Part 3 out of 8

corn, assembled at Shendy in the Egyptian camp; cattle, goats,
sheep, came in from all sides; fodder for the Egyptian cavalry,
to the amount of 1,000 camel-loads, was brought to head-quarters,
and piled in a huge wall that encircled the tent of the General
Ismael Pasha. In the dead of night, while he slept, the crackling
of fire was heard, and flames burst out upon all sides of the dry
and combustible fodder; the Arabs had fired the straw in all
directions, and a roar of flame in a fatal ring surrounded the
Pasha's tent, which caught the fire. There was no escape! In the
confusion, the Arabs fell upon the troops, and massacred a
considerable number. After this success, Mek Nimmur succeeded in
retiring with his people and herds to Sofi, on the Atbara, to
which place we were bound; this was about twelve miles from
Tomat. The body of Ismael Pasha was found beneath those of some
of his women, all of whom that were within the inclosure having

After this calamity the Egyptians recovered Shendy, and in
revenge they collected a number of the inhabitants of all ages
and both sexes. These were penned together like cattle in a
zareeba or kraal, and were surrounded with dhurra-straw, which
was fired in a similar manner to that which destroyed the Pasha.
Thus were these unfortunate creatures destroyed en masse, while
the remaining portion of the population fled to the new
settlement of their chief at Sofi.

Within the last few years preceding my arrival, the Egyptians had
attacked and utterly destroyed the old town of Sofi. Mek Nimmur
had retired across the Atbara, and had taken refuge in Abyssinia,
where he had been welcomed by the king of that country as the
enemy of the Turks, and had been presented with a considerable
territory at the western base of the high mountain range. When I
arrived on the Atbara in 1861, the original Mek Nimnmur was dead,
and his son, who also was called Mek Nimmur, reigned in his
stead. "Nimmur" signifies in Arabic "leopard:" thus "Mek Nimmur"
is the "Leopard King."

This man was constantly at war with the Egyptians, and such Arabs
who were friendly to Egypt. His principal head-quarters were
about seventy miles from Tomat, at a village named Mai Gubba,
from which country he made successful razzias upon the Egyptian
territory, which compelled a vigilant look-out during the dry
season. During the rains there was no danger, as the river was
immensely deep, and impassable from the total absence of boats.

The uninhabited country exactly opposite Tomat was said to abound
with large game, such as elephants, giraffes, &c. as there were
no enemies to disturb them.

At break of day, 29th July, the grandson of Abou Sinn, Sheik Ali,
who had been our guide, paid us his parting visit, and returned
with his people, while at the same time Atalan Wat Said arrived
with a large retinue of his own Arabs and Egyptian soldiers to
escort us to Sofi. Two splendid hygeens were already saddled for
us, one of which was specially intended for my wife; this was the
most thorough-bred looking animal I have ever seen; both were
milk-white, but there was a delicacy in the latter that was
unequalled. This was rather small, and although the ribs were so
well covered that the animal appeared rather fleshy, it was in
the hardiest condition, and was shaped in the depth of brisket
and width of loins like a greyhound; the legs were remarkably
fine, and as clean as ivory. The Sheik Atalan was charmed at our
admiration of his much-prized hygeen, and to prove its speed and
easy action we were no sooner mounted than he led the way at
about ten miles an hour, down the steep slopes, across the rough
watercourses, and up the hill-sides, assuring my wife that she
might sip a cup of coffee on the back of the animal she rode,
without spilling a drop: although an exaggeration, this is the
usual figure of speech by which an Arab describes the easy action
of a first-rate hygeen. It was a beautiful sight to watch the
extraordinary ease with which the hygeen glided along over the
numerous inequalities of the ground without the slightest
discomfort to the rider; the numerous escort became a long and
irregular line of stragglers, until at length they were lost in
the distance, with the exception of three or four, who, well
mounted, were proud of keeping their position. Emerging from the
uneven valley of the Atbara, we arrived upon the high and level
table land above; here the speed increased, and in the
exhilaration of the pace in the cool morning air, with all nature
glowing in the fresh green of a Nubian spring, we only regretted
the shortness of the journey to Sofi, which we reached before the
heat of the day had commenced. We were met by the sheik of the
village, and by a German who had been a resident of Sofi for some
years; he was delighted to see Europeans, especially those who
were conversant with his own language, and he very politely
insisted that we should dismount at his house. Accordingly our
camels knelt at the door of a little circular stone building
about twelve feet in diameter, with a roof thatched according to
Arab fashion. This dwelling was the model of an Arab hut, but the
walls were of masonry instead of mud and sticks, and two small
windows formed an innovation upon the Arab style, which had much
astonished the natives, who are contented with the light afforded
by the doorway.

We were shortly sitting in the only stone building in the
country, among a crowd of Arabs, who, according to their annoying
custom, had thronged to the hut upon our arrival, and not only
had filled the room, but were sitting in a mob at the doorway,
while masses of mop-like heads were peering over the shoulders of
the front rank, excluding both light and air; even the windows
were blocked with highly frizzled heads, while all were talking
at the same time.

Coffee having been handed to the principal people while our tents
were being pitched outside the village, we at length silenced the
crowd; our new acquaintance explained in Arabic the object of our
arrival, and our intention of passing the rainy season at Sofi,
and of exploring the various rivers of Abyssinia at the earliest
opportunity. Atalan Wat Said promised every assistance when the
time should arrive; he described the country as abounding with
large game of all kinds, and he agreed to furnish me with guides
and hunters at the commencement of the hunting season; in the
meantime he ordered the sheik of the village, Hassan bel Kader,
to pay us every attention.

After the departure of Atalan and his people, and the usual
yelling of the women, we had time to examine Sofi, and
accompanied by the German, Florian, we strolled through the
village. At this position the slope of the valley towards the
river was exceedingly gradual upon the west bank, until within a
hundred and fifty yards of the Atbara, when the ground rapidly
fell, and terminated in an abrupt cliff of white sandstone.

The miserable little village of modern Sofi comprised about
thirty straw huts, but the situation was worthy of a more
important settlement. A plateau of hard sandy soil of about
twenty acres was bordered upon either side by two deep ravines
that formed a natural protection, while below the steep cliff,
within two hundred paces in front of the village, flowed the
river Atbara; for mounted men there was only one approach, that
which we had taken from the main land. There could not have been
a more inviting spot adopted for a resting-place during the
rains. Although the soil was thoroughly denuded of loam, and
nothing remained but the original substratum of sandstone and
pebbles, the grass was at this season about three inches high
throughout the entire valley of the Atbara, the trees were in
full leaf, and the vivid green, contrasting with the snow-white
sandstone rocks, produced the effect of an ornamental park. My
tents were pitched upon a level piece of ground, outside the
village, about a hundred paces from the river, where the grass
had been so closely nibbled by the goats that it formed a natural
lawn, and was perfection for a camp; drains were dug around the
tent walls, and everything was arranged for a permanency. I
agreed with the sheik for the erection of a comfortabie hut for
ourselves, a kitchen adjoining, and a hut for the servants, as
the heavy storms were too severe for a life under canvas; in the
meantime we sat in our tent, and had a quiet chat with Florian,
the German.

He was a sallow, sickly-looking man, who with a large bony frame
had been reduced from constant hard work and frequent sickness to
little but skin and sinew; he was a mason, who had left Germany
with the Austrian Mission to Khartoum, but finding the work too
laborious in such a climate, he and a friend, who was a
carpenter, had declared for independence, and they had left the

They were both enterprising fellows, and sportsmen; therefore
they had purchased rifles and ammunition, and had commenced life
as hunters; at the same time they employed their leisure hours in
earning money by the work of their hands in various ways.
Florian, being a stonemason, had of course built his hut of
stone; he was a fair blacksmith and carpenter, and was well
provided with tools; but his principal occupation was whipmaking,
from the hides of hippopotami. As coorbatches were required
throughout the country there was an extensive demand for his
camel-whips, which were far superior to those of native
manufacture; these he sold to the Arabs at about two shillings
each. He had lately met with a serious accident by the bursting
of one of the wretched guns that formed his sporting battery;
this had blown away his thumb from the wrist joint, and had so
shattered his hand that it would most likely have suffered
amputation had he enjoyed the advantage of European surgical
assistance; but with the simple aid of his young black lad,
Richarn, who cut off the dangling thumb and flesh with his knife,
he had preserved his hand, minus one portion.

Florian had had considerable experience in some parts of the
country that I was about to visit, and he gave me much valuable
information that was of great assistance in directing my first
operations. The close of the rainy season would be about the
middle of September, but travelling would be impossible until
November, as the fly would not quit the country until the grass
should become dry; therefore the Arabs would not return with
their camels until that period.

It appeared that this peculiar fly, which tortured all domestic
animals, invaded the country shortly after the commencement of
the rains, when the grass was about two feet high; a few had
already been seen, but Sofi was a favoured spot that was
generally exempt from this plague, which clung more particularly
to the flat and rich table lands, where the quality of grass was
totally different to that produced upon the pebbly and denuded
soil of the sandstone slopes of the valley. The grass of the
slopes was exceedingly fine, and would not exceed a height of
about two feet, while that of the table lands would exceed nine
feet, and become impassable, until sufficiently dry to be cleared
by fire. In November, the entire country would become a vast
prairie of dried straw, the burning of which would then render
travelling and hunting possible.

Florian had hunted for some distance along the Settite river with
his companions, and had killed fifty-three hippopotami during the
last season. I therefore agreed that he should accompany me until
I should have sufficiently explored that river, after which I
proposed to examine the rivers Salaam and Angrab, of which great
tributaries of the Atbara nothing definite was known, except that
they joined that river about fifty miles south of Sofi.

Florian described the country as very healthy during the dry
season, but extremely dangerous during the rains, especially in
the month of October, when, on the cessation of rain, the sun
evaporated the moisture from the sodden ground and rank
vegetation. I accordingly determined to arrange our winter
quarters as comfortably as possible at Sofi for three months,
during which holiday I should have ample time for gaining
information and completing my arrangements for the future.
Violent storms were now of daily occurrence; they had first
commenced at about 2 P.M., but they had gradually altered the
hour of their arrival to between 3 and 4. This night, 29th July,
we were visited at about 11 P.M. with the most tremendous tempest
that we had yet experienced, which lasted until the morning.
Fortunately the tent was well secured with four powerful
storm-ropes fastened from the top of the pole, and pinned about
twenty-five yards from the base to iron bars driven deep into the
hard ground; but the night was passed in the discomforts of a
deluge that, driven by the hurricane, swept through the tent,
which threatened every minute to desert us in shreds. On the
following morning the storm had passed away, and the small tent
had done likewise, having been blown down and carried many yards
from the spot where it had been pitched. Mahomet, who was the
occupant, had found himself suddenly enveloped in wet canvas,
from which he had emerged like a frog in the storm. There was no
time to be lost in completing my permanent camp; I therefore sent
for the sheik of the village, and proceeded to purchase a house.
I accompanied him through the narrow lanes of Sofi, and was
quickly shown a remarkably neat house, which I succeeded in
purchasing from the owner for the sum of ten piastres (two
shillings). This did not seem an extravagant outlay for a neat
dwelling with a sound roof; neither were there any legal expenses
in the form of conveyance, as in that happy and practical land
the simple form of conveyance is the transportation of the house
(the roof) upon the shoulders of about thirty men, and thus it is
conveyed to any spot that the purchaser may consider desirable.
Accordingly, our mansion was at once seized by a crowd of Arabs,
and carried off in triumph, while the sticks that formed the wall
were quickly arranged upon the site I had chosen for our camp. In
the short space of about three hours I found myself the
proprietor of an eligible freehold residence, situated upon an
eminence in park-like grounds, commanding extensive and romantic
views of the beautifully-wooded valley of the Atbara, within a
minute's walk of the neighbouring village of Sofi, perfect
immunity from all poor-rates, tithes, taxes, and other public
burthens, not more than 2,000 miles from a church, with the
advantage of a post-town at the easy distance of seventy leagues.
The manor comprised the right of shooting throughout the parishes
of Ahyssinia and Soudan, plentifully stocked with elephants,
lions, rhinoceroses, giraffes, buffaloes, hippopotami, leopards,
and a great variety of antelopes; while the right of fishing
extended throughout the Atbara and neighbouring rivers, that were
well stocked with fish ranging from five to a hundred and fifty
pounds; also with turtles and crocodiles.

