BY dead reckoning, Cassala is ninety-three miles S.S.E. of Gozerajup, or about 340 miles from Berber. We had ridden about 710 miles from Korosko, 630 miles of which had been through scorching deserts during the hottest season. We were, therefore, thankful to exchange the intense heat of the tent for a solid roof, and to rest for a short time in the picturesque country of Taka.

The direct route to Cassala, the capital of Taka, should be from Suez to Souakim, on the Red Sea, and from thence in sixteen days, by camel. Thus, were there a line from Suez to Souakim by steamers, similar to that already established to Jedda, Cassala would be only twenty-two days' journey from Cairo. At present, the arrival of steamers at Souakim is entirely uncertain; therefore the trade of the country is paralysed by the apathy of the Egyptian Government. The Abdul Azziz Company run their steamers regularly from Suez to Jedda; and, although they advertise Souakim as a port of call, there is no dependence to be placed upon the announcement; therefore, all merchants are afraid not only of delay, but of high warehouse charges at Souakim. The latter port is only four days' steaming from Suez, and, being the most central depot for all merchandise both to and from Upper Egypt, it would become a point of great importance were regular means of transport established.

Cotton of excellent quality may be grown to an unlimited amount in the provinces of Upper Egypt, and could be delivered at Souakim at a trifling cost of transport. A large quantity of gum arabic is collected throughout this country, which sells in Cassala at 20 piastres (4s. 2d.) the cantar of 100 lbs. There are three varieties, produced from various mimosas; the finest quality is gathered in the province of Kordofan, but I subsequently met with large quantities of this species in the Base country. Senna grows wild in the deserts, but the low price hardly pays for the cost of collection. There are several varieties; that with extremely narrow and sharp-pointed leaves is preferred. It grows in sandy situations where few plants would exist. The bush seldom exceeds three feet in height, and is generally below that standard; but it is exceedingly thick, and rich in a pale green foliage, which is a strong temptation to the hungry camel. Curiously, this purgative plant is the animal's bonne bouche, and is considered most nourishing as fodder.

The exports of the Soudan are limited to gum arabic, ivory, hides, senna, and bees'-wax; the latter is the produce of Abyssinia. These articles are generally collected by travelling native traders, who sell to the larger merchants resident in Cassala and Khartoum, the two principal towns of the Soudan. The bazaar in Cassala was poor, as the principal articles were those of low price, adapted to the wants of the Arabs, who flock to the capital as a small London, to make their purchases of cloths, perfumery for the women, copper cooking pots, &c.

The fortifications of the town, although useless against cannon, are considered by the Arabs as impregnable. The walls are of solid mud and sun-baked bricks, carefully loopholed for musketry, while a deep fosse, by which it is surrounded, is a safeguard against a sudden surprise.

These engineering precautions were rendered necessary by the ferocity of the Arabs, who fought the Egyptians with great determination for some years before they were finally subdued. Although the weapons of all the Arab tribes are the simple sword and lance, they defended their country against the regular troops of Egypt until they were completely defeated by a scarcity of water, against which there could be no resistance. The Egyptians turned the course of the river Gash, and entirely shut off the supply from one portion of the country, while they inundated another. This was effected by an immense dam, formed of the stems of the dome palms, as a double row of piles, while the interior was rendered water-tight by a lining of matting filled up with sand.

Cassala was built about twenty years before I visited the country, after Taka had been conquered and annexed to Egypt. The general annexation of the Soudan and the submission of the numerous Arab tribes to the Viceroy have been the first steps necessary to the improvement of the country. Although the Egyptians are hard masters, and do not trouble themselves about the future well-being of the conquered races, it must be remembered that, prior to the annexation, all the tribes were at war among themselves. There was neither government nor law; thus the whole country was closed to Europeans. At present, there is no more danger in travelling in Upper Egypt than in crossing Hyde Park after dark, provided the traveller be just and courteous. At the time of my visit to Cassala in 1861, the Arab tribes were separately governed by their own chiefs or sheiks, who were responsible to the Egyptian authorities for the taxes due from their people: since that period, the entire tribes of all denominations have been placed under the authority of that grand old Arab patriarch Achmet Abou Sinn, to be hereafter mentioned. The Sheik Moosa, of the Hadendowa tribe, was in prison during our stay in that country, for some breach of discipline in his dealings with the Egyptian Government. The iron hand of despotism has produced a marvellous change among the Arabs, who are rendered utterly powerless by the system of government adopted by the Egyptians; unfortunately, this harsh system has the effect of paralysing all industry.

