt with the suffering animals the exhaustion of the
clinmate, I acknowledged the grandeur of the Nile that could
overcome the absorption of such thirsty sands, and the
evaporation caused by the burning atmosphere of Nubia. For nearly
1,200 miles from the junction of the Atbara with the parent
stream to the Mediterranean, not one streamlet joined the
mysterious river, neither one drop of rain ruffled its waters,
unless a rare thunder-shower, as a curious phenomenon, startled
the Arabs as they travelled along the desert. Nevertheless the
Nile overcame its enemies, while the Atbara shrank to a skeleton,
bare and exhausted, reduced to a few pools that lay like blotches
along the broad surface of glowing sand.

Notwithstanding the overpowering sun, there were certain
advantages to the traveller at this season; it was unnecessary to
carry a large supply of water, as it could be obtained at
intervals of a few miles. There was an indescribable delight in
the cool night, when, in the perfect certainty of fine weather,
we could rest in the open air with the clear bright starlit sky
above us. There were no mosquitoes, neither were there any of the
insect plagues of the tropics; the air was too dry for the gnat
tribe, and the moment of sunset was the signal for perfect
enjoyment, free from the usual drawbacks of African travel. As
the river pools were the only drinking-places for birds and game,
the gun supplied not only my own party, but I had much to give
away to the Arabs in exchange for goat's milk, the meal of the
dome nuts, &c. Gazelles were exceedingly numerous, but shy, and
so difficult to approach that they required most careful
stalking. At this season of intense heat they drank twice a
day--at about an hour after sunrise, and half an hour before
sunset.

The great comfort of travelling along the bank of the river in a
desert country is the perfect freedom, as a continual supply of
water enables the explorer to rest at his leisure in any
attractive spot where game is plentiful, or where the natural
features of the country invite investigation. We accordingly
halted, after some days' journey, at a spot named Collodabad,
where an angle of the river had left a deep pool of about a mile
in length: this was the largest sheet of water that we had seen
throughout the course of the Atbara. A number of Arabs had
congregated at this spot with their flocks and herds; the total
absence of verdure had reduced the animals to extreme leanness,
as the goats gathered their scanty sustenance from the seed-pods
of the mimosas, which were shaken down to the expectant flocks by
the Arab boys, with long hooked poles. These seeds were extremely
oily, and resembled linseed, but the rank flavour was
disagreeable and acrid.

This spot was seven days' march from the Nile junction, or about
160 miles. The journey had been extremely monotonous, as there
had been no change in the scenery; it was the interminable
desert, with the solitary streak of vegetation in the belt of
mimosas and dome palms, about a mile and a half in width, that
marked the course of the river. I had daily shot gazelles, geese,
pigeons, desert grouse, &c. but no larger game. I was informed
that at this spot, Collodabad, I should be introduced for the
first time to the hippopotamus.

Owing to the total absence of nourishing food, the cattle
produced a scanty supply of milk; thus the Arabs, who depended
chiefly upon their flocks for their subsistence, were in great
distress, and men and beasts mutually suffered extreme hardship.
The Arabs that occupy the desert north of the Atbara are the
Bishareens; it was among a large concourse of these people that
we pitched our tents on the banks of the river at Collodabad.

This being the principal watering-place along the deserted bed of
the Atbara, the neighbourhood literally swarmed with doves, sand
grouse, and other birds, in addition to many geese and pelicans.

Early in the morning I procured an Arab guide to search for the
reported hippopotami. My tents were among a grove of dome palms
on the margin of the river; thus I had a clear view of the bed
for a distance of about half a mile on either side. This portion
of the Atbara was about 500 yards in width, the banks were about
thirty feet perpendicular depth; and the bend of the river had
caused the formation of the deep hollow on the opposite side
which now formed the pool, while every other part was dry. This
pool occupied about one-third the breadth of the river, bounded
by the sand upon one side, and by a perpendicular cliff upon the
other, upon which grew a fringe of green bushes similar to
willows. These were the only succulent leaves that I had seen
since I left Berber.

