A VIOLENT thunderstorm, with a deluge of rain, broke upon our camp upon the banks of the Atbara, fortunately just after the tents were pitched. We thus had an example of the extraordinary effects of the heavy rain in tearing away the soil of the valley. Trifling watercourses were swollen to torrents; banks of earth became loosened and fell in, and the rush of mud and water upon all sides swept forward into the river with a rapidity which threatened the destruction of the country, could such a tempest endure for a few days. In a couple of hours all was over. The river was narrower than in its passage through the desert, but was proportionately deeper. The name of the village on the opposite bank was Goorashee, with which a means of communication had been established by a ferry-boat belonging to our friend and late host, Malem Georgis, the Greek merchant of Cassala. He had much trouble in obtaining permission from the authorities to introduce this novelty, which was looked upon as an innovation, as such a convenience had never before existed. The enterprising proprietor had likewise established a cotton farm at Goorashee, which appeared to succeed admirably, and was an undeniable example of what could be produced in this fertile country were the spirit of improvement awakened. Notwithstanding the advantage of the ferry-boat, many of the Arabs preferred to swim their camels across the river to paying a trifle to the ferryman. A camel either cannot or will not swim unless it is supported by inflated skins: thus the passage of the broad river Atbara (at this spot about 300 yards wide) is an affair of great difficulty. Two water-skins are inflated, and attached to the camel by a band passed like a girth beneath the belly. Thus arranged, a man sits upon its back, while one or two swim by the side as guides. The current of the Atbara runs at a rapid rate; thus the camel is generally carried at least half a mile down the river before it can gain the opposite bank. A few days before our arrival, a man had been snatched from the back of his camel while crossing, and was carried off by a crocodile. Another man had been taken during the last week while swimming the river upon a log. It was supposed that these accidents were due to the same crocodile, who was accustomed to bask upon a mud bank at the foot of the cotton plantation. On the day following our arrival at the Atbara, we found that our camel-drivers had absconded during the night with their camels; these were the men who had been forced to serve by the Governor of Cassala. There was no possibility of proceeding for some days, therefore I sent El Baggar across the river to endeavour to engage camels, while I devoted myself to a search for the crocodile. I shortly discovered that it was unfair in the extreme to charge one particular animal with the death of the two Arabs, as several large crocodiles were lying upon the mud in various places. A smaller one was lying asleep high and dry upon the bank; the wind was blowing strong, so that, by carefully approaching, I secured a good shot within thirty yards, and killed it on the spot by a bullet through the head, placed about an inch above the eyes.

After some time, the large crocodiles, who had taken to the water at the report of the gun, again appeared, and crawled slowly out of the muddy river to their basking-places upon the bank. A crocodile usually sleeps with its mouth wide open; I therefore waited until the immense jaws of the nearest were well expanded, showing a grand row of glittering teeth, when I crept carefully towards it through the garden of thickly-planted cotton. Bacheet and Wat Gamma followed in great eagerness. In a short time I arrived within about forty yards of the beast, as it lay upon a flat mud bank formed by one of the numerous torrents that had carried down the soil during the storm of yesterday. The cover ceased, and it was impossible to approach nearer without alarming the crocodile; it was a fine specimen, apparently nineteen or twenty feet in length, and I took a steady shot with the little Fletcher rifle at the temple, exactly in front of the point of union of the head with the spine. The jaws clashed together, and a convulsive start followed by a twitching of the tail led me to suppose that sudden death had succeeded the shot; but, knowing the peculiar tenacity of life possessed by the crocodile, I fired another shot at the shoulder, as the huge body lay so close to the river's edge that the slightest struggle would cause it to disappear. To my surprise, this shot, far from producing a quietus, gave rise to a series of extraordinary convulsive struggles. One moment it rolled upon its back, lashed out right and left with its tail, and ended by toppling over into the river.

