« AnteriorContinua »
they could only face an enemy; but as this is a faculty of which they are totally destitute, they serve for little more than to swell the apparent pomp of battle. Only, after the victory has been completely decided, and all the enemies' backs are turned, the Bornou horse at length take the field, and show considerable activity in cutting down the fugitives. The fighting part of the army consists of the Sheikh's old countrymen, the Kanemboo spearmen, with such of the Arabs, Tuaricks, and other hardy inhabitants of the desert, as the hope of plunder can attract to his standard.
The Sheikh, though his sway was now paramount, very prudently contented himself with the reality of power. The ostensible dignity of Sultan he conferred upon a member of the ancient royal family, whom the people would not have willingly seen entirely passed over, and whom he established in empty pomp at New Birnie. The fashions of courts are often liitle under the guidance either of nature or taste; nor has Europe in this respect always ground to reproach the rest of the world. But there is probably no court of which the taste is so absurd, grotesque, or preposterous, as that of Bornou. A huge belly is considered the primary requisite of a fine gentleman, or of one fit to wait on the Sultan; and where feeding and cramming will not produce this elegant feature, the part is cushioned and stuffed out till it appears to possess the required dimension. The honour attached to this form must arise seemingly from its being considered as a type of abundance and luxury. Over this unwieldy bulk are then thrown ten or twelve successive robes of various and rich materials. The head, too, is covered with fold over fold, till there is seen only a small part of the face, which, according to the nicest taste, ought to appear entirely on one side. Over all are numberless charms enclosed in green leather cases, covering their clothes, horses and arms. In this attire these champions actually take the field; but the idea of such unwieldy hogsheads acting any part in battle, appeared to the mission utterly ridiculous. Indeed, the Sultan, who ought to be more protuberant, and buried under a greater quantity of cloth than any of his chiefs, is subject to the convenient etiquette of never fighting. When his army is routed, and he cannot escape, he seats himself in state under a tree, and tranquilly awaits the stroke of the enemy.
The government of the Sheikh appears to be completely absolute. Justice is rigidly administered. Causes are first tried by the Cady, from whom an appeal lies to him. Major Den, ham praises much this prince for having turned all his conquests to the benefit of morality, by his strict enforcement of
the Mahommedan law. On finding, however, some of the points on which the main stress is laid, we must demur to this panegyric. One of the most deadly is the tasting a drop of water, under this burning sun, before evening, so long as the Rhamadan lasts. As soon as the prince, by means of numerous spies, learns that such an enormity has been committed, he subjects the criminal to four hundred lashes with a thong of hippopotamus's hide, which are usually followed in a few hours by a death of torture. At the same time, a man who had stolen ten camels was punished only by a hundred lashes from a milder instrument. The rigour of the Sheikh was also peculiarly directed against those failures in the fair sex, of which disgrace and loss of caste are the proper penalty. Death, with ignominy, was that which he awarded; and at one time, during the residence of the mission, sixty of these culprits were brought before him by his spies, of whom five were condemned to be hanged, and four were flogged with such severity, that two expired under the lash. This outrageous virtue, which we can scarcely forbear, with Major Denham, to pronounce diabolical, marks a strange anomaly in Mahometan morals. This merciless vindicator of female virtue deemed himself quite holy and pure, while he maintained a seraglio of upwards of a hundred wives and concubines, guarded by numerous eunuchs! After all, justice seems tolerably administered under the Sheikh, persons and property secured, and commerce considerably extending,
The bigotry of the ruling sovereign seems fully shared by the people, both of this and the neighbouring countries. Introduced as friends of Boo-Khaloom, the English met at first a cordial reception; but it was impossible to prevent the question being soon asked, to what Mahometan sect they belonged ? Boo-Khaloom replied, that they were unfortunate persons; they believed not in the book,' and did not sully five times a day. They had indeed a book of their own, in which they blindly believed, but in it nothing was said of Saidna Mahomet. A deep groan then burst from all the surrounding audience, and the strangers were viewed only with cold and averted glances. BooKhaloom endeavoured to retrieve matters by saying, that their nation was powerful, very powerful; that it was rich, very rich. This only drew from the most devout person present, the ejaculation, The Lord send all their riches into the hands of : true Mussulmen !' to which the rest echoed, " Amen.' The mission had a mortifying proof of this, in the case of a man accused of theft, and convicted by the clearest evidence, till he challenged the principal witness as having eaten the bread of the unbelievers. The witness could not deny the fact; yet
solemnly protested that no one present could surpass him in abhorrence of the Christians; but that, being in a state of starvation, he had been compelled by strong necessity's supreme command,' to enter their service for two or three weeks. All his pleas, however, were overruled; his evidence was set aside, and the prisoner acquitted.
Boo-Khaloom had brought with him an extensive assortment of goods, for which he did not find a sufficient demand in the market of Bornou. His own anxious wish seems to have been, to proceed into Soudan, and make this a mere peaceable and commercial expedition. His followers, however, were dazzled by proposals held out of expeditions to the south, the result of which was to be the bringing in of an immense body of slaves, by far the most precious booty in their eyes. The malecontent part of the caravan was reinforced by his own brother, and their feuds were fomented by the Sheikh, who had views of his own to serve. Boo-Khaloom at last felt, that he could not on any other terms return with eclat to Fezzan, where his Sultan, would derive a vast advantage, from being able to reproach him with having neglected to bring so copious an influx of wealth. Under these influences, the Arab chief allowed his better judgment to be overpowered, and agreed to form a ghrazzie, or slave-hunt, into the mountains of Mandara. The Sheikh sent with him a large body of cavalry, under Barca Gana, who, originally a purchased slave from Soudan, had been raised to the rank of commander-in-chief by the merits of matchless bodily strength and prowess, the latter greatly reinforced by the belief of his possessing a charm that rendered him invulnerable.
