CHAPTER IX. FORM A RAFT WITH THE SPONGING BATH.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"At length morning dawned, thank Heaven! I made a cup of strong coffee, ate a morsel of dhurra bread, and started along the high ground parallel with the course of the Settite river up stream.

"After walking for upwards of four hours over ground covered with tracks of giraffes, elephants, and antelopes about a fortnight old, I saw four tetel (Antelopus Bubalis), but I was unfortunate in my shot at a long range in high grass. We had been marching south-east, and as I intended to return to camp, we now turned sharp to the west. The country was beautiful, composed of alternate glades, copses, and low mimosa forest. At length I espied the towering head of a giraffe about half a mile distant; he was in the mimosa forest, and was already speculating upon our party, which he had quickly observed. Leaving my men in this spot to fix his attention, I succeeded in making a good stalk to within one hundred and twenty yards of him. He was exactly facing me, and I waited for him to turn and expose the flank, but he suddenly turned so quickly that I lost the opportunity, and he received the bullet in his back as he started at full speed; for the moment he reeled crippled among the mimosas, but, recovering, he made off. I could not fire the left-hand barrel on account of the numerous trees and bushes. I called my men, and followed for a few hundred yards upon his track, but as this was directly in an opposite direction to that of my camp I was forced to give up the hunt.*

* We found the remains of the Giraffe a few days later.

"About an hour later I hit a tetel with both barrels of the little Fletcher, at full gallop; but although we followed the blood-track for sonme distance, we did not recover it. At this season the grass is in most places from seven to ten feet high, and being trodden by numerous old tracks of animals, it is difficult to find a wounded beast without the assistance of a dog. The luck was against me to-day; I could only shoot well enough to hit everything, but to bag nothing, owing to a sleepless night. I killed a guinea-fowl to secure dinner upon my return, and we at length reached the welcome Atbara within two miles of my head-quarters. My men made a rush to the river, and threw themselves into the water, as all were more or less exhausted by the intense heat of the long day's work after a restless night. I took a good drink through my gazelle shank-bone, which I wear suspended from my neck for that purpose, and I went on alone, leaving my bathing party to refresh themselves. I reached the tent a little after 4 P.M. after more than ten hours' continual walking in the burning sun. I felt almost red hot, but my bath and clean linen being ready, thanks to the careful preparation of my wife, I was quickly refreshed, and sat down with a lion's appetite to good curry and rice, and a cup of black coffee.

"September 25. - Having nothing to eat, I took my fishing-rod and strolled down to the river, and chose from my aquarium a fish of about half a pound for a live bait; I dropped this in the river about twenty yards beyond the mouth of the Till, and allowed it to swim naturally down the stream so as to pass across the Till junction, and descend the deep channel between the rocks. For about ten minutes I had no run; I had twice tried the same water without success, nothing would admire my charming bait; when, just as it had reached the favourite turning-point at the extremity of a rock, away dashed the line, with the tremendous rush that follows the attack of a heavy fish. Trusting to the soundness of my tackle, I struck hard and fixed my new acquaintance thoroughly, but off he dashed down the stream for about fifty yards at one rush, making for a narrow channel between two rocks, through which the stream ran like a mill-race. Should he pass this channel, I knew he would cut the line across the rock; therefore, giving him the butt, I held him by main force, and by the great swirl in the water I saw that I was bringing him to the surface; but just as I expected to see him, my float having already appeared, away he darted in another direction, taking sixty or seventy yards of line without a check. I at once observed that he must pass a shallow sandbank favourable for landing a heavy fish; I therefore checked him as he reached this spot, and I followed him down the bank, reeling up line as I ran parallel with his course. Now came the tug of war! I knew my hooks were good and the line sound, therefore I was determined not to let him escape beyond the favourable ground; and I put a strain upon him, that after much struggling brought to the surface a great shovel-head, followed by a pair of broad silvery sides, as I led him gradualhy into shallow water. Bacheet now cleverly secured him by the gills, and dragged him in triumph to the shore. This was a splendid bayard, at least forty pounds' weight.

"I laid my prize upon some green reeds, and covered it carefully with the same cool material. I then replaced my bait by a lively fish, and once more tried the river. In a very short time I had another run, and landed a small fish of about nine pounds of the same species. Not wishing to catch fish of that size, I put on a large bait, and threw it about forty yards into the river, well up the stream, and allowed the float to sweep the water in a half circle, thus taking the chance of different distances from the shore. For about half an hour nothing moved; I was just preparing to alter my position, when out rushed my line, and striking hard, I believed I fixed the old gentleman himself, for I had no control over him whatever; holding him was out of the question; the line flew through my hands, cutting them till the blood flowed, and I was obliged to let the fish take his own way: this he did for about eighty yards, when he suddenly stopped. This unexpected halt was a great calamity, for the reel overran itself, having no check-wheel, and the slack bends of the line caught the handle just as he again rushed forward, and with a jerk that nearly pulled the rod from my hands he was gone! I found one of my large hooks broken short off; the confounded reel! The fish was a monster!