We descended the steep sandy bank in a spot that the Arabs had
broken down to reach the water, and after trudging across about
400 yards of deep sand, we reached the extreme and narrowest end
of the pool; here for the first time I saw the peculiar four-toed
print of the hippopotamus's foot. A bed of melons had been
planted here by the Arabs in the moist sand near the water, but
the fruit had been entirely robbed by the hippopotami. A melon is
exactly adapted for the mouth of this animal, as he could crunch
the largest at one squeeze, and revel in the juice. Not contented
with the simple fruits of the garden, a large bull hippopotamus
had recently killed the proprietor. The Arab wished to drive it
from his plantation, but was immediately attacked by the hippo,
who caught him in its mouth and killed him by one crunch. This
little incident had rendered the hippo exceedingly daring, and it
had upon several occasions charged out of the water, when the
people had driven their goats to drink; therefore it would be the
more satisfactory to obtain a shot, and to supply the hungry
Arabs with meat at the expense of their enemy.

At this early hour, 6 A.M., no one had descended to the pool,
thus all the tracks upon the margin were fresh and undisturbed:
there were the huge marks of crocodiles that had recently
returned to the water, while many of great size were still lying
upon the sand in the distance: these slowly crept into the pool
as we approached. The Arabs had dug small holes in the sand
within a few yards of the water: these were the artificial
drinking-places for their goats and sheep, that would have been
snapped up by the crocodiles had they ventured to drink in the
pool of crowded monsters. I walked for about a mile and a half
along the sand without seeing a sign of hippopotami, except their
numerous tracks upon the margin. There was no wind, and the
surface of the water was unruffled; thus I could see every
creature that rose in the pool either to breathe or to bask in
the morning sunshine. The number and size of the fish, turtles,
and crocodiles were extraordinary; many beautiful gazelles
approached from all sides for their morning draught: wild geese,
generally in pairs, disturbed the wary crocodiles by their cry of
alarm as we drew near, and the desert grouse in flocks of many
thousands had gathered together, and were circling in a rapid
flight above the water, wishing, but afraid, to descend and
drink. Having a shot gun with me, I fired and killed six at one
discharge, but one of the wounded birds having fallen into the
water at a distance of about 120 yards, it was immediately seized
by a white-throated fish-eagle, which perched upon a tree,
swooped down upon the bird, utterly disregarding the report of
the gun. The Bishareen Arabs have no fire-arms, thus the sound of
a gun was unknown to the game of the desert.

I had killed several wild geese for breakfast in the absence of
the hippopotami, when I suddenly heard the peculiar loud snorting
neigh of these animals in my rear; we had passed them
unperceived, as they had been beneath the surface. After a quick
walk of about half a mile, during which time the cry of the
hippos had been several times repeated, I observed six of these
curious animals standing in the water about shoulder-deep. There
was no cover, therefore I could only advance upon the sand
without a chance of stalking them; this caused them to retreat to
deeper water, but upon my arrival within about eighty yards, they
raised their heads well up, and snorted an impudent challenge. I
had my old Ceylon No. 10 double rifle, and, taking a steady aim
at the temple of one that appeared to be the largest, the ball
cracked loudly upon the skull. Never had there been such a
commotion in the pool as now! At the report of the rifle, five
heads sank and disappeared like stones, but the sixth hippo
leaped half out of the water, and, falling backwards, commenced
a series of violent struggles: now upon his back; then upon one
side, with all four legs frantically paddling, and raising a
cloud of spray and foam; then waltzing round and round with its
huge jaws wide open, raising a swell in the hitherto calm surface
of the water. A quick shot with the left-hand barrel produced no
effect, as the movements of the animal were too rapid to allow a
steady aim at the forehead; I accordingly took my trmisty little
Fletcher* double rifle No. 24, and, running knee-deep into the
water to obtain a close shot, I fired exactly between the eyes,
near the crown of the head. At the report of the little Fletcher
the hippo disappeared; the tiny waves raised by the commotion
broke upon the sand, but the game was gone.

* This excellent and handy rifle was made by Thomas Fletcher,
of Gloucester, and accompanied me like a faithful dog
throughout my journey of nearly five years to the Albert
N'yanza, and returned with me to England as good as new.

This being my first vis-a-vis with a hippo, I was not certain
whether I could claim the victory; he was gone, but where?
However, while I was speculating upon the case, I heard a
tremendous rush of water, and I saw five hippopotami tearing
along in full trot through a portion of the pool that was not
deep enough to cover them above the shoulder: this was the affair
of about half a minute, as they quickly reached deep water, and
disappeared at about a hundred and fifty yards' distance.

