CHAPTER XI. THE FORD.

Two months had elapsed since the last drop of rain had closed the wet season. It was 15th November, and the river had fallen to so low an ebb that the stream was reduced to a breadth of about eighty yards of bright and clear water, rushing in places with great rapidity through the centre of its broad and stony bed, while in sudden bends of the channel it widened into still, and exceedingly deep pools. We were encamped exactly upon the verge of a perpendicular cliff, from which there was a rugged path to the dry channel some thirty feet below, which shelved rapidly towards the centre occupied by the stream. In this spot were powerful rapids, above which to our left was a ford, at this time about waist-deep, upon a bed of rock that divided the lower rapids from a broad and silent pool above: across this ford the women of the village daily passed to collect their faggots of wood from the bushes on the opposite side. I had shot a crocodile, and a marabou stork, and I was carefully plucking the plume of beautiful feathers from the tail of the bird, surrounded by a number of Arabs, when I observed a throng of women, each laden with a bundle of wood, crossing the ford in single file from the opposite bank. Among them were two young girls of about fifteen, and I remarked that these, instead of marching in a line with the women, were wading hand-in-hand in dangerous proximity to the head of the rapids. A few seconds later, I noticed that they were inclining their bodies up stream, and were evidently struggling with the current. Hardly had I pointed out the danger to the men around me, when the girls clung to each other, and striving against their fate they tottered down the stream towards the rapids, which rushed with such violence that the waves were about two feet high. With praiseworthy speed the Arabs started to their feet, and dashed down the deep descent towards the river, but before they had reached half way, the girls uttered a shriek, lost their footing, and in another instant they threw their arms wildly above their heads, and were hurried away in the foam of the rapids. One disappeared immediately; the other was visible, as her long black hair floated on the surface; she also sank. Presently, about twenty yards below the spot, a pair of naked arms protruded high above the surface, with ivory bracelets upon the wrists, and twice the hands clapped together as though imploring help; again she disappeared. The water was by this time full of men, who had rushed to the rescue; but they had foolishly jumped in at the spot where they had first seen the girls, who were of course by this time carried far away by the torrent. Once more, farther down the river, the hands and bracelets appeared; again they wildly clapped together, and in the clear water we could plainly see the dark hair beneath. Still, she sank again; but almost immediately she rose head and shoulders above the surface, and thrice she again clapped her hands for aid.

This was her last effort; she disappeared. By the time several men had wisely run along the bank below the tail of the rapids, and having formed a line across a very narrow portion of the stream, one of them suddenly clutched an object beneath the water and in another moment he held the body of the girl in his arms. Of course she was dead? or a fit subject for the Royal Humane Society? - So I supposed; when to our intense astonishment, she no sooner was brought to the shore than she gave herself a shake, threw back her long hair, wrung out and arranged her dripping rahat, and walked leisurely back to the ford, which she crossed with the assistance of the Arab who had saved her.

What she was composed of I cannot say; whether she was the offspring of a cross between mermaid and hippopotamus, or hatched from the egg of a crocodile, I know not, but a more wonderfully amphibious being I have rarely seen.

During this painful scene, in which one girl had been entirely lost, the mother of her who was saved had rushed to meet her child as she landed from the ford; but instead of clasping her to her heart, as we had expected, she gave her a maternal welcome by beating her most unmercifully with her fists, bestowing such lusty blows upon her back that we could distinctly hear them at a distance of fifty yards; this punishment, we were given to understand, served her perfectly right, for having been foolish enough to venture near the rapids. The melancholy death-howl was now raised by all the women in the village, while the men explored the river in search of the missing body. On the following morning the sheik appeared at my tent, with a number of Arabs who had been unsuccessful, and he begged me, if possible, to suggest some means for the discovery of the girl, as her remains should be properly interred.

I proposed that they should procure a log of heavy wood, as near as possible the size of the girl, and that this should be thrown into the rapids, in the exact spot where she had disappeared; this, being nearly the same weight, would be equally acted upon by the stream, and would form a guide which they should follow until it should lead them to some deep eddy, or whirlpool formed by a backwater; should the pilot log remain in such a spot, they would most probably find the body in the same place. The men immediately procured a log, and set off with the sheik himself to carry out the experiment. In the afternoon, we heard a terrible howling and crying, and a crowd of men and women returned to the village, some of whom paid us a visit; they had found the body. The log had guided them about two miles distant, and had remained stationary in a backwater near where I had shot the bull hippopotamus; in this still pool, close to the bank, they almost immediately discovered the girl floating slightly beneath the surface. No crocodile had injured the body, but the fish had destroyed a portion of the face; it was already so far advanced in decomposition, that it was necessary to bury it upon the margin of the river, at the spot where it was discovered. The people came to thank me for having originated the idea, and the very agreeable sheik spent the evening with us with a number of his people; this was his greatest delight, and we had become thoroughly accustomed to his daily visits. At such times we sat upon an angarep, while he sat upon a mat stretched upon the ground, with a number of his men, who formed a half-circle around him; he then invariably requested that we would tell him stories about England. Of these he never tired, and with the assistance of Mahomet we established a regular entertainment; the great amusement of the Arabs being the mistakes that they readily perceived were made by Mahomet as interpreter. We knew sufficient Arabic to check and to explain his errors.

The death of the girl gave rise to a conversation upon drowning: this turned upon the subject of the girl herself and ended in a discussion upon the value of women; the question originating in a lament on the part of the sheik that a nice young girl had been drowned instead of a useless old woman. The sheik laid down the law with great force, "that a woman was of no use when she ceased to be young, unless she was a good strong person who could grind corn, and carry water from the river;" in this assertion he was seconded, and supported unanimously by the crowd of Arabs present.

