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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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