"After this bad luck I had no run until the evening, when putting on a large bait, and fishing at the tail of a rock between the stream and still water, I once more had a grand rush, and hooked a big one. There were no rocks down stream, all was fair play and clear water, and away he went at racing pace straight for the middle of the river. To check the pace, I grasped the line with the stuff of my loose trousers, and pressed it between my fingers so as to act as a break, and compel him to labour for every yard; but he pulled like a horse, and nearly cut through the thick cotton cloth, making straight running for at least a hundred yards without a halt. I now put so severe a strain upon him, that my strong bamboo bent nearly double, and the fish presently so far yielded to the pressure, that I could enforce his running in half circles instead of straight away. I kept gaining line, until I at length led him into a shallow bay, and after a great fight, Bacheet embraced him by falling upon him, and clutching the monster with hands and knees; he then tugged to the shore a magnificent fish of upwards of sixty pounds. For about twenty minutes he had fought against such a strain as I had never before used upon a fish, but I had now adopted hooks of such a large size and thickness that it was hardly possible for them to break, unless snapped by a crocodile. My reel was so loosened from the rod, that had the struggle lasted a few minutes longer I must have been vanquished. This fish measured three feet eight inches to the root of the tail, and two feet three inches in girth of shoulders; the head measured one foot ten inches in circumference - it was the same species as those I had already caught.

"This closed the sport for the day. We called all hands to carry the fish to camp, and hoisted the flag, which was quickly followed by the arrival of a number of men from Sofi, to receive all that we could spare. The largest fish we cut into thin strips, - these we salted and dried; the head made delicious soup, with a teaspoonful of curry-powder.

"September 26. - The weather is now intensely hot, and the short spear grass is drying so rapidly that in some stony places it can be fired. The birds appear to build their nests at various seasons. Many that built three months ago are again at work; among others is a species of black Mina, that takes entire possession of a tree, which it completely covers with nests coarsely constructed of sticks. A few days ago I found several trees converted into colonies of many hundred dwellings.

"I never allow either the monkeys or baboons to be disturbed: thus they have no fear of our party, but with perfect confidence they approach within thirty or forty yards of the tents, sitting upon the rocks and trees, and curiously watching all that takes place in the camp. I have only seen one species of monkey in this neighbourhood - a handsome dark grey animal with white whiskers. The baboons are also of one species, the great dog-faced ape (Cynocephalus); these grow to a very large size, and old Masara fully expects to be carried off and become the wife of an old baboon, if they are allowed to become so bold.

"This afternoon I took a stroll with the rifle, but saw nothing except a young crocodile about six feet long; this was on the dry summit of a hill, far from water. I shot it and took the skin. I can only conclude that the small stream in which he had wandered from the river-bed had become dry, and the creature had lost its way in searching for other water.

"September 27. - I started from the tent at 6 A.M. and made a circuit of about eighteen miles, seeing nothing but tetel and gazelles, but I had no luck. Hot and disgusted, I returned home, and took the rod, hoping for better luck in the river. I hooked, but lost, a small fish, and I began to think that the fates were against me by land and water, when I suddenly had a tremendous run, and about a hundred and fifty yards rushed off the reel without the possibility of stopping the fish. The river was very low; thus I followed along the bank, holding hard, and after about half an hour of difference of opinion, the fish began to show itself, and I coaxed it into the shallows; here it was cleverly managed by Bacheet, who lugged it out by the tail. It was an ugly monster, of about fifty pounds, a species of silurus, known by the Arabs as the 'coor;' it differed from the silurus of Europe by haviimg a dorsal fin, like a fringe, that extended along the back to the tail. This fish had lungs resembling delicate branches of red coral, and, if kept moist, it would exist upon the land for many hours like an eel. It smelt strongly of musk, but it was gladly accepted by the Sheik of Sofi, who immediately answered to the flag.

"While shooting this morning I came suddenly upon a small species of leopard that had just killed a snake about five feet in length; the head was neatly bitten off and lay upon the ground near the body; the animal was commencing a meal off the snake when it was disturbed, and I lost sight of it immediately in the high grass.