The mansion comprised entrance-hall, dining-room, drawing-roomn,
lady's boudoir, library, breakfast-room, bed-room and
dressing-room (with the great advantage of their combination in
one circular room fourteen feet in diameter). The architecture
was of an ancient style, from the original design of a pill-box
surmounted by a candle extinguisher.

Thus might my estate have been described by an English estate
agent and auctioneer, with a better foundation of fact than many
newspaper advertisements.

I purchased two additional huts, one of which was erected at the
back (if a circle has a back) of our mansion, as the kitchen,
while the other at a greater distance formed the "servants'
hall." We all worked hard for several days in beautifying our
house and grounds. In the lovely short grass that resembled green
velvet, we cut walks to the edge of a declivity, and surrounded
the house with a path of snow-white sand, resembling coarsely
pounded sugar; this we obtained from some decomposed sandstone
rock which crumbled upon the slightest pressure. We collected
curiously-shaped blocks of rock, and masses of fossil wood that
were imbedded in the sandstone; these we formed into borders for
our walks, and opposite to our front door (there was no back
door) we arranged a half-circle or "carriage-drive," of white
sand, to the extreme edge of the declivity, which we bordered
with large rocks; one of which I believe may remain to this day,
as I carried it to the spot to form a seat, and my vanity was
touched by the fact that it required two Arabs to raise it from
the ground. I made a rustic table of split bamboos, and two
garden seats opposite the entrance of the house, and we collected
a number of wild plants and bulbs which we planted in little
beds; we also sowed the seeds of different gourds that were to
climb up on our roof.

In the course of a week we had formed as pretty a camp as
Robinson Crusoe himself could have coveted; but he, poor
unfortunate, had only his man Friday to assist him, while in our
arrangements there were many charms and indescribable little
comforts that could only be effected by a lady's hand. Not only
were our walks covered with snow-white sand and the borders
ornamented with beautiful agates that we had collected in the
neighbourhood, but the interior of our house was the perfection
of neatness: the floor was covered with white sand beaten firmly
together to the depth of about six inches; the surface was swept
and replaced with fresh material daily; the travelling bedsteads,
with their bright green mosquito curtains, stood by either side,
affording a clear space in the centre of the circle, while
exactly opposite the door stood the gun-rack, with as goodly an
array of weapons as the heart of a sportsman could desire:--

My little Fletcher double rifle, No. 24.

One double rifle, No. 10, by Tatham.

Two double rifles, No. 10, by Reilly.

One double rifle, No. 10, by Beattie (one of my old Ceylon

One double gun, No. 10, by Beattie.

One double gun, No. 10, by Purdey, belonging to Mr. Oswell, of
South African celebrity.

One single rifle, No. 8, by Manton.

One single rifle, No. 14, by Beattie.

One single rifle that carried a half-pouud explosive shell, by
Holland of Bond Street; this was nicknamed by the Arabs "Jenna el
Mootfah" (child of a cannon), and for the sake of brevity I
called it the "Baby."

My revolver and a brace of double-barrelled pistols hung upon the
wall, which, although the exterior of the house was straw, we had
lined with the bright coloured canvas of the tent. Suspended by
loops were little ornamental baskets worked by the Arabs, that
contained a host of useful articles, such as needles, thread, &c.
&c., and the remaining surface was hung with hunting knives,
fishing lines, and a variety of instruments belonging to the
chase. A travelling table, with maps and a few books, stood
against the wall, and one more article completed our
furniture,--an exceedingly neat toilet table, the base of which
was a flat-topped portmanteau, concealed by a cunning device of
chintz and muslin; this, covered with the usual arrangement of
brushes, mirror, scent-bottles, &c. threw an air of civilization
over the establishment, which was increased by the presence of an
immense sponging-bath, that, being flat and circular, could be
fitted underneath a bed. In the draught of air next the door
stood our filter in a wooden frame, beneath which was a porous
jar that received and cooled the clear water as it fell.

Our camp was a perfect model; we had a view of about five miles
in extent along the valley of the Atbara, and it was my daily
amusement to scan with my telescope the uninhabited country upon
the opposite side of the river, and watch the wild animals as
they grazed in perfect security. I regret that at that time I did
not smoke; in the cool of the evening we used to sit by the
bamboo table outside the door of our house, and drink our coffee
in perfect contentment amidst the beautiful scene of a tropical
sunset and the deep shadows in the valley; but a pipe! --the long
"chibbook" of the Turk would have made our home a Paradise!
Nevertheless we were thoroughly happy at Sofi;--there was a
delightful calm, and a sense of rest; a total estrangement from
the cares of the world, and an enchanting contrast in the soft
green verdure of the landscape before us to the many hundred
weary miles of burning desert through which we had toiled from
Lower Egypt. In those barren tracts, the eye had become so
accustomed to sterility and yellow sand, that it had appeared
impossible to change the scene, and Africa afforded no prospect
beyond the blank hitherto shown upon the chart of the interior;
we were now in a land of rich pastures, and apparently in another
world, after the toil of a hard life;--it was the haven of a
pilgrim, rest!

While we were enjoying a few months' repose, the elements were
hard at work. Every day, without exception, and generally for
several hours of the night, the lightning flashed and thunder
roared with little intermission, while the rain poured in such
torrents that the entire country became perfectly impassable,
with the exception of the hard ground of the Atbara valley. The
rich loam of the table land had risen like leavened dough, and
was knee-deep in adhesive mud; the grass upon this surface grew
with such rapidity that in a few weeks it reached a height of
nine or ten feet. The mud rushed in torrents down the countless
watercourses, which were now in their greatest activity in
hurrying away the fertile soil of Egypt; and the glorious Atbara
was at its maximum.



TIME glided away smoothly at our camp amidst the storms of the
rainy season. The Arabs had nothing to do, and suffered much from
the absence of their herds, as there was a great scarcity of
milk. The only animals that had not been sent to the north were
a few goats; these were so teased by the flies that they produced
but a small supply. Fever had appeared at the same time with the
flies, and every one was suffering more or less, especially
Florian, who was seriously ill. I was in full practice as
physician, and we congratulated ourselves upon the healthiness of
our little isolated camp, when suddenly my wife was prostrated by
a severe attack of gastric fever, which for nine days rendered
her recovery almost hopeless. At length the fever gave way to
careful attendance, and my Arab patients and Florian were also in
a fair way towards recovery. The plagues of Egypt were upon us;
the common house-flies were in billions, in addition to the
cattle-tormentor. Our donkeys would not graze, but stood day and
night in the dense smoke of fires, made of sticks and green
grass, for protection.

The plague of boils broke out, and every one was attacked more or
less severely. Then came a plague of which Moses must have been
ignorant, or he would surely have inflicted it upon Pharaoh. This
was a species of itch, which affected all ages and both sexes
equally; it attacked all parts of the body, but principally the
extremities. The irritation was beyond description; small
vesicles rose above the skin, containing a watery fluid, which,
upon bursting, appeared to spread the disease. The Arabs had no
control over this malady, which they called "coorash," and the
whole country was scratching. The popular belief attributed the
disease to the water of the Atbara at this particular season:
although a horrible plague, I do not believe it to have any
connexion with the well-known itch or "scabies" of Europe.

I adopted a remedy that I had found a specific for mange in dogs,
and this treatment became equally successful in cases of coorash.
Gunpowder, with the addition of one-fourth of sulphur, made into
a soft paste with water, and then formed into an ointment with
fat: this should be rubbed over the whole body. The effect upon
a black man is that of a well-cleaned boot--upon a white man it
is still more striking; but it quickly cures the malady. I went
into half mourning by this process, and I should have adopted
deep mourning had it been necessary; I was only attacked from the
feet to a little above the knees. Florian was in a dreadful
state, and the vigorous and peculiar action of his arms at once
explained the origin of the term "Scotch fiddle," the musical
instrument commonly attributed to the north of Great Britain.

The Arabs are wretchedly ignorant of the healing art, and they
suffer accordingly. At least fifty per cent. of the population in
Sofi had a permanent enlargement of the spleen, which could be
felt with a slight pressure of the hand, frequently as large as
an orange; this was called "Jenna el Wirde" (child of the fever),
and was the result of constant attacks of fever in successive
rainy seasons.

Faith is the drug that is supposed to cure the Arab; whatever his
complaint may be, he applies to his Faky or priest. This minister
is not troubled with a confusion of book-learning, neither are
the shelves of his library bending beneath weighty treatises upon
the various maladies of human nature; but he possesses the key to
all learning, the talisman that will apply to all cases, in that
one holy book the Koran. This is his complete pharmacopoeia: his
medicine chest, combining purgatives, blisters, sudorifics,
styptics, narcotics, emetics, and all that the most profound M.D.
could prescribe. With this "multum in parvo" stock-in-trade the
Faky receives his patients. No. 1 arrives, a barren woman who
requests some medicine that will promote the blessing of
childbirth. No. 2, a man who was strong in his youth, but from
excessive dissipation has become useless. No. 3, a man deformed
from his birth, who wishes to become straight as other men. No.
4, a blind child. No. 5, a dying old woman, carried on a litter;
and sundry other impossible cases, with others of a more simple

The Faky produces his book, the holy Koran, and with a pen formed
of a reed he proceeds to write a prescription; not to be made up
by an apothecary, as such dangerous people do not exist, but the
prescription itself is to be SWALLOWED! Upon a smooth board, like
a slate, he rubs sufficient lime to produce a perfectly white
surface; upon this he writes in large characters, with thick
glutinous ink, a verse or verses from the Koran that he considers
applicable to the case; this completed, he washes off the holy
quotation, and converts it into a potation by the addition of a
little water; this is swallowed in perfect faith by the patient,
who in return pays a fee according to the demand of the Faky. Of
course it cannot be supposed that this effects a cure, or that it
is in any way superior to the prescriptions of a thorough-bred
English doctor; the only advantage possessed by the system is
complete innocence, in which it may perhaps claim superiority. If
no good result is attained by the first holy dose, the patient
returns with undiminished confidence, and the prescription is
repeated as "the draught as before," well known to the
physic-drinkers of England, and in like manner attended with the
bill. The fakeers make a considerable amount by this simple
practice, and they add to their small earnings by the sale of
verses of the Koran as talismans.

As few people can read or write, there is an air of mystery in
the art of writing which much enhances the value of a scrap of
paper upon which is written a verse from the Koran. A few
piastres are willingly expended in the purchase of such
talismans, which are carefully and very neatly sewn into small
envelopes of leather, and are worn by all people, being handed
down from father to son.

