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Title: Some Heroes of Travel - or, Chapters from the History of Geographical Discovery and Enterprise
Author: Adams, W. H. Davenport (William Henry Davenport), 1828-1891
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Some Heroes of Travel - or, Chapters from the History of Geographical Discovery and Enterprise" ***

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                          [Picture: Book cover]

                      [Picture: Map of North Africa]

                         [Picture: Map of Mexico]



                          SOME HEROES OF TRAVEL


                        _OR_, _CHAPTERS FROM THE_
                   _HISTORY OF GEOGRAPHICAL DISCOVERY_
                            _AND ENTERPRISE_.

                                WITH MAPS.

                    COMPILED AND REWRITTEN BY THE LATE

                          W. H. DAVENPORT ADAMS.

    “Have you been a traveller?”

                                                              SHAKESPEARE.

                                * * * * *

              PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE COMMITTEE
           OF GENERAL LITERATURE AND EDUCATION APPOINTED BY THE
                SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                 LONDON:

                SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE,
               NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, CHARING CROSS, W.C.;
                     43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET, E.C.
                                  1893.



PREFACE.


THE present age is sometimes described as an Age of Commonplace; but it
has its romance if we care to look for it.  Assuredly, the adventures of
its travellers and explorers do not lose in importance or interest, even
when compared with those of their predecessors in days when a great part
of the world was still “virgin ground.”  In the following pages, this
thesis is illustrated by a summary of the narratives of certain “Heroes
of Travel” belonging to our own time; and I believe it will be found that
for “stirring scenes” and “hair-breadth escapes” they vie with any which
the industrious Hakluyt, the quaint Purchas, or, coming down to a later
date, the multifarious Pinkerton has collected.  However, on this point
the reader has an opportunity of satisfying himself, as, by way of
contrast, I have prefixed to these Episodes of Recent Travel a succinct
account of the enterprise of Messer Marco Polo, the Pioneer of Mediæval
Travellers.

There is no pleasanter mode of learning geography than by studying the
works of distinguished travellers; and therefore this little book may
claim to possess some slight educational value, while primarily intended
to supply the young with attractive but not unwholesome reading.  The
narratives which it contains have been selected with a view to variety or
interest.  They range over Mexico, Western Australia, Central Africa, and
Central Asia.  They include the experiences of the hunter, the war
correspondent, and the geographical explorer; and, in recognition of the
graceful influence of women, of a lady traveller, who showed herself as
resolute and courageous as any of the so-called hardier sex.  And,
finally, they have the merit, it is believed, of not having appeared in
previous compilations.

As a companion for the fireside corner, this little book will, I hope, be
welcome to all English-speaking lads and lasses, who will learn from its
pages how much may be accomplished by patience, perseverance, and energy.



CONTENTS.

                                                                  PAGE
SIR MARCO POLO, THE VENETIAN, AND HIS TRAVELS IN ASIA                1
MR. GEORGE F. BUXTON, AND HIS ADVENTURES IN MEXICO AND THE          49
ROCKY MOUNTAINS
DOCTOR BARTH, AND CENTRAL AFRICA                                    90
MR. THOMAS WITLAM ATKINSON, AND HIS ADVENTURES IN SIBERIA          157
AND CENTRAL ASIA
ALEXINA TINNÉ, AND HER WANDERINGS IN THE SUDAN                     229
MR. J. A. MACGAHAN, AND CAMPAIGNING ON THE OXUS                    260
COLONEL EGERTON WARBURTON, AND EXPLORATION IN WEST AUSTRALIA       293
MAJOR BURNABY, AND A RIDE TO KHIVA                                 325
SIR SAMUEL BAKER, AND THE SOURCES OF THE NILE                      335

                  [Picture: Map of Marco Polo’s Travels]



SIR MARCO POLO, THE VENETIAN,
AND HIS TRAVELS IN ASIA.


WE should be inclined to consider Sir Marco Polo as one of the greatest
travellers the world has ever seen.  It is true he was not a man of
genius; that he was not, like Columbus, inspired by a lofty enthusiasm;
that he displayed no commanding superiority of character.  But when we
remember the vast compass of his journeys, and the circumstances under
which they were carried out; when we remember, too, how close an observer
he was, and how rigidly accurate, and his plenitude of energy and
perseverance—we feel that he is, beyond all cavil or question, entitled
to be recognized as the king of mediæval travellers.  Let us take Colonel
Yule’s summary of his extraordinary achievements:—

“He was the first Traveller to trace a route across the whole longitude
of Asia, naming and describing kingdom after kingdom which he had seen
with his own eyes; the Deserts of Persia, the flowering plateaux and wild
gorges of Badakshan, the jade-bearing rivers of Khotan; the Mongolian
steppes, cradle of the power that had so lately threatened to swallow up
Christendom; the new and brilliant Court that had been established at
Cambaluc: the first Traveller to reveal China in all its wealth and
vastness, its mighty rivers, its huge cities, its rich manufactures, its
swarming population, the inconceivably vast fleets that quickened its
seas and its inland waters; to tell us of the nations on its borders,
with all their eccentricities of manners and worship; of Tibet, with its
sordid devotees; of Burma, with its golden pagodas and their tinkling
crowns; of Laos, of Siam, of Cochin China; of Japan, the Eastern Thule,
with its rosy pearls and golden-roofed palaces: the first to speak of
that Museum of Beauty and Wonder, still so imperfectly ransacked, the
Indian Archipelago, source of those aromatics then so highly prized and
whose origin was so dark; of Java, the Pearl of Islands; of Sumatra, with
its many kings, its strange costly products, and its cannibal races; of
the dusky savages of Nicobar and Andaman; of Ceylon, the Isle of Gems,
with its sacred Mountain and its tomb of Adam; of India the Great, not as
a dreamland of Alexandrian fables, but as a country seen and partially
explored, with its virtuous Brahmans, its obscene ascetics, its diamonds
and the strange tales of their acquisition, its sea-beds of pearl, and
its powerful sun: the first in mediæval times to give any distinct
account of the secluded Christian Empire of Abyssinia and the
semi-Christian island of Socotra; to speak, though indeed dimly, of
Zanzibar, with its negroes and its ivory, and of the vast and distant
Madagascar, bordering on the Dark Ocean of the South, with its Roc {3}
and other monstrosities; and, in a remotely opposite region, of Siberia
and the Arctic Ocean, of dog-sledges, white bears, and reindeer-riding
Tunguses.”

Who can dispute the fame of a man whose name and memory are associated
with so marvellous a catalogue of discoveries, who anticipated the
travellers of a later generation in many of their most remarkable
enterprises?  At one time, the authenticity of his statements was
frequently and openly impugned; he was accused of exaggeration and
inexactitude; but the labours of Marsden, Pauthier, and especially of
Colonel Yule, have shown that his statements, so far as they are founded
on personal observation, may be implicitly accepted.

                                * * * * *

In the early part of the fourteenth century there lived at Venice a
patrician of good family, named Andrea Polo, to whom were born three
sons, Marco, Nicolo, and Maffeo.  Nicolo, the second of these sons, was
the father of our traveller, Marco Polo, who was born in 1254.  Engaged
in extensive commercial operations, Nicolo, soon after his son’s birth,
journeyed to Constantinople, and thence proceeded on a trading venture to
the Crimea, which led to his ascending the Volga for a considerable
distance, and crossing the steppes to visit Bokhara and the Court of the
great Kublai Khan, on or within the borders of Cathay.  Kublai, the hero
of so many legends, had never before seen a European.  He tendered to
Nicolo and his brother Maffeo (who travelled with him) a right royal
welcome; was deeply interested in all they told him of the kingdoms and
states of Europe; and finally resolved on sending them back, with one of
his own nobles, as ambassadors to the Pope.  In this capacity they
arrived at Acre in 1269; but as Pope Clement IV. had died in the previous
year, and no successor had as yet been elected, the two brothers thought
they might reasonably indulge themselves in a visit to their Venetian
homes, from which they had been absent for fifteen years.

Nicolo remained at Venice until 1271, when, no Pope having been elected,
he deemed it well that he should return to the Great Khan to explain the
delay which had taken place in the fulfilment of his mission.
Accompanied by his brother Maffeo, and his son Marco, a lad of seventeen,
he sailed to Acre, and thence to the port of Ayas on the gulf of
Scanderoon, where he was overtaken by the news that a Pope had at last
been elected in the person of an old friend of his, Tedoldo Visconti, or
Pope Gregory X., at that time legate in Syria.  The new Pope immediately
sent for the two brothers to Acre, and charged them with a cordial
message for the Khan.  He also sent him two Dominican monks to teach the
truths of science and Christianity; but they took fright at an early
stage of the journey, and hurried back to Acre; while the two brothers,
with young Polo, started overland for the Court of the Great Khan.

Reaching Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, they seem to have
taken a northern route; traversing successively the regions of Kerman and
Khorasan, Balkh and Badakshan, and ascending the Upper Oxus to the great
plateau of Pamir—a route followed by no European traveller, except
Benedict Goro, until it was undertaken by Captain John Wood, of the
Indian navy, in his special expedition to the sources of the Oxus in
1838.  Leaving the bleak wastes of the Pamir, the Polos descended into
Kashgar, visited Yarkand and Khotand, passed near Lake Lob, and
eventually traversed the great Desert of the Gobi, since explored by
several European travellers, to Tangut, the name then applied by Mongols
and Persians to territory at the extreme north-west of China, both within
and without the famous Wall.  Skirting the Chinese frontier, they came
upon the Great Khan at his summer palace of Kaiping-fu, near the foot of
the Khin-gan Mountains, and about fifty miles north of the Great Wall.
This must have been in May, 1275, or thereabouts, when Marco Polo was
close upon one and twenty.

“The king of kings” received the three bold Venetians with much favour.
“He showed great pleasure at their coming, and asked many questions as to
their welfare, and how they had sped.  They replied that they had in
verity sped well, seeing that they found the Khan well and safe.  Then
they presented the credentials and letters which they had received from
the Pope, and those pleased him right well; and after that they produced
some sacred oil from the Holy Sepulchre, whereat he was very glad,
valuing it greatly.  And next, spying Marco, who was then a young gallant
(_jeune bacheler_), he asked who was that in their company.  ‘Sire,’ said
his father, Messer Nicolo, ‘he is my son and your liegeman.’  ‘Welcome is
he too,’ quoth the Emperor.  But why should I make a long story?  There
was great rejoicing at the Court because of their arrival; and they met
with attention and honour from everybody.  So there they abode at the
Court with the other barons.”