Now it was always a common practice among the Arab women, when they called upon my wife, to request her to show her hands; they would then feel the soft palms and exclaim in astonishment, "Ah! she has never ground corn!" that being the duty of a wife unless she is rich enough to possess slaves. Sheik Achmet requested me to give him some account of our domestic arrangements in England; I did this as briefly as possible, explaining how ladies received our devoted attentions, extolling their beauty and virtue, and in fact giving him an idea that England was paradise, and that the ladies were angels. I described the variety of colours; that instead of all being dark, some were exceedingly fair; that others had red hair; that we had many bright black eyes, and some irresistible dark blue; and at the close of my descriptions I believe the sheik and his party felt disposed to emigrate immediately to the chilly shores of Great Britain; they asked, "How far off is your country?" "Well," said the sheik, with a sigh, "that must be a very charming country; how could you possibly come away from all your beautiful wives? True, you have brought one with you: she is, of course, the youngest and most lovely; perhaps those you have left at home are the OLD ONES!" I was obliged to explain, that we are contented with one wife, and that even were people disposed to marry two, or more, they would be punished with imprisonment. This announcement was received with a general expression of indignation; the sheik and his party, who a few minutes ago were disposed to emigrate, and settle upon our shores, would now at the most have ventured upon a return ticket. After some murmurs of disapprobation, there was a decided expression of disbelief in my last statement. "Why," said the sheik, "the fact is simply IMPOSSIBLE! How CAN a man be contented with one wife? It is ridiculous, absurd! What is he to do when she becomes old? When she is young, if very lovely, perhaps, he might be satisfied with her, but even the young must some day grow old, and the beauty must fade. The man does not fade like the woman; therefore, as he remains the same for many years, but she changes in a few years, Nature has arranged that the man shall have young wives to replace the old; does not the Prophet allow it? Had not our forefathers many wives? and shall we have but one? Look at yourself. Your wife is young, and" (here the sheik indulged in compliments), "but in ten years she will not be the same as now; will you not then let her have a nice house all to herself, when she grows old, while you take a fresh young wife?"

I was obliged to explain to the sheik that, first, our ladies never looked old; secondly, they improved with age; and thirdly, that we were supposed to love our wives with greater ardour as they advanced in years. This was received with an ominous shake of the head, coupled with the exclamation, "Mashallah!" repeated by the whole party. This was the moment for a few remarks on polygamy: I continued, "You men are selfish; you expect from the woman that which you will not give in return, 'constancy and love;' if your wife demanded a multiplicity of husbands, would it not be impossible to love her? how can she love you if you insist upon other wives ?" "Ah!" he replied, "our women are different to yours, they would not love anybody; look at your wife, she has travelled with you far away from her own country, and her heart is stronger than a man's; she is afraid of nothing, because you are with her; but our women prefer to be far away from their husbands, and are only happy when they have nothing whatever to do. You don't understand our women, they are ignorant creatures, and when their youth is past are good for nothing but to work. You have explained your customs; your women are adored by the men, and you are satisfied with one wife, either young or old; now I will explain our customs. I have four wives; as one has become old, I have replaced her with a young one; here they all are" (he now marked four strokes upon the sand with his stick). "This one carries water; that grinds the corn; this makes the bread; the last does not do much, as she is the youngest, and my favourite; and if they neglect their work, they get a taste of this!" (shaking a long and, tolerably thick stick). "Now, that's the difference between our establishments; yours is well adapted for your country, and ours is the best plan for our own."

I would not contradict the sheik; the English greatcoat was not the garment for the scorching Soudan, and English ideas were equally unsuited to the climate and requirements of the people. The girls were utterly ignorant, and the Arabs had never heard of a woman who could read and write; they were generally pretty when young, but they rapidly grew old after childbirth. Numbers of young girls and women were accustomed to bathe perfectly naked in the river just before our tent; I employed them to catch small fish for baits and for hours they would amuse themselves in this way, screaming with excitement and fun, and chasing the small fry with their long clothes in lieu of nets; their figures were generally well shaped, but both men and women fell off in the development of the legs. Very few had well-shaped calves, but remarkably thin and cleanly formed ankles, with very delicately shaped feet. The men were constantly bathing in the clear waters of the Atbara, and were perfectly naked, although close to the women; we soon became accustomed to this daily scene, as we do at Brighton and other English bathing-towns.