The Arabs are especially fond of relics; thus, upon the return
from a pilgrimage to Mecca, the "hadji," or pilgrim, is certain
to have purchased from some religious Faky of the sacred shrine
either a few square inches of cloth, or some such trifle, that
belonged to the prophet Mahomet. This is exhibited to his friends
and strangers as a wonderful spell against some particular
malady, and it is handed about and received with extreme
reverence by the assembled crowd. I once formed one of a circle
when a pilgrim returned to his native village: we sat in a
considerable number upon the ground, while he drew from his bosom
a leather envelope, suspended from his neck, from which he
produced a piece of extremely greasy woollen cloth, about three
inches square, the original colour of which it would have been
impossible to guess. This was a piece of Mahomet's garment, but
what portion he could not say. The pilgrim had paid largely for
this blessed relic, and it was passed round our circle from hand
to hand, after having first been kissed by the proprietor, who
raised it to the crown of his head, which he touched with the
cloth, and then wiped both his eyes. Each person who received it
went through a similar performance, and as ophthalmia and other
diseases of the eyes were extremely prevalent, several of the
party had eyes that had not the brightness of the gazelle's;
nevertheless, these were supposed to become brighter after having
been wiped by the holy cloth. How many eyes this same piece of
cloth had wiped it would be impossible to say, but such facts are
sufficient to prove the danger of holy relics, that are
inoculators of all manner of contagious diseases.

I believe in holy shrines as the pest spots of the world. We
generally have experienced in Western Europe that all violent
epidemics arrive from the East. The great breadth of the Atlantic
boundary would naturally protect us from the West, but infectious
disorders, such as plague, cholera, small-pox, &c. may be
generally tracked throughout their gradations from their original
nests; those nests are in the East, where the heat of the climate
acting upon the filth of semi-savage communities engenders

The holy places of both Christians and Mahometans are the
receptacles for the masses of people of all nations and classes
who have arrived from all points of the compass; the greater
number of such people are of poor estate; many, who have toiled
on foot from immense distances, suffering from hunger and
fatigue, and bringing with them not only the diseases of their
own remote countries, but arriving in that weak state that courts
the attack of any epidemic. Thus crowded together, with a
scarcity of provisions, a want of water, and no possibility of
cleanliness, with clothes that have been unwashed for weeks or
months, in a camp of dirty pilgrims, without any attempt at
drainage, an accumulation of filth takes place that generates
either cholera or typhus; the latter, in its most malignant form,
appears as the dreaded "plague." Should such an epidemic attack
the mass of pilgrims debilitated by the want of nourishing food,
and exhausted by their fatiguing march, it runs riot like a fire
among combustibles, and the loss of life is terrific. The
survivors radiate from this common centre, upon their return to
their respective homes, to which they carry the seeds of the
pestilence to germinate upon new soils in different countries.
Doubtless the clothes of the dead furnish materials for
innumerable holy relics as vestiges of the wardrobe of the
Prophet; these are disseminated by the pilgrims throughout all
countries, pregnant with disease; and, being brought into
personal contact with hosts of true believers, Pandora's box
could not be more fatal.

Not only are relics upon a pocket scale conveyed by pilgrims, and
reverenced by the Arabs, but the body of any Faky, who in
lifetime was considered extra holy, is brought from a great
distance to be interred in some particular spot. In countries
where a tree is a rarity, a plank for a coffin is unknown; thus
the reverend Faky, who may have died of typhus, is wrapped in
cloths and packed in a mat. In this form he is transported,
perhaps, some hundred miles, slung upon a camel, with the
thermometer above 130 degrees Fahr. in the sun, and he is
conveyed to the village that is so fortunate as to be honoured
with his remains. It may be readily imagined that with a
favourable wind, the inhabitants are warned of his approach some
time before his arrival. Happily, long before we arrived at Sofi,
the village had been blessed by the death of a celebrated Faky,
a holy man who would have been described as a second Isaiah were
the annals of the country duly chronicled. This great "man of
God," as he was termed, had departed this life at a village on
the borders of the Nile, about eight days' hard camel-journey
from Sofi; but from some assumed right, mingled no doubt with
jobbery, the inhabitants of Sofi had laid claim to his body, and
he had arrived upon a camel horizontally, and had been buried
about fifty yards from our present camp. His grave was beneath a
clump of mimosas that shaded the spot, and formed the most
prominent object in the foreground of our landscape. Thither
every Friday the women of the village congregated, with offerings
of a few handfuls of dhurra in small gourd-shells, which they
laid upon the grave, while they ATE THE HOLY EARTH in small
pinches, which they scraped like rabbits, from a hole they had
burrowed towards the venerated corpse; this hole was about two
feet deep from continual scratching, and must have been very near
the Faky.

Although bamboos did not grow in Sofi, great numbers were brought
down by the river during the rains; these were eagerly collected
by the Arabs, and the grave of the Faky was ornamented with
selected specimens, upon which were hung small pieces of rag-like
banners. The people could not explain why they were thus
ornamented, but I imagine the custom had originated from the
necessity of scaring the wild animals that might have exhumed the

Although the grave of this revered Faky was considered a sacred
spot, the women had a curious custom that we should not consider
an honour to the sanctity of the place: they met in parties
beneath the shade of the mimosas that covered the grave, for the
express purpose of freeing each other's heads from vermin; the
creatures thus caught, instead of being killed, were turned loose
upon the Faky.

Although the Arabs in places remote from the immediate action of
the Egyptian authorities are generally lawless, they are
extremely obedient to their own sheiks, and especially to the
fakeers: thus it is important to secure such heads of the people
as friends. My success as a physician had gained me many friends,
as I studiously avoided the acceptance of any present in return
for my services, which I wished them to receive as simple acts of
kindness; thus I had placed the Sheik Hassan bel Kader under an
obligation, by curing him of a fever; and as he chanced to
combine in his own person the titles of both sheik and faky, I
had acquired a great ascendency in the village, as my medicines
had proved more efficacious than the talismans. "Physician, cure
thyself," applied to the Faky, who found three grains of my
tartar emetic more powerful than a whole chapter of the Koran.

We frequently had medical discussions, and the contents of my
large medicine-chest were examined with wonder by a curious
crowd; the simple effect of mixing a seidlitz powder was a source
of astonishment; but a few drops of sulphuric acid upon a piece
of strong cotton cloth which it destroyed immediately, was a
miracle that invested the medicine-chest with a specific
character for all diseases. The Arab style of doctoring is rather
rough. If a horse or other animal has inflammation, they hobble
the legs and throw it upon the ground, after which operation a
number of men kick it in the belly until it is relieved--(by
death). Should a man be attacked with fever, his friends
prescribe a system of diet, in addition to the Koran of the Faky:
he is made to drink, as hot as he can swallow it, about a quart
of melted sheep's fat or butter. Young dogs, as a cure for
distemper, are thrown from the roof of a house to the ground--a
height of about ten feet. One night we were sitting at dinner,
when we suddenly heard a great noise, and the air was illumined
by the blaze of a hut on fire. In the midst of the tumult I heard
the unmistakeable cries of dogs, and thinking that they were
unable to escape from the fire, I ran towards the spot. As I
approached, first one and then another dog ran screaming from the
flames, until a regular pack of about twenty scorched animals
appeared in quick succession, all half mad with fright and fire.
I was informed that hydrophobia was very prevalent in the
country, and that the certain preventive from that frightful
malady was to make all the dogs of the village pass through the
fire. Accordingly an old hut had been filled with straw and
fired; after which, each dog was brought by its owner and thrown
into the flames. Upon another occasion I heard a great yelling
and commotion, and I found Mahomet's "mother's brother's cousin's
sister's mother's son," Achmet, struggling on the ground, and
nearly overpowered by a number of Arabs, who were determined to
operate upon a large boil in his groin, which they had condemned
to be squeezed, although it was not in a state that admitted of
such treatment. The patient was biting and kicking liberally on
all sides in self-defence, and his obstinate surgeons could
hardly be persuaded to desist.

Syphilis is common throughout the country, and there are several
varieties of food that are supposed to effect a cure. A sheep is
killed, and the entire flesh is cooked with the fat, being cut
into small pieces and baked in a pot; several pounds of butter or
other grease are then boiled, and in that state are poured into
the jars containing the baked meat; the patient is then shut up
by himself in a hut with this large quantity of fat food, with
which he is to gorge himself until the whole is consumed. Another
supposed cure for the same disease is a pig dressed in a similar
manner, which meat, although forbidden by the Koran, may be taken
medicinally. The flesh of the crocodile is eaten greedily, being
supposed to promote desire. There are few animals that the Arabs
of the Nubian provinces will refuse; the wild boar is invariably
eaten by the Arab hunters, although in direct opposition to the
rules of the Koran. I once asked them what their Faky would say
if he were aware of such a transgression. "Oh !" they replied,
"we have already asked his permission, as we are sometimes
severely pressed for food in the jungles; he says, 'If you have
the KORAN in your hand and NO PIG, you are forbidden to eat pork;
but if you have the PIG in your hand and NO KORAN, you had better
eat what God has given you.'"

This is a charming example of simplicity in theological
discussion that might perhaps be followed with advantage in
graver questions; we might cease to strain at the gnats and
swallow our pigs.

I had an audience of a party of hunters whom I had long wished to
meet. Before my arrival at Sofi I had heard of a particular tribe
of Arabs that inhabited the country south of Cassala, between
that town and the Base country; these were the Hamrans, who were
described as the most extraordinary Nimrods, who hunted and kiled
all wild animals, from the antelope to the elephant, with no
other weapon than the sword; the lion and the rhinoceros fell
alike before the invincible sabres of these mighty hunters, to
whom as an old elephant-hunter I wished to make my salaam, and
humbly confess my inferiority.

From the manner in which their exploits had been hitherto
explained to me, I could not understand how it could be possible
to kill an elephant with the sword, unless the animal should be
mobbed by a crowd of men and hacked to death, but I was assured
that the most savage elephant had no chance upon good riding
ground, against four aggageers (as the hunters with the sword are
designated). I had determined to engage a party of these hunters
to accompany me throughout my exploration of the Abyssinian
rivers at the proper season, when I should have an excellent
opportunity of combining sport with an examination of the
country. My intentions had become known, and the visit of the
hunters was the consequence.

The Hamran Arabs are distinguished from the other tribes by an
extra length of hair, worn parted down the centre, and arranged
in long curls; otherwise there is no perceptible difference in
their appearance from other Arabs. They are armed, as are all
others, with swords and shields; the latter are circular, and are
generally formed of rhinoceros hide. There are two forms of
shields used by the various tribes of Arabs: one is a narrow
oval, about four feet in length, of either bull's or buffalo's
hide, stiffened by a strong stick which passes down the centre;
the other is circular, about two feet in diameter, with a
projection in the centre as a protection for the hand. When laid
flat upon the ground, the shield somewhat resembles an immensely
broad-brimmed hat, with a low crown terminating in a point. In
the inside of the crown is a strong bar of leather as a grip for
the hand, while the outside is generally guarded by a strip of
the scaly hide of a crocodile.

The skins most prized for shields are those of the giraffe and
the rhinoceros; those of the buffalo and elephant are likewise in
genera] use, but they are considered inferior to the former,
while the hide of the hippopotamus is too thick and heavy.

The hide of the giraffe is wonderfully tough, and combines the
great advantage of extreme lightness with strength. The Arabs
never ornament their shields; they are made for rough and actual
service, and the gashes upon many are proofs of the necessity of
such a protection for the owner.