The fact of five hippos in retreat after I had counted six in the
onset was conclusive that my waltzing friend was either dead or
disabled; I accordingly lost no time in following the direction
of the herd. Hardly had I arrived at the spot where they had
disappeared, when first one and then another head popped up and
again sank, until one more hardy than the rest ventured to appear
within fifty yards, and to bellow as before. Once more the No. 10
crashed through his head, and again the waltzing and struggling
commenced like the paddling of a steamer: this time, however, the
stunned hippo in its convulsive efforts came so close to the
shore that I killed it directly in shallow water, by a forehead
shot with the little Fletcher. I concluded from this result that
my first hippo must also be lying dead in deep water.

The Arabs, having heard the shots fired, had begun to gather
towards the spot, and, upon my men shouting that a hippo was
killed, crowds came running to the place with their knives and
ropes, while others returned to their encampment to fetch camels
and mat bags to convey the flesh. In half an hour at least three
hundred Arabs were on the spot; the hippo had been hauled to
shore by ropes, and, by the united efforts of the crowd, the
heavy carcase had been rolled to the edge of the water. Here the
attack commenced; no pack of hungry hyaenas could have been more
savage. I gave them permission to take the flesh, and in an
instant a hundred knives were at work: they fought over the spoil
like wolves. No sooner was the carcase flayed than the struggle
commenced for the meat; the people were a mass of blood, as some
stood thigh-deep in the reeking intestines wrestling for the fat,
while many hacked at each other's hands for coveted portions that
were striven for as a bonne bouche. I left the savage crowd in
their ferocious enjoyment of flesh and blood, and I returned to
camp for breakfast, my Turk, Hadji Achmet, carrying some
hippopotamus steaks.

That morning my wife and I breakfasted upon our first hippo, an
animal that was destined to be our general food throughout our
journey among the Abyssinian tributaries of the Nile. After
breakfast we strolled down to the pool to search for the
hippopotamus No. 1. This we at once found, dead, as it had risen
to the surface, and was floating like the back of a turtle a few
inches above the water. The Arabs had been so intent upon the
division of their spoil that they had not observed their new
prize; accordingly, upon the signal being given, a general rush
took place, and in half an hour a similar scene was enacted to
that of hippo No. 2.

The entire Arab camp was in commotion and full of joy at this
unlooked-for arrival of flesh. Camels laden with meat and hide
toiled along the sandy bed of the river; the women raised their
long and shrill cry of delight; and we were looked upon as
general benefactors for having brought them a supply of good food
in this season of distress. In the afternoon I arranged my
tackle, and strolled down to the pool to fish. There was a
difficulty in procuring bait; a worm was never heard of in the
burning deserts of Nubia, neither had I a net to catch small
fish; I was therefore obliged to bait with pieces of
hippopotamnus. Fishing in such a pool as that of the Atbara was
sufficiently exciting, as it was impossible to speculate upon
what creature might accept the invitation; but the Arabs who
accompanied me were particular in guarding me against the
position I had taken under a willow-bush close to the water, as
they explained, that most probably a crocodile would take me
instead of the bait; they declared that accidents had frequently
happened when people had sat upon the bank either to drink with
their hands, or even while watching their goats. I accordingly
fished at a few feet distant from the margin, and presently I had
a bite; I landed a species of perch about two pounds' weight;
this was the "boulti," one of the best Nile fish mentioned by the
traveller Bruce. In a short time I had caught a respectable dish
of fish, but hitherto no monster had paid me the slightest
attention; accordingly I changed my bait, and upon a powerful
hook, fitted upon treble-twisted wire, I fastened an enticing
strip of a boulti. The bait was about four ounces, and glistened
like silver; the water was tolerably clear, but not too bright,
and with such an attraction I expected something heavy. My float
was a large-sized pike-float for live bait, and this civilized
sign had been only a few minutes in the wild waters of the
Atbara, when, bob! and away it went! I had a very large reel,
with nearly three hundred yards of line that had been specially
made for monsters; down went the top of my rod, as though a
grindstone was suspended on it, and, as I recovered its position,
away went the line, and the reel revolved, not with the sudden
dash of a spirited fish, but with the steady determined pull of
a trotting horse. What on earth have I got hold of? In a few
minutes about a hundred yards of line were out, and as the
creature was steadily but slowly travelling down the centre of
the channel, I determined to cry "halt!" if possible, as my
tackle was extremely strong, and my rod was a single bamboo.
Accordingly, I put on a powerful strain, which was replied to by
a sullen tug, a shake, and again my rod was pulled suddenly down
to the water's edge. At length, after the roughest handling, I
began to reel in slack line, as my unknown friend had doubled in
upon me; and upon once more putting severe pressure upon him or
her, as it might be, I perceived a great swirl in the water,
about twenty yards from the rod. The tackle would bear anything,
and I strained so heavily upon my adversary, that I soon reduced
our distance; but the water was exceedingly deep, the bank
precipitous, and he was still invisible. At length, after much
tugging and counter-tugging, he began to show; eagerly I gazed
into the water to examine my new acquaintance, when I made out
something below, in shape between a coach-wheel and a
sponging-bath; in a few moments more I brought to the surface an
enormous turtle, well hooked. I felt like the old lady who won an
elephant in a lottery: that I had him was certain, but what was
I to do with my prize? It was at the least a hundred pounds'
weight, and the bank was steep and covered with bushes; thus it
was impossible to land the monster, that now tugged and dived
with the determination of the grindstone that his first pull had
suggested. Once I attempted the gaff but the trusty weapon that
had landed many a fish in Scotland broke in the hard shell of the
turtle, and I was helpless. My Arab now came to my assistance,
and at once terminated the struggle. Seizing the line with both
hands, utterly regardless of all remonstrance (which, being in
English, he did not understand), he quickly hauled our turtle to
the surface, and held it, struggling and gnashing its jaws, close
to the steep bank. In a few moments the line slackened, and the
turtle disappeared. The fight was over! The sharp horny jaws had
bitten through treble-twisted brass wire as clean as though cut
by shears. My visions of turtle soup had faded.