Our life at Wat el Negur was anything but disagreeable; we had acquired great fame in several ways: the game that I shot I divided among the people; they also took an interest in the fishing, as they generally had a large share of all that I caught; my wife was very kind to all the children, and to the women, who came from great distances to see her; and my character as a physician having been spread far and wide, we became very celebrated people. Of course I was besieged daily by the maimed, the halt, and the blind, and the poor people, with much gratitude, would insist upon bringing fowls and milk in return for our attention to their wants. These I would never accept, but on many occasions, upon my refusal, the women would untie the legs of a bundle of chickens, and allow them to escape in our camp, rather than be compelled to return with their offering. Even the fakeers (priests) were our great friends, although we were Christians, and in my broken Arabic, with the assistance of Mahomet, I used to touch upon theological subjects. At first they expressed surprise that such clever people as the English should worship idols made of wood, or other substances, by the hands of man. I explained to them their error, as we were Protestants in England, who had protested against the practice of bowing down before the figure of Christ or any other form; that we simply worshipped God through Christ, believing Him to be both Saviour and Mediator. I recalled to their recollection that Mahomet and they themselves believed in Christ, as the greatest of all the prophets, therefore in reality there was not so very wide a gulf between their creed and our own; both acknowledging the same God; both believing in Christ, although differing in the degree of that belief. I allowed that Mahomet was a most wonderful man, and that, if a cause is to be valued by its effect, he was as much entitled to the name of prophet as Moses, the first law-giver. Our arguments never became overheated, as these simple yet steadfast Arabs, who held the faith of their forefathers untarnished and uncorrupted by schisms, spoke more with reverence to the great spirit of religion, than with the acrimony of debate. "My brothers," I would reply, "we are all God's creatures, believing in the one great Spirit who created us and all things, who made this atom of dust that we call our world, a tiny star amongst the hosts of heaven; and we, differing in colours and in races, are striving through our short but weary pilgrimage to the same high point; to the same mountain-top, where we trust to meet when the journey shall be accomplished. That mountain is steep, the country is desert; is there but one path, or are there many? Your path and mine are different, but with God's help they will lead us to the top. Shall we quarrel over the well upon the thirsty way? or shall we drink together, and be thankful for the cool waters, and strive to reach the end? Drink from my water-skin when upon the desert we thirst together, scorched by the same sun, exhausted by the same simoom, cooled by the same night, until we sleep at the journey's end, and together thank God, Christian and Mahometan, that we have reached our home."

The good fakeers rejoiced in such simple explanations, and they came to the conclusion that we were "all the same with a little difference," thus we were the best of friends with all the people. If not exactly a cure of their Mahometan souls, they acknowledged that I held the key to their bowels, which were entirely dependent upon my will, when the crowd of applicants daily thronged my medicine chest, and I dispensed jalap, calomel, opium, and tartar emetic. Upon one occasion a woman brought me a child of about fifteen months old, with a broken thigh; she had fallen asleep upon her camel, and had allowed the child to fall from her arms. I set the thigh, and secured it with gum bandages, as the mimosas afforded the requisite material. About twenty yards of old linen in bandages three inches broad, soaked in thick gum-water, will form the best of splints when it becomes dry and hard, which in that climate it will do in about an hour. There was one complaint that I was obliged to leave entirely in the hands of the Arabs, this was called "frendeet;" it was almost the certain effect of drinking the water that in the rainy season is accumulated in pools upon the surface of the rich table lands, especially between the Atbara and Katariff; the latter is a market-town about sixty miles from Wat el Negur, on the west bank of the river. Frendeet commences with a swelling of one of the limbs, generally accompanied with intense pain; this is caused by a worm of several feet in length, but no thicker than pack-thread. The Arab cure is to plaster the limb with cow-dung, which is their common application for almost all complaints. They then proceed to make what they term "doors," through which the worm will be able to escape; but, should it not be able to find one exit, they make a great number by the pleasant and simple operation of pricking the skin in many places with a red-hot lance. In about a week after these means of escape are provided, one of the wounds will inflame, and assume the character of a small boil, from which the head of the worm will issue. This is then seized, and fastened either to a small reed or piece of wood, which is daily and most gently wound round, until, in the course of about a week, the entire worm will be extracted, unless broken during the operation, in which case severe inflammation will ensue.

It was the 22d November, and the time was approaching when the grass throughout the entire country would be sufficiently dry to be fired; we accordingly prepared for our expedition, and it was necessary to go to Katariff to engage men, and to procure a slave in the place of old Masara, whose owner would not trust her in the wild countries we were about to visit. We therefore mounted our horses, and in two days we reached Katariff, rather less than sixty miles distant. The journey was exceedingly uninteresting, as the route lay across the monotonous flats of rich table land, without a single object to attract the attention, except the long line of villages which at intervals of about six miles lined the way. During the dry weather (the present season) there was not a drop of water in this country, except in wells far apart. Thus the cattle within twenty miles of the Atbara were driven every alternate day that great distance to the river, as the wells would not supply the large herds of the Arabs; although the animals could support life by drinking every alternate day, the cows were dry upon the day of fasting; this proved a certain amount of suffering.

Upon arrival at Katariff we were hospitably received by a Greek merchant, Michel Georgis, a nephew of the good old man from whom we had received much attention while at Cassala. The town was a miserable place, composed simply of the usual straw huts of the Arabs; the market, or "Soog," was bi-weekly. Katariff was also known by the name of "Soog Abou Sinn."

I extract an entry from my journal. - "The bazaar held here is most original. Long rows of thatched open sheds, about six feet high, form a street; in these sheds the dealers squat with their various wares exposed on the ground before them. In one, are Manchester goods, the calicoes are printed in England, with the name of the Greek merchant to whom they are consigned; in another, is a curious collection of small wares, as though samples of larger quantities, but in reality they are the dealer's whole stock of sundries, which he deals out to numerous purchasers in minute lots, for paras and half piastres, ginger, cloves, chills, cardamoms, pepper, turmeric, orris root, saffron, sandal-wood, musk, a species of moss that smells like patchouli, antimony for colouring the eyes and lips, henna, glass beads, cowrie shells, steels for striking fire, &c. &c. Other stalls contain sword-blades, files, razors, and other hardware, all of German manufacture, and of the most rubbishing kind. Mingled with these, in the same stall, are looking-glasses, three inches square, framed in coloured paper; slippers, sandals, &c. Other sheds contain camel ropes and bells, saddlery of all descriptions that are in general use, shoes, &c.; but the most numerous stalls are those devoted to red pepper, beads, and perfumery."