This was too much for the excitable Bacheet, who, followed by his friend, Wat Gamma, with more courage than discretion, rushed into the river, and endeavoured to catch the crocodile by the tail. Before I had time to call them back, these two Arab water-dogs were up to their necks in the river, screaming out directions to each other while they were feeling for the body of the monster with their feet. At length I succeeded in calling them to shore, and we almost immediately saw the body of the crocodile appear belly upwards, about fifty yards down the stream; the forepaws were above the water, but, after rolling round several times, it once more disappeared, rapidly carried away by the muddy torrent. This was quite enough for the Arabs, who had been watching the event from the opposite bank of the river, and the report quickly spread that two crocodiles were killed, one of which they declared to be the public enemy that had taken the men at the ferry, but upon what evidence I cannot understand. Although my Arabs looked forward to a dinner of crocodile flesh, I was obliged to search for something of rather milder flavour for ourselves. I waited for about an hour while the first crocodile was being divided, when I took a shot gun and succeeded in killing three geese and a species of antelope no larger than a hare, known by the Arabs as the Dik-dik (Nanotragus Hemprichianus). This little creature inhabits thick bush. Since my return to England, I have seen a good specimen in the Zoological Gardens of the Regent's Park.

Upon my arrival at the tents, I found the camp redolent of musk from the flesh of the crocodile, and the people were quarrelling for the musk glands, which they had extracted, and which are much prized by the Arab women, who wear them strung like beads upon a necklace.

A crocodile possesses four of such glands; they vary in size according to the age of the reptile, but they are generally about as large as a hazel-nut, when dried. Two glands are situated in the groin, and two in the throat, a little in advance of the fore-legs. I have noticed two species of crocodiles throughout all the rivers of Abyssinia, and in the White Nile. One of these is of a dark brown colour, and much shorter and thicker in proportion than the other, which grows to an immense length, an is generally of a pale greenish yellow. Throughout the Atbara, crocodiles are extremely mischievous and bold; this can be accounted for by the constant presence of Arabs and their flocks, which the crocodiles have ceased to fear, as they exact a heavy tribute in their frequent passages of the river. The Arabs assert that the dark-coloured, thick-bodied species is more to be dreaded than the other.

The common belief that the scales of the crocodile will stop a bullet is very erroneous. If a rifle is loaded with the moderate charge of two and a half drachms it will throw an ounce ball through the scales of the hardest portion of the back; but were the scales struck obliquely, the bullet might possibly glance from the surface, as in like manner it would ricochet from the surface of water. The crocodile is so difficult to kill outright, that people are apt to imagine that the scales have resisted their bullets. The only shots that will produce instant death are those that strike the brain or the spine through the neck. A shot through the shoulder is fatal; but as the body immediately sinks, and does not reappear upon the surface until the gases have distended the carcase, the game is generally carried away by the stream before it has had time to float. The body of a crocodile requires from twelve to eighteen hours before it will rise to the surface, while that of the hippopotamus will never remain longer than two hours beneath the water, and will generally rise in an hour and a half after death. This difference in time depends upon the depth and temperature; in deep holes of the river of from thirty to fifty feet, the water is much cooler near the bottom, thus the gas is not generated in the body so quickly as in shallow and warmer water. The crocodile is not a grass-feeder, therefore the stomach is comparatively small, and the contents do not generate the amount of gas that so quickly distends the huge stomach of the hippopotamus; thus the body of the former requires a longer period before it will rise to the surface.

In the evening we crossed with our baggage and people to the opposite side of the river, and pitched our tents at the village of Goorashee. A small watercourse had brought down a large quantity of black sand. Thinking it probable that gold might exist in the same locality, I washed some earth in a copper basin, and quickly discovered a few specks of the precious metal. Gold is found in small quantities in the sand of the Atbara; at Fazogle, on the Blue Nile, there are mines of this metal worked by the Egyptian Govermnent. From my subsequent experience I have no doubt that valuable minerals exist in large quantities throughout the lofty chain of Abyssinian mountains from which these rivers derive their sources.

