THE EXPLORATION AND COLONIZATION OF AFRICA, I

Denham describes Mahommed Becker as a man of short stature, about fifty years old, wearing a beard, painted of a most delicate azure blue. The presentations over, the sultan at once turned to Denham, and asked who he was, whence he came, what he wanted, and lastly if he were a Mahommedan. On Boo-Khaloum's hesitating to reply, the sultan turned away his head, with the words, "So the pacha numbers infidels amongst his friends!"

This incident had a very bad effect, and Denham was not again admitted to the presence of the sultan.

Lancer of the army of the Sultan of Begharmi
Lancer of the army of the Sultan of Begharmi.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

The enemies of the Pacha of Bornou and the Sultan of Mandara, were called Fellatahs. Their vast settlements extended far beyond Timbuctoo. They are a handsome set of men, with skins of a dark bronze colour, which shows them to be of a race quite distinct from the negroes. They are professors of Mahommedanism, and mix but little with the blacks. We shall presently have to speak more particularly of the Fellatahs, Foulahs, or Fans, as they are called throughout the Soudan.

South of the town of Mora rises a chain of mountains, of which the loftiest peaks are not more than 2500 feet high, but which, according to the natives, extend for more than "two months' journey."

The most salient point noticed by Denham in his description of the country, is a vast and apparently interminable chain of mountains, shutting in the view on every side; this, though in his opinion, inferior to the Alps, Apennines, Jura, and Sierra Morena in rugged magnificence and gigantic grandeur, are yet equal to them in picturesque effect. The lofty peaks of Valhmy, Savah, Djoggiday, Munday, &c., with clustering villages on their stony sides, rise on the east and west, while Horza, exceeding any of them in height and beauty, rises on the south with its ravines and precipices.

Derkulla, one of the chief Fellatah towns, was reduced to ashes by the invaders, who lost no time in pressing on to Musfeia, a position which, naturally very strong, was further defended by palisades manned by a numerous body of archers. The English traveller had to take part in the assault. The first onslaught of the Arabs appeared to carry all before it; the noise of the fire-arms, with the reputation for bravery and cruelty enjoyed by Boo-Khaloum and his men, threw the Fellatahs into momentary confusion, and if the men of Mandara and Bornou had followed up their advantage and stormed the hill, the town would probably have fallen.

The besieged, however, noticing the hesitation of their assailants, in their turn assumed the defensive, and rallying their archers discharged a shower of poisoned arrows, to which many an Arab fell a victim, and before which the forces of Bornou and Mandara gave way.

Barca, the Bornou general, had three horses killed under him. Boo-Khaloum and his steed were both wounded, and Denham was in a similar plight, with the skin of his face grazed by one arrow and two others lodged in his burnoos.

The retreat soon became a rout. Denham's horse fell under him, and the major had hardly regained his feet when he was surrounded by Fellatahs. Two fled on the presentation of the Englishman's pistols, a third received the charge in his shoulder.

Denham thought he was safe, when his horse fell a second time, flinging his master violently against a tree. This time when the major rose he found himself with neither horse nor weapons; and the next moment he was surrounded by enemies, who stripped him and wounded him in both hands and the right side, leaving him half dead at last to fight over his clothes, which seemed to them of great value.

Availing himself of this lucky quarrel, Denham slipped under a horse standing by, and disappeared in the thicket. Naked, bleeding, wild with pain, he reached the edge of a ravine with a mountain stream flowing through it. His strength was all but gone, and he was clutching at a bough of a tree overhanging the water with a view to dropping himself into it as the banks were very steep, and the branches were actually bending beneath his weight, when from beneath his hand a gigantic liffa, the most venomous kind of serpent in the country, rose from its coil in the very act of striking. Horror-struck, Denham let slip the branch, and tumbled headlong into the water, but fortunately the shock revived him, he struck out almost unconsciously, swam to the opposite bank, and climbing it, found himself safe from his pursuers.

Fortunately the fugitive soon saw a group of horsemen amongst the trees, and in spite of the noise of the pursuit, he managed to shout loud enough to make them hear him. They turned out to be Barca Gana and Boo-Khaloum, with some Arabs. Mounted on a sorry steed, with no other clothing than an old blanket swarming with vermin, Denham travelled thirty-seven miles. The pain of his wounds was greatly aggravated by the heat, the thermometer being at 32°.

The only results of the expedition, which was to have brought in such quantities of booty and numerous slaves, were the deaths of Boo-Khaloum and thirty-six of his Arabs, the wounding of nearly all the rest, and the loss or destruction of all the horses.