CHAPTER I. ABOVE THE CATARACT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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