Beyond the main street of straw booths are vendors of miscellaneous goods, squatting under temporary fan-shaped straw screens, which are rented at the rate of five paras per day (about a farthing); beneath these may be seen vendors of butter and other grease, contained in a large jar by their side, while upon a stone before them are arranged balls of fat which are sold at five paras a lump. Each morsel is about the size of a cricket-ball: this is supposed to be the smallest quantity required for one dressing of the hair. Other screens are occupied by dealers in ropes, mats, leathern bags, girbas or water-skins, gum sacks, beans, waker, salt, sugar, coffee, &c. &c. Itinerant snmiths are at work, making knife-blades, repairing spears, &c. with small boys working the bellows, formed of simple leathern bags that open and close by the pressure of two sticks. The object that draws a crowd around him is a professional story-teller, wonderfully witty, no doubt, as, being mounted upon a camel from which he addresses his audience, he provokes roars of merriment; his small eyes, overhanging brow, large mouth, with thin and tightly compressed lips and deeply dimpled cheeks, combined with an unlimited amount of brass, completed a picture of professional shrewdness.

Camels, cattle, and donkeys are also exposed for sale. The average price for a baggage camel is twelve dollars; a hygeen, from thirty to sixty dollars; a fat ox, from six to ten dollars (the dollar at four shillings).

Katariff is on the direct merchants' route from Cassala to Khartoum. The charge for transport is accordingly low; a camel loaded with six cantars (600 lbs.) from this spot to Cassala, can be hired for one dollar, and from thence to Souakim, on the Red Sea, for five dollars; thus all produce is delivered from Katariff to the shipping port, at a charge of four shillings per hundred pounds. Cotton might be grown to any extent on this magnificent soil, and would pay the planter a large profit, were regular steam communication established at a reasonable rate between Souakimn and Suez.

There is a fine grey limestone in the neighbourhood of Katariff. The collection of people is exceedingly interesting upon a market day, as Arabs of all tribes, Tokrooris, and some few Abyssinians, concentrate from distant points. Many of the Arab women would be exceedingly pretty were their beauty not destroyed by their custom of gashing the cheeks in three wounds upon either side; this is inflicted during infancy. Scars are considered ornamental, and some of the women are much disfigured by such marks upon their arms and backs; even the men, without exception, are scarified upon their cheeks. The inhabitants of Kordofan and Darfur, who are generally prized as slaves, are invariably marked, not only with simple scars, but by cicatrices raised high above the natural surface by means of salt rubbed into the wounds; these unsightly deformities are considered to be great personal attractions. The Arab women are full of absurd superstitions; should a woman be in an interesting condition, she will creep under the body of a strong camel, believing that the act of passing between the fore and hind legs will endue her child with the strength of the animal. Young infants are scored with a razor longitudinally down the back and abdomen, to improve their constitutions.

I engaged six strong Tokrooris - natives of Darfur - who agreed to accompany me for five months. These people are a tribe of Mahometan negroes, of whom I shall speak more hereafter; they are generally very powerful and courageous, and I preferred a few men of this race to a party entirely composed of Arabs. Our great difficulty was to procure a slave woman to grind the corn and to make the bread for the people. No proprietor would let his slave on hire to go upon such a journey, and it was impossible to start without one; the only resource was to purchase the freedom of some woman, and to engage her as a servant for the trip. Even this was difficult, as slaves were scarce and in great demand: however, at last I heard of a man who had a Galla slave who was clever at making bread, as it had been her duty to make cakes for sale in the bazaar upon market days. After some delays I succeeded in obtaining an interview with both the master and slave at the same time; the former was an Arab, hard at dealing, but, as I did not wish to drive a bargain, I agreed to the price, thirty-five dollars, 7l. The name of the woman was Barrake; she was about twenty-two years of age, brown in complexion, fat, and strong; rather tall, and altogether she was a fine powerful-looking woman, but decidedly not pretty; her hair was elaborately dressed in hundreds of long narrow curls, so thickly smeared with castor oil that the grease had covered her naked shoulders; in addition to this, as she had been recently under the hands of the hairdresser, there was an amount of fat and other nastiness upon her head that gave her the appearance of being nearly grey.

I now counted out thirty-five dollars, which I placed in two piles upon the table, and through the medium of Mahomet I explained to her that she was no longer a slave, as that sum had purchased her freedom; at the same time, as it was a large amount that I had paid, I expected she would remain with us as a servant until our journey should be over, at which time she should receive a certain sum in money, as wages at the usual rate. Mahomet did not agree with this style of address to a slave, therefore he slightly altered it in the translation, which I at once detected. The woman looked frightened and uneasy at the conclusion; I immediately asked Mahomet what he had told her. "Same like master tell to me!" replied the indignant Mahomet. "Then have the kindness to repeat to me in English what you said to her;" I replied. "I tell that slave woman same like master's word; I tell her master one very good master, she Barrake one very bad woman; all that good dollars master pay, too much money for such a bad woman. Now she's master's slave; she belong to master like a dog; if she not make plenty of good bread, work hard all day, early morning, late in night, master take a big stick, break her head."

This was the substance of a translation of my address tinged with Mahomet's colouring, as being more adapted for the ears of a slave!I My wife was present, and being much annoyed, we both assured the woman that Mahomet was wrong, and I insisted upon his explaining to her literally that "no Englishman could hold a slave; that the money I had paid rendered her entirely free; that she would not even be compelled to remain with us, but she could do as she thought proper; that both her mistress and I should be exceedingly kind to her, and we would subsequently find her a good situation in Cairo; in the meantime she would receive good clothes and wages."