The heavy fish were not in the humour to take; I therefore shot
one with a rifle as it came to the surface to blow, and, the
water in this spot being shallow, we brought it to shore; it was
a species of carp, between thirty and forty pounds; the scales
were rather larger than a crown piece, and so hard that they
would have been difficult to pierce with a harpoon. It proved to
be useless for the table, being of an oily nature that was only
acceptable to the Arabs.

In the evening I went out stalking in the desert, and returned
with five fine buck gazelles. These beautiful creatures so
exactly resemble the colour of the sandy deserts which they
inhabit, that they are most difficult to distinguish, and their
extreme shyness renders stalking upon foot very uncertain. I
accordingly employed an Arab to lead a camel, under cover of
which I could generally manage to approach within a hundred
yards. A buck gazelle weighs from sixty to seventy pounds, and is
the perfection of muscular development. No person who has seen
the gazelles in confinement in a temperate climate can form an
idea of the beauty of the animal in its native desert. Born in
the scorching sun, nursed on the burning sand of the treeless and
shadowless wilderness, the gazelle is among the antelope tribe as
the Arab horse is among its brethren, the high-bred and
superlative beauty of the race. The skin is as sleek as satin, of
a colour difficult to describe, as it varies between the lightest
mauve and yellowish brown; the belly is snow-white; the legs,
from the knee downwards, are also white, and are as fine as
though carved from ivory; the hoof is beautifully shaped, and
tapers to a sharp point; the head of the buck is ornamented by
gracefully-curved annulated horns, perfectly black, and generally
from nine to twelve inches long in the bend; the eye is the
well-known perfection--the full, large, soft, and jet-black eye
of the gazelle. Although the desert appears incapable of
supporting animmial life, there are in the undulating surface
numerous shallow sandy ravines, in which are tufts of a herbage
so coarse that, as a source of nourishment, it would be valueless
to a domestic animal: nevertheless, upon this dry and wiry
substance the delicate gazelles subsist; and, although they never
fatten, they are exceedingly fleshy and in excellent condition.
Entirely free from fat, and nevertheless a mass of muscle and
sinew, the gazelle is the fastest of the antelope tribe. Proud of
its strength, and confident in its agility, it will generally
bound perpendicularly four or five feet from the ground several
times before it starts at full speed, as though to test the
quality of its sinews before the race. The Arabs course them with
greyhounds, and sometimes they are caught by running several dogs
at the same time; but this result is from the folly of the
gazelle, who at first distances his pursuers like the wind; but,
secure in its speed, it halts and faces the dogs, exhausting
itself by bounding exultingly in the air; in the meantime the
greyhounds are closing up, and diminishing the chance of escape.
As a rule, notwithstanding this absurdity of the gazelle, it has
the best of the race, and the greyhounds return crestfallen and
beaten. Altogether it is the most beautiful specimen of game that
exists, far too lovely and harmless to be hunted and killed for
the mere love of sport. But when dinner depends upon the rifle,
beauty is no protection; accordingly, throughout our desert march
we lived upon gazelles, and I am sorry to confess that I became
very expert at stalking these wary little animals. The flesh,
although tolerably good, has a slight flavour of musk; this is
not peculiar to the gazelle, as the odour is common to most of
the small varieties of antelopes.