Among young Marco Polo’s gifts appears to have been a facility for
acquiring languages.  He speedily mastered that of the Tartars, so as
both to write and speak it; and in a brief space he came to know several
other languages and four written characters.  He studied also the customs
of the Tartars and their mode of carrying on war.  His ability and
prudence greatly recommended him to Kublai, and he began to employ him in
the public service.  His first embassy was to a country lying a six
months journey distant; apparently the province of Yun-nan, which he
reached by way of Shansi, Shensi and Szechuen.  He had been shrewd enough
to observe that the Khan was disgusted with the rigid officialism of his
ambassadors, who, on returning from their various missions, would speak
only of the business they had transacted, whereas he would fain have
heard of the strange things, peoples, and countries they had seen.  And
so he took full notes of all he saw, and returned to the Khan’s Court
brimful of surprising information, to which the prince listened with
evident pleasure.  “If this young man live,” he said, “he will assuredly
come to be a person of great work and capacity.”

For seventeen years Marco Polo remained in the Khan’s service, being sent
on several important embassies, and engaged also in the domestic
administration.  For three years he held the government of the important
city of Yangchau.  On another occasion, with his uncle Maffeo, he spent a
twelvemonth at Kangchau in Tangut.  He also visited Karakorum, the old
Mongolian capital of the Khans, and penetrated into Champa, or Southern
Cochin China.  Finally, he seems to have been sent on a mission to the
Indian Seas, and to have explored several of the southern states of
India.  And thus it came about that Messer Marco Polo had knowledge of,
or actually visited, a greater number of the different countries of the
world than any other man; the more that he was always eager to gain
information, and to examine and inquire into everything.

Meantime, the Venetians were growing wealthy, and Marco’s father and
uncle were growing old; and increasing wealth and increasing years raised
in them an apprehension of what might befall them in case of the aged
Khan’s death, and a desire to return to their native land.  Several times
they applied to Kublai for permission to depart; but he was loth to say
farewell to the men whom he had known and trusted so long, and, but for
an opportune event, they might never have succeeded in carrying
themselves and their jewels and gold back to Europe.  In 1286 Arghún
Khan, of Persia, Kublai’s great-nephew, lost his favourite wife, the
Khatun Bulaghán.  On her death-bed she charged him to supply her place
with a daughter of her own tribe, the Mongols of Bayaut; and, desirous of
fulfilling her dying wish, the bereaved prince despatched three
ambassadors to Kublai’s Court to seek for him a fitting bride.  The Great
Khan received them with all honour and hospitality, and then sent for the
lady Kukachiu, a maiden of seventeen, and a very beautiful and gracious
person.  On her arrival at Court she was presented to the three
ambassadors, who declared that the lady pleased them well.

The overland route from Peking to Tabriz was long and dangerous, and the
envoys decided, therefore, on returning, with their fair charge, by sea.
While sojourning at the Khan’s Court they had made the acquaintance of
the three Venetians, and being greatly impressed by their marvellous good
sense and experience, and by Marco Polo’s extensive knowledge of the
Indian seas and territories, they entreated the Khan to allow them the
advantage and protection of their company.  It was with profound
reluctance that Kublai gave his consent; but when once he had done so, he
behaved with his wonted splendour of generosity.  Summoning the three
Venetians to his presence, he placed in their hands two golden “tablets
of authority,” which secured them a free passage through all his
dominions, and unlimited supplies of all necessaries for themselves and
for their company.  He entrusted them also with messages to the King of
France, the King of England, the King of Spain, and other sovereigns of
Christendom.  Then he caused thirteen ships to be equipped, each with
four masts and nine to twelve sails; and when all was ready, the
ambassadors and the lady, with the three Venetians, took leave of the
Great Khan, and went on board their ships, with a large retinue, and with
two years’ supplies provided by the Emperor (A.D. 1292).

The port from which they set out seems to have been that of Zaytou, in
Fo-kien.  The voyage was long and wearisome, and chequered by much ill
fortune; and in the course of it two of the ambassadors died, and as many
as six hundred of the mariners and attendants.  They were detained for
months on the coast of Sumatra, and in the south of India; nor did they
arrive at Hormuz until the end of 1293.  There they learned that Arghún
Khan had been dead a couple of years, and that he had been succeeded by
his brother Kaikhatu.  The lady, according to the custom of the country,
became the wife of Arghún’s son, Prince Ghazan, who is spoken of as
endowed with some of the highest qualities of a king, a soldier, and a
legislator; but she wept much in bidding farewell to her noble Venetian
friends.

As for Marco Polo, his father, and uncle, having discharged the trust
placed in their hands by Kublai Khan, they proceeded to Tabriz, on a
visit to Kaikhatu; and having sojourned there for some months, journeyed
homeward by way of Trebizond, Constantinople, and Negropont, arriving in
Venice in 1295, after an absence of four and twenty years.

The traditional story of their arrival is related by Ramusio:—

“Years of anxiety and travel, and the hardships of many journeys, had so
changed the appearance of the three Venetians, who, indeed, had almost
forgotten their native tongue, that no one in Venice recognized them.
Their clothes, too, were coarse and shabby, and after the Tartar fashion.
Proceeding to their house in Venice, a lofty and handsome palazzo, and
known by the name of the Corte del Millioni, they found it occupied by
some of their relatives, whom they had no small difficulty in convincing
of their identity.  To secure the desired recognition, and the honourable
notice of the whole city, they adopted a quaint device.

“Inviting a number of their friends and kindred to an entertainment, they
were careful that it should be prepared with great state and splendour;
and when the hour came for sitting down to table, they came forth from
their chamber, all clothed in crimson satin, fashioned in long robes
reaching to the ground, such as in those days people wore within doors.
And when water for ablutions had been served, and the guests were sat,
they doffed these robes, and put on others of crimson damask, while the
first suits were, by their orders, cut up and divided among the servants.
After partaking of some of the dishes, they again retired, to come back
resplendent in robes of crimson velvet, and when they had again taken
their seats, the cast-off robes were divided as before.  When dinner was
over, they did the like with the robes of velvet, after they had attired
themselves in dresses of the same fashion as those worn by the rest of
the company.  Much wonder and astonishment did the guests exhibit at
these proceedings.

“Now, when the cloth had been removed, and all the servants had quitted
the dining-hall, Messer Marco, as the youngest of the three, rose from
table, and, going into another chamber, brought forth the three shabby
dresses of coarse stuff which they had worn, on their arrival in the
city.  Straightway, with sharp knives they began to rip some of the seams
and welts, and to draw forth vast quantities of jewels of the highest
value—rubies and sapphires, carbuncles, diamonds, and emeralds—which had
all been stitched up in those dresses so artfully that nobody could have
suspected their presence.  For when they took leave of the Great Khan,
they had converted all the wealth he had bestowed upon them into this
mass of precious stones, being well aware of the impossibility of
carrying with them so great an amount in gold, over a journey of such
extreme length and difficulty.  The exhibition of this immense treasure
of jewels and precious stones, all poured out upon the table, threw the
guests into fresh amazement, so that they appeared bewildered and
dumfounded.  And straightway they recognized, what they had formerly
doubted, that the three strangers were indeed those worthy and honoured
gentlemen of the Polo family whom they had claimed to be; and paid them
the greatest reverence.  And the story being bruited abroad in Venice,
the whole city, gentle and simple, hastened to the house to embrace them,
and make much of them, with every demonstration of affection and respect.
On Messer Maffeo, the eldest, they conferred an office that in those days
was of high dignity; while the young men came daily to visit and converse
with the ever polite and gracious Messer Marco, and to ask him questions
about Cathay and the Great Khan, all of which he answered with such
courtesy and kindliness, that every man felt himself in a manner in his
debt.  And as it chanced that in the narrative which he was constantly
called on to repeat of the magnificence of the Great Khan, he would speak
of his revenues as amounting to ten or fifteen ‘millions’ of gold, and,
in like manner, when recounting other instances of great wealth in those
remote lands, would always employ the term ‘millions,’ people nicknamed
him Messer Marco _Millioni_—a circumstance which I have noted also in the
public books of this Republic where he is mentioned.  The court of his
house, too, at S. Giovanni Crisostomo has always from that time been
popularly known as the Court of the Millioni.” {12}

We pass on to 1298, a year which witnessed a fresh outburst of the bitter
enmity between Genoa and Venice.  The Genoese, intent upon crushing their
formidable rival, despatched a great fleet into the Adriatic, under the
command of Lamba Doria.  Off the island of Curzola they were met by a
more powerful armada, of which Andrea Dandolo was admiral, and one of the
galleys of which was commanded by Marco Polo.  The battle began early on
the 7th of September, the Venetians entering into it with the glad
confidence of victory.  Their impetuous attack was rewarded by the
capture of the Genoese galleys; but, dashing on too eagerly, many of
their ships ran aground.  One of these was captured, cleared of its crew,
and filled with Genoese.  Closing up into a column, the Genoese pushed
the encounter hotly, and broke through the Venetian line, which the
misadventure we have spoken of had thrown into disorder.  Throughout the
long September day the fight was bravely supported; but, towards sunset,
a squadron of cruising ships arriving to reinforce Doria, the Venetians
were taken in flank, and finally overpowered.  The victory of the Genoese
was complete; they captured nearly all the Venetian vessels, including
the admiral’s, and seven thousand men, among whom were Dandolo and Marco
Polo.  The former disappointed the triumph of his victors by dashing out
his brains against the side of his galley; the latter was removed to
Genoa.

During his captivity Polo made the acquaintance of a Pisan man of
letters, named Rusticiano, or Rustichello, who was a prisoner like
himself.  When he learned the nature of Polo’s remarkable experiences,
this Pisan gentleman, not unnaturally, urged him to record them in
writing; and it would seem that the great traveller complied with the
request, and dictated to his new friend the narrative that has since
excited so much curious interest.  Through the intervention of Matteo
Visconti, Captain-General of Milan, peace was concluded in May, 1299,
between Genoa and Venice, and as one of the conditions was the release of
prisoners on both sides, Messer Marco Polo soon afterwards obtained his
freedom, and returned to his family mansion in the Corte del Sabbrin.  He
took with him the manuscript story of his world wanderings, and in 1306
presented a copy of it to a noble French knight, Thibault de Cipoy, who
had been sent on a diplomatic mission to Venice by Charles of Valois.