"September 28. - The heat is most oppressive: even the nights are hot, until about 2 A.M., at which hour a cool breeze springs up. The wind now blows from the south until about 1 P.M., when it changes suddenly to the north, and then varies between these two points during the rest of the day; this leads me to hope that the north wind will shortly set in. September, as in England, is the autumn of this land; the wild fruits are ripe, some of which are not unpleasant, but they are generally too sweet, - they lack the acidity that would be agreeable in this burning climate. There is an orange-coloured berry that has a pleasant flavour, but it is extremely oily; this has a peculiarly disagreeable effect upon the system, if eaten in any quantity. Several varieties of excellent wild vegetables grow in great abundance throughout this country: beans, three kinds of spinach; the juicy, brittle plant cultivated in Lower Egypt, and known as the 'regle;' and lastly, that main-stay of Arab cookery, 'waker,' well known in Ceylon and India under the names of 'Barmian' and 'Bandikai.' This grows to the height of thirteen or fourteen feet in the rich soil of the table lands: the Arabs gather the pods and cut them into thin slices; these are dried in the sun, and then packed in large sacks for market. The harvest of waker is most important, as no Arab dish would be perfect without the admixture of this agreeable vegetable. The dried waker is ground into powder between two stones; this, if boiled with a little gravy, produces a gelatinous and highly-flavoured soup.

"September 29. - We have just heard that Atalan Wat Said, by whom we were so well received, is dead! The Arabs have a disagreeable custom of paying honours to a guest by keeping the anniversary of the death of any relatives whose decease should be known to them; thus, when Atalan Wat Said paid a visit to Sheik Achmet Abou Sinn, the latter celebrated with much pomp the anniversary of his (Atalan's) late father's death. The unfortunate guest, who happened to arrive in Abou Sinn's camp upon the exact day upon which his father had died in the precedimig year, was met by a mourning crowd, with the beating of drums, the howling of women, and the loud weeping and sorrowful condoling of the men. This scene affected Atalan Wat Said to such a degree, that, being rather unwell, he immediately sickened with fever, and died in three days. In this country any grief of mind will insure an attack of fever, when all are more or less predisposed during the unhealthy season, from the commencement of July until the end of October.

"This afternoon I took the rod, and having caught a beautiful silver-sided fish of about a pound weight, I placed it upon a large single hook fastened under the back fin. In about an hour I had a run, but upon striking, I pulled the bait out of the fish's mouth, as the point of the hook had not touched the jaw. I had wound up slowly for about thirty yards, hoping that the big fellow would follow his lost prize, as I knew him to be a large fish by his attack upon a bait of a pound weight. I found my bait was killed, but having readjusted the hook, I again cast it in the same direction, and slowly played it towards me. I had him! He took it immediately, and I determined to allow him to swallow it before I should strike. Without a halt, about a hundred yards of line were taken at the first rush towards the middle of the river; he then stopped, and I waited for about a minute, and then fixed him with a jerk that bent my bamboo like a fly-rod. To this he replied by a splendid challenge; in one jump he flew about six feet above the water, and showed himself to be one of the most beautiful fish I had ever seen; not one of those nondescript antediluvian brutes that you expect to catch in these extraordinary rivers, but in colour he appeared like a clean run salmon. He gave tremendous play, several times leaping out of the water, and shaking his head furiously to free himself from the hook; then darting away with eighty or a hundred yards of fresh line, until he at last was forced to yield to the strong and elastic bamboo, and his deep body stranded upon the fatal shallows.

"Bacheet was a charming lad to land a fish: he was always quiet and thoughtful, and never got in the way of the line; this time he closely approached him from behind, slipped both his hands along his side, and hooked his fingers into the broad gills; thus he dragged him, splashing through the shallows, to the sandbank. What a beauty! What was he? The colour was that of a salmon, and the scales were not larger in proportion: he was about fifty pounds' weight. The back fin resembled that of a perch, with seven rays; the second, dorsal fin towards the tail had fourteen rays; the head was well shaped, and small in proportion; the eyes were bright red, and shone like rubies; and the teeth were very small. I cut away my line, as the hook was deeply swallowed; and after having washed this beautiful fish, I assisted Bacheet to carry it to the camp, where it was laid upon a clean mat at the tent-door for admiration. This species of fish is considered by the Arabs to be the best in the river; it is therefore called 'El Baggar' (the cow). It is a species of perch, and we found it excellent - quite equal to a fine trout. I made an exact sketch of it on the spot, after which the greater portion was cut up and salted; it was then smoked for about four hours. The latter process is necessary to prevent the flies from blowing it, before it becomes sufficiently dry to resist their attacks.

"For several days I passed my time in fishing, with the varying success that must attend all fishermen. Upon the extreme verge of the river's bank were dense bushes of the nabbuk, about fifteen feet high, but so thickly massed with green foliage that I cut out a tunnel with my hunting-knife, and completed a capacious arbour, thoroughly protected from the sun. In this it was far more agreeable to pass the day than at the camp; accordingly we arranged the ground with mats and carpets, and my wife converted the thorny bower into an African drawing-room, where she could sit with her work and enjoy the view of the river at her feet, and moreover watch the fishing."