Having a good supply of meat, all hands were busily engaged in
cutting it into strips and drying it for future use; the bushes
were covered with festoons of flesh of gazelles and hippopotami,
and the skins of the former were prepared for making girbas, or
water-sacks. The flaying process for this purpose is a delicate
operation, as the knife must be so dexterously used that no false
cut should injure the hide. The animal is hung up by the hind
legs; an incision is then made along the inside of both thighs to
the tail, and with some trouble the skin is drawn off the body
towards the head, precisely as a stocking might be drawn from the
leg; by this operation the skin forms a seamless bag, open at
both ends. To form a girba, the skin must be buried in the earth
for about twenty hours: it is then washed in water, and the hair
is easily detached. Thus rendered clean, it is tanned by soaking
for several days in a mixture of the bark of a mimosa and water;
from this it is daily withdrawn, and stretched out with pegs upon
the ground; it is then well scrubbed with a rough stone, and
fresh mimosa bark well bruised, with water, is rubbed in by the
friction. About four days are sufficient to tan the thin skin of
a gazelle, which is much valued for its toughness and durability;
the aperture at the hind quarters is sewn together, and the
opening of the neck is closed, when required, by tying. A good
water-skin should be porous, to allow the water to exude
sufficiently to moisten the exterior: thus the action of the air
upon the exposed surface causes evaporation, and imparts to the
water within the skin a delicious coolness. The Arabs usually
prepare their tanned skins with an empyreumatical oil made from
a variety of substances, the best of which is that from the
sesame grain; this has a powerful smell, and renders the water so
disagreeable that few Europeans could drink it. This oil is
black, and much resembles tar in appearance; it has the effect of
preserving the leather, and of rendering it perfectly
water-tight. In desert travelling each person should have his own
private water-skin slung upon his dromedary; for this purpose
none are so good as a small-sized gazelle skin that will contain
about two gallons.

On the 23d June we were nearly suffocated by a whirlwind that
buried everything within the tents several inches in dust; the
heat was intense; as usual the sky was spotless, but the simoom
was more overpowering than I had yet experienced. I accordingly
took my rifle and went down to the pool, as any movement, even in
the burning sun, was preferable to inaction in that sultry heat
and dust. The crocodiles had dragged the skeletons of the
hippopotami into the water; several huge heads appeared and then
vanished from the surface, and the ribs of the carcase that
projected, trembled and jerked as the jaws of the crocodiles were
at work beneath. I shot one of very large size through the head,
but it sank to the bottom; I expected to find it on the following
morning floating upon the surface when the gas should have
distended the body.

I also shot a large single bull hippopotamus late in the evening,
which was alone at the extremity of the pool; he sank at the
forehead shot, and, as he never rose again, I concluded that he
was dead, and that I should find him on the morrow with the
crocodile. Tired with the heat, I trudged homeward over the hot
and fatiguing sand of the river's bed.

The cool night arrived, and at about half-past eight I was lying
half asleep upon my bed by the margin of the river, when I
fancied that I heard a rumbling like distant thunder: I had not
heard such a sound for months, but a low uninterrupted roll
appeared to increase in volume, although far distant. Hardly had
I raised my head to listen more attentively when a confusion of
voices arose from the Arabs' camp, with a sound of many feet, and
in a few minutes they rushed into my camp, shouting to my men in
the darkness, "El Bahr! El Bahr!" (the river! the river!)