The closing years of a life which, in its spring and summer, had been
crowded with incident and adventures, were undisturbed by any notable
event, and in his old age Marco Polo enjoyed the sweetness of domestic
peace and the respect of his fellow-countrymen.  On the 9th of January,
1324, “finding himself growing feebler every day through bodily ailment,
but being by the grace of God of a meek mind, and of senses and judgment
unimpaired, he made his will, in which he constituted as his trustees
Donata, his beloved wife, and his dear daughters, Fantina, Bellola, and
Monta,” bequeathing to them the bulk of his property.  How soon
afterwards he died, there is no evidence to show; but it is at least
certain that it was before June, 1325.  We may conclude, therefore, that
his varied life fulfilled the Psalmist’s space of seventy years.

Marco Polo, says Martin Bucer, was the creator of the modern geography of
Asia.  He was the Humboldt of the thirteenth century; and the record of
his travels must prove an imperishable monument of his force of
character, wide intelligence and sympathy, and unshaken intrepidity.  We
have thus briefly summarized his remarkable career, and indicated the
general extent of his travels.  To follow him in detail throughout his
extensive journeys would be impossible within the limits prescribed to
us; and we shall content ourselves, therefore, with such extracts from
his narrative as will best illustrate their more interesting and striking
features, and indirectly assist us in forming some conception of the man
himself.

And first, we take his description of the great river of Badakshan and
the table-land of Pamir—which the wandering Kirghiz call “The Roof of the
World”—substituting modern names of places for those in the original.

                                * * * * *

“In leaving Badakshan, you ride twelve days between east and north-east,
ascending a river [the Upper Oxus] that runs through land belonging to a
brother of the Prince of Badakshan, and containing a good many towns and
villages and scattered habitations.  The people are Mohammedans, and
valiant in war.  At the end of those twelve days you come to a province
of no great size, extending indeed no more than three days’ journey in
any direction, and this is called Wakhan.  The people worship Mohammed,
and have a peculiar language.  They are gallant soldiers, and have a
chief whom they call _None_ [No-no?], which is as much as to say Count,
and they are liegemen to the Prince of Badakshan.

“There are numbers of wild beasts of all kinds in this region.  And when
you leave this little country, and ride three days north-east, always
among mountains, you get to such a height that it is spoken of as the
highest place in the world.  And when you reach this height, you find a
great lake between two mountains [Lake Sir-i-kol], and out of it a pure
river [the Oxus] flows through a plain clothed with the most beautiful
pasture in the world, so that a lean beast would fatten there to your
heart’s content in ten days.  There are great numbers of all kinds of
wild beasts; among others, wild sheep of large size, with horns six palms
in length [the Rass, or _Ovis Poli_].  From these horns the shepherds
make great bowls out of which to eat their food; and they use the horns
also to enclose folds for their cattle at night.  Messer Marco was told
also that the wolves were numerous, and killed many of those wild sheep.
Hence quantities of their horns and bones were found, and these were made
into great heaps by the wayside, in order to direct travellers when snow
lay on the earth.

“The plain is called Pamir, and you ride across it for twelve days
together, finding nothing but a desert without habitation or any green
thing, so that travellers are compelled to carry with them whatever they
have need of.  The region is so lofty and so cold, that not a bird is to
be seen.  And I must also observe that, owing to this extreme cold, fire
does not burn so brightly, nor give out so much heat as usual, nor does
it cook food so thoroughly.

“Now, if we continue our journey towards the east-north-east, we travel
fully forty days, continually passing over mountains and hills, or
through valleys, and crossing many rivers and wildernesses.  And in all
this extent you find neither habitation of man, nor any green thing, and
must carry with you whatever you require.  The country is called Bolor
[the Tibetan kingdom of Balti].  The people dwell high up in the
mountains, and are savage idolaters, living only by the chase, and
clothing themselves in the skins of beasts.  They are, in truth, an evil
race.”

                                * * * * *

[In February, 1838, Captain John Wood crossed the Pamir, and his
description of it may be compared with the Venetian traveller’s.  “We
stood, to use a native expression,” he says, “upon the _Báni-i-Duniah_,
or ‘Roof of the World,’ while before us lay stretched a noble, but frozen
sheet of water, from whose western end issued the infant river of the
Oxus.  This fine lake (Sir-i-kol) lies in the form of a crescent, about
fourteen miles long from east to west, by an average breadth of one mile.
On three sides it is bordered by swelling hills about 500 feet high,
while along its southern bank they rise into mountains 3500 feet above
the lake, or 19,000 feet above the sea, and covered with perpetual snow,
from which never-failing source the lake is supplied.  Its elevation is
15,600 feet. . . .  The appearance of the country presented the image of
a winter of extreme severity.  Wherever one’s gaze rested, a dazzling bed
of snow covered the soil like a carpet, while the sky above our heads was
of a sombre and melancholy hue.  A few clouds would have refreshed the
eye, but none could be anywhere seen.  Not a breath rippled the surface
of the lake; not a living animal, not even a bird, presented itself to
the view.  The sound of a human voice had been harmonious music to the
ear, but, at this inhospitable season of the year, no one ventured into
these icy realms.  Silence reigned everywhere around us; a silence so
profound that it oppressed the heart.” {17}

                                * * * * *

Of the city of Lop (or Lob) and the great Desert of Gobi, Marco Polo
writes:—

“Lop is a large town on the border of the desert which is called the
Desert of Lop, and is situated between east and north-east.  It belongs
to the Great Khan, and the people worship Mohammed.  Now, such persons as
propose to cross the desert take a week’s rest in this town to refresh
themselves and their cattle; and then they make ready for the journey,
taking with them a month’s supply for man and beast.  On quitting this
city they enter the desert.

“The extent of this desert is so great, that it is said it would take a
year and more to ride from one end of it to the other.  And here, where
its breadth is least, it takes a month to cross it.  It is all composed
of hills and valleys of sand, and contains not a thing to eat.  But after
riding for a day and a night you find fresh water, enough mayhap for some
fifty or one hundred persons with their beasts, but not for more.  And
all across the desert you will find water in like manner, that is to say,
in some twenty-eight places altogether you will find good water, but in
no great quantity; and in four places also you find brackish water.

“Beasts there are none; for there is no food for them.  But there is a
marvellous thing related of this desert, which is that when travellers
are on the march by night, and one of them chances to drop behind, or to
fall asleep or the like, when he tries to regain his company, he will
hear spirits talking, and suppose them to be his comrades.  Sometimes the
spirits will call him by name; and thus shall a traveller frequently be
led astray so that he never finds his party.  And in this way many have
perished.  Sometimes the travellers will hear as it were the tramp and
murmur of a great cavalcade of people away from the real line of road,
and taking this to be their own company, will follow the sound; and when
day breaks they discover the deception, and perceive that they are in an
evil plight.  Even in the day time the spirits may be heard talking.  And
sometimes you shall hear the sound of various musical instruments, and
still more commonly the rattle of drums.  Hence, in performing this
journey, it is customary for travellers to keep close together.  All the
animals, too, have bells at their necks, so that they cannot easily get
astray.  And at sleeping time a signal is hoisted to show the direction
of the next march.

“And in this way it is that the desert is crossed.”

                                * * * * *

As the sea has its mermaids, and the river its water-sprites, Undines, or
Loreleys, which entice their victims to death, so the deserts and waste
places of the earth have their goblins and malignant demons.  The awe
inspired by the vastness and dreary solitude of the wilderness suggests
to the imagination only gloomy ideas, and it is conceived of as a place
where no influences or beings favourable to man can exist.  Its sounds
are sounds of terror; its appearances all foster a sentiment of mystery.
Pliny tells us of the phantoms that start up before the traveller in the
African deserts; Mas’udi, of the Ghûls, which in night and solitude seek
to lead him astray.  An Arab writer relates a tradition of the Western
Sahara:—“If the wayfarer be alone the demons make sport of him, and
fascinate him, so that he wanders from his course and perishes.”  Colonel
Yule remarks that the Afghan and Persian wildernesses also have their
_Ghûl-i-Beában_, or Goblin of the Waste, a gigantic and fearful spectre
which devours travellers; and even the Gaels of the West Highlands have
the desert creature of Glen Eiti, which, one-handed, one-eyed,
one-legged, seems exactly to answer to the Arabian Nesúas or _Empusa_.
And it may be added that the wind-swept wastes of Dartmoor, limited as is
their expanse, are, in the eyes of the peasantry, haunted by mysterious
and malevolent spirits.

The effect of the Desert on a cultivated mind is well described by Madame
Hommaire de Hell:—“The profound stillness,” she says, “which reigns in
the air produces an indescribable impression on our senses.  We scarcely
dare to interrupt it, it seems so solemn, so fully in harmony with the
infinite grandeur of the desert.  In vain will you seek a calm so
absolute in even the remotest solitudes of civilized countries.
Everywhere some spring murmurs, everywhere some trees rustle, everywhere
in the silence of the nights some voices are heard which arrest the
thought; but here nature is, so to speak, petrified, and we have before
us the image of that eternal repose which the mind is hardly able to
conceive.”

                                * * * * *

Concerning the customs of the Tartars, Marco Polo writes:—

“The Tartar custom is to spend the winter in warm plains where they find
good fodder for their cattle, while in summer they betake themselves to a
cool climate among the mountains and valleys, where water is to be found,
as well as woods and pastures.

“Their houses are circular, and are made of wands covered with felt.
These are carried along with them whithersoever they go; for the wands
are so strongly interwoven, and so well combined, that the framework can
be made very light.  Whenever these huts are erected, the door is always
placed to the south.  They also have waggons covered with black felt so
efficaciously that no rain can enter.  These are drawn by oxen and
camels, and the women and children travel in them.  The women do the
buying and selling, and whatever is necessary to provide for the husband
and household; for the men all lead the life of gentlemen, troubling
themselves about nothing but hawking and hunting, and looking after their
goshawks and falcons, unless it be the practice of warlike exercises.