Although there are two patterns of shields among the Arabs, there
is no difference in the form of their swords, which simply vary
in size according to the strength of the wearer. The blade is
long and straight, two-edged, with a simple cross handle, having
no other guard for the hand than the plain bar, which at right
angles with the hilt forms the cross. I believe this form was
adopted after the Crusades, when the long, straight,
cross-handled blades of the Christian knights left an impression
behind them that established the fashion. All these blades are
manufactured at Sollingen, and are exported to Egypt for the
trade of the interior. Of course they differ in quality and
price, but they are of excellent temper. The Arabs are extremely
proud of a good sword, and a blade of great value is carefully
handed down through many generations. The sheiks and principal
people wear silver-hilted swords. The scabbards are usually
formed of two thin strips of elastic but soft wood, covered with
leather. No Arab would accept a metal scabbard, as it would
destroy the keen edge of his weapon. The greatest care is taken
in sharpening the swords. While on the march, the Arab carries
his weapon slung on the pommel of his saddle, from which it
passes beneath his thigh. There are two projecting pieces of
leather, about twelve inches apart, upon the scabbard, between
which the thigh of the horseman fits, and thus prevents the sword
from slipping from its place. Carried in this position at full
speed, there is an absence of that absurd dangling and jumping of
the sword that is exhibited in our British cavalry, and the
weapon seems to form a portion of the rider. The first action of
an Arab when he dismounts at a halt upon the march, and sits
beneath a tree, is to draw his sword; and after trying both edges
with his thumb, he carefully strops the blade to and fro upon his
shield until a satisfactory proof of the edge is made by shaving
the hair off his arm, after which it is returned to the sheath.
I have measured these swords; that of a fair average size is
three feet in the length of blade, and one inch and seven-eighths
in breadth; the hilt, from the top of the guard to the extremity,
five and a half inches. Thus the sword complete would be about
three feet five or six inches. Such a weapon possesses immense
power, as the edge is nearly as sharp as a razor. But the Arabs
have not the slightest knowledge of swordsmanship; they never
parry with the blade, but trust entirely to the shield, and
content themselves with slashing either at their adversary or at
the animal that he rides; one good cut delivered by a powerful
arm would sever a man at the waist like a carrot. The Arabs are
not very powerful men; they are extremely light and active, and
generally average about five feet eight inches in height. But
their swords are far too heavy for their strength; and although
they can deliver a severe cut, they cannot recover the sword
sufficiently quick to parry, therefore they are contented with
the shield as their only guard. If opposed to a good swordsman
they would be perfectly at his mercy, as a feint at the head
causes them to raise the shield; this prevents them from seeing
the point, that would immediately pass through the body.

Notwithstanding their deficiency in the art of the sword, they
are wonderful fellows to cut and slash; and when the sharp edge
of the heavy weapon touches an enemy, the effect is terrible.

The elephant-hunters, or aggageers, exhibited their swords, which
differed in no respect from those usually worn; but they were
bound with cord very closely from the guard for about nine inches
along the blade, to enable them to be grasped by the right hand,
while the hilt was held by the left; the weapon was thus
converted into a two-handed sword. The scabbards were
strengthened by an extra covering, formed of the skin of the
elephant's ear.

In a long conversation with these men, I found a corroboration of
all that I had previously heard of their exploits, and they
described the various methods of killing the elephant with the
sword. Those hunters who could not afford to purchase horses
hunted on foot, in parties not exceeding two persons. Their
method was to follow the tracks of an elephant, so as to arrive
at their game between the hours of 10 A.M. and noon, at which
time the animal is either asleep, or extremely listless, and easy
to approach. Should they discover the animal asleep, one of the
hunters would creep stealthily towards the head, and with one
blow sever the trunk while stretched upon the ground; in which
case the elephant would start upon his feet, while the hunters
escaped in the confusion of the moment. The trunk severed would
cause an haemorrhage sufficient to insure the death of the
elephant within about an hour. On time other hand, should the
animal be awake upon their arrival, it would be impossible to
approach the trunk; in such a case, they would creep up from
behind, and give a tremendous cut at the back sinew of the hind
leg, about a foot above the heel. Such a blow would disable the
elephant at once, and would render comparatively easy a second
cut to the remaining leg; the arteries being divided, the animal
would quickly bleed to death. These were the methods adopted by
poor hunters, until, by the sale of ivory, they could purchase
horses for the higher branch of the art. Provided with horses,
the party of hunters should not exceed four. They start before
daybreak, and ride slowly throughout the country in search of
elephants, generally keeping along the course of a river until
they come upon the tracks where a herd or a single elephant may
have drunk during the night. When once upon the tracks, they
follow fast towards the retreating game. The elephants may be
twenty miles distant; but it matters little to the aggageers. At
length they discover them, and the hunt begins. The first step is
to single out the bull with the largest tusks; this is the
commencement of the fight. After a short hunt, the elephant turns
upon his pursuers, who scatter and fly from his headlong charge
until he gives up the pursuit; he at length turns to bay when
again pressed by the hunters. It is the duty of one man in
particular to ride up close to the head of the elephant, and thus
to absorb its attention upon himself. This insures a desperate
charge. The greatest coolness and dexterity are then required by
the hunter, who now, the HUNTED, must so adapt the speed of his
horse to the pace of the elephant, that the enraged beast gains
in the race until it almost reaches the tail of the horse. In
this manner the race continues. In the meantime, two hunters
gallop up behind the elephant, unseen by the animal, whose
attention is completely directed to the horse almost within his
grasp. With extreme agility, when close to the heels of the
elephant, one of the hunters, while at full speed, springs to the
ground with his drawn sword, as his companion seizes the bridle,
and with one dexterous two-handed blow he severs the back sinew.
He immediately jumps out of the way and remounts his horse; but
if the blow is successful, the elephant becomes disabled by the
first pressure of its foot upon the ground; the enormous weight
of the animal dislocates the joint, and it is rendered helpless.
The hunter who has hitherto led the elephant immediately turns,
and riding to within a few feet of the trunk, he induces the
animal to attempt another charge. This, clumsily made, affords an
easy opportunity for the aggageers behind to slash the sinew of
the remaining leg, and the immense brute is reduced to a
standstill; it dies of loss of blood in a short time, THUS

This extraordinary hunting is attended with superlative danger,
and the hunters frequently fall victims to their intrepidity. I
felt inclined to take off my cap and make a low bow to the
gallant and swarthy fellows who sat before me, when I knew the
toughness of their hearts and the activity of their limbs. One of
them was disabled for life by a cut from his own sword, that had
severed the knee-cap and bitten deep into the joint, leaving a
scar that appeared as though the leg had been nearly off; he had
missed his blow at the elephant, owing to the high and tough
dried grass that had partially stopped the sword, and in
springing upon one side, to avoid the animal that had turned upon
him, he fell over his own sharp blade, which cut through the
bone, and he lay helpless; he was saved by one of his comrades,
who immediately rushed in from behind, and with a desperate cut
severed the back sinew of the elephant. As I listened to these
fine fellows, who in a modest and unassuming manner recounted
their adventures as matters of course, I felt exceedingly small.
My whole life had been passed in wild sports from early manhood,
and I had imagined that I understood as much as most people of
this subject; but here were men who, without the aid of the best
rifles and deadly projectiles, went straight at their game, and
faced the lion in his den with shield and sabre. There is a
freemasonry among hunters, and my heart was drawn towards these
aggageers. We fraternised upon the spot, and I looked forward
with intense pleasure to the day when we might become allies in

I have been rewarded by this alliance in being now able to speak
of the deeds of others that far excel my own, and of bearing
testimony to the wonderful courage and dexterity of these
Nimrods, instead of continually relating anecdotes of dangers in
the first person, which cannot be more disagreeable to the reader
than to the narrator.

Without inflicting a description of five months passed in Sofi,
it will be necessary to make a few extracts from my journal, to
convey an idea of the manner in which the time was occupied.

"August 7, 1861.--There is plenty of game on the other side of
the river, but nothing upon this; there are no means of crossing,
as the stream is exceedingly strong, and about two hundred yards
in width. We felled a tree for a canoe, but there is nothing
worthy of the name of timber, and the wood is extremely heavy.

"There are several varieties of wild spinach, and a plant that
makes a good salad, known by the Arabs as 'Regly;' also wild
onions as large as a man's fist, but uneatable.

"Angust 8.--I counted seventy-six giraffes on the opposite side
of the river. This magnificent sight is most tantalizing. The
sheik made his appearance to-day with a present of butter and
honey, and some small money in exchange for dollars that I had
given him. The Austrian dollar of Maria Theresa is the only large
coin current in this country; the effigy of the empress, with a
very low dress and a profusion of bust, is, I believe, the charm
that suits the Arab taste. So particular are these people, that
they reject the coin after careful examination, unless they can
distinctly count seven dots that form the star upon the coronet.
No clean money will pass current in this country; all coins must
be dirty and gummy, otherwise they are rejected: this may be
accounted for, as the Arabs have no method of detecting false
money; thus they are afraid to accept any new coin.

"Auqust 16.--Great failure! We launched the canoe, but although
it was carefully hollowed out, the wood was so heavy that it
would only carry one person, and even then it threatened to
become a bathing-machine; thus nine days' hard work are lost.
Florian is in despair, but 'Nil desperandum!' I shall set to work
instanter, and make a raft. Counted twenty-eight giraffes on the
opposite side of the river.

"August 17.--I set to work at daybreak to make a raft of bamboo
and inflated skins. There is a wood called ambatch (Anemone
mirabilis) that is brought down by the river from the upper
country; this is lighter than cork, and I have obtained four
large pieces for my raft. Mahomet has been very saucy to-day; he
has been offensively impertinent for a long time, so this morning
I punched his head.

"August 18.--Launched the raft; it carries four persons safely;
but the current is too strong, and it is therefore unmanageable.
In the afternoon I shot a large crocodile on the other side of
the river (about two hundred yards) with the little Fletcher
rifle, and after struggling for some time upon the steep bank it
rolled into the water.

"The large tamarind trees on the opposite bank are generally full
of the dog-faced baboons (Cynocephalus) in the evening, at their
drinking-hour. I watched a large crocodile creep slyly out of the
water, and lie in waiting among the rocks at the usual
drinking-place before they arrived, but the baboons were too wide
awake to be taken in so easily. A young fellow was the first to
discover the enemy; he had accompanied several wise and
experienced old hands, to the extremity of the bough that at a
considerable height overhung the river; from this post they had
a bird's-eye view, and reconnoitred before one of the numerous
party descended to drink. The sharp eyes of the young one at once
detected the crocodile, who matched in colour so well with the
rocks, that most probably a man would not have noticed it until
too late. At once the young one commenced shaking the bough and
screaming with all his might to attract the attention of the
crocodile, and to induce it to move. In this he was immediately
joined by the whole party, who yelled in chorus, while the large
old males bellowed defiance, and descended to the lowest branches
within eight or ten feet of the crocodile. It was of no use--the
pretender never stirred, and I watched it until dark; it remained
still inn the same place, waiting for some unfortunate baboon
whose thirst might provoke his fate; but not one was sufficiently
foolish, although the perpendicular banks prevented them from
drinking except at that particular spot.

"The birds in this country moult twice during the year, and those
of the most brilliant colours exchange their gaudy hues for a
sober grey or brown. Several varieties sing beautifully; the
swallow also sings, although in Europe I have never heard it
attempt more than its well-known twitter.

"One of the mimosas yields an excellent fibre for rope-making, in
which my people are busily engaged; the bark is as tough as
leather, and forms an admirable material for the manufacture of
sacks. This business is carried to a considerable extent by the
Arabs, as there is a large demand for sacks of sufficient size to
contain two hundred and fifty or three hundred pounds of gum
arabic (half a camel load). Thus one sack slung upon each side
can be packed easily to the animal.

"August 19.--A dead elephant floated down the river to-day: this
is the second that has passed within the last few days; they have
been most probably drowned in attempting to cross some powerful
torrent tributary to the Atbara. As usual, upon the fact becoming
known, the entire village rushed out, and, despite the
crocodiles, a crowd of men plunged into the river about a quarter
of a mile below Sofi, and swimming out they intercepted the
swollen carcase, which was quickly covered with people; they were
carried several miles down the river before they could tow the
body to shore, by ropes fastened to the swimmers. Afterwards,
there was a general quarrel over the division of the spoil: the
skin, in sections, and the tusks, were brought home in triumph.