The Sheikh prohibited Major Denham from accompanying this foray, alleging that he himself was responsible for his safety to the Bashaw, and could not expose him to its dangers, which he was secretly conscious might be very great. The Major, however, fired with zeal for discovery, set off without leave, when the Sheikh sent a slave to attend him, and placed him under the especial care of Barca Gana. They passed by several large towns, along a route which continually ascended, till they came in view of a new and grand feature of African geography, the kingdom and mountains of Mandara. The former consists of a fine valley, in which are situated eight large, and a number of smaller towns. This valley, and even the Mandara capital, are immediately overhung by the mountains, whose recesses are tenanted by a numerous and barbarous race, comprehended under the general name of Kerdies or Pagans. They are hence considered as lawful prey; and a Kerdy district to carry into
captivity, was now the universal cry of the Arabs. The dwellings of these people were everywhere seen in clusters on the sides, and even at the tops of the hills, which immediately overlook the Mandara capital. “The fires which were visible o in the different nests of these unfortunates, threw a glare • upon the bold peaks and blunt promontories of granite
rock by which they were surrounded, and produced a 6 picturesque and somewhat awful appearance.'
The peaks immediately adjoining were not above 2,500 feet high; but others that were seen in the distance to the south, towered evidently to a much greater height. One peak, said to be thirtyfive miles distant, had a most alpine character, and much resembled the aiguilles of Mont Blanc, as seen from the Mer de Glace. They were asserted to extend southward for two months' journey, and in some places to be ten times as high as those which rose above the plain of Mandara. They were called large, large moon mountains; so that this classic name is even here applied to the central range of Africa. The natives are numerous; they paint their bodies, cover themselves with the skins of wild beasts, and subsist chiefly on fruits, honey, and the fish drawn from large lakes.
To these unfortunate mountaineers the view of the Arab tents in the valley beneath was a most appalling spectacle. They knew well the purpose; and each thought only how to prevent the storm fron burstingon his own head. Parties were seen coming down with leopard skins, honey, and slaves, as presents or peace-offerings to the Sultan. As the tidings spread, there appeared a detachment of the people of Musgow, a more distant and uncouth race. They came mounted on little fiery steeds, covered only with the skin of a goat or leopard, and having round their neck long strings of the teeth of their enemies. They brought two hundred slaves; and, on being admitted to the Royal presence, threw themselves on the ground, cast sand on their heads, and uttered the most piteous cries. The Sultan began to observe to BooKhaloom, that really these people appeared extremely tractable, and that probably the mere dread of the Arab arms would turn their hearts to the faith of the Prophet. Boo-Khaloom listened with extreme coldness to these hopes, and expressed to Major Denham his indignant conviction, that nothing was less desired by this devout Mussulman than such an actual conversion, which would divest him of the right of driving this unfortunate race by thousands to the markets of Kano and Bornou. In fact, the Sultan had quite other views. United with Bornou, in fear and emnity to the Felatahs, he wished to engage the Arabs to aid in the attack of some strong posts which they held
in his neighbourhood. He was seconded by all the Bornouese influence. Besides other motives, Major Denham suspects that the Sheikh had been not a little mortified by the slighting mana ner in which the Arab chief, while treating of the southern expedition, had talked of black troops armed only with spears; two grounds of contempt which involved equally his own people;. and that he was not unwilling that Boo-Khaloom should have a trial of the most formidable of negro weapons, the poisoned arrows of the Felatahs. Boo-Khaloom long stood out; but at length his evil genius again prevailed. As he came out to order the movement of his followers, Major Denham asked him if all went well? to which he merely answered, with a troubled visage, God grant it may be so !' and hurried on.
On leaving Mora the capital, they entered at once, through a rugged pass, into the heart of that mass of mountains, whose apparently interminable chain spread before them in rugged magnificence, with clustering villages on their stony sides. In the intervening valleys were the first spots seen in Africa where nature seemed at all to have revelled in giving life to the vegetable kingdom ; the verdure was bright and luxuriant, and the trunks of the trees almost hid by the profusion of flowering parasitical plants which clung round them. On the following day they came in view of the Felatah town of Dirkullah. The attack was made by Boo-Khaloom and his Arabs, supported only by Barca Gana and about a hundred of his picked chiefs ; the rest, as usual, hung behind, awaiting the alternative either of flight or pursuit, as the issue might dictate. The Arabs gallantly carried two successive posts, when they came to a third, enclosed between hills, and defended by a strong palisade. In half an hour these defences were carried, the town was entered, and the Felatahs driven up the sides of the hills. It was thought, had the cavalry now pushed forward, that the defeat would have been signal; but as some arrows continued to whiz through the air, that prudent body deemed it still advisable to hold itself ensconced behind the hills on the opposite side of the stream. The Felatahs, seeing the small number with whom they had to contend, now rallied; reinforcements joined them; and the women behind, like those of the ancient Germans, cheered them to the combat, supplied continually fresh arrows, and even assisted in rolling down fragments of rock upon the enemy. They now not only stood their ground, but began to attack in their turn, and to pour in clouds of those fatal arrows, which, wherever they struck, destined the victim soon to become a blackened corpse, with blood gushing from every orifice. The conulition of the Arabs soon became desperate; the arrows fell