“They live on the meat and milk which their birds supply, and on the
produce of the chase; and they eat all kinds of flesh, including that of
horses and dogs, and Pharaoh’s rats, of which there are great numbers in
burrows on these plains.  Their drink is mare’s milk. . . .

“This is the fashion of their religion: They say there is a most high God
of Heaven, whom they worship daily with thurible and incense, but they
pray to him only for health of mind and body.  But they have also a
certain other god of theirs called Natigay, and they say he is the God of
the Earth, who watches over their children, cattle, and crops.  They show
him great worship and honour, and every man hath a figure of him in his
house, made of felt and cloth; and they also make in the same manner
images of his wife and children.  The wife they put on the left hand, and
the children in front.  And when they eat, they take the fat of the meat
and grease the god’s mouth withal, as well as the mouths of his wife and
children.  Then they take of the broth and sprinkle it before the door of
the house; and that done, they deem that their god and his family have
had their share of the dinner.

“Their drink is mare’s milk, prepared in such a way that you would take
it for white wine, and a good right drink it is, called by them komiz.

“The clothes of the wealthy Tartars are for the most part of gold and
silk stuffs, lined with costly furs, such as sable and ermine, vair and
fox skin, in the richest fashion.”

                                * * * * *

As in succeeding chapters of this volume we shall have something to say
about the manners and customs of the Mongolian nomads, we may here be
content with observing that Marco Polo’s “Natigay” seems identical with
the “Nongait” or “Ongotiu” of the Buriats, who, according to Pallas, is
honoured by them as the tutelary god of sheep and other cattle.  Properly
the divinity consists of _two_ figures, hanging side by side, one of whom
represents the god’s wife.  These two figures are merely a pair of lanky
flat bolsters with the upper part shaped into a round disc, and the body
hung with a long woolly fleece; eyes, nose, breasts, and navel being
indicated by leather knobs stitched upon the surface.  The male figure
commonly has at his girdle the foot-rope with which horses at pasture are
fettered, whilst the female, which is sometimes accompanied by smaller
figures representing her children, is adorned with all sorts of little
nick-nacks and sewing implements.

                                * * * * *

The Tartar customs of war are thus described:—

“All their harness of war is excellent and costly.  Their arms are bows
and arrows, sword and mace; but, above all, the bow, for they are capital
archers, indeed the best that are known.  On their backs they wear armour
of cuirbouly, {22} prepared from buffalo and other hides, which is very
strong.  They are excellent soldiers, and passing valiant in battle.
They are also more capable of hardship than other nations; for many a
time, if need be, they will go for a month without any supply of food,
living only on the milk of their mares and on such game as their bows may
win them.  Their horses also will subsist entirely on the grass of the
plains, so that there is no need to carry store of barley, or straw, or
oats; and they are very docile to their riders.  These, in case of need,
will abide on horseback the livelong night, armed at all points, while
the horse will be continually grazing.

“Of all troops in the world these are they which endure the greatest
hardship and fatigue, and cost the least; and they are the best of all
for making wide conquests of country.  And there can be no manner of
doubt that now they are the masters of the larger half of the world.
Their armies are admirably ordered in the following manner:—

“You see, when a Tartar prince goes forth to war, he takes with him, say,
a hundred thousand horse.  Well, he appoints an officer to every ten men,
one to every hundred, one to every thousand, and one to every ten
thousand, so that his own orders have to be given to ten persons only,
and each of these persons has to pass the orders only to other ten, and
so on; none having to give orders to more than ten.  And every one in
turn is responsible only to the officer immediately over him; and the
discipline and order that comes of this method is marvellous, for they
are a people very obedient to their chiefs. . . .  And when the army is
on the march they have always two hundred horsemen, very well mounted,
who are sent a distance of two marches in advance to reconnoitre, and
these always keep ahead.  They have a similar party detached in the rear
and on either flank, so that there is a good look-out kept on all sides
against surprise.  When they are going on a distant expedition, they take
no gear with them except two leather bottles for milk, and a little
earthenware pot to cook their meat in, and a little tent to shelter them
from rain.  And in case of great urgency, they will ride ten days on end
without lighting a fire or taking a meal.  On such an occasion they will
sustain themselves on the blood of their horses, opening a vein and
letting the blood jet into their mouths, drinking till they have had
enough, and then staunching it.

“They also have milk dried into a kind of paste to carry with them; and
when they need food, they put this in water, and beat it up till it
dissolves, and then drink it.  It is prepared in this way: They boil the
milk, and when the rich part floats on the top they skim it into another
vessel, and of that they make butter; for the milk will not become solid
till this is removed.  Then they put the milk in the sun to dry.  And
when they go on an expedition, every man takes some ten pounds of this
dried milk with him.  And of a morning he will take a half-pound of it
and put it in his leather bottle, with as much water as he pleases.  So,
as he rides along, the milk-paste and the water in the bottle get well
churned together into a kind of pap, and that makes his dinner.

“When they come to an engagement with the enemy, they will gain the
victory in this fashion: They never let themselves get into a regular
medley, but keep perpetually riding round and shooting into the enemy.
And as they do not count it any shame to run away in battle, they will
sometimes pretend to do so, and in running away they turn in the saddle
and shoot hard and strong at the foe, and in this way make great havoc.
Their horses are trained so perfectly that they will double hither and
thither, just like a dog, in a way that is quite astonishing.  Thus they
fight to as good purpose in running away as if they stood and faced the
enemy, because of the vast volleys of arrows that they shoot in this way,
turning round upon their pursuers, who are fancying that they have won
the battle.  But when the Tartars see that they have killed and wounded a
good many horses and men, they wheel round bodily, and return to the
charge in perfect order, and with loud cries; and in a very short time
the enemy are routed.  In truth, they are stout and valiant soldiers, and
inured to war.  And you perceive that it is just when the enemy sees them
run, and imagines that he has gained the battle, that he has in reality
lost it; for the Tartars wheel round in a moment when they judge the
right time has come.  And after this fashion they have won many a fight.

“All this that I have been telling you is true of the manners and customs
of the genuine Tartars.”

                                * * * * *

We come next to the magnificent city of Chandu—that is, Shangtu, or
“Upper Towa,” the Chinese title of Kublai Khan’s summer palace at
Kaiping-fu.  The ruins, both of the city and palace, were extant as late
as the end of the seventeenth century.

“When you have ridden three days from the city of Chagan Nor [Chagan
Balghassan], between north-east and north, you come to a city called
Chandu, which was built by the Khan now reigning.  There is at this place
a very fine marble palace, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted
with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and
flowers, all wrought with such exquisite art that you regard them with
delight and astonishment.

“Round this palace is built a wall, enclosing a compass of sixteen miles,
and inside the park are fountains and rivers and brooks and beautiful
meadows, with all kinds of wild animals (excluding such as are of
ferocious nature), which the Emperor has produced and placed there to
supply food for the gerfalcons and hawks which he keeps in mew.  Of these
the gerfalcons alone number more than two hundred, without reckoning the
other hawks.  The Khan himself goes every week to see his birds sitting
in mew, and sometimes he rides through the park with a leopard behind him
on his horse’s croup; and then, if he sees any animal that takes his
fancy, he lets loose his leopard at it, and the game when taken is used
to feed the hawks in mew.  This he does for diversion.

“Further, at a point in the park where blooms a delightful wood, he has
another palace built of bamboo, of which I must give you a description.
It is gilt all over, and most elaborately finished inside.  It is
supported on gilt and lackered columns, on each of which stands a dragon
all gilt, the tail being attached to the column, while the head uplifts
the architrave, and the claws likewise being extended right and left as
props to the architrave.  The roof also is formed of bamboo, covered with
a varnish so good and strong that no amount of rain will rot it.  These
canes are fully three palms in girth, and from ten to fifteen paces in
length.  They are cut across at each knot, and the pieces are then split
so as to form from each two hollow tiles, and with them the house is
roofed; only every such tile has to be nailed down to prevent the wind
from lifting it.  In short, the whole palace is built of these bamboos,
which, I may mention, are employed for a great variety of other useful
purposes.  The construction of the palace is such that it can be taken
down and put up again with great rapidity; and it can be removed to any
place which he may desire.  When erected, it is held up by more than two
hundred (200) ropes of silk.

“The Emperor resides in this park of his, sometimes in the palace of
marble, and sometimes in that of bamboo, for three mouths of the year,
namely, June, July, and August; preferring this abode because it is by no
means hot; in fact, it is very cool.  When the 28th day of August arrives
he takes his departure, and the bamboo palace is pulled to pieces.  But I
must tell you what happens when he takes his departure every year on the
28th of August.

“You must know that the Khan keeps an immense stud of white horses and
mares; in truth, upwards of two hundred of them, and all pure white
without a blemish.  The milk of these mares is drunk by himself and
family, and by no one else, except by the people of one great tribe who
have also the privilege of drinking it—a privilege granted to them by
Chingis Khan, on account of a certain victory which, long ago, they
helped him to win.  The name of the tribe is Horiad [the Uirad or Oirad].

“Now, when these mares are passing across the country, and any one falls
in with them, be he the greatest lord in the land, he must not presume to
pass until the mares have gone by; he must either tarry where he is, or
go a half-day’s round if so need be, so as not to come nigh them; for
they are to be treated with the greatest respect.  Well, when the Emperor
sets out from the park on the 28th of August, as I have told you, the
milk of all those mares is taken and sprinkled on the ground.  And this
is done at the bidding of the idolaters and idol-priests, who say that it
is an excellent thing to sprinkle that milk on the ground every 28th of
August, so that the earth and the air and the false gods shall have their
share of it, and the spirits likewise that inhabit the air and the earth.
And thus those beings will protect and bless the Khan, and his children,
and his wives, and his folk, and his gear, his cattle and his horses, his
corn, and all that is his.  After this is done, the Emperor is off and
away.