The camels arrived, and once more we were ready to start. Our factotum, El Baggar, had collected a number of both baggage-camels and riding dromedaries or "hygeens;" the latter he had brought for approval, as we had suffered much from the extreme roughness of our late camels. There is the same difference between a good hygeen or dromedary and a baggage-camel as between the thoroughbred and the cart-horse; and it appears absurd in the eyes of the Arabs that a man of any position should ride a baggage-camel. Apart from all ideas of etiquette, the motion of the latter animal is quite sufficient warning. Of all species of fatigue, the back-breaking monotonous swing of a heavy camel is the worst; and, should the rider lose patience, and administer a sharp cut with the coorbatch that induces the creature to break into a trot, the torture of the rack is a pleasant tickling compared to the sensation of having your spine driven by a sledge-hammer from below, half a foot deeper into the skull. The human frame may be inured to almost anything; thus the Arabs, who have always been accustomed to this kind of exercise, hardly feel the motion, and the portion of the body most subject to pain in riding a rough camel upon two bare pieces of wood for a saddle, becomes naturally adapted for such rough service, as monkeys become hardened from constantly sitting upon rough substances. The children commence almost as soon as they are born, as they must accompany their mothers in their annual migrations; and no sooner can the young Arab sit astride and hold on, than he is placed behind his father's saddle, to which he clings, while he bumps upon the bare back of the jolting camel. Nature quickly arranges a horny protection to the nerves, by the thickening of the skin; thus, an Arab's opinion of the action of a riding hygeen should never be accepted without a personal trial. What appears delightful to him may be torture to you, as a strong breeze and a rough sea may be charming to a sailor, but worse than death to a landsman.

I was determined not to accept the camels now offered as hygeens until I had seen them tried; I accordingly ordered our black soldier El Baggar to saddle the most easy-actioned animal for my wife, but I wished to see him put it through a variety of paces before she should accept it. The delighted El Baggar, who from long practice was as hard as the heel of a boot, disdained a saddle; the animal knelt, was mounted, and off he started at full trot, performing a circle of about fifty yards' diameter as though in a circus. I never saw such an exhibition! "Warranted quiet to ride, of easy action, and fit for a lady!" This had been the character received with the rampant brute, who now, with head and tail erect, went tearing round the circle, screaming and roaring like a wild beast, throwing his fore-legs forward, and stepping at least three feet high in his trot. Where was El Baggar? A disjointed-looking black figure was sometimes on the back of this easy-going camel, sometimes a foot high in the air; arms, head, legs, hands appeared like a confused mass of dislocations; the woolly hair of this unearthly individual, that had been carefully trained in long stiff narrow curls, precisely similar to the tobacco known as "negro-head," alternately started upright en masse, as though under the influence of electricity, and then fell as suddenly upon his shoulders: had the dark individual been a "black dose," he or it could not have been more thoroughly shaken. This object, so thoroughly disguised by rapidity of movement, was El Baggar; happy, delighted El Baggar! As he came rapidly round towards us flourishing his coorbatch, I called to him, "Is that a nice hygeen for the Sit (lady), El Baggar? is it VERY easy?" He was almost incapable of a reply. "V-e-r-y e-e-a-a-s-y," replied the trustworthy authority, "j-j-j-just the thin-n-n-g for the S-i-i-i-t-t-t." "All right, that will do," I answered, and the jockey pulled up his steed. "Are the other camels better or worse than that?" I asked. "Much worse," replied El Baggar; "the others are rather rough, but this is an easy-goer, and will suit the lady well."

It was impossible to hire a good hygeen; an Arab prizes his riding animal too much, and invariably refuses to let it to a stranger, but generally imposes upon him by substituting some lightly-built camel, that he thinks will pass muster. I accordingly chose for my wife a steady-going animal from among the baggage-camels, trusting to be able to obtain a hygeen from the great sheik Abou Sinn, who was encamped upon the road we were about to take along the valley of the Atbara; we arranged to leave Goorashee on the following day.