"The country being now bright green, the antelopes are distinctly
visible on the opposite side. Three tetel (Antelopus Bubalis)
graze regularly together in the same place daily. This antelope
is a variety of the hartebeest of South Africa; it is a
reddish-chestnut colour, and is about the size of an Alderney

"One of the mimosas (Acacia Arabica) produces a fruit in
appearance resembling a tamarind: this is a powerful astringent
and a valuable medicine in cases of fever and diarrhoea; it is
generally used by the Arabs for preparing hides; when dry and
broken it is rich in a hard gum, which appears to be almost pure

"August 20.--Close, hot, and damp weather; violent rain about
sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. When the hot season sets
in, the country will almost boil. This morning I counted 154
giraffes in one herd on the other side of the river; there were
many more, but they passed each other so rapidly that I could not
reckon the entire troop.

"August 21.--I counted 103 giraffes. There is literally no game
upon this side (west) of the Atbara, as the country for twelve
hours' journey from Sofi is thronged with Arabs during the dry

"All my people are more or less ill; I am not very well myself;
but I have staved off an attack of fever by preventive measures.

"August 25.--Such a magnificent sunset I have never seen! From
all quarters were gathering storms of the blackest description,
each cloud emitting lightning without intermission, and as the
sun touched the horizon upon the only clear point, it illumined
like a fire the pitch-black clouds, producing the most
extraordinary effect of vivid colouring, combined with lightning,
and a rainbow.

"Rain in torrents throughout the night. It is now impossible to
walk on the flat table land, as the soil is so saturated that it
clings to the feet like birdlime, in masses that will pull the
shoes off unless they fit tight. All this immense tract of rich
land would grow any amount of cotton, or wheat, as in this
country the rain falls with great regularity--this might be sent
to Berber by boats during the season of flood.

"August 27.--My antelope skins are just completed and are
thoroughly tanned. Each skin required a double handful of the
'garra,' or fruit of the Acacia Arabica. The process is simple:
the skin being thoroughly wetted, the garra is pounded into a
paste; this is rubbed into the hide with a rough piece of
sandstone, until it becomes perfectly clean, and free from
impurities; it is then wrapped up with a quantity of the paste,
and is deposited in a trough and kept in the shade for
twenty-four hours. It should undergo a similar rubbing daily, and
be kept in the trough to soak in the garra for four or five days.
After this process it should be well rubbed with fat, if required
to keep soft and pliable when wetted. If soaked in milk after
tanning, the leather will become waterproof. The large tanned
ox-hides used by the Arabs as coverlets are perfectly waterproof,
and are simply prepared with milk. These are made in Abyssinia,
and can be purchased at from ten piastres to a dollar each. The
Arabs thoroughly appreciate the value of leather, as they are
entirely dependent upon such material for coverlets, watersacks,
travelling bags, &c. &c. The sac de voyage is a simple skin of
either goat or sheep drawn off the animal as a stocking is drawn
from the leg; this is very neatly ornamented, and arranged with
loops which close the mouth, secured by a padlock. Very large
sacks, capable of containing three hundred pounds of corn, are
made in the same manner by drawing off entire the skins of the
larger antelopes--that of the tetel is considered the most
valuable for this purpose. The hide of the wild ass is the finest
of all leather, and is so close in the grain that before tanning,
when dry and hardened in the sun, it resembles horn in
transparency. I have made excellent mocassins with this skin,
which are admirable if kept wetted.

"August 28.--Sofi being upon the frontier, the laws are merely
nominal; accordingly there is an interesting mixture in the
society. Should any man commit a crime in Abyssinia, he takes
refuge over the border; thus criminals of the blackest character
are at large. One fellow who has paid us daily visits killed his
brother with a knife a few months since. I have excluded this
gentleman from the select circle of our acquaintance.

"The Arab women are very clever in basket-work and matting--they
carry their milk in baskets that are so closely fitted as to be
completely water-tight; these are made of the leaves of the dome
palm, shred into fine strips. In addition to the coarse matting
required for their tents, they manufacture very fine sleeping
mats, curiously arranged in various coloured patterns; these are
to cover the angareps, or native bedsteads, which are simple
frameworks upon legs, covered with a network of raw hide worked
in a soft state, after which it hardens to the tightness of a
drum when thoroughly dry. No bed is more comfortable for a warm
climate than a native angarep with a simple mat covering; it is
beautifully elastic, and is always cool, as free ventilation is
permitted from below. I have employed the Arab women to make me
a hunting-cap of the basket-work of dome palm, to my old pattern.

"August 28.--I have been busily employed in putting new soles to
my shoes, having cut up the leather cover of a gun-case for
material. No person can walk barefooted in this country, as the
grass is armed with thorns. A peculiar species, that resembles a
vetch, bears a circular pod as large as a horse-bean; the
exterior of the pod is armed with long and sharp spikes like the
head of an ancient mace; these pods when ripe are exceedingly
hard, and falling to the ground in great numbers, the spikes will
pierce the sole of any shoe unless of a stout substance.

"August 29.--Florian is very ill with fever. The mosquitoes are
so troublesome that the Arabs cannot sleep in their huts, but are
forced to arrange platforms about six feet high, upon which the
whole family rest until they are awakened by a sudden
thunderstorm, and are compelled to rush into their huts;--this
has been the case nightly for some time past.

"I find that the whole village has been trying on my new
hunting-cap, that an Arab woman has just completed; this was
brought to me to-day, thick with butter and dirt from their
greasy pates. This is a trifle: yesterday Florian was ill and
required some tea; his servant tried the degree of heat by
plunging his dirty black finger to the bottom.

"Shortly after our wild Arab lad, Bacheet, was engaged, we
drilled him as table servant. The flies were very troublesome,
and continually committed suicide by drowning themselves in the
tea. One morning during breakfast there were many cases of felo
de se, or 'temporary insanity,' and my wife's tea-cup was full of
victims; Bacheet, wishing to be attentive, picked out the bodies
with his finger and thumb!--'Now, my good fellow, Bacheet,' I
exclaimed, 'you really must not put your dirty fingers in the
tea: you should take them out with the tea-spoon. Look here,' and
I performed the operation, and safely landed several flies that
were still kicking. 'But mind, Bacheet,' I continued, 'that you
wipe the tea-spoon first, to be sure that it is clean!' On the
following morning at breakfast we covered up the cups with
saucers to prevent accidents; but to our astonishment Bacheet,
who was in waiting, suddenly took a tea-spoon from the table,
wiped it carefully with a corner of the table-cloth, and stooping
down beneath the bed, most carefully saved from drowning, with
the tea-spoon, several flies that were in the last extremity
within a vessel by no means adapted for a spoon. Perfectly
satisfied with the result, he carefully rewiped the tea-spoon
upon the table-cloth, and replaced it in its proper position. 'Oh
Bacheet! Bacheet! you ignoramus, you extraordinary and impossible
animal!' However, there was no help for it--the boy thought he
was doing the right thing exactly.

"September 1.--The animals are worried almost to death by the
countless flies, especially by that species that drives the
camels from the country. This peculiar fly is about the size of
a wasp, with an orange-coloured body, with black and white rings;
the proboscis is terrific; it is double, and appears to be
disproportioned, being two-thirds the length of the entire
insect. When this fly attacks an animal, or man, it pierces the
skin instantaneously, like the prick of a red-hot needle driven
deep into the flesh, at the same time the insect exerts every
muscle of its body by buzzing with its wings as it buries the
instrument to its greatest depth. The blood starts from the wound
immediately, and continues to flow for a considerable time; this
is an attraction to other flies in great numbers, many of which
would lay their eggs upon the wound.

"I much prefer the intense heat of summer to the damp of the
rainy season, which breeds all kinds of vermin. During the hot
season the nights are cool and delightful, there is not one drop
of dew, and we live entirely in the open air beneath the shade of
a tree in the day, and under a roof of glittering stars at night.
The guns never rust, although lying upon the ground, and we are
as independent as the antelopes of the desert, any bush affording
a home within its limit of shadow. During the rainy season
hunting and travelling would be equally impossible; the rifles
would constantly miss fire. The mud is in most places knee-deep,
and a malignant fever would shortly settle the hunter. The rains
cease early in September, after which we are to expect a complete
vapour-bath until the end of October, by which time the fiery sun
will have evaporated the moisture from the sodden earth; that
interval will be the most unhealthy season.

"As this fertile country can depend upon three months' periodical
rain, from the middle of June until September there is no reason
for unproductiveness; it would produce a large revenue if in
industrious hands.

"September 2.--For many days past we have seen large herds of
giraffes and many antelopes on the opposite side of the river,
about two miles distant, on the borders of the Atbara, into which
valley the giraffes apparently dared not descend but remained on
the table land, although the antelopes appearmed to prefer the
harder soil of the valley slopes. This day a herd of twenty-eight
giraffes tantalized me by descending a short distance below the
level flats, and I was tempted at all hazards across the river.
Accordingly preparations were immediately made for a start. The
sheik of the village and several of the Arabs were hippopotami
hunters by profession; these fellows could swim like otters, and,
despite the crocodiles, they seemed as much at home in the water
as on land. We prepared an impromptu raft. My angarep (bedstead)
was quickly inverted; six water-skins were inflated, and lashed,
three on either side. A shallow packing-case, lined with tin,
containing my gun, was fastened in the centre of the angarep, and
two tow-lines were attached to the front part of the raft, by
which swimmers were to draw it across the river. Two men were to
hang on behind, and, if possible, keep it straight in the rapid

"The Arabs were full of mettle, as their minds were fixed upon
giraffe venison. A number of people, including my wife, climbed
upon the mosquito platforms, to obtain a good view of the
projected hunt, and we quickly carried our raft to the edge of
the river. There was not much delay in the launch. I stepped
carefully into my coffin-shaped case, and squatted down, with a
rifle on either side, and my ammunition at the bottom of the
tin-lined water-proof case; thus, in case of an upset, I was
ready for a swim. Off we went! The current, running at nearly
five miles an hour, carried us away at a great pace, and the
whirlpools caused us much trouble, as we several times waltzed
round when we should have preferred a straight course, but the
towing swimmers being well mounted upon logs of light
ambatch-wood, swam across in fine style, and after some
difficulty we arrived at the opposite bank, and scrambled through
thick bushes, upon our hands and knees, to the summit.

"For about two miles' breadth on this side of the river the
valley is rough broken ground, full of gullies and ravines sixty
or seventy feet deep, beds of torrents, bare sandstone rocks,
bushy crags, fine grassy knolls, and long strips of mimosa
covert, forming a most perfect locality for shooting.