This, Mahomet, much against his will, was obliged to translate literally. The effect was magical; the woman, who had looked frightened and unhappy, suddenly beamed with smiles, and without any warning she ran towards me, and in an instant I found myself embraced in her loving arms; she pressed me to her bosom, and smothered me with castor oily kisses, while her greasy ringlets hung upon my face and neck. How long this entertainment would have lasted I cannot tell, but I was obliged to cry "Caffa! Caffa!" (enough! enough!) as it looked improper, and the perfumery was too rich; fortunately my wife was present, but she did not appear to enjoy it more than I did; my snow-white blouse was soiled and greasy, and for the rest of the day I was a disagreeable compound of smells, castor oil, tallow, musk, sandal-wood, burnt shells, and Barrake.

Mahomet and Barrake herself, I believe, were the only people who really enjoyed this little event. "Ha!" Mahomet exclaimed, "this is your own fault! You insisted upon speaking kindly, and telling her that she is not a slave, now she thinks that she is one of your WIVES!" This was the real fact; the unfortunate Barrake had deceived herself; never having been free, she could not understand the use of freedom unless she was to be a wife. She had understood my little address as a proposal, and of course she was disappointed; but, as an action for breach of promise cannot be pressed in the Soudan, poor Barrake, although free, had not the happy rights of a free-born Englishwoman, who can heal her broken heart with a pecuniary plaster, and console herself with damages for the loss of a lover.

We were ready to start, having our party of servants complete, six Tokrooris - Moosa, Abdoolahi, Abderachman, Hassan, Adow, and Hadji Ali, with Mahomet, Wat Gamma, Bacheet, Mahomet secundus (a groom), and Barrake; total eleven men and the cook.

When half way to Wat el Negur, we found the whole country in alarm, Mek Nimmur having suddenly made a foray. He had crossed the Atbara, and plundered the district, and driven off large numbers of cattle and camels, after having killed a considerable number of people. No doubt the reports were somewhat exaggerated, but the inhabitants of the district were flying from their villages, with their herds, and were flocking to Katariff. We arrived at Wat el Negur on the 3d of December, and we now felt the advantage of our friendship with the good Sheik Achmet, who, being a friend of Mek Nimmur, had saved our effects during our absence; these would otherwise have been plundered, as the robbers had paid him a visit; - he had removed our tents and baggage to his own house for protection. Not only had he thus protected our effects, but he had taken the opportunity of delivering the polite message to Mek Nimmur that I had entrusted to his charge - expressing a wish to pay him a visit as a countryman and friend of Mr. Mansfield Parkyns, who had formerly been so well received by his father.

In a few days the whole country was up. Troops of the Dabaina Arabs, under the command of Mahmoud Wat Said (who had now assumed the chieftainship of the tribe after the death of his brother Atalan), gathered on the frontier, while about 2,000 Egyptian regulars marched against Gellabat, and attacked the Abyssinians and Tokrooris, who had united. Several hundreds of the Tokrooris were killed, and the Abyssinians retreated to the mountains. Large bodies of Egyptian irregulars threatened Mek Nimmur's country, but the wily Mek was too much for them. The Jalyn Arabs were his friends; and, although they paid tribute to the Egyptian Government from their frontier villages, they acted as spies, and kept Mek Nimmur au courant of the enemy's movements. The Hamran Arabs, those mighty hunters with the sword, were thorough Ishmaelites, and although nominally subject to Egypt, they were well known as secret friends to Mek Nimmur; and it was believed that they conveyed information of the localities where the Dabaina and Shookeryha Arabs had collected their herds. Upon these Mek Nimmur had a knack of pouncing unexpectedly, when he was supposed to be a hundred miles in an opposite direction.

The dry weather had introduced a season of anarchy along the whole frontier. The Atbara was fordable in many places, and it no longer formed the impassable barrier that necessitated peace. Mek Nimmur (the Leopard King) showed the cunning and ability of his namesake by pouncing upon his prey without a moment's warning, and retreating with equal dexterity. This frontier warfare, skilfully conducted by Mek Nimmur, was most advantageous to Theodorus, the King of Abyssinia, as the defence of the boundary was maintained against Egypt by a constant guerilla warfare. Upon several occasions, expeditions on a large scale had been organized against Mek Nimmur by the Governor-General of the Soudan; but they had invariably failed, as he retreated to the inaccessible mountains, where he had beaten them with loss, and they had simply wreaked their vengeance by burning the deserted villages of straw huts in the low lands, that a few dollars would quickly rebuild. Mek Nimmur was a most unpleasant neighbour to the Egyptian Government, and accordingly he was a great friend of the King Theodorus; he was, in fact, a shield that protected the heart of Abyssinia.

As I have already described, the Base were always at war with everybody; and as Mek Nimmur and the Abyssinians were constantly fighting with the Egyptians, the passage of the Atbara to the east bank was the commencement of a territory where the sword and lance represented the only law. The Hamran Arabs dared not venture with their flocks farther east than Geera, on the Settite, about twenty-five miles from Wat el Negur. From the point of junction of the Settite with the Atbara opposite Tomat to Geera, they were now encamped with their herds upon the borders of the river for the dry season. I sent a messenger to their sheik, Owat, accompanied by Mahomet, with the firman of the Viceroy, and I requested him to supply me with elephant-hunters (aggageers) and guides to accompany me into the Base and Mek Nimmur's country.