The principal object of Turks and Egyptians in annexation, is to increase their power of taxation by gaining an additional number of subjects. Thus, although many advantages have accrued to the Arab provinces of Nubia through Egyptian rule, there exists an amount of mistrust between the governed and the governing. Not only are the camels, cattle, and sheep subjected to a tax, but every attempt at cultivation is thwarted by the authorities, who impose a fine or tax upon the superficia1 area of the cultivated land. Thus, no one will cultivate more than is absolutely necessary, as he dreads the difficulties that the broad acres of waving crops would entail upon his family. The bona fide tax is a bagatelle to the amounts squeezed from him by the extortionate soldiery, who are the agents employed by the sheik; these must have their share of the plunder, in excess of the amount to be delivered to their employer; he, also, must have his plunder before he parts with the bags of dollars to the governor of the province. Thus the unfortunate cultivator is ground down; should he refuse to pay the necessary "baksheesh" or present to the tax-collectors, some false charge is trumped up against him, and he is thrown into prison. As a green field is an attraction to a flight of locusts in their desolating voyage, so is a luxuriant farm in the Soudan a point for the tax-collectors of Upper Egypt. I have frequently ridden several days' journey through a succession of empty villages, deserted by the inhabitants upon the report of the soldiers' approach; the women and children, goats and cattle, camels and asses, have all been removed into the wilderness for refuge, while their crops of corn have been left standing for the plunderers, who would be too idle to reap and thrash the grain.

Notwithstanding the misrule that fetters the steps of improvement, Nature has bestowed such great capabilities of production in the fertile soil of this country, that the yield of a small surface is more than sufficient for the requirements of the population, and actual poverty is unknown. The average price of dhurra is fifteen piastres per "rachel," or about 3s. 2d. for 500 lbs. upon the spot where it is grown. The dhurra (Sorghum andropogon) is the grain most commonly used throughout the Soudan; there are great varieties of this plant, of which the most common are the white and the red. The land is not only favoured by Nature by its fertility, but the intense heat of the summer is the labourer's great assistant. As before described, all vegetation entirely disappears in the glaring Sun, or becomes so dry that it is swept off by fire; thus the soil is perfectly clean and fit for immediate cultivation upon the arrival of the rains. The tool generally used is similar to the Dutch hoe. With this simple implement the surface is scratched to the depth of about two inches, and the seeds of the dhurra are dibbled in about three feet apart, in rows from four to five feet in width. Two seeds are dropped into each hole. A few days after the first shower they rise above the ground, and when about six inches high, the whole population turn out of their villages at break of day to weed the dhurra fields. Sown in July, it is harvested in February and March. Eight months are thus required for the cultivation of this cereal in the intense heat of Nubia. For the first three months the growth is extremely rapid, and the stem attains a height of six or seven feet. When at perfection on the rich soil of the Taka country, the plant averages a height of ten feet, the circumference of the stem being about four inches. The crown is a feather very similar to that of the sugar cane; the blossom falls, and the feather becomes a head of dhurra, weighing about two pounds. Each grain is about the size of hemp-seed. I took the trouble of counting the corns contained in an average-sized head, the result being 4,848. The process of harvesting and thrashing are remarkably simple, as the heads are simply detached from the straw and beaten out in piles. The dried straw is a substitute for sticks in forming the walls of the village huts; these are plastered with clay and cow-dung, which form the Arab's lath and plaster.

The millers' work is exclusively the province of the women. There are no circular hand-mills, as among Oriental nations; but the corn is ground upon a simple flat stone, of either gneiss or granite, about two feet in length by fourteen inches in width. The face of this is roughened by beating with a sharp-pointed piece of harder stone, such as quartz, or hornblende, and the grain is reduced to flour by great labour and repeated grinding or rubbing with a stone rolling-pin. The flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment; it is then made into thin pancakes upon an earthenware flat portable hearth. This species of leavened bread is known to the Arabs as the kisra. It is not very palatable, but it is extremely well suited to Arab cookery, as it can be rolled up like a pancake and dipped in the general dish of meat and gravy very conveniently, in the absence of spoons and forks. No man will condescend to grind the corn, and even the Arab women have such an objection to this labour, that one of the conditions of matrimony enforced upon the husband, if possible, provides the wife with a slave woman to prepare the flour.

Hitherto we had a large stock of biscuits, but as our dragoman Mahomet had, in a curious fit of amiability, dispensed them among the camel-drivers, we were now reduced to the Arab kisras. Although not as palatable as wheaten bread, the flour of dhurra is exceedingly nourishing, containing, according to Professor Johnston's analysis, eleven and a half per cent. of gluten, or one and a half per cent. more than English wheaten flour. Thus men and beasts thrive, especially horses, which acquire an excellent condition.