"I had observed by the telescope that the giraffes were standing
as usual upon an elevated position, from whence they could keep
a good look-out. I knew it would be useless to ascend the slope
direct, as their long necks give these animals an advantage
similar to that of the man at the mast-head; therefore, although
we had the wind in our favour, we should have been observed. I
therefore determined to make a great circuit of about five miles,
and thus to approach them from above, with the advantage of the
broken ground for stalking. It was the perfection of uneven
country: by clambering broken cliff, wading shoulder-deep through
muddy gullies, sliding down the steep ravines, and winding
through narrow bottoms of high grass and mimosas for about two
hours, during which we disturbed many superb nellut (Ant.
strepsiceros) and tetel (Ant. Bubalis), we at length arrived at
the point of the high table land upon the verge of which I had
first noticed the giraffes with the telescope. Almost immediately
I distinguished the tall neck of one of these splendid animals
about half a mile distant upon my left, a little below the table
land; it was feeding on the bushes, and I quickly discovered
several others near the leader of the herd. I was not far enough
advanced in the circuit that I had intended to bring me exactly
above them, therefore I turned sharp to my right, intending to
make a short half circle, and to arrive on the leeward side of
the herd, as I was now to windward: this I fortunately completed,
but I had marked a thick bush as my point of cover, and upon
arrival I found that the herd had fed down wind, and that I was
within two hundred yards of the great bull sentinel that, having
moved from his former position, was now standing directly before
me. I lay down quietly behind the bush with my two followers, and
anxiously watched the great leader, momentarily expecting that it
would get my wind. It was shortly joined by two others, and I
perceived the heads of several giraffes lower down the incline,
that were now feeding on their way to the higher ground. The
seroot fly was teasing them, and I remarked that several birds
were fluttering about their heads, sometimes perching upon their
noses and catching the fly that attacked their nostrils, while
the giraffes appeared relieved by their attentions: these were a
peculiar species of bird that attacks the domestic animals, and
not only relieves them of vermin, but eats into the flesh, and
establishes dangerous sores. A puff of wind now gently fanned the
back of my neck; it was cool and delightful, but no sooner did I
feel the refreshing breeze than I knew it would convey our scent
direct to the giraffes. A few seconds afterwards, the three grand
obelisks threw their heads still higher in the air, and fixing
their great black eyes upon the spot from which the danger came,
they remained as motionless as though carved from stone. From
their great height they could see over the bush behind which we
were lying at some paces distant, and although I do not think
they could distinguish us to be men, they could see enough to
convince them of hidden enemies.

"The attitude of fixed attention and surprise of the three
giraffes was sufficient warning for the rest of the herd, who
immediately filed up from the lower ground, and joined their
comrades. All now halted, and gazed steadfastly in our direction,
forming a superb tableau; their beautiful mottled skins glancing
like the summer coat of a thoroughbred horse, the orange-coloured
statues standing out in high relief from a background of
dark-green mimosas.

"This beautiful picture soon changed; I knew that my chance of a
close shot was hopeless, as they would presently make a rush, and
be off; thus I determined to get the first start. I had
previously studied the ground, and I concluded that they would
push forward at right angles with my position, as they had thus
ascended the hill, and that, on reaching the higher ground, they
would turn to the right, in order to reach an immense tract of
high grass, as level as a billiard-table, from which no danger
could approach them unobserved.

"I accordingly with a gentle movement of my hand directed my
people to follow me, and I made a sudden rush forward at full
speed. Off went the herd; shambling along at a tremendous pace,
whisking their long tails above their hind quarters, and taking
exactly the direction I had anticipated, they offered me a
shoulder shot at a little within two hundred yards' distance.
Unfortunately, I fell into a deep hole concealed by the high
grass, and by the time that I resumed the hunt they had increased
their distance, but I observed the leader turned sharp to the
right, through some low mimosa bush, to make direct for the open
table land. I made a short cut oblquely at my best speed, and
only halted when I saw that I should lose ground by altering my
position. Stopping short, I was exactiy opposite the herd as they
filed by me at right angles in full speed, within about a hundred
and eighty yards. I had my old Ceylon No. 10 double rifle, and I
took a steady shot at a large dark-coloured bull: the
satisfactory sound of the ball upon his hide was followed almost
immediately by his blundering forward for about twenty yards, and
falling heavily in the low bush. I heard the crack of the ball of
my left-hand barrel upon another fine beast, but no effects
followed. Bacheet quickly gave me the single 2-ounce Manton
rifle, and I singled out a fine dark-coloured bull, who fell on
his knees to the shot, but recovering, hobbled off disabled,
apart from the herd, with a foreleg broken just below the
shoulder. Reloading immediately, I ran up to the spot, where I
found my first giraffe lying dead, with the ball clean through
both shoulders: the second was standing about one hundred paces
distant; upon my approach he attempted to move, but immediately
fell, and was despatched by my eager Arabs. I followed the herd
for about a mile to no purpose, through deep clammy ground and
high grass, and I returned to our game.

"These were my first giraffes, and I admired them as they lay
before me with a hunter's pride and satisfaction, but mingled
with a feeling of pity for such beautiful and utterly helpless
creatures. The giraffe, although from sixteen to twenty feet in
height, is perfectly defenceless, and can only trust to the
swiftness of its pace, and the extraordinary power of vision, for
its means of protection. The eye of this animal is the most
beautiful exaggeration of that of the gazelle, while the colour
of the reddish-orange hide, mottled with darker spots, changes
the tints of the skin with the differing rays of light, according
to the muscular movenment of the body. No one who has merely seen
the giraffe in a cold climate can form the least idea of its
beauty in its native land. By the time that we had skinned one of
the aninmals, it was nearly six o'clock, and it was necessary to
hurry forward to reach the river before night; we therefore
arranged some thorny boughs over the bodies, to which we intended
to return on the following morning.

"When about half-way to the river, as we were passing through
grass about four feet high, three tetel bounded from a ravine,
and, passing directly before us, gave me a splendid shot at about
sixty yards. The Ceylon No. 10 struck the foremost through the
shoulder, and it fell dead after running a few yards. This was
also my first tetel (Antelopus Bubalis); it was in splendid
condition, the red coat was like satin, and the animal would
weigh about five hundred pounds live weight.

"I had made very successful shots, having bagged three out of
four large game; this perfectly delighted the Arabs, and was very
satisfactory to myself, as I was quite aware that my men would be
only too willing to accompany me upon future excursions.

"It was quite dark before we reached the river; we had been much
delayed by repeated falls into deep holes, and over hidden
stones; thus I was well satisfied to find myself once more at
home after having crossed the river, in pitchy darkness, in a
similar manner as before. Every person in the village had had a
good view of the stalk; therefore, as two giraffes had been seen
to fall, the Arabs were waiting on the bank in expectation of

"September 3.--This morning I crossed the river with about twenty
men, some swimming with inflated skins, and others supported by
logs of ambatch. A number of swimmers were holding on to a pole
to which four inflated girbas were attached; this is an excellent
plan for assisting soldiers to cross a river, as they can land
together in parties, instead of singly, with their guns dry,
should the opposite bank be occupied by an enemy. I sat in my
gun-case, with the two rifles that I used yesterday, in addition
to the little Fletcher; heaps of clothes and sandals belonging to
the swimmers formed my cargo; while, in case of accident, I had
taken off my belt and shoes, and tied my ammunition within an
inflated skin. Neptune in his car drawn by dolphins was not more
completely at home than I in my gun-case, towed by my fish-like
hippopotami hunters. After pirouetting in several strong
whirlpools, during which time a crowd of women on the Sofi side
of the river were screaming to Allah and the Prophet to protect
us from crocodiles, we at length arrived.

"We took a direct course towards the animals I had shot on the
previous evening, meeting with no game except a large troop of
dog-faced baboons (Cynocephali), until we reached the body of the
tetel (Antelopus Bubalis), which lay undisturbed; leaving people
to flay it carefully, so that the skin should serve as a water or
corn sack, we continued our path towards the dead giraffes.

"I had not proceeded far, before I saw, at about a mile distant,
a motionless figure, as though carved from red granite; this I
felt sure was a giraffe acting as sentry for another party that
was not yet in view; I therefore sent my men on towards the dead
giraffes, while, accompanied by Florian's black servant Richarn,*
who was a good sportsman, and a couple of additional men, I
endeavoured to stalk the giraffe. It was impossible to obtain a
favourable wind, without exposing ourselves upon flat ground,
where we should have been immediately perceived; I therefore
arranged that my men should make a long circuit and drive the
giraffe, while I would endeavour to intercept it. This plan
failed; but shortly after the attempt, I observed a herd of about
a hundred of these splendid creatures, browsing on the mimosas
about half a mile distant. For upwards of three hours I employed
every artifice to obtain a shot, but to no purpose, as upon my
approach to within a quarter of a mile, they invariably chose
open ground, leaving a sentry posted behind the herd, while two
or three kept a look-out well in advance. No animal is so
difficult to approach as the giraffe; however, by great patience
and caution, I succeeded in reaching a long and deep ravine, by
which I hoped to arrive within a close shot, as many of the herd
were standing upon the level table-ground, from which this
natural trench suddenly descended. I believe I should have
arrived within fifty yards of the herd by this admirable
approach, had it not been for the unlucky chance that brought me
vis-a-vis with two tetel, that by galloping off attracted the
attention of the giraffes. To add to my misfortune, after a long
and tedious crawl on hands and knees up the narrow amid steep
extremity of the gully, just as I raised my head above the edge
of the table land, expecting to see the giraffes within fifty
paces, I found three gazelles feeding within ten yards of me,
while three magnificent giraffes were standing about a hundred
and fifty yards distant.

* This faithful black, a native of the White Nile regions,
subsequently became my servant, and, for four years
accompanied us honestly and courageously through all
our difficulties to the Albert N'yanza.

"Off bounded the gazelles the instant that we were perceived;
they of course gave the alarm immediately, and away went the
giraffes; but I took a quick shot at the great leader as he
turned to the right, and he staggered a few paces and fell
headlong into the bush. Hurrah for the Ceylon No. 10!--however,
neither the second barrel, nor a shot with the Manton 2-ounce,
produced any effect. It was a glorious sight to see the herd of
upwards of a hundred of these superb animals close up at the
alarm of the shots, and pelt away in a dense body through the
dark green mimosa bush that hardly reached to their shoulders;
but pursuit was useless. My giraffe was not quite dead, and, the
throat having been cut by the Arabs and Richarn, we attempted to
flay our game; this was simply impossible. The seroot fly was in
swarms about the carcase, thousands were buzzing about our ears
and biting like bull-dogs: the blood was streaming from our
necks, and, as I wore no sleeves, my naked arms suffered
terribly. I never saw such an extraordinary sight; although we
had killed our giraffe, we could not take possession; it was no
wonder that camels and all domestic animals were killed by this
horrible plague, the only wonder was the possibility of wild
animals resisting the attack. The long tails of the giraffes are
admirable fly-whippers, but they would be of little service
against such a determined and blood-thirsty enemy as the seroot.
They were now like a swarm of bees, and we immediately made war
upon the scourge, by lighting several fires within a few feet to
windward of the giraffe; when the sticks blazed briskly, we piled
green grass upon the tops, and quickly produced a smoke that
vanquished the enemy.

"It was now about 3 P.M. and intensely hot; I had been in
constant exercise since 6 A.M., therefore I determined upon
luncheon under the shade of a welcome mimosa upon which I had
already hung my water-skin to cool. We cut sonne long thin strips
of flesh from the giraffe, and lighted a fire of dry babanoose
wood expressly for cooking. This species of wood is exceedingly
inflammable, and burns like a torch; it is intensely hard, and in
colour and grain it is similar to lignum vitae. The festoons of
giraffe flesh were hung upon forked sticks, driven into the
ground to leeward of the fire, while others were simply thrown
upon the embers by my men, who, while the food was roasting,
employed themselves in skinning the animal, and in eating the
flesh raw. The meat was quickly roasted, and was the best I have
ever tasted, fully corroborating the praises I had frequently
heard of giraffe meat from the Arab hunters. It would be natural
to suppose that the long legs of this animal would furnish the
perfection of marrow bones, but these are a disappointment, as
the bones of the giraffe are solid, like those of the elephant
and hippopotamus; the long tendons of the legs are exceedingly
prized by the Arabs in lieu of thread for sewing leather, also
for guitar strings.