“But I must now tell you a strange thing that hitherto I have omitted to
mention.  During the three months of every year that the Khan resides at
that place, if it should chance to be bad weather, there are certain
crafty enchanters and astrologers in his train who are such adepts in
necromancy and the diabolic arts, that they are able to prevent any cloud
or storm from traversing the spot whereon the imperial palace stands.
The sorcerers who do this are called Icbit and Kesomin, which are the
names of two nations of idolaters.  Whatever they do in this way is by
the help of the devil, but they make these people believe that it is
compassed by their own sanctity and the help of God.  They always go in a
state of dirt and uncleanness, devoid of respect for themselves, or for
those who see them, unwashed, unkempt, and sordidly attired.

“These people have another custom which I must describe to you.  If a man
is condemned to death, and executed by the lawful authority, they take
his body, and cook and eat it.  But if any one die a natural death, then
they will not eat his body.

“There is another marvel performed by these Bacsi [_Bakhshi_, or
_Bhikshu_], of whom I have spoken as skilled in so many enchantments.
For when the Great Khan is at his capital and in his great palace, seated
at his table, which stands on a platform some eight cubits above the
ground, his cups are set before him on a great buffet in the middle of
the hall pavement, at a distance of some ten paces from his table, and
filled with wine, or other good spiced liquor such as they use.  Now,
when the lord desires to drink, these necromancers, by the power of their
enchantments, cause the cups to move from their place without being
touched by anybody, and to present themselves to the Emperor!  This every
one present may witness, and ofttimes there are more than two thousand
persons present.  ’Tis a truth, and no lie; and so will the sages of your
own country who understand necromancy, tell you, for they also can
perform this marvel.

“And when the idol festivals come round, these Bacsi go to the prince and
say, ‘Sire, the feast of such a god is come’ (naming him).  ‘My lord, you
know,’ the enchanter will say, ‘that this god, when he gets no offerings,
always sends bad weather and spoils our seasons.  So we pray you to give
us such and such a number of black-faced sheep’ (naming whatever number
they please).  ‘And we also beg, good my lord, that we may have such a
quantity of incense, and such a quantity of lign-aloes, and’—so much of
this, so much of that, and so much of t’other, according to their
fancy—‘that we may perform a solemn service and a great sacrifice to our
idols, and that so they may be induced to protect us and all that is
ours.’

“The Bacsi say these things to the nobles entrusted with the stewardship,
who stand round the Great Khan, and then repeat them to the Khan, and he
then orders the nobles to give to the Bacsi anything they have demanded.
And when they have received the articles, they go and make a great feast
in honour of their god, and hold grand ceremonies of worship, with grand
illuminations and quantities of incense of a variety of odours, which
they make up from different aromatic spices.  And then they cook the
meat, and set it before the idols, and sprinkle their broth hither and
thither, saying that in this way the idols obtain their bellyful.  In
this way it is that they keep their festivals.  You must know that each
idol has a name of his own, and a feast-day, just as our saints have
their anniversaries.

“They have also immense minsters and monasteries, some as big as a small
town, with upwards of two thousand monks, so to speak, in a single
monastery.  These monks dress more decently than the rest of the people,
and shave the head and beard.  Some among these Bacsi are allowed by
their rule to take wives, and they have plenty of children.

“Another kind of devotees is the Sunni, who are more remarkable for their
abstemiousness, and lead a life of such austerity as I will describe.
All their life long they eat only bran, which they take mixed with hot
water.  That is their food; bran, and nothing but bran; with water for
their drink.  Their life is one long fast; so I may well speak of its
asceticism as extraordinary.  They have great idols, and very many; but
they sometimes also worship fire.  The other idolaters who are not also
of this sect call these people heretics—_Palamis_, as we should
say—because they do not worship the idols after their fashion.  Those of
whom I am now speaking would not take a wife on any consideration.  They
wear dresses of hempen stuff, black and blue, and sleep upon mats; in
fact, their asceticism is something astonishing.  Their idols are all
feminine; that is, they bear women’s names.”

                                * * * * *

[It was after reading Marco Polo’s account of the Great Khan’s palace, as
it is given in Purchas’s “Pilgrims,” that the poet Coleridge, falling
asleep, dreamed his melodious dream of Kublai’s Paradise.  When he awoke
he was able to recall a portion of it, beginning thus:—

    “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
       A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran,
    By caverns measureless to man,
       Down to a sunless sea.
    So twice five inches of fertile ground
    With walls and towers were girdled round;
    And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
    Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
    And here were forests, ancient as the hills,
       Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”]

                                * * * * *

The principal palace of the Great Khan was situated, however, at Cambaluc
(the modern Peking), and is thus described by our Venetian:—

“It is enclosed all round by a great wall, forming a square, each side of
which is a mile in length; that is to say, the whole compass thereof is
four miles.  This you may depend on; it is also very thick, and a good
ten paces in height, whitewashed and loop-holed all round.  At each angle
of the wall is situated a very fine and rich palace, in which the war
harness of the Emperor is kept, such as bows and quivers, saddles and
bridles, and bowstrings, and everything needful for an army.  Also,
midway between every two of these corner palaces is another of the like;
so that, taking the whole circuit of the enclosed, you will find eight
vast palaces stored with the great lord’s harness of war.  And you must
understand that each palace is reserved for only one kind of article; one
being stored with bows, a second with saddles, a third with bridles, and
so on, in succession, right round.

“The great wall has five gates on its southern face, the central being
the great gate, which is opened only for the egress or admission of the
Great Khan himself.  Close on either side is a smaller one, through which
all other people pass; and then, towards each angle, is another great
gate, also open to people in general; so that on that side are five gates
in all.

“Inside of this wall is a second, enclosing a space that is somewhat
longer than it is broad.  This enclosure has its eight palaces also,
corresponding to those of the outer wall, and stored like them with the
Emperor’s harness of war.  There are likewise five gates on the southern
face, answering to those in the outer wall; and one gate on each of the
other faces.  In the centre of the second enclosure stands the Emperor’s
Great Palace, and I will tell you what it is like.

“You must know that it is the greatest palace ever erected.  Towards the
north it is in contact with the outer wall, while towards the south lies
a vacant space which the nobles and the soldiers are constantly
traversing.  The palace itself hath no upper story, but is all on the
ground floor; only the basement is raised some ten palms above the
surrounding soil.  And this elevation is retained by a wall of marble
raised to the level of the pavement, two paces in width, and projecting
beyond the base of the palace so as to form a kind of terrace-walk, by
which people can pass round the building, and this is exposed to view;
while along the outer edge of the wall runs a very fine pillared
balustrade, up to which the people are allowed to come.  The roof is very
lofty, and the walls are covered with gold and silver.  They are also
adorned with representations of dragons, sculptured and gilt, beasts and
birds, knights and idols, and divers other subjects.  And on the ceiling,
too, can nothing be seen but gold and silver and painting.  On each of
the four sides is a great marble staircase, leading to the top of the
marble wall, and forming the approach to the palace.

“The hall of the palace is so large that it could easily dine six
thousand people; and it is quite a marvel to see how many rooms there are
besides.  The building is altogether so vast, so rich, and so beautiful,
that no man on earth could design anything superior to it.  The outside
of the roof also is all coloured with vermilion and yellow and green and
blue and other hues, which are fixed with a varnish so fine and
exquisite, that they shine like crystal, and lend a resplendent lustre to
the palace, visible far around.  This roof is so solidly and strongly
constructed that it is fit to last for ever.

“On the inner side of the palace are large buildings with halls and
chambers, where the Emperor’s private property is placed, such as his
treasures of gold, silver, gems, pearls, and gold plate, and in which the
ladies and concubines reside.  He occupies himself there at his own
convenience, and no one else has access to it.

“Between the two walls of the enclosure which I have described are two
fine parks, and beautiful trees bearing a variety of fruits.  There are
beasts also of sundry kinds, such as white stags and fallow deer,
gazelles and roebucks, and fine squirrels of various kinds, with numbers
also of the animal that gives the musk, and all manner of other beautiful
creatures, insomuch that the whole place is full of them, and no spot
remains void except where there is traffic of people going to and fro.
The parks are covered with abundant grass; and the roads through them
being all paved and raised two cubits above the surface, they never
become muddy, nor does the rain lodge on them, but flows off into the
meadows, quickening the soil and producing that fertility of herbage.

“From the north-western corner of the enclosure extends a fine lake,
containing abundance of fish of different kinds, which the Emperor hath
caused to be put in there, so that, whenever he desires any, he can have
them at his pleasure.  A river enters this lake and issues from it; but a
grating of iron or brass is put up to prevent the escape of the fish.

“Moreover, about a bowshot from the north side of the palace is an
artificial hill, made with the earth out of the lake; it is a good
hundred paces in height, and a mile in compass, and is entirely covered
with evergreen trees which never lose their leaves.  And I assure you
that wherever a beautiful tree exists, and the Emperor hears of it, he
sends for it and has it transported bodily, with all its roots and the
earth attached to them, and planted upon his hill.  No matter how huge
the tree may be, he has it carried by his elephants, and in this way he
has formed the finest collection of trees in all the world.  And he has
also caused the whole hill to be covered with ore of azure, {35} which is
very green.  And thus not only are the trees all green, but the hill
itself is all green likewise; and there is nothing to be seen on it that
is not green; and hence it is called the Green Mount; and, in good sooth,
it is well named.

“On the top of the hill, too, stands a fair large palace, which is all
green outside and in, so that the hill, and the trees, and the palace
form together a charming spectacle; and it is wonderful to see their
uniformity of colour.  Everybody who sees it is delighted.  And the Great
Khan has ordered this beautiful prospect for the comfort, solace, and
delectation of his heart.

“You must know that besides the palace I have been describing, _i.e._ the
Great Palace, the Emperor has caused another to be built, resembling his
own in every respect; and this he has done for his son, when he shall
reign and be Emperor after him.  Hence it is made just in the same
fashion, and of the same size, so that everything can be carried on in
the same manner after his death.  It stands on the other side of the lake
from the Great Khan’s palace, and a bridge is thrown across from one to
the other.  The prince I speak of holds now a seal of empire, but not
with such complete authority as the Great Khan, who remains supreme as
long as he lives.”