My intention was to thoroughly examine all the great rivers of Abyssinia that were tributaries to the Nile. These were the Settite, Royan, Angrab, Salaam, Rahad, Dinder, and the Blue Nile. If possible, I should traverse the Galla country, and crossing the Blue Nile, I should endeavour to reach the White Nile. But this latter idea I subsequently found impracticable, as it would have interfered with the proper season for my projected journey up the White Nile in search of the sources.

During the absence of Mahomet, I received a very polite message from Mek Nimmur, accompanied by a present of twenty pounds of coffee, with an invitation to pay him a visit. His country lay between the Settite river and the Bahr Salaam; thus without his invitation I might have found it difficult to traverse his territory; - so far, all went well. I returned my salaams, and sent word that we intended to hunt through the Base country, after which we should have the honour of passing a few days with him on our road to the river Salaam, at which place we intended to hunt elephants and rhinoceros. Mahomet returned, accompanied by a large party of Hamran Arabs, including several hunters, one of whom was Sheik Abou Do Roussoul, the nephew of Sheik Owat; as his name in full was too long, he generally went by the abbreviation "Abou Do." He was a splendid fellow, a little above six feet one, with a light active figure, but exceedingly well developed muscles: his face was strikingly handsome; his eyes were like those of a giraffe, but the sudden glance of an eagle lighted them up with a flash during the excitement of conversation, which showed little of the giraffe's gentle character. Abou Do was the only tall man of the party, the others were of middle height, with the exception of a little fellow named Jali, who was not above five feet four inches, but wonderfully muscular, and in expression a regular daredevil. There were two parties of hunters, one under Abou Do, and the other consisting of four brothers Sherrif. The latter were the most celebrated aggageers among the renowned tribe of the Hamran; their father and grandfather had been mighty Nimrods, and the broadswords wielded by their strong arms had descended to the men who now upheld the prestige of the ancient blades. The eldest was Taher Sherrif; his second brother, Roder Sherrif, was a very small, active-looking man, with a withered left arm. An elephant had at one time killed his horse, and on the same occasion had driven its sharp tusk through the arm of the rider, completely splitting the limb, and splintering the bone from the elbow-joint to the wrist to such an extent, that by degrees the fragments had sloughed away, and the arm had become shrivelled and withered. It now resembled a mass of dried leather, twisted into a deformity, without the slightest shape of an arm; this was about fourteen inches in length from the shoulder; the stiff and crippled hand, with contracted fingers, resembled the claw of a vulture.

In spite of his maimed condition, Roder Sherrif was the most celebrated leader in the elephant hunt. His was the dangerous post to ride close to the head of the infuriated animal and provoke the charge, and then to lead the elephant in pursuit, while the aggageers attacked it from behind; it was in the performance of this duty that he had met with the accident, as his horse had fallen over some hidden obstacle, and was immediately caught. Being an exceedingly light weight he had continued to occupy this important position in the hunt, and the rigid fingers of the left hand served as a hook, upon which he could hang the reins.

My battery of rifles was now laid upon a mat for examination; they were in beautiful condition, and they excited the admiration of the entire party. The perfection of workmanship did not appear to interest them so much as the size of the bores; they thrust their fingers down each muzzle, until they at last came to the "Baby," when, finding that two fingers could be easily introduced, they at once fell in love with that rifle in particular. My men explained that it was a "Jenna el Mootfah" (child of a cannon). "Sahe, Jenna el Mootfah kabeer," they replied (it is true, it is the child of a very big cannon). Their delight was made perfect by the exhibition of the half-pound explosive shell, the effects of which were duly explained. I told them that I was an old elephant hunter, but that I did not hunt for the sake of the ivory, as I wished to explore the country to discover the cause of the Nile inundations, therefore I wished to examine carefully the various Abyssinian rivers; but as I had heard they were wonderful sportsmen, I should like them to join my party, and we could both hunt and explore together. They replied that they knew every nook and corner of the entire country as far as Mek Nimmur's and the Base, but that in the latter country we must be prepared to fight, as they made a practice of showing no quarter to the Base, because they received none from them; thus we should require a strong party. I pointed to my rifles, which I explained were odds against the Base, who were without fire-arms; and we arranged to start together on the 17th of December.

In the interval I was busily engaged in making bullets for the journey, with an admixture of one pound of quicksilver to twelve of lead. This hardens the bullet at the same time that it increases the weight, but great caution must be observed in the manufacture, as the mercury, being heavier than the lead, will sink to the bottom, unless stirred with a red-hot iron when mixed. The admixture must take place in small quantities, otherwise the quicksilver will evaporate if exposed to a great heat. Thus the molten lead should be kept upon the fire in a large reservoir, while a portion of quicksilver should be added regularly to every ladleful taken for immediate use. This should be well stirred before it is poured into the mould. Bullets formed of this mixture of metals are far superior to any others.

My preparations for the journey were soon completed. We had passed a most agreeable time at Wat el Negur. Although I had not had much shooting, I gained much experienee in the country, having made several extensive journeys in the neighbourhood, and our constant conversations with the sheik had somewhat improved my Arabic. I had discovered several plants hitherto unknown to me, - among others, a peculiar bulb, from which I had prepared excellent arrowroot. This produced several tubers resembling sweet potatoes, but exceedingly long and thin; it was known by the Arabs as "baboon." I pierced with a nail a sheet of tin from the lining of a packing case, and I quickly improvised a grater, upon which I reduced the bulb to pulp. This I washed in water, and when strained through cotton cloth, it was allowed to settle for several hours. The clear water was then poured off; and the thick sediment, when dried in the sun, became arrowroot of the best quality. The Arabs had no idea of this preparation, but simply roasted the roots on the embers.