We were up in an instant, and my interpreter, Mahomet, in a state
of intense confusion, explained that the river was coming down,
and that the supposed distant thunder was the roar of approaching
water.

Many of the people were asleep on the clean sand on the river's
bed; these were quickly awakened by the Arabs, who rushed down
the steep bank to save the skulls of my two hippopotami that were
exposed to dry. Hardly had they descended, when the sound of the
river in the darkness beneath told us that the water had arrived,
and the men, dripping with wet, had just sufficient time to drag
their heavy burdens up the bank.

All was darkness and confusion; everybody was talking and no one
listening; but the great event had occurred the river had arrived
"like a thief in the night." On the morning of the 24th June, I
stood on the banks of the noble Atbara river, at the break of
day. The wonder of the desert!--yesterday there was a barren
sheet of glaring sand, with a fringe of withered bush and trees
upon its borders, that cut the yellow expanse of desert. For days
we had journeyed along the exhausted bed: all Nature, even in
Nature's poverty, was most poor: no bush could boast a leaf: no
tree could throw a shade: crisp gums crackled upon the stems of
the mimosas, the sap dried upon the burst bark, sprung with the
withering heat of the simoom. In one night there was a mysterious
change--wonders of the mighty Nile!--an army of water was
hastening to the wasted river: there was no drop of rain, no
thunder-cloud on the horizon to give hope, all had been dry and
sultry; dust and desolation yesterday, to-day a magnificent
stream, some 500 yards in width and from fifteen to twenty feet
in depth, flowed through the dreary desert! Bamboos and reeds,
with trash of all kinds, were hurried along the muddy waters.
Where were all the crowded inhabitants of the pool? The prison
doors were broken, the prisoners were released, and rejoiced in
the mighty stream of the Atbara.

The 24th June, 1861, was a memorable day. Although this was
actually the beginning of my work, I felt that by the experience
of this night I had obtained a clue to one portion of the Nile
mystery, and that, as "coming events cast their shadows before
them," this sudden creation of a river was but the shadow of the
great cause.

The rains were pouring in Abyssinia! these were sources of the
Nile!

One of my Turks, Hadji Achmet, was ill; therefore, although I
longed to travel, it was necessary to wait. I extract verbatim
from my journal, 26th June:--"The river has still risen; the
weather is cooler, and the withered trees and bushes are giving
signs of bursting into leaf. This season may be termed the spring
of this country. The frightful simoom of April, May, and June,
burns everything as though parched by fire, and not even a
withered leaf hangs to a bough, but the trees wear a wintry
appearance in the midst of intense heat. The wild geese have
paired, the birds are building their nests, and, although not
even a drop of dew has fallen, all Nature seems to be aware of an
approaching change, as the south wind blowing cool from the wet
quarter is the harbinger of rain. Already some of the mimosas
begin to afford a shade, under which the gazelles may be surely
found at mid-day; the does are now in fawn, and the young will be
dropped when this now withered land shall be green with herbage.

"Busy, packing for a start to-morrow; I send Hadji Velli back to
Berber in charge of the two hippos' heads to the care of the good
old Halleem Effendi. No time for shooting to-day. I took out all
the hippos' teeth, of which he possesses 40, 10--10,
------
10--10
six tusks and fourteen molars in each jaw. The bones of the
hippopotamus, like those of the elephant, are solid, and without
marrow."

CHAPTER III.

WILD ASSES OF THE DESERT.

THE journey along the margin of the Atbara was similar to the
entire route from Berber, a vast desert, with the narrow band of
trees that marked the course of the river; the only change was
the magical growth of the leaves, which burst hourly from the
swollen buds of the mimosas: this could be accounted for by the
sudden arrival of the river, as the water percolated rapidly
through the sand and nourished the famishing roots.