                                * * * * *

Let us now accompany the Emperor on a hunting expedition:—

“After he has sojourned in his capital city for three months, December,
January, and February, the Great Khan starts on the first day of March,
and travels southward towards the Ocean Sea, a two days’ journey.  He
takes with him fully ten thousand falconers and some five hundred
falcons, besides peregrines, sakers, and other hawks in great number; and
goshawks also, for flying at the water-fowl.  But do not suppose that he
keeps all these together by him; they are distributed hither and thither,
one hundred together, or two hundred at the utmost, as he thinks proper.
But they are always fowling as they advance, and the greater part of the
quarry taken is carried to the Emperor.  And let me tell you, when he
goes thus a-fowling with his gerfalcons and other hawks, he is attended
by fully ten thousand men, who are placed in couples; and these are
called _Toscach_, which is as much as to say, ‘Watchers.’  The name
describes their business.  They are posted from spot to spot, always in
couples, so that they cover a good deal of ground.  Each of them is
provided with whistle and hood, so as to be able to call in a hawk, and
hold it in hand.  And when the Emperor makes a cast, there in no need
that he should follow it up, for the men I speak of keep so close a watch
that they never lose sight of the birds, if the hawks require help, they
are ready to render it.

“The Emperor’s hawks, as well as those of the nobles, have a little label
attached to the leg to mark them, whereon are written the names of the
owner and the keeper of the bird.  So that the hawk, when caught, is at
once identified, and handed over to its owner.  But if not, the bird is
carried to a certain noble, styled the _Bulargachi_, that is, ‘the Keeper
of Lost Property.’  And I tell you that anything found without a proper
owner, whether horse, sword, or hawk, or what not, is taken immediately
to that official, and he holds it in charge.  Should the finder neglect
to carry his trover to the Bulargachi, the latter punishes him.
Likewise, the loser of any article goes to him, and should it be in his
hands, he immediately gives it up to its owner.  Moreover, the said noble
always pitches on the highest point of the camp, with his banner
displayed, in order that those who have lost or found should have no
difficulty in making their way to him.  Thus, nothing can be lost without
being quickly found and restored. . . .

“The Emperor, on his journey, is borne upon four elephants in a fine
pavilion made of timber, lined inside with plates of beaten gold, and
outside with lion’s skins.  He always travels in this fashion on his
hunting expeditions, because he is troubled with gout.  He invariably
keeps beside him a dozen of his choicest gerfalcons, and is attended by
several of his nobles, who ride on horseback by his side.  And sometimes,
as they go along, and the Emperor from his chamber is discoursing with
his nobles, one of the latter will exclaim, ‘Sire, look out for cranes!’
Then the Emperor has the top of his chamber instantly thrown open, and,
having marked the cranes, he casts one of his gerfalcons, whichever he
pleases; and often the quarry is struck in his sight, so that he has the
most exquisite sport and diversion, as he sits in his chamber or lies on
his bed; and all the nobles in attendance share the enjoyment with him!
So it is not without reason I tell you that I do not believe there ever
existed in the world, or will exist, a man with such sport and enjoyment
as he has, or with such rare opportunities.

“And when he has travelled until he reaches a place called Cachar Modem,
there he finds his tents pitched, with the tents of his sons, and his
nobles, and those of his ladies, and their attendants, so that there
shall be fully ten thousand in all, and all costly and handsome.  And I
will tell you how his own quarters are disposed.  The tent in which he
held his courts is large enough to accommodate a thousand persons.  It is
pitched with its door to the south, and the nobles and knights remain in
attendance in it, while the Emperor abides in another close to it on the
west side.  When he wishes to speak with any person, he causes him to be
summoned to the great tent.  Immediately behind the latter is a spacious
chamber, where he sleeps. . . .  The two audience-tents and the
sleeping-chamber are thus constructed:—Each of the audience-tents has
three poles, which are of spice-wood, and most artfully covered with
lion’s skins, striped with black and white and red, so that they do not
suffer from any weather.  All three apartments are also covered outside
with similar skins of striped lions, a substance that lasts for ever.
Inside they are lined with sable and ermine, which are the finest and
costliest furs in existence. . . .  All the tent-ropes are of silk.  In
short, I may say that these tents, namely, the two halls of audience and
the sleeping-chamber, are so costly, that it is not every king could
afford to pay for them.

“Round about these tents are others, also fine ones and beautifully
pitched, in which abide the imperial ladies, and the ladies of the
different princes and officers.  Tents are there also for the hawks and
their keepers, so that altogether the number of tents on the plain is
something wonderful.  To see the many people who are thronging to and fro
on every side and every day there, you would take the camp for a good
large city.  For you must include the physicians and astrologers and
falconers, and all the other attendants on so numerous a company; and add
that everybody has his own household with him, for such is their custom.

“There until the spring the Emperor remains encamped, and all that time
he does nothing but go hawking among the cane brakes that fringe the
abundant lakes and rivers in that region, and across broad plains
plentifully frequented by cranes and swans, and all other kinds of fowl.
Nor are the rest of the nobles of the camp ever weary of hunting and
hawking, and daily they bring home great store of venison and feathered
game of every kind.  Indeed, unless you witnessed it, you would never
believe what quantities of game are taken, and what marvellous sport and
diversion they have while residing there in camp.

“Another thing I must mention, namely, that for twenty days’ journey
round the spot nobody is allowed, whoever he may be, to keep hawks or
hounds, though anywhere else whoever chooses may keep them.  And
furthermore, throughout all the Emperor’s territories, nobody, however
audacious, dares to hunt any of these four animals, namely, hare, stag,
buck, and roe, from the month of March to the month of October.  Whoever
should do so would rue it bitterly.  But these people are so obedient to
their Emperor’s commands, that even if a man were to find one of those
animals asleep by the roadside, he would not touch it for the world.  And
thus the game multiplies at such a rate, that the whole country swarms
with it, and obtains as much as he could desire.  Beyond the time I have
mentioned, however, to wit, that from March to October, everybody may
take these animals as he chooses.

“After the Emperor has tarried there, enjoying his sport, as I have
related, from March to the middle of May, he moves with all his people,
and returns straight to his capital city of Cambaluc (which is also the
capital city of Cathay, as you have been told), but all the while
continuing to take his diversion in hunting and hawking as he travels.”

                                * * * * *

We pass on to Marco Polo’s description of Tibet, which at one time was
considered a part of the empire of the Mongol Khans.  Its civil
administration is ascribed to Kublai Khan:—

“In this region you find quantities of bamboos, full three palms in
girth, and fifteen paces in length, with an interval of about three palms
between the joints.  And let me tell you that merchants and other
travellers through that country are wont at nightfall to gather these
canes and make fires of them; for as they burn they make such loud
reports, that the lions and bears and other wild beasts are greatly
frightened, and make off as fast as possible; in fact, nothing will
induce them to come near a fire of that kind. {41}  So, you see, the
travellers make these fires to protect themselves and their cattle from
the wild beasts, which have so greatly multiplied since the devastation
of the country.  And it is this multiplication of the wild beasts that
prevents the country from being reoccupied.  In fact, but for the help of
these bamboos, which make such a noise in burning that the beasts are
terrified and kept at a distance, no one would be able even to travel
through the land.

“I will tell you how it is that the canes make such a noise.  The people
cut the green canes, of which there are vast numbers, and set fire to a
heap of them at once.  After they have been burning awhile they burst
asunder, and this makes such a loud report, that you might hear it ten
miles off.  In fact, a person unused to this noise, hearing it
unexpectedly, might easily go into a swoon or die of fright.  But those
accustomed to it care nothing about it.  Hence those who are not used
stuff their ears well with cotton, and wrap up their heads and faces with
all the clothes they can muster; and so they get along until they have
become used to the sound.  It is just the same with horses.  Those unused
to these noises are so terrified that they break away from their halters
and heel-ropes, and many a man has lost his beasts in this way.  So all
who do not wish to lose their horses are careful to tie all four legs,
and peg the ropes down strongly, and wrap the heads and eyes and ears of
the animals closely, and so they save them.  But horses also, when they
have heard the noise several times, cease to mind it.  I tell you the
truth, however, when I say that the first time you hear it nothing can be
more alarming.  And yet, in spite of all, the lions, bears, and other
wild beasts will sometimes come and do great mischief; for in those parts
they are very numerous.

“You ride for twenty days without finding any inhabited spot, so that
travellers are obliged to carry all their provisions with them, and are
constantly falling in with those wild beasts which are so numerous and so
dangerous.  After that you come at length to a tract where there are very
many towns and villages. . . .

“The people are idolaters and an evil generation, holding it no sin to
rob and maltreat; in fact, they are the greatest brigands on earth.  They
live by the chase, as well as on their cattle and the fruits of the
earth.

“I should tell you also that in this country are many of the animals that
produce musk, which are called in the Tartar language _Gudderi_.  These
robbers have great numbers of large and fierce dogs, which are of much
service in catching the musk-beasts, and so they procure an abundance of
musk.  They have none of the Great Khan’s paper money, but use salt
instead of money.  They are very poorly clad, for their clothes are only
of the skins of beasts, and canvas, and buckram.  They have a language of
their own, and are called _Tebit_.”

                                * * * * *

Speaking of the people who dwell in the provinces to the north-west of
China, Marco Polo relates the following curious custom:—

“When any one is ill, they send for the devil-conjurors, who are the
keepers of their idols.  When these are come, the sick man tells what
ails him, and then the conjurors incontinently begin playing on their
instruments, and singing, and dancing; and the conjurors dance to such a
pitch, that at last one of them will fall to the ground lifeless, like a
dead man.  And then the devil entereth into his body.  And when his
comrades see him in this plight, they begin to put questions to him about
the sick man’s ailment.  And he will reply, ‘Such or such a spirit hath
been meddling with the man, for that he hath angered it and done it some
despite.’  Then they say, ‘We pray thee to pardon him, and to take of his
blood or of his goods what thou wilt in consideration of thus restoring
him to health.’  And when they have so prayed, the malignant spirit that
is in the body of the prostrate man will, perhaps, answer, ‘The sick man
hath also done great despite unto such another spirit, and that one is so
ill-disposed that it will not pardon him on any account.’  This, at
least, is the answer they get if the patient be like to die.  But if he
is to get better, the answer will be that they are to bring two sheep, or
maybe three; and to brew ten or twelve jars of drink, very costly and
abundantly spiced.  Moreover, it will be announced that the sheep must be
all black-faced, or of some other particular colour, as it may happen;
and then all these things are to be offered in sacrifice to such and such
a spirit whose name is given.  And they are to bring so many conjurors,
and so many ladies, and the business is to be done with a great singing
of lauds, and with many lights and store of good perfumes.  That is the
sort of answer they get if the patient is to get well.  And then the
kinsfolk of the sick man go and procure all that has been commanded, and
do as has been bidden, and the conjuror springs to his feet again.