Upon arriving at the highest point of the valley, we found ourselves on the vast table land that stretches from the Atbara to the Nile. At this season the entire surface had a faint tint of green, as the young shoots of grass had replied to the late showers of rain; so perfect a level was this great tract of fertile country, that within a mile of the valley of the Atbara there was neither furrow nor watercourse, but the escape of the rainfall was by simple soakage. As usual, the land was dotted with mimosas, all of which were now bursting into leaf. The thorns of the different varieties of these trees are an extraordinary freak of Nature, as she appears to have exhausted all her art in producing an apparently useless arrangement of defence. The mimosas that are most common in the Soudan provinces are mere bushes, seldom exceeding six feet in height; these spread out towards the top like mushrooms, but the branches commence within two feet of the ground; they are armed with thorns in the shape of fish-hooks, which they resemble in sharpness and strength. A thick jungle composed of such bushes is perfectly impenetrable to any animals but elephants, rhinoceroses, and buffaloes; and should the clothes of a man become entangled in such thorns, either they must give way, or he must remain a prisoner. The mimosa that is known among the Arabs as the Kittar is one of the worst species, and is probably similar to that which caught Absalom by the hair; this differs from the well-known "Wait-a-bit" of South Africa, as no milder nickname could be applied than "Dead-stop." Were the clothes of strong material, it would be perfectly impossible to break through a kittar-bush.

A magnificent specimen of a kittar, with a wide-spreading head in the young glory of green leaf, tempted my hungry camel during our march; it was determined to procure a mouthful, and I was equally determined that it should keep to the straight path, and avoid the attraction of the green food. After some strong remonstrance upon my part, the perverse beast shook its ugly head, gave a roar, and started off in full trot straight at the thorny bush. I had not the slightest control over the animal, and in a few seconds it charged the bush with the mad intention of rushing either through or beneath it. To my disgust I perceived that the wide-spreading branches were only just sufficiently high to permit the back of the camel to pass underneath. There was no time for further consideration; we charged the bush; I held my head doubled up between my arms, and the next moment I was on my back, half stunned by the fall. The camel-saddle lay upon the ground; my rifle, that had been slung behind, my coffee-pot, the water-skin burst, and a host of other impedimenta, lay around me in all directions; worst of all, my beautiful gold repeater lay at some distance from me, rendered entirely useless. I was as nearly naked as I could be; a few rags held together, but my shirt was gone, with the exception of some shreds that adhered to my arms. I was, of course, streaming with blood, and looked much more as though I had been clawed by a leopard than as having simply charged a bush. The camel had fallen down with the shock after I had been swept off by the thorny branches. To this day I have the marks of the scratching.

Unless a riding-camel is perfectly trained, it is the most tiresome animal to ride after the first green leaves appear; every bush tempts it from the path, and it is a perpetual fight between the rider and his beast throughout the journey.