The neighbourhood of Cassala is well adapted for the presence of a large town and military station, as the fertile soil produces the necessary supplies, while the river Gash affords excellent water. In the rainy season this should be filtered, as it brings down many impurities from the torrents of Abyssinia, but in the heat of summer the river is entirely dry, and clear and wholesome water is procured from wells in the sandy bed. The south and south-east of Cassala is wild and mountainous, affording excellent localities for hill stations during the unhealthy rainy season; but such sanitary arrangements for the preservation of troops are about as much heeded by the Egyptian Government as by our own, and regiments are left in unwholesome climates to take their chance, although the means of safety are at hand.

The Taka country being the extreme frontier of Egypt, constant raids are made by the Egyptians upon their neighbours - the hostile Base, through which country the river Gash or Mareb descends. I was anxious to procure all the information possible concerning the Base, as it would be necessary to traverse the greater portion in exploring the Settite river, which is the principal tributary of the Atbara, and which is in fact the main and parent stream, although bearing a different name. I heard but one opinion of the Base - it was a wild and independent country, inhabited by a ferocious race, whose hand was against every man, and who in return were the enemies of all by whom they were surrounded - Egyptians, Abyssinians, Arabs, and Mek Nimmur; nevertheless, secure in their mountainous stronghold, they defied all adversaries. The Base is a portion of Abyssinia, but the origin of the tribe that occupies this ineradicable hornet's nest is unknown. Whether they are the remnant of the original Ethiopians, who possessed the country prior to the conquests of the Abyssinians, or whether they are descended from the woolly-haired tribes of the south banks of the Blue Nile, is equally a mystery; all we know is that they are of the same type as the inhabitants of Fazogle, of the upper portion of the Blue River; they are exceedingly black, with woolly hair, resembling in that respect the negro, but without the flat nose or prognathous jaw. No quarter is given on either side, should the Base meet the Arabs, with whom war is to the knife. In spite of the overwhelming superiority of their adversaries, the Base cannot be positively subdued; armed with the lance as their only weapon, but depending upon extreme agility and the natural difficulties of their mountain passes, the attack of the Base is always by stealth; their spies are ever prowling about unseen like the leopard, and their onset is invariably a surprise; success or defeat are alike followed by a rapid retreat to their mountains.

As there is nothing to be obtained by the plunder of the Base but women and children as slaves, the country is generally avoided, unless visited for the express purpose of a slave razzia. Cultivation being extremely limited, the greater portion of the country is perfectly wild, and is never visited even by the Base themselves unless for the purpose of hunting. Several beautiful rivers descend from the mountain ranges, which ultimately flow into the Atbara; these, unlike the latter river, are never dry: thus, with a constant supply of water, in a country of forest and herbage, the Base abounds in elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, giraffes, buffaloes, lions, leopards, and great numbers of the antelope tribe.

Cassala, thus situated on the confines of the Taka country, is an important military point in the event of war between Egypt and Abyssinia, as the Base would be invaluable as allies to the Egyptians; their country commands the very heart of Abyssinia, and their knowledge of the roads would be an incalculable advantage to an invading force. On the 14th July I had concluded my arrangements for the start; there had been some difficulty in procuring camels, but the all-powerful firman was a never-failing talisman, and, as the Arabs had declined to let their animals for hire, the Governor despatched a number of soldiers and seized the required number, including their owners. I engaged two wild young Arabs of eighteen and twenty years of age, named Bacheet and Wat Gamma: the latter being interpreted signifies "Son of the Moon." This in no way suggests lunacy, but the young Arab had happened to enter this world on the day of the new moon, which was considered to be a particularly fortunate and brilliant omen at his birth. Whether the climax of his good fortune had arrived at the moment he entered my service I know not, but, if so, there was a cloud over his happiness in his subjection to Mahomet the dragoman, who rejoiced in the opportunity of bullying the two inferiors. Wat Gamma was a quiet, steady, well-conducted lad, who bore oppression mildly; but the younger, Bacheet, was a fiery, wild young Arab, who, although an excellent boy in his peculiar way, was almost incapable of being tamed and domesticated. I at once perceived that Mahomet would have a determined rebel to control, which I confess I did not regret. Wages were not high in this part of the world, - the lads were engaged at one and a half dollar per month and their keep. Mahomet, who was a great man, suffered from the same complaint to which great men are (in those countries) particularly subject: wherever he went, he was attacked with claimants of relationship; he was overwhelmed with professions of friendship from people who claimed to be connexions of some of his family; in fact, if all the ramifications of his race were correctly represented by the claimants of relationship, Mahomet's family tree would have shaded the Nubian desert.