“So they fetch the sheep of the prescribed colour, and slaughter them,
and sprinkle the blood over such places as have been enjoined, in honour
and propitiation.  And the conjurors come, and the ladies, in the number
that was ordered, and when all are assembled and everything is ready,
they begin to dance and play and sing in honour of the spirit.  And they
take flesh-broth, and drink, and lign-aloes, and a great number of
lights, and go about hither and thither, scattering the broth and the
drink, and the meat also.  And when they have done this for a while, one
of the conjurors will again fall flat, and wallow there foaming at the
mouth, and then the others will ask if he have yet pardoned the sick man.
And sometimes he will answer ‘Yes,’ and sometimes he will answer ‘No.’
And if the answer be ‘No,’ they are told that something or other has to
be done all over again, and then he will be pardoned; so this they do.
And when all that the spirit has commanded has been done with great
ceremony, then it will be announced that the man is pardoned, and will be
speedily cured.  So when they at length receive this reply, they announce
that it is all made up with the spirit, and that he is propitiated, and
they fall to eating and drinking with great joy and mirth, and he who had
been lying lifeless on the ground gets up and takes his share.  So when
they have all eaten and drunken, every man departs home.  And presently
the sick man gets sound and well.”

                                * * * * *

[Sir A. Phayre testifies that this account of the exorcism of evil
spirits in cases of obstinate illness tallies exactly with what he
himself has seen in similar cases among the Burmese; and, in truth, the
practice extends widely among the non-Aryan races.  Bishop Caldwell
furnishes the following description of “devil-dancing” as it still exists
among the Shanars of Tinnevelly:—

“When the preparations are completed and the devil-dance is about to
commence, the music is at first comparatively slow; the dancer seems
impassive and sullen, and he either stands still or moves about in gloomy
silence.  Gradually, as the music becomes quicker and louder, his
excitement begins to rise.  Sometimes, to help him to work himself up
into a frenzy, he uses medicated draughts, cuts and lacerates himself
till the blood flows, lashes himself with a huge whip, presses a burning
torch to his breast, drinks the blood which flows from his own wounds, or
drains the blood of the sacrifice, putting the throat of the decapitated
goat to his mouth.  Then, as if he had acquired new life, he begins to
brandish his staff of bells, and to dance with a quick, but wild,
unsteady step.  Suddenly the afflatus descends; there is no mistaking
that glare, or those frantic leaps.  He snorts, he stares, he gyrates.
The demon has now taken bodily possession of him; and though he retains
the power of utterance and motion, both are under the demon’s control,
and his separate consciousness is in abeyance.  The bystanders signalize
the event by raising a long shout, attended with a peculiar vibratory
noise, caused by the motion of the hand and tongue, or the tongue alone.
The devil-dancer is now worshipped as a present deity, and every
bystander consults him respecting his diseases, his wants, the welfare of
his absent relatives, the offerings to be made for the accomplishment of
his wishes, and, in short, everything for which superhuman knowledge is
supposed to be available.”]

                                * * * * *

“And now,” says Marco Polo, in concluding his wonderful narrative,—“and
now ye have heard all that we can tell you about the Tartars and the
Saracens and their customs, and likewise about the other countries of the
world, so far as our researches and information extend.  Only we have
said nothing whatever about the Greater Sea [the Mediterranean], and the
provinces that lie round it, although we know it thoroughly.  But it
seems to me a needless and endless task to speak about places which are
visited by people every day.  For there are so many who sail all about
that sea constantly, Venetians, and Genoese, and Pisans, and many others,
that everybody knows all about it, and that is the reason that I pass it
over and say nothing of it.

“Of the manner in which we took our departure from the Court of the Great
Khan you have already heard, and we have related the fortunate chance
that led to it.  And you may be sure that, but for that fortunate chance,
we should never have got away, in spite of all our trouble, and never
have returned to our country again.  But I believe it was God’s pleasure
we should return, in order that people might learn about the things the
world contains.  For according to what has been said in the introduction
at the beginning of the book, there never was man, be he Christian or
Saracen or Tartar or heathen, who ever travelled over so much of the
world as did that noble and illustrious citizen of the city of Venice,
Messer Marco, the son of Messer Nicolo Polo.

“Thanks be to God!  Amen!  Amen!”

                                * * * * *

We incline to believe, out of consideration for the modesty of “Messer
Marco, the son of Messer Nicolo Polo,” that he finished his narrative at
the word “contains,” and that the last sentence was added by his
amanuensis.  Yet the assertion it contains does not go beyond the truth.
Of all the mediæval travellers it may be repeated that Marco Polo is the
first and foremost; and the world is indebted to him for a vast amount of
valuable information, which, but for his industry, his perseverance, and
his intelligence, would have been wholly or partly lost.  We owe to him a
graphic and, as it is now known to be, an accurate picture of the
condition of Asia in the thirteenth century; a picture full of lights and
shadows, but interesting and instructive in every detail.



MR. GEORGE F. RUXTON,
AND HIS ADVENTURES IN MEXICO AND THE
ROCKY MOUNTAINS.


                                A.D. 1847.

MR. RUXTON’S sweeping condemnation of the Mexicans is, unfortunately,
confirmed by most reputable authorities, or we might hesitate to
reproduce it here.  “From south to north,” he says, “I traversed the
whole of the Republic of Mexico, a distance of nearly ten thousand miles,
and was thrown amongst the people of every rank, class, and station; and
I regret to have to say that I cannot remember to have observed one
single commendable trait in the character of the Mexican; always
excepting from this sweeping clause the women of the country, who, for
kindness of heart and many sterling qualities, are an ornament to their
sex, and to any nation.”  Whatever may be affirmed to the discredit of
the people, it cannot be doubted that they inhabit a country which was at
one time the seat of a remarkable civilization, which presents to the
traveller a succession of remarkable and frequently romantic scenery, and
a wonderful variety and luxuriance of vegetation.

From the southern frontier of the United States it stretches down to the
isthmus which connects the northern and southern mainlands of the great
American continent.  On the west its shores are washed by the waters of
the Pacific; on the east, by those of the Mexican Gulf and Caribbean Sea.
Roughly speaking, its area is about 850,000 square miles; its population
may number ten souls to a square mile.  Its form of government is
pseudo-republican; and for administrative purposes it is divided into
twenty-five provinces.  Its capital, Mexico, has 200,000 inhabitants: its
only other important towns are Puebla, 75,000 inhabitants; Guadalajara,
65,000; Guanajuata, 50,000; and San Luis and Merida, about 45,000 each.

A glance at the map will show you that Mexico consists in the main of an
elevated table-land, which in the south rises up into the Cordilleras of
Central America, and on the east and west descends, by more or less
gradual terraces, to the sea-coast.  Owing to its geographical position,
this table-land enjoys the profuseness and beauty of a tropical
vegetation; on the other hand, its climate is so tempered by its various
elevations, which lie between 5000 and 9000 feet, that it has been found
possible to naturalize the European fauna and flora.  A remarkable
geological feature is the volcanic belt or chain that runs from ocean to
ocean between the parallels of 18° 15′ and 19° 30′ north latitude, and is
marked by several active as well as extinct volcanoes.  Among them may be
named Orizaba, Cittalapetl (“The Mountain of the Star”), Popocatapetl
(“The Smoking Mountain”), 17,884 feet, Istaccihuatl (“The White Woman”),
and Toluca.  Most of the mountain chains that break up the table-land are
of comparatively low altitude; the principal is the Sierra Madre, or Tepe
Serene.  The two chief streams are the Rio Santiago and the Rio Grande
del Norte.

In company with a young Spaniard who was travelling as far as Durango,
Mr. Ruxton quitted Mexico one fine day in September, 1847, bent on
crossing the country to the United States.  He passed at first through a
mountainous district, covered with dwarf oak and ilex; afterwards he
entered upon a tract of open undulating downs, dotted with thickets.
Villages were few and far between, and when found, not very attractive,
consisting only of a dozen huts built of adobes, or sun-dried bricks.
Crossing a rocky sierra, he came to the town of San Juan del Rio; its
one-storied houses of stone, whitewashed, with barred windows, looking
out upon a fair expanse of vineyard and garden.  Forty miles beyond lay
Queretaro; a large and well-built town of 40,000 inhabitants, surrounded
by gardens and orchards.  Its chief trade is the manufacture of cigars.
These, as made at Queretaro, are of a peculiar shape, about three inches
long, square at both ends, and exceedingly pungent in flavour.  Excellent
pulque is another of its products.  Pulque, the national liquor of
Mexico, is made from the saccharine juice of the American aloe, which
attains maturity at the age of eight or fourteen years, and then flowers.
Only while it is flowering may the juice be collected.  The central stem
which encloses the coming flower is cut off near the bottom, and a basin
or hollow exposed, over which the surrounding leaves are closely gathered
and fastened.  The juice distils into the reservoir thus provided, and is
removed three or four times during the twenty-four hours, by means of a
syphon made of a species of gourd called acojote.  One end is placed in
the liquor, the other in the mouth of the operator, who by suction draws
up the sweet fluid into the pipe, and forces it out into a bowl.
Afterwards it receives the addition of a little old pulque, and is
allowed to ferment for two or three days in earthen jars.  When fresh,
pulque, according to Mr. Ruxton, is brisk and sparkling, and the most
cooling, refreshing, and delectable drink ever invented for mortals when
athirst.  The Mexicans call it “vino divino;” but, admirable as may be
its qualities, it needs to be very temperately used.