We shortly halted for the night, as I had noticed unmistakeable signs of an approaching storm. We quickly pitched the tents, grubbed up the root and stem of a decayed mimosa, and lighted a fire, by the side of which our people sat in a circle. Hardly had the pile begun to blaze, when a cry from Mahomet's new relative, Achmet, informed us that he had been bitten by a scorpion. Mahomet appeared to think this highly entertaining, until suddenly he screamed out likewise, and springing from the ground, he began to stamp and wring his hands in great agony: he had himself been bitten, and we found that a whole nest of scorpions were in the rotten wood lately thrown upon the fire; in their flight from the heat they stung all whom they met. There was no time to prepare food; the thunder already roared above us, and in a few minutes the sky, lately so clear, was as black as ink. I had already prepared for the storm, and the baggage was piled within the tent; the ropes of the tents had been left slack to allow for the contraction, and we were ready for the rain. It was fortunate that we were in order; a rain descended, with an accompaniment of thunder and lightning, of a volume unknown to the inhabitants of cooler climates; for several hours there was almost an uninterrupted roar of the most deafening peals, with lightning so vivid that our tent was completely lighted up in the darkness of the night, and its misery displayed. Not only was the rain pouring through the roof so that we were wet through as we crouched upon our angareps (stretchers), but the legs of our bedstead stood in more than six inches of water. Being as wet as I could be, I resolved to enjoy the scene outside the tent; it was curious in the extreme. Flash after flash of sharp forked lightning played upon the surface of a boundless lake; there was not a foot of land visible, but the numerous dark bushes projecting from the surface of the water destroyed the illusion of depth that the scene would otherwise have suggested. The rain ceased, but the entire country was flooded several inches deep; and when the more distant lightning flashed as the storm rolled away, I saw the camels lying like statues built into the lake. On the following morning the whole of this great mass of water had been absorbed by the soil, which had become so adhesive and slippery that it was impossible for the camels to move; we therefore waited for some hours, until the intense heat of the sun had dried the surface sufficiently to allow the animals to proceed.

Upon striking the tent, we found beneath the valance between the crown and the walls a regiment of scorpions; the flood had doubtless destroyed great numbers within their holes, but these, having been disturbed by the deluge, had found an asylum by crawling up the tent walls: with great difficulty we lighted a fire, and committed them all to the flames. Mahomet made a great fuss about his hand, which was certainly much swollen, but not worse than that of Achmet, who did not complain, although during the night he had been again bitten on the leg by one of these venomous insects, that had crawled from the water upon his clothes. During our journey that morning parallel with the valley of the Atbara, I had an excellent opportunity of watching the effect of the storm. We rode along the abrupt margin of the table land, where it broke suddenly into the deep valley; from the sides of this the water was oozing in all directions, creating little avalanches of earth, which fell as they lost their solidity from too much moisture. This wonderfully rich soil was rolling gradually towards Lower Egypt. From the heights above the river we had a beautiful view of the stream, which at this distance, reflecting the bright sunlight, did not appear like the thick liquid mud that we knew it to be. The valley was of the same general character that we had remarked at Goorashee, but more abrupt - a mass of landslips, deep ravines, shaded by mimosas, while the immediate neighbour hood of the Atbara was clothed with the brightest green foliage. In this part, the valley was about three miles in width, and two hundred feet deep.

The commencement of the rainy season was a warning to all the Arabs of this country, who were preparing for their annual migration to the sandy and firm desert on the west bank of the river, at Gozerajup; that region, so barren and desolate during the hot season, would shortly be covered with a delicate grass about eighteen inches high. At that favoured spot the rains fell with less violence, and it formed a nucleus for the general gathering of the people with their flocks.

We were travelling south at the very season when the natives were migrating north. I saw plainly that it would be impossible for us to continue our journey during the wet season, as the camels had the greatest difficulty in carrying their loads even now, at the commencement: their feet sank deep into the soil; this formed adhesive clods upon their spongy toes, that almost disabled them. The farther we travelled south, the more violent would the rains become, and a long tropical experience warned me that the rainy season was the signal for fevers. All the camels of the Arabs were being driven from the country; we had already met many herds travelling northward, but this day's march was through crowds of these animals, principally females with their young, many thousands of which were on the road. Some of the young foals were so small that they could not endure the march; these were slung in nets upon the backs of camels, while the mother followed behind. We revelled in milk, as we had not been able to procure it since we left Cassala. Some persons dislike the milk of the camel; I think it is excellent to drink pure, but it does not answer in general use for mixing with coffee, with which it immediately curdles; it is extremely rich, and is considered by the Arabs to be more nourishing than that of the cow. To persons of delicate health I should invariably recommend boiled milk in preference to plain; and should the digestion be so extremely weak that liquid milk disagrees with the stomach, they should allow it to become thick, similar to curds and whey: this should be then beaten together, with the admixture of a little salt and cayenne pepper; it then assumes the thickness of cream, and is very palatable. The Arabs generally prepare it in this manner; it is not only considered to be more wholesome, but in its thickened state it is easier to carry upon a journey. With an apology to European medical men, I would suggest that they should try the Arab system whenever they prescribe a milk diet for a delicate patient. The first operation of curdling, which is a severe trial to a weak stomach, is performed in hot climates by the atmosphere, as in temperate climates by the admixture of rennet, &c.; thus the most difficult work of the stomach is effected by a foreign agency, and it is spared the first act of its performance. I have witnessed almost marvellous results from a milk diet given as now advised.