"After luncheon, I took my little Fletcher rifle, and strolled
down to the spot from whence I had fired the shot, as I wished to
measure the distance, but no sooner had I arrived at the place
than I observed at about a quarter of a mile below me, in the
valley, a fine tetel; it was standing on the summit of one of the
numerous knolls, evidently driven fronm the high grass by the
flies. I stalked it very carefully until I arrived within about
a hundred yards, and just as I reached the stem of a tree that I
had resolved upon as my covering-point, the tetel got my wind,
and immediately bounded off, receiving the bullet in the right
hip at the same moment. After a few bounds it fell, and I ran
forward to secure it, but it suddenly sprang to its feet, and
went off at a surprising rate upon three legs. I believed I
missed it, as I fired a quick shot just as it disappeared in the
thick bushes. Whistling for my people, I was now joined by
Bacheet and Richarn, my other men remaining with the giraffe. For
about four miles we followed on the track through the broken
valley of the Atbara, during which we several times disturbed the
tetel, but could not obtain a good shot, on account of the high
grass and thick bushes. Several times I tried a snap shot, as for
a moment I caught sight of its red hide galloping through the
bush, but as it ran down wind I had no chance of getting close to
my game. At length, after following rapidly down a grassy ravine,
I presently heard it pelting through the bushes; the ravine made
a bend to the right, therefore, by taking a short cut, I arrived
just in time to catch sight of the tetel as it passed over an
open space below me; this time the little Fletcher bagged him. On
examination I found that I had struck it four times. I had fired
five shots, but as three of those had been fired almost at
random, when the animal was in full speed through the bushes, one
had missed, and the others were badly placed.

"Fortunately this long hunt had been in the direction of Sofi, to
which we were near; still more fortunately, after we had marked
the spot, we shortly met my first party of Arabs returning
towards the village, heavily laden with giraffe's flesh, and the
hide of one that I had killed yesterday. It appeared that during
the night, lions and hyaenas had completely devoured one of the
giraffes, not even leaving a vestige of skin or bone, but the
immediate neighbourhood of the spot where it lay had been
trampled into mud by the savage crowd who had left their
footprints as witnesses to the robbery; the hide and bones had
evidently been dragged away piecemeal.

"On arrival at the river we were all busy in preparing for the
passage with so large a quantity of meat. The water-skins for the
raft were quickly inflated, and I learnt from the Arabs an
excellent contrivance for carrying a quantity of flesh across a
river, without its becoming sodden. The skin of the tetel was
nearly as capacious as that of an Alderney cow; this had been
drawn off in the usual manner, so as to form a sack. The Arabs
immediately proceeded to tie up the neck like the mouth of a bag,
and to secure the apertures at the knees in like manner; when
this operation was concluded, the skin became an immense sack,
the mouth being at the aperture left at the hind-quarters. The
No. 10 bullet had gone completely through the shoulders of the
tetel, thus the two holes in the hide required stopping; this was
dexterously performed by inserting a stone into either hole, of
a size so much larger than the aperture, that it was impossible
to squeeze them through. These stones were inserted from the
inside of the sack; they were then grasped by the hand from the
outside, and pulled forward, while a tight ligature was made
behind each stone, which effectually stopped the holes. The skin
of the tetel was thus converted into a waterproof bag, into which
was packed a quantity of flesh sufficient to fill two-thirds of
its capacity; the edges of the mouth were then carefully drawn
together, and secured by tying. Thus carefully packed, one of the
foreleg ligatures was untied, and the whole skin was inflated by
blowing through the tube formed by the skin of the limb; the
inflation completed, this was suddenly twisted round and tied.
The skin thus filled looked like an exaggerated water-skin; the
power of flotation was so great, that about a dozen men hung on
to the legs of the tetel, and to each other's shoulders, when we
launched it in the river. This plan is well worthy of the
attention of military men; troops, when on service, are seldom
without bullocks; in the absence of boats or rafts, not only can
the men be thus safely conveyed across the river, but the
ammunition can be packed within the skins, wrapped up in straw,
and will be kept perfectly dry.

"The Arabs were much afraid of crocodiles this night, as it was
perfectly dark when we had completed our preparations, and they
feared that the snmell of so large a quantity of raw flesh, more
especially the hide of the giraffe, which must be towed, would
attract these beasts to the party; accordingly I fired several
shots to alarm them, and the men plunged into the river, amidst
the usual yelling of the women on the opposite side. Fires had
been lighted to direct us, and all passed safely across.

"The sport upon the Abyssinian side of the river had been most
satisfactory, and I resolved upon the first opportunity to change
my quarters, and to form an encampment upon that bank of the
Atbara until the proper season should arrive for travelling. I
had killed three giraffes and two tetel in only two excursions.
Florian, who was ill, had not been able to accompany me; although
he had been shooting in this neighbourhood for two years he had
never killed a giraffe. This want of success was owing to the
inferiority of his weapons, that were not adapted to correct
shooting at a range exceeding a hundred yards.

"On the following morning about fifty Arabs crossed the river
with the intention of bringing the flesh of the giraffe, but they
returned crestfallen in the evening, as again the lions and
hyaenas had been before them, and nothing was left. I therefore
resolved not to shoot again until I should be settled in my new
camp on the other side of the river, as it was a wasteful
expenditure of these beautiful animals unless the flesh could be

"The rainy season was drawing to a close, and I longed to quit
the dulness of Sofi.

"September 12.--The river has fallen nearly eighteen feet, as the
amount of rain has much decreased during the last week. Immense
crocodiles are now to be seen daily, basking upon the muddy
banks. One monster in particular, who is well known to the Arabs
as having devoured a woman a few months ago, invariably sleeps
upon a small island up the river.

"This evening I counted seven elephants on the east side of the
river on the table lands.

"To-day the Arabs kept one of their holy feasts; accordingly, a
sheep was slaughtered as a sacrifice, with an accompaniment of
music and singing, i.e. howling to several guitars.

"The Arab system of an offering is peculiar. Should a friend be
dangerously ill, or rain be demanded, or should any calamity
befall them, they slaughter an ox if they possess it, or a sheep
or goat in the absence of a larger animal, but the owner of the
beast SELLS the meat in small portions to the assembled party,
and the whole affair of sacrifice resolves itself into a feast;
thus having filled thenmselves with good meat, they feel
satisfied that they have made a religious sacrifice, and they
expect the beneficial results. The guitar music and singing that
attend the occasion are simply abominable. Music, although
beloved like dancing by both the savage and civilized, varies in
character according to the civilization of the race; that which
is agreeable to the uneducated ear is discord to the refined
nerves of the educated. The uutuned ear of the savage can no more
enjoy the tones of civilized music than his palate would relish
the elaborate dishes of a French chef de cuisine. As the stomach
of the Arab prefers the raw meat and reeking liver taken hot from
the animal, so does his ear prefer his equally coarse and
discordant music to all other. The guitar most common is made of
either the shell of a large gourd, or that of a turtle; over this
is stretched an untanned skin, that of a large fish being
preferred; through this two sticks are fixed about two feet three
inches in length; the ends of these are fastened to a cross piece
upon which are secured the strings; these are stretched over a
bridge similar to those of a violin, and are either tightened or
relaxed by rings of waxed rag fastened upon the cross
piece--these rings are turned by the hand, and retain their
position in spite of the strain upon the strings. Nothing
delights an Arab more than to sit idly in his hut and strum this
wretched instrument from morning until night."

I was thoroughly tired of Sofi, and I determined to move my party
across the river to camp on the uninhabited side; the rains had
almost ceased, therefore we should be able to live in the tent at
night, and to form a shady nook beneath some mimosas by day;
accordingly we busily prepared for a move.



ON the 15th September the entire male population of Sofi turned
out to assist us in crossing the river, as I had promised them a
certain sum should the move be effected without the loss or
destruction of baggage. I had arranged a very superior raft to
that I had formerly used, as I now had eight inflated skins
attached to the bedstead, upon which I lashed our large circular
sponging bath, which, being three feet eight inches in diameter,
and of the best description, would be perfectly safe for my wife,
and dry and commodious for the luggage. In a very short time the
whole of our effects were carried to the water's edge, and the
passage of the river commenced. The rifles were the first to
cross with Bacheet, while the water-tight iron box that contained
the gunpowder was towed like a pinnace behind the raft. Four
hippopotami hunters were harnessed as tug steamers, while a
change of swimmers waited to relieve them every alternate voyage.
The raft answered admirably, and would easily support about three
hundred pounds. The power of flotation of the sponging bath alone
I had proved would support a hundred and ninety pounds, thus the
only danger in crossing was the chance of a crocodile making a
dash either at the inflated skins in mistake for the body of a
man, or at the swimmers themselves. All the usual necessaries
were safely transported, with the tents and personal baggage,
before I crossed myself, with a number of Arabs. We quickly
cleared the grass from the hard pebbly soil of a beautiful
plateau on the summit of a craggy sandstone cliff, about eighty
feet above the river; here we pitched the tents, close to some
mimosas of dense foliage, and all being in order, I went down to
the river to receive the next arrival. My wife now came across
the ferry, and so perfectly had this means of transport
succeeded, that by the evening, the whole of our stores and
baggage had been delivered without the slightest damage, with the
exception of a very heavy load of corn, that had caused the
sponging bath to ship a sea during a strong squall of wind. The
only person who had shown the least nervousness in trusting his
precious body to my ferry-boat was Mahomet the dragoman, who,
having been simply accustomed to the grand vessels of the Nile,
was not prepared to risk himself in a voyage across the Atbara in
a sponging bath. He put off the desperate attempt until the last
moment, when every other person of my party had crossed; I
believe he hoped that a wreck would take place before his turn
should arrive, and thus spare him the painful necessity, but when
at length the awful moment arrived, he was assisted carefully
imito the bath by his servant Achmet and a number of Arabs, all
of whom were delighted at his imbecility. Perched nervously in
the centre of the bath, and holding on tight by either side, he
was towed across with his travelling bag of clothes, while Achmet
remained in charge of his best clothes and sundry other personal
effects, that were to form the last cargo across the ferry. It
appeared that Achmet, the dearly beloved and affectionate
relative of Mahomet, who had engaged to serve him for simple love
instead of money, was suddenly tempted by Satan, and seeing that
Mahomet and the entire party were divided from him and the
property in his charge, by a river two hundred yards wide, about
forty feet deep, with a powerful current, he made up his mind to
bolt with the valuables; therefore while Mahomet, in a nervous
state in the ferry-bath, was being towed towards the east, Achmet
turned in another direction and fled towards the west. Mahomet
having been much frightened by the nautical effort he had been
forced to make, was in an exceedingly bad temper upon the arrival
on the opposite bank, and having at length succeeded in climbing
up the steep ascent, in shoes that were about four sizes too
large for him, he arrived on the lofty plateau of our camp, and
doubtless would like ourselves have been charmed with the view of
the noble river rushing between the cliffs of white sandstone,
had he only seen Achmet his fond relative with his effects on the
opposite bank. Mahomet strained his eyes, but the blank was no
optical delusion; neither Achmet nor his effects were there. The
Arabs, who hated the unfortunate Mahomet for his general
overbearing conduct, now comforted him with the suggestion that
Achmet had run away, and that his only chance was to re-cross the
river and give chase. Mahomet would not have ventured upon
another voyage to the other side and back again, for the world,
and as to giving chase in boots (highlows) four sizes too big,
and without strings, that would have been as absurd as to employ
a donkey to catch a horse. Mahomet could do nothing but rush
frantically to the very edge of the cliff, and scream and
gesticulate to a crowd of Arab women who had passed the day
beneath the shady trees by the Faky's grave, watching our passage
of the Atbara. Beating his own head and tearing his hair were
always the safety valves of Mahomet's rage, but as hair is not of
that mushroom growth that reappears in a night, he had patches
upon his cranium as bald as a pumpkin shell, from the constant
plucking, attendant upon losses of temper; he now not only tore
a few extra locks from his head, but he shouted out a tirade of
abuse towards the far-distant Achmet, calling him a "son of a
dog," cursing his father, and paying a few compliments to the
memory of his mother, which if only half were founded upon fact
were sad blots upon the morality of the family to which Mahomet
himself belonged, through his close relationship to Achmet, whom
he had declared to be his mother's brother's cousin's sister's
mother's son.