On the 17th of August, 1861, accompanied by the German Florian, we started from Wat el Negur, and said good-bye to our very kind friend, Sheik Achmet, who insisted upon presenting us with a strong but exceedingly light angarep (bedstead), suitable for camel travelling, and an excellent water-skin, that we should be constantly reminded of him, night and day.

Florian was in a weak condition, as he had suffered much from fever throughout the rainy season. He started under disadvantageous circumstances, as he had purchased a horse that was a bad bargain. The Arabs, who are sharp practitioners, had dealt hardly with him, as they had sold him a wretched brute that could make no other use of its legs than to kick. Of course they had imposed upon poor Florian a long history of how this horse in a giraffe hunt had been the first at the death, &c. &c., and he, the deceived, had promised to shoot a hippopotamus to give them in barter. This he had already done, and he had exchanged a river horse, worth twenty dollars, for a terrestrial horse, worth twenty piastres.

Florian had never mounted a horse in his lifetime as his shooting had always been on foot. This he now explained to us, although the confession was quite unnecessary, as his first attempt at mounting was made upon the wrong side.

Throughout his journey to Geera on the Settite, there was a constant difference of opinion between him and his new purchase, until we suddenly heard a heavy fall. Upon looking back, I perceived Florian like a spread eagle on his stomach upon the ground, lying before the horse, who was quietly looking at his new master. On another occasion, I heard a torrent of abuse expressed in German, and upon turning round I found him clinging to the neck of his animal, having lost both stirrups, while his rifle had fallen to the ground. He was now cursing his beast, whom he accused of wilful murder, for having replied by a kick to a slight tap he had administered with a stick. I could not help suggesting that he would find it awkward should he be obliged to escape from an elephant upon that animal in rough and difficult ground where good riding would be essential; and he declared that nothing should tempt him either to hunt or to escape from any beast on horseback, as he would rather trust to his legs.

Upon arriving at Geera, we bivouacked upon the sandy bed of the river, which had much changed in appearance since our last visit. Although much superior to the Atbara, the stream was confined to a deep channel about 120 yards wide, in the centre of the now dry bed of rounded pebbles and sand. Exactly opposite were extensive encampments of the Hamran Arabs, who were congregated in thousands between this point and the Atbara junction. Their limit for pasturage was about six miles up stream from Geera, beyond which point they dare not trust their flocks on account of their enemies, the Base.

We were immediately visited, upon our arrival, by a number of Arabs, including the Sheik Abou Do, from whom I purchased two good milk goats to accompany us upon our journey. I had already procured one at Wat el Negur in exchange for a few strips of hippopotamus hide for making whips.

Lions were roaring all night close to our sleeping place; there were many of these animals in this neighbourhood, as they were attracted by the flocks of the Arabs.

On the following morning, at daybreak, several Arabs arrived with a report that elephants had been drinking in the river within half an hour's march of our sleeping place. I immediately started with my men, accompanied by Florian, and we shortly arrived upon the tracks of the herd. I had three Hamran Arabs as trackers, one of whom, Taher Noor, had engaged to accompany us throughout the expedition.

For about eight miles we followed the spoor through high-dried grass and thorny bush, until we at length arrived at dense jungle of kittar, - the most formidable of the hooked thorn mimosas. Here the tracks appeared to wander; some elephants having travelled straight ahead, while others had strayed to the right and left. While engaged in determining the path of the herd, we observed four giraffes at about half a mile distant, but they had already perceived us, and were in full flight. For about two hours we travelled upon the circuitous tracks of the elephants to no purpose, when we suddenly were startled by the shrill trumpet of one of these animals in the thick thorns, a few hundred yards to our left. The ground was so intensely hard and dry that it was impossible to distinguish the new tracks from the old, which crossed and recrossed in all directions. I therefore decided to walk carefully along the outskirts of the jungle, trusting to find their place of entrance by the fresh broken boughs. In about an hour we had thus examined two or three miles, without discovering a clue to their recent path, when we turned round a clump of bushes, and suddenly came in view of two grand elephants, standing at the edge of the dense thorns; having our wind, they vanished instantly into the the jungle. We could not follow them, as their course was down wind; we therefore made a circuit to leeward for about a mile, and, finding that the elephants had not crossed in that direction, we felt sure that we must come upon them with the wind in our favour should they still be within the thorny jungle; this was certain, as it was their favourite retreat.