We all have our foibles: the strongest fort has its feeble point, as the chain snaps at its weakest link; - family pride was Mahomet's weak link. This was his tender point; and Mahomet, the great and the imperious, yielded to the gentle scratching of his ear if a stranger claimed connexion with his ancient lineage. Of course he had no family, with the exception of his wife and two children, whom he had left in Cairo. The lady whom he had honoured by an admission to the domestic circle of the Mahomets was suffering from a broken arm when we started from Egypt, as she had cooked the dinner badly, and the "gaddah," or large wooden bowl, had been thrown at her by the naturally indignant husband, precisely as he had thrown the axe at one man and the basin at another, while in our service: these were little contretemps that could hardly disturb the dignity of so great a man. Mahomet met several relations at Cassala: one borrowed money of him; another stole his pipe; the third, who declared that nothing should separate them now that "by the blessing of God" they had met, determined to accompany him through all the difficulties of our expedition, provided that Mahomet would only permit him to serve for love, without wages. I gave Mahomet some little advice upon this point, reminding him that, although the clothes of the party were only worth a few piastres, the spoons and forks were silver, therefore I should hold him responsible for the honesty of his friend. This reflection upon the family gave great offence, and he assured me that Achmet, our quondam acquaintance, was so near a relation that he was - I assisted him in the genealogical distinction: "Mother's brother's cousin's sister's mother's son? Eh, Mahomet?" "Yes, sar, that's it!" "Very well, Mahomet; mind he don't steal the spoons, and thrash him if he doesn't do his work!" "Yes, sar," replied Mahomet; "he all same like one brother, he one good man will do his business quietly; if not, master lick him." The new relation not understanding English, was perfectly satisfied with the success of his introduction, and from that moment he became one of the party. One more addition, and our arrangements were completed: - the Governor of Cassala was determined that we should not start without a representative of the Government, in the shape of a soldier guide; he accordingly gave us a black man, a corporal in one of the Nubian regiments, who was so renowned as a sportsman that he went by the name of "El Baggar" (the cow), on account of his having killed several of the oryx antelope, known as "El Baggar et Wahash" (the cow of the desert).

The rains had fairly commenced, as a heavy thunder-shower generally fell at about 2 P.M. On the 15th, the entire day was passed in transporting our baggage across the river Gash to the point from which we had started upon our arrival at Cassala: this we accomplished with much difficulty, with the assistance of about a hundred men supplied by the Governor, from whom we had received much attention and politeness. We camped for the night upon the margin of the river, and marched on the following morning at daybreak due west towards the Atbara.

The country was a great improvement upon that we had hitherto passed; the trees were larger, and vast plains of young grass, interspersed with green bush, stretched to the horizon. The soil was an exceedingly rich loam, most tenacious when wetted: far as the eye could reach to the north and west of Cassala was the dead level plain, while to the south and east arose a broken chain of mountains.

We had not proceeded many miles, when the numerous tracks of antelopes upon the soil, moistened by the shower of yesterday, proved that we had arrived in a sporting country; shortly after, we saw a herd of about fifty ariels (Gazelle Dama). To stalk these wary antelopes I was obliged to separate from my party, who continued on their direct route. Riding upon my camel, I tried every conceivable dodge without success. I could not approach them nearer than about 300 yards. They did not gallop off at once, but made a rush for a few hundred paces, and then faced about to gaze at the approaching camel. After having exhausted my patience to no purpose, I tried another plan: instead of advancing against the wind as before, I made a great circuit and gave them the wind. No sooner was I in good cover behind a mimosa bush than I dismounted from my camel, and, leading it until within view of the shy herd, I tied it to a tree, keeping behind the animal so as to be well concealed. I succeeded in retreating through the bushes unobserved, leaving the camel as a gazing point to attract their attention. Running at my best speed to the same point from which I had commenced my circuit, and keeping under cover of the scattered bushes, I thus obtained the correct wind, and stalked up from bush to bush behind the herd, who were curiously watching the tied camel, that was quietly gazing on a mimosa. In this way I had succeeded in getting within 150 yards of the beautiful herd, when a sudden fright seized them, and they rushed off in an opposite direction to the camel, so as to pass about 120 yards on my left; as they came by in full speed, I singled out a superb animal, and tried the first barrel of the little Fletcher rifle. I heard the crack of the ball, and almost immediately afterwards the herd passed on, leaving one lagging behind at a slow canter; this was my wounded ariel, who shortly halted, and laid down in an open glade. Having no dog, I took the greatest precaution in stalking, as a wounded antelope is almost certain to escape if once disturbed when it has lain down. There was a small withered stem of a tree not thicker than a man's thigh; this grew within thirty yards of the antelope; my only chance of approach was to take a line direct for this slight object of cover. The wind was favourable, and I crept along the ground. I had succeeded in arriving within a few yards of the tree when up jumped the antelope, and bounded off as though unhurt; but there was no chance for it at this distance, and I rolled it over with a shot through the spine.