Between Queretaro and Celaya the traveller gradually descends from the
table-lands, and the air comes upon him with a warm tropical breath.
Nopalos, or prickly-pears, line the road; the Indians collect the
fruit—which is savoury and invigorating—with a forked stick.  At Silao
striking evidence of the geniality of the climate is supplied by the
variety of fruit exposed for sale: oranges, lemons, grapes, chirimoyas,
batatas, platanos, plantains, cumotes, grenadillas, mamayos, tunas,
pears, and apples—a list which would have delighted Keats’s Porphyro when
he was preparing a refection for his lady-love Madeline.  But if fruit be
abundant, so are beggars and thieves; and Silao is not a comfortable
place to live in!  Mexico, according to its climatic conditions, is
divided into three great divisions—the _Tierras Frias_, or Cold lands;
the _Tierras Templadas_, or Temperate lands; and the _Tierras Calientes_,
or Hot lands.  From Celaya our travellers stooped down rapidly into the
_Tierra Caliente_, and the increased temperature was every day more
perceptibly felt.  Jalisco, the most important town on their route, is
situated on the western declivity of Anahuac, a Cordillera which unites
the Andes of South and Central America with the great North American
chain of the Rocky Mountains.  Mr. Ruxton describes the table-land on the
western ridge of the Cordillera as blessed with a fertile soil and a
temperate climate.  It is studded with the populous towns of Silao, Leon,
Lagos, and Aguas Calientes.  The central portion, of a lower elevation
and consequently higher temperature, produces cotton, cochineal, vanilla,
as well as every variety of cereal produce.  While the littoral, or coast
region, teems with fertility, and lies in the shadow of immense forests,
unfortunately it is cursed by the ever-prevalent vomito, or yellow fever,
and its climate is scarcely less fatal to its inhabitants than to
strangers.

At La Villa de Leon, a town celebrated for robbers and murderers, Mr.
Ruxton met with an adventure.  About nine o’clock in the evening he was
returning from the plaza, which with its great lighted fires, the stalls
of the market-people, the strange garb of the peasantry, and the
snow-white sarapos, or cloaks, of the idlers of the town, presented a
stirring aspect, when, striking into a dark and narrow street, a group of
vagabonds, at the door of a pulque shop, detected that he was a stranger,
and, mistaking his nationality, yelled at him: “Let’s kill him, the
Texan!”  Having no weapon but a bowie-knife, and not desiring an
encounter with such overwhelming numbers, he turned off into another
street; but the rascals followed him, renewing their wild cries.
Happily, a dark doorway invited him to seek its shelter, and while
crouching in its obscurity, he could see them rush by, knives in hand.
When he thought they had all passed, he stepped forth, to find himself
confronted by three wretches who brought up the rear, and who,
brandishing their knives and rushing headlong at him, cried, “Here he is,
here he is; kill him!”  As the foremost rushed at him with uplifted
blade, he swiftly stepped aside, and at the same moment thrust at him
with his bowie.  The robber fell on his knees with a cry of “Me ha
matado!” (“He has killed me!”), and fell on his face.  One of his
companions hastened to his assistance; the other dashed upon Mr. Ruxton,
but, confused by his calm attitude of preparation, fell back a few paces,
and finally slunk away.  Mr. Ruxton returned at once to his quarters,
ordered out the horses, and in a few minutes was on his road.

By way of Aguas Calientes, a very pretty town, and Zacatecas, a populous
mining town, he proceeded towards the Hacienda (or farm) of San Nicolas,
with the view of traversing that singular volcanic region, the _Mal
Pais_.  Down to a comparatively recent period, it would seem to have been
the theatre of plutonic phenomena of an extraordinary character.  The
convexity of the district enables the traveller to judge very readily of
the extent of the convulsion, which has spread to a distance of twelve or
fourteen miles from the central crater.  The said crater measures about
fifteen hundred feet in circumference, and its sides are covered with
dwarf oaks, mezquito, and cocoa trees, which find a rich nourishment in
the chinks and crevices of the lava.  At the bottom stagnate the green
and slimy waters of a small lake, which is fringed with rank shrubs and
cacti, growing among huge blocks of lava and scoriæ.  Not a breath of air
disturbs its inky surface, save when a huge water-snake undulates across
it, or a duck and her progeny swim out from their covert among the
bushes.

“I led my horse,” says Mr. Ruxton, “down to the edge of the water, but he
refused to drink the slimy liquid, in which frogs, efts, and reptiles of
every kind were darting and diving.  Many new and curious water-plants
floated near the margin, and one, lotus-leaved, with small delicate
tendrils, formed a kind of network on the water, with a superb crimson
flower, which exhibited a beautiful contrast with the inky blackness of
the pool.  His Mexicans, as they passed this spot, crossed themselves
reverently, and muttered an _Ave Maria_; for in the lonely regions of the
Mal Pais, the superstitious Indian believes that demons and gnomes and
spirits of evil persons have their dwelling-places, whence they not
unfrequently pounce upon the solitary traveller, to carry him into the
cavernous bowels of the earth.  The arched roof of the supposed
prison-house resounding to the tread of their horses as they pass the
dreaded spot, they feel a sudden dread, and, with rapidly muttered
prayers, they handle their amulets and charms to drive away the
treacherous bogies who invisibly beset the path.”

From the Mal Pais Mr. Ruxton travelled onward to the rancho of La Punta,
a famous cattle-breeding station.

In the preceding autumn it had been harried by a party of Comanche
Indians, who, one day, without warning, rode across the sierra and
swooped down upon it, killing, as they passed, the peones, or labourers,
whom they found at work in the road.  On their appearance the men made no
attempt to defend the rancho, but fled at full speed, abandoning the
women and children to their terrible fate.  Some were carried away
captives; some pierced with arrows and lances, and left for dead; others
made the victims of unspeakable outrages.  The ranchero’s wife, with her
two adult daughters and several younger children, fled from the rancho at
the first alarm, to conceal themselves under a wooden bridge, which
crossed a neighbouring stream.  For several hours they escaped detection;
but at last some Indians drew near their hiding-place, and a young chief
took his station on the bridge to issue his commands.  With keen eyes he
examined the spot, and discovered the terror-stricken fugitives; but he
pretended not to have seen them, playing with them as a cat might with a
mouse.  He hoped, he was heard to say, that he should find out where the
women were concealed, for he wanted a Mexican wife and a handful of
scalps.  Then he leaped from the bridge, and thrust his lance under it
with a yell of exultation; the point pierced the woman’s arm, and she
shrieked aloud.  She and her children were forthwith drawn from their
retreat.

“Alas, alas, what a moment was that!” said the poor woman, as she told
her painful story.  The savages brandished their tomahawks around her
children, and she thought that the last farewell had been taken.  They
behaved, however, with unusual clemency; the captives were released, and
allowed to return to their home—to find it a wreck, and the ground strewn
with the dead bodies of their kinsmen and friends.

“Ay de mi!” (“Woe is me!”)

While at La Punta, our traveller was witness of the Mexican sport of the
“Coléa de toros” (or “bull-tailing”), for the enjoyment of which two or
three hundred rancheros had assembled from the neighbouring plantations.

A hundred bulls were shut up in a large corral, or enclosure, at one end
of which had been erected a building for the convenience of the lady
spectators.  The horsemen, brave in their picturesque Mexican costume,
were grouped around the corral, examining the animals as they were driven
to and fro in order to increase their excitement, while the ranchero
himself, and his sons, brandishing long lances, were busily engaged in
forcing the wilder and more active bulls into a second enclosure.  When
this had been effected, the entrance was thrown open, and out dashed,
with glaring eyes, tossing head, and lashing tail, a fine bull, to gallop
at his topmost speed over the grassy plain before him, followed by the
whole crowd of shouting, yelling horsemen, each of whom endeavoured to
outstrip the other, and overtake the flying animal.  At first they all
kept close together, riding very equally, and preserving excellent order,
but very soon superior skill or strength or daring began to tell, and in
front of the main body shot forth a few of the cavaliers.  Heading them
all, in swift pursuit of the rolling cloud of dust which indicated the
bull’s track, rode the son of the ranchero, a boy about twelve years old;
and as he swayed this way and that when the bull doubled, the women made
the air ring with their shrill vivas.  “Viva, Pepito! viva!” cried his
mother; and, dashing his spurs into his horse’s streaming flanks, the
brave lad ran the race.  But before long the others came up with stealthy
strides; soon they were abreast of him.  The pace quickened; the horses
themselves seemed to share the excitement; the men shouted, the women
screamed; each urged on her favourite—“Alza!—Bernardo!—Por mi amor, Juan
Maria!—Viva, Pepitito!”  A stalwart Mexican, mounted on a fine roan,
eventually took the lead, and every moment increased the distance between
himself and his competitors.  But Pepito’s quick eyes detected a sudden
movement of the bull, and saw that, concealed by the dust, he had wheeled
off at a sharp angle from his former course.  In an instant Pepe did the
same, and dashed in front of him, amid a fresh outburst of cheers and
vivas.  Getting on the bull’s left quarter, he stooped down to seize his
tail, and secure it under his right leg, so as to bring him to the
ground.  But for a manœuvre which requires great muscular power, Pepe’s
strength was not equal to his spirit, and, in attempting it, he was
dragged from his saddle, and thrown to the ground, senseless.  Several
horsemen had by this time come up, and the bold rider of the roan
galloping ahead, threw his right leg over the bull’s tail, and turning
his horse sharply outwards, upset the brute in the midst of his fiery
charge, rolling him over and over in the dust.

Another bull was then let loose, and the wild ride recommenced; nor,
until the corral was empty, and every horse and horseman completely
spent, did the game cease.  It is a rude game, though full of excitement;
a rude game, and, perhaps, a cruel one; but we must not be harsh in our
judgment, remembering that our English sports and pastimes have not
always been exempt from a taint of ferocity.

A less manly and much more cruel equestrian game is called “el Gallo”
(“the Cock)”.  Poor chanticleer is tied by the leg to a post driven into
the ground, or to a tree, his head and neck being well greased.  At a
given signal the horsemen start all together, and he who first reaches
the bird, and seizing it by its neck, releases it from the fastenings,
carries off the prize.  The well-greased neck generally eludes the eager
fingers of him who first clutches it; but whoever gets hold of the prize
is immediately pursued by the rest, intent upon depriving him of it.  In
the _mêlée_ the unfortunate rooster is literally torn to pieces, which
the successful horsemen present as _gages d’amour_ to their lady-loves.

At Durango, the capital of Northern Mexico, popularly known as “the City
of Scorpions,” the traveller was shown a large mass of malleable iron,
which lies isolated in the centre of the plain.  It is supposed to