Milk, if drunk warm from the animal in hot climates will affect many persons in the same manner as a powerful dose of senna and salts. Our party appeared to be proof against such an accident, as they drank enough to have stocked a moderate-sized dairy. This was most good-naturedly supplied gratis by the Arabs.

It was the season of rejoicing; everybody appeared in good humour; the distended udders of thousands of camels were an assurance of plenty. The burning sun that for nine months had scorched the earth was veiled by passing clouds; the cattle that had panted for water, and whose food was withered straw, were filled with juicy fodder: the camels that had subsisted upon the dried and leafless twigs and branches, now feasted upon the succulent tops of the mimosas. Throngs of women and children mounted upon camels, protected by the peculiar gaudy saddle hood, ornamented with cowrie-shells, accompanied the march; thousands of sheep and goats, driven by Arab boys, were straggling in all directions; baggage-camels, heavily laden with the quaint household goods, blocked up the way; the fine bronzed figures of Arabs, with sword and shield, and white topes, or plaids, guided their milk-white dromedaries through the confused throng with the usual placid dignity of their race, simply passing by with the usual greeting, "Salaam aleikum," "Peace be with you."

It was the Exodus; all were hurrying towards the promised land - "the land flowing with milk and honey," where men and beasts would be secure, not only from the fevers of the south, but from that deadly enemy to camels and cattle, the fly; this terrible insect drove all before it.

If all were right in migrating to the north, it was a logical conclusion that we were wrong in going to the south during the rainy season; however, we now heard from the Arabs that we were within a couple of hours' march from the camp of the great Sheik Achmet Abou Sinn, to whom I had a letter of introduction. At the expiration of about that time we halted, and pitched the tents among some shady mimosas, while I sent Mahomet to Abou Sinn with the letter, and my firman.

I was busily engaged in making sundry necessary arrangements in the tent, when Mahomet returned, and announced the arrival of the great sheik in person. He was attended by several of his principal people, and as he approached through the bright green mimosas, mounted upon a beautiful snow-white hygeen, I was exceedingly struck with his venerable and dignified appearance. Upon near arrival I went forward to meet him, and to assist him from his camel; but his animal knelt immediately at his command, and he dismounted with the ease and agility of a man of twenty.

He was the most magnificent specimen of an Arab that I have ever seen. Although upwards of eighty years of age, he was as erect as a lance, and did not appear more than between fifty and sixty; he was of Herculean stature, about six feet three inches high, with immensely broad shoulders and chest; a remarkably arched nose; eyes like an eagle, beneath large, shaggy, but perfectly white eyebrows; a snow-white beard of great thickness descended below the middle of his breast. He wore a large white turban, and a white cashmere abbai, or long robe, from the throat to the ankles. As a desert patriarch he was superb, the very perfection of all that the imagination could paint, if we would personify Abraham at the head of his people. This grand old Arab with the greatest politeness insisted upon our immediately accompanying him to his camp, as he could not allow us to remain in his country as strangers. He would hear of no excuses, but he at once gave orders to Mahomet to have the baggage repacked and the tents removed, while we were requested to mount two superb white hygeens, with saddle-cloths of blue Persian sheep-skins, that he had immediately accoutred when he heard from Mahomet of our miserable camels. The tent was struck, and we joined our venerable host with a line of wild and splendidly-mounted attendants, who followed us towards the sheik's encampment.