The tracks of wild asses had been frequent, but hitherto I had
not seen the animals, as their drinking-hour was at night, after
which they travelled far into the desert: however, on the morning
of the 29th June, shortly after the start at about 6 A.M., we
perceived three of these beautiful creatures on our left--an ass,
a female, and a foal. They were about half a mile distant when
first observed, and upon our approach to within half that
distance they halted and faced about; they were evidently on
their return to the desert from the river. Those who have seen
donkeys in their civilized state have no conception of the beauty
of the wild and original animal. Far from the passive and subdued
appearance of the English ass, the animal in its native desert is
the perfection of activity and courage; there is a high-bred tone
in the deportment, a high-actioned step when it trots freely over
the rocks and sand, with the speed of a horse when it gallops
over the boundless desert. No animal is more difficult of
approach; and, although they are frequently captured by the
Arabs, those taken are invariably the foals, which are ridden
down by fast dromedaries, while the mothers escape. The colour of
the wild ass is a reddish cream tinged with the shade most
prevalent of the ground that it inhabits; thus it much resembles
the sand of the desert. I wished to obtain a specimen, and
accordingly I exerted my utmost knowledge of stalking to obtain
a shot at the male. After at least an hour and a half I succeeded
in obtaining a long shot with a single rifle, which passed
through the shoulder, and I secured my first and last donkey. It
was with extreme regret that I saw my beautiful prize in the last
gasp, and I resolved never to fire another shot at one of its
race. This fine specimen was in excellent condition, although the
miserable pasturage of the desert is confined to the wiry herbage
already mentioned; of this the stomach was full, chewed into
morsels like chopped reeds. The height of this male ass was about
13.3 or 14 hands; the shoulder was far more sloping than that of
the domestic ass, the hoofs were remarkable for their size; they
were wide, firm, and as broad as those of a horse of 15 hands.
I skinned this animal carefully, and the Arabs divided the flesh
among them, while Hadji Achmet selected a choice piece for our
own dinner. At the close of our march that evening, the morsel of
wild ass was cooked in the form of "rissoles:" the flavour
resembled beef but it was extremely tough.

On the following day, 30th June, we reached Gozerajup, a large
permanent village on the south bank of the river. By dead
reckoning we had marched 246 miles from Berber. This spot was
therefore about 220 miles from the junction of the Atbara with
the Nile. Here we remained for a few days to rest the donkeys and
to engage fresh camels. An extract from my journal will give a
general idea of this miserable country:--

"July 3.--I went out early to get something for breakfast, and
shot a hare and seven pigeons. On my return to camp, an Arab
immediately skinned the hare, and pulling out the liver, lungs,
and kidneys, he ate them raw and bloody. The Arabs invariably eat
the lungs, liver, kidneys, and the thorax of sheep, gazelles, &c.
while they are engaged in skinning the beasts, after which they
crack the leg bones between stones, and suck out the raw marrow."

A Bishareen Arab wears his hair in hundreds of minute plaits
which hang down to his shoulders, surmounted by a circular bushy
topknot upon the crown, about the size of a large breakfast-cup,
from the base of which the plaits descend. When in full dress,
the plaits are carefully combed out with an ivory skewer about
eighteen inches in length; after this operation, the head appears
like a huge black mop surmounted by a fellow mop of a small size.
Through this mass of hair he carries his skewer, which is
generally ornamented, and which answers the double purpose of
comb and general scratcher.

The men have remarkably fine features, but the women are not
generally pretty. The Bishareen is the largest Arab tribe of
Nubia. Like all the Arabs of Upper Egypt, they pay taxes to the
Viceroy; these are gathered by parties of soldiers, who take the
opportunity of visiting them during the drought, at which time
they can be certainly found near the river; but at any other
season it would be as easy to collect tribute from the gazelles
of the desert as from the wandering Bishareens. The appearance of
Turkish soldiers is anything but agreeable to the Arabs;
therefore my escort of Turks was generally received with the
"cold shoulder" upon our arrival at an Arab camp, and no supplies
were forthcoming in the shape of milk, &c. until the long
coorbatch (hippopotamus whip) of Hadji Achmet had cracked several
times across the shoulders of the village headman. At first this
appeared to me extremely brutal, but I was given to understand
that I was utterly ignorant of the Arab character, and that he
knew best. I found by experience that Hadji Achmet was correct;
even where milk was abundant, the Arabs invariably declared that
they had not a drop, that the goats were dry, or had strayed
away; and some paltry excuses were offered until the temper of
the Turk became exhausted, and the coorbatch assisted in the
argument. A magician's rod could not have produced a greater
miracle than the hippopotamus whip. The goats were no longer dry,
and in a few minutes large gourds of milk were brought, and
liberally paid for, while I was ridiculed by the Turk, Hadji
Achmet, for so foolishly throwing away money to the "Arab dogs."

Our route was to change. We had hitherto followed the course of

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