With the greatest labour I led the way, creeping frequently upon my hands and knees to avoid the hooks of the kittar bush, and occasionally listening for a sound. At length, after upwards of an hour passed in this slow and fatiguing advance, I distinctly heard the flap of an elephant's ear, shortly followed by the deep guttural sigh of one of those animals, within a few paces, but so dense was the screen of jungle that I could see nothing. We waited for some minutes, but not the slightest sound could be heard; the elephants were aware of danger, and they were, like ourselves, listening attentively for the first intimation of an enemy. This was a highly exciting moment; should they charge, there would not be a possibility of escape, as the hooked thorns rendered any sudden movement almost impracticable. In another moment, there was a tremendous crash; and, with a sound like a whirlwind, the herd dashed through the crackling jungle. I rushed forward, as I was uncertain whether they were in advance or retreat; leaving a small sample of my nose upon a kittar thorn, and tearing my way, with naked arms, through what, in cold blood, would have appeared impossible, I caught sight of two elephants leading across my path, with the herd following in a dense mass behind them. Firing a shot at the leading elephant, simply in the endeavour to check the herd, I repeated with the left-hand barrel at the head of his companion; this staggered him, and threw the main body into confusion: they immediately closed up in a dense mass, and bore everything before them, but the herd exhibited merely an impenetrable array of hind quarters wedged together so firmly that it was impossible to obtain a head or shoulder shot. I was within fifteen paces of them, and so compactly were they packed, that with all their immense strength they could not at once force so extensive a front through the tough and powerful branches of the dense kittar. For about half a minute they were absolutely checked, and they bored forward with all their might in their determination to open a road through the matted thorns: the elastic boughs, bent from their position, sprang back with dangerous force, and would have fractured the skull of any one who came within their sweep. A very large elephant was on the left flank, and for an instant this turned obliquely to the left; I quickly seized the opportunity and fired the "Baby," with an explosive shell, aimed far back in the flank, trusting that it would penetrate beneath the opposite shoulder. The recoil of the "Baby," loaded with ten drachms of the strongest powder and a half-pound shell, spun me round like a top - it was difficult to say which was staggered the most severely, the elephant or myself; however, we both recovered, and I seized one of my double rifles, a Reilly No. 10, that was quickly pushed into my hand by my Tokroori, Hadji Ali. This was done just in time, as an elephant from the baffled herd turned sharp round, and, with its immense ears cocked, it charged down upon us with a scream of rage. "One of us she must have if I miss!"

This was the first downright charge of an African elephant that I had seen, and instinctively I followed my old Ceylon plan of waiting for a close shot. She lowered her head when within about six yards, and I fired low for the centre of the forehead, exactly in the swelling above the root of the trunk. She collapsed to the shot, and fell dead, with a heavy shock, upon the ground. At the same moment, the thorny barrier gave way before the pressure of the herd, and the elephants disappeared in the thick jungle, through which it was impossible to follow them.

I had suffered terribly from the hooked thorns, and the men likewise. This had been a capital trial for my Tokrooris, who had behaved remarkably well, and had I gained much confidence by my successful forehead shot at the elephant when in full charge; but I must confess that this is the only instance in which I have succeeded in killing an African elephant by the front shot, although I have steadily tried the experiment upon subsequent occasions.

Florian had not had an opportunity of firing a shot, as I had been in his way, and he could not pass on one side owing to the thorns.

We had very little time to examine the elephant, as we were far from home, and the sun was already low. I felt convinced that the other elephant could not be far off, after having received the "Baby's" half-pound shell carefully directed, and I resolved to return on the following morning with many people and camels to divide the flesh. It was dark by the time we arrived at the tents, and the news immediately spread through the Arab camp that two elephants had been killed.

On the following morning we started, and, upon arrival at the dead elephant, we followed the tracks of that wounded by the "Baby." The blood upon the bushes guided us in a few minutes to the spot where the elephant lay dead, at about 300 yards' distance. The whole day passed in flaying the two animals, and cutting off the flesh, which was packed in large gum sacks, with which the camels were loaded. I was curious to examine the effect of the half-pound shell: it had entered the flank on the right side, breaking the rib upon which it had exploded; it had then passed through the stomach and the lower portion of the lungs, both of which were terribly shattered, and breaking one of the fore-ribs on the left side, it had lodged beneath the skin of the shoulder. This was irresistible work, and the elephant had evidently dropped in a few minutes after having received the shell.

The conical bullet of quicksilver and lead, propelled by seven drachms of powder, had entered the exact centre of the forehead of the elephant No. 1, and, having passed completely through the brain and the back part of the skull, we found it sticking fast in the spine, BETWEEN THE SHOULDERS. These No. 10 Reillys* were wonderfully powerful rifles, and exceedingly handy; they weighed fourteen pounds, and were admirably adapted for dangerous game. I measured both the elephants accurately with a tape: that killed by the "Baby" was nine feet six inches from the forefoot to the shoulder, the other was eight feet three inches. It is a common mistake that twice the circumference of the foot is the height of an elephant; there is no such rule that can be depended upon, as their feet vary in size without any relative proportion to the height of the animal.

* They are now in England at Mr. Reilly's, No. 215, Oxford Street, having accompanied me throughout my expedition, and they have never been out of order.

A most interesting fact had occurred: when I found the larger elephant, killed by the "Baby," I noticed an old wound unhealed and full of matter in the front of the left shoulder; the bowels were shot through, and were green in various places. Florian suggested that it must be an elephant that I had wounded at Wat el Negur; we tracked the course of the bullet most carefully, until we at length discovered my unmistakeable bullet of quicksilver and lead, almost uninjured, in the fleshy part of the thigh, imbedded in an unhealed wound. Thus, by a curious chance, upon my first interview with African elephants by daylight, I had killed the identical elephant that I had wounded at Wat el Negur forty-three days ago in the dhurra plantation, twenty-eight miles distant! Both these elephants were females. It was the custom of these active creatures to invade the dhurra fields from this great distance, and to return to these almost impenetrable thorny jungles, where they were safe from the attack of the aggageers, but not from the rifles.

On our return to camp, the rejoicings were great; the women yelled as usual, and I delighted the Hamrans by dividing the meat, and presenting them with the hides for shields. I gave Abou Do, and all the hunters, and my camel drivers, large quantities of fat; and I found that I was accredited as a brother hunter by the knights of the sword, who acknowledged that their weapons were useless in the thick jungles of Tooleet, the name of the place where we had killed the elephants.