Having done the needful with my beautiful prize, and extracted the interior, I returned for my camel that had well assisted in the stalk. Hardly had I led the animal to the body of the ariel, when I heard a rushing sound like a strong wind, and down came a vulture with its wings collapsed, falling from an immense height direct to its prey, in its eagerness to be the first in the race. By the time that I had fastened the ariel across the back of the camel, many vultures were sitting upon the ground at a few yards' distance, while others were arriving every minute: before I had shot the ariel, not a vulture had been in sight; the instant that I retreated from the spot a flock of ravenous beaks were tearing at the offal.

In the constant doubling necessary during the stalk I had quite lost my way. The level plain to the horizon, covered with scattered mimosas, offered no object as a guide. I was exceedingly thirsty, as the heat was intense, and I had been taking rapid exercise; unfortunately my water-skin was slung upon my wife's camel. However unpleasant the situation, my pocket compass would give me the direction, as we had been steering due west; therefore, as I had turned to my left when I left my party, a course N.W. should bring me across their tracks, if they had continued on their route. The position of the Cassala mountain agreed with this course; therefore, remounting my dromedary, with the ariel slung behind the saddle, I hastened to rejoin our caravan. After about half an hour I heard a shot fired not far in advance, and I shortly joined the party, who had fired a gun to give me the direction. A long and deep pull at the water-skin was the first salutation.

We halted that night near a small pond formed by the recent heavy rain. Fortunately the sky was clear; there was abundance of fuel, and pots were shortly boiling an excellent stew of ariel venison and burnt onions. The latter delicious bulbs are the blessing of Upper Egypt: I have lived for days upon nothing but raw onions and sun-dried rusks. Nothing is so good a substitute for meat as an onion; but if raw, it should be cut into thin slices, and allowed to soak for half an hour in water, which should be poured off: the onion thus loses its pungency, and becomes mild and agreeable; with the accompaniment of a little oil and vinegar it forms an excellent salad.

The following day's march led us through the same dead level of grassy plains and mimosas, enlivened with numerous herds of ariels and large black-striped gazelles (Dorcas), one of which I succeeded in shooting for my people. After nine hours' journey we arrived at the, valley of the Atbara, in all sixteen hours' actual marching from Cassala.

There was an extraordinary change in the appearance of the river between Gozerajup and this spot. There was no longer the vast sandy desert with the river flowing through its sterile course on a level with the surface of the country, but after traversing an apparently perfect flat of forty-five miles of rich alluvial soil, we had suddenly arrived upon the edge of a deep valley, between five and six miles wide, at the bottom of which, about 200 feet below the general level of the country, flowed the river Atbara. On the opposite side of the valley, the same vast table lands continued to the western horizon.

We commenced the descent towards the river; the valley was a succession of gullies and ravines, of landslips and watercourses; the entire hollow, of miles in width, had evidently been the work of the river. How many ages had the rains and the stream been at work to scoop out from the flat table land this deep and broad valley? Here was the giant labourer that had shovelled the rich loam upon the delta of Lower Egypt! Upon these vast flats of fertile soil there can be no drainage except through soakage. The deep valley is therefore the receptacle not only for the water that oozes from its sides, but subterranean channels, bursting as land-springs from all parts of the walls of the valley, wash down the more soluble portions of earth, and continually waste away the soil. Landslips occur daily during the rainy season; streams of rich mud pour down the valley's slopes, and as the river flows beneath in a swollen torrent, the friable banks topple down into the stream and dissolve. The Atbara becomes the thickness of pea-soup, as its muddy waters steadily perform the duty they have fulfilled from age to age. Thus was the great river at work upon our arrival on its bank at the bottom of the valley. The Arab name, "Bahr el Aswat" (black river) was well bestowed; it was the black mother of Egypt, still carrying to her offspring the nourishment that had first formed the Delta.

At this point of interest, the journey had commenced; the deserts were passed, all was fertility and life: wherever the sources of the Nile might be, the Atbara was the parent of Egypt! This was my first impression, to be proved hereafter.