A heavy shower of rain fell shortly after our camp was completed,
when fortunately the baggage was under cover; this proved to be
the last rain of the season, and from that moment the burning sun
ruled the sodden country, and rapidly dried up not only the soil
but all vegetation. The grass within a few days of the cessation
of the rain assumed a tinge of yellow, and by the end of October
there was not a green spot to relieve the eye from the golden
blaze of the landscape, except the patches of grass and reeds
that sprang from the mud banks of the retiring river. The climate
was exceedingly unhealthy, but we were fortunately exceptions to
the general rule, and although the inhabitants of Sofi were all
sufferers, our camp had no invalids, with the exception of
Mahomet, who had upon one occasion so gorged himself with
half-putrid fish, that he nearly died in consequence. It would be
impossible to commence our explorations in the Base until the
grass should be sufficiently dry to burn; there were two
varieties: that upon the slopes and hollows of the stony soil of
the Atbara valley had been a pest ever since it had ripened; as
the head formed three barbed darts, these detached themselves
from the plant with such facility, that the slightest touch was
sufficient to dislodge them; they immediately pierced the
clothes, from which they could not be withdrawn, as the barbed
heads broke off and remained. It was simply impossible to walk in
this grass as it became ripe, without special protection; I
accordingly tanned some gazelle skins, with which my wife
constructed stocking gaiters, to be drawn over the foot and tied
above and below the knee; thus fortified I could defy the grass,
and indulge in shooting and exploring the neighbourhood until the
season should arrive for firing the country. The high grass upon
the table lands, although yellow, would not be sufficiently
inflammable until the end of November.

The numerous watercourses that drained the table lands during the
rainy season were now dry. No sooner had the grass turned yellow,
than the pest of the country, the seroot fly, disappeared; thus
the presence of this insect may be dated from about 10th July to
10th October. As the fly vanished, the giraffes also left the
neighbourhood. By a few days' exploration, I found that the point
of land from the junction of the Settite river with the Atbara,
formed a narrow peninsula which was no wider than eight miles
across from our encampment: thus the herds of game retreating
from the south before the attacks of the seroot, found themselves
driven into a cut-de-sac upon the strip of land between the broad
and deep rivers the Settite and Atbara, which in the rainy season
they dared not cross. All this country being uninhabited, there
were several varieties of game at all seasons, but the three
rainy months insure a good supply of elephants and giraffes;
these retreat about thirty miles farther south, when permitted by
the cessation of the flies to return to their favourite haunts.

My camp was in a very commanding position, as it was protected in
front by the Atbara, and on the left by a perpendicular ravine
about eighty feet deep, at the bottom of which flowed the rivulet
called by the Arabs the "Till;" this joined the river immediately
below our plateau. On our right was a steep and rugged incline
covered with rocks of the whitest sandstone, through which ran
veins of rich iron ore from four to five feet in width. I found
a considerable quantity of fossil wood in the sandstone, and I
had previously discovered on the Sofi side of the river, the
fossil stem of a tree about twelve feet long; the grain appeared
to be exceedingly close, but I could not determine the class to
which the tree had belonged.

As the Atbara had fallen to the level of the small tributary, the
Till, that stream was nearly exhausted, and the fish that
inhabited its deep and shady waters during the rainy season were
now fast retiring to the parent river. At the mouth of the stream
were a number of rocks, that, as the water of the Atbara
retreated, daily increased in size; these were evidently blocks
that had been detached from the cliffs that walled in the Till.
As we were now entirely dependent upon the rod and the rifle for
the support of our party, I determined to try for a fish, as I
felt quite certain that some big fellows in the main river would
be waiting to receive the small fry that were hurrying away from
the exhausted waters of the Till.

I had a good supply of tackle, and I chose a beautifully straight
and tapering bamboo that had been brought down by the river
floods. I cut off the large brass ring from a game-bag, which I
lashed to the end of my rod; and having well secured my largest
winch, that carried upwards of 200 yards of the strongest line,
I arranged to fish with a live bait upon a set of treble hooks.
In one of the rocks at the water's edge was a circular hole about
three feet in diameter and five or six feet deep; this appeared
like an artificial well, but it was simply the effect of natural
boring by the joint exertions of the strong current conmbined
with hard sand and gravel. This had perhaps years ago settled in
some slight hollow in the rock, and had gradually worked out a
deep well by perpetual revolutions. I emptied this natural bait
box of its contents of sand and rounded pebbles, and having
thoroughly cleaned and supplied it with fresh water, I caught a
large number of excellent baits by emptying a hole in the Till;
these I consigned to my aquarium. The baits were of various
kinds: some were small "boulti" (a species of perch), but the
greater number were young fish of the Silurus species; these were
excellent, as they were exceedingly tough in the skin, and so
hardy in constitution, that they rather enjoyed the fun of
fishing. I chose a little fellow about four inches in length to
begin with, and I delicately inserted the hook under the back
fin. Gently dropping my alluring and lively little friend in a
deep channel between the rocks and the mouth of the Till, I
watched my large float with great interest, as, carried by the
stream, it swept past the corner of a large rock into the open
river; that corner was the very place where, if I had been a big
fish, I should have concealed myself for a sudden rush upon an
unwary youngster. The large green float sailed leisurely along,
simply indicating, by its uneasy movement, that the bait was
playing; and now it passed the point of the rock and hurried
round the corner in the sharper current towards the open river.
Off it went!--Down dipped the tip of the rod, with a rush so
sudden that the line caught somewhere, I don't know where, and

"Well, that was a monster!" I exclaimed, as I recovered my
inglorious line; fortunately the float was not lost, as the hooks
had been carried away at the fastening to the main line; a few
yards of this I cut off, as it had partially lost its strength
from frequent immersion.

I replaced the lost hooks by a still larger set, with the
stoutest gimp and swivels, and once more I tried my fortune with
a bait exactly resembling the first. In a short time I had a
brisk run, and quickly landed a fish of about twelve pounds: this
was a species known by the Arabs as the "bayard;" it has a
blackish green back, the brightest silver sides and belly, with
very peculiar back fins, that nearest to the tail being a simple
piece of flesh free from rays. This fish has four long barbules
in the upper jaw, and two in the lower: the air-bladder, when
dried, forms a superior quality of isinglass, and the flesh of
this fish is excellent. I have frequently seen the bayard sixty
or seventy pounds' weight, therefore I was not proud of my catch,
and I recommenced fishing. Nothing large could be tempted, and I
only succeeded in landing two others of the same kind, one of
about nine pounds, the smaller about six. I resolved upon my next
trial to use a much larger bait, and I returned to camp with my
fish for dinner.

The life at our new camp was charmingly independent; we were upon
Abyssinian territory; but, as the country was uninhabited, we
considered it as our own. I had previously arranged with the
sheik of Sofi that, whenever the rifle should be successful and
I could spare meat, I would hoist the English flag upon my
flagstaff; thus I could at any time summon a crowd of hungry
visitors, who were ever ready to swim the river and defy the
crocodiles in the hope of obtaining flesh. We were exceedingly
comfortable, having a large stock of supplies; in addition to our
servants we had acquired a treasure in a nice old slave woman,
whom we had hired from the sheik at a dollar per month to grind
the corn. Masara (Sarah) was a dear old creature, the most
willing and obliging specimen of a good slave; and she was one of
those bright exceptions of the negro race that would have driven
Exeter Hall frantic with enthusiasm. Poor old Masara! she had now
fallen into the hands of a kind mistress, and as we were
improving in Arabic, my wife used to converse with her upon the
past and present; future had never been suggested to her simple
mind. Masara had a weighty care; her daily bread was provided;
money she had none, neither did she require it; husband she could
not have had, as a slave has none, but is the common property of
all who purchase her: but poor Masara had a daughter, a charming
pretty girl of about seventeen, the offspring of one of the old
woman's Arab masters. Sometimes this girl came to see her mother,
and we arranged the bath on the inflated skins, and had her towed
across for a few days. This was Masara's greatest happiness, but
her constant apprehension; the nightmare of her life was the
possibility that her daughter should be sold and parted from her.
The girl was her only and all absorbing thought, the sole object
of her affection: she was the moon in her mother's long night of
slavery; without her, all was dark and hopeless. The hearts of
slaves are crushed and hardened by the constant pressure of the
yoke; nevertheless some have still those holy feelings of
affection that nature has implanted in the human mind: it is the
tearing asunder of those tender chains that renders slavery the
horrible curse that it really is; human beings are reduced to the
position of animals, without the blessings enjoyed by the brute
creation--short memories and obtuse feelings.

Masara, Mahomet, Wat Gamma, and Bacheet, formed the establishment
of Ehetilla, which was the Arab name of our locality. Bacheet was
an inveterate sportsman and was my constant and sole attendant
when shooting; his great desire was to accompany me in
elephant-hunting, when he promised to carry one of my spare
rifles as a trusty gun-bearer, and he vowed that no animal should
ever frighten him.

A few extracts from my journal written at that time will convey
a tolerable idea of the place and our employments.

"September 23.--Started for the Settite river. In about four
hours' good marching N.N.E. through a country of grass and mimosa
bush that forms the high land between that river and the Atbara,
I reached the Settite about a mile from the junction. The river
is about 250 yards wide, and flows through a broken valley of
innumerable hillocks and deep ravines of about five miles in
width, precisely similar in character to that of the Atbara; the
soil having been denuded by the rains, and carried away by the
floods of the river towards the Nile. The heat was intense; there
was no air stirring; a cloudless sky and a sun like a
burning-glass. We saw several nellut (Taurotragus strepsiceros),
but these superb antelopes were too wild to allow a close
approach. The evening drew near, and we had nothing to eat, when
fortunately I espied a fine black-striped gazelle (Gazella
Dorcas), and with the greatest caution I stalked it to within
about a hundred paces, and made a successful shot with the
Fletcher rifle, and secured our dinner. Thus provided, we
selected a steep sugarloaf-shaped hill, upon the peak of which we
intended to pass the night. We therefore cleared away the grass,
spread boughs upon the ground, lighted fires, and prepared for a
bivouac. Having a gridiron, and pepper and salt, I made a grand
dinner of liver and kidneys, while my men ate a great portion of
the gazelle raw, and cooked the remainder in their usual careless
manner by simply laying it upon the fire for a few seconds until
warmed half through. There is nothing like a good gridiron for
rough cooking; a frying-pan is good if you have fat, but without
it, the pan is utterly useless. With a gridiron and a couple of
iron skewers a man is independent:--the liver cut in strips and
grilled with pepper and salt is excellent, but kabobs are
sublime, if simply arranged upon the skewer in alternate pieces
of liver and kidney cut as small as walnuts, and rubbed with
chopped garlic, onions, cayenne, black pepper, and salt. The
skewers thus arranged should be laid either upon the glowing
embers, or across the gridiron.

"Not a man closed his eyes that night--not that the dinner
disagreed with them--but the mosquitoes! Lying on the ground, the
smoke of the fires did not protect us; we were beneath it, as
were the mosquitoes likewise; in fact the fires added to our
misery, as they brought new plagues in thousands of flying bugs;
with beetles of all sizes and kinds: these, becoming stupified in
the smoke, tumbled clumsily upon me, entangling themselves in my
long beard and whiskers, crawling over my body, down my neck, and
up my sleeping-drawers, until I was swarming with them; the bugs
upon being handled squashed like lumps of butter, and emitted a
perfume that was unbearable. The night seemed endless; it was
passed in alternately walking to and fro, flapping right and left
with a towel, covering my head with a pillow-case, and gasping
for air through the button-hole, in an atmosphere insufferably

"At length morning dawned, thank Heaven! I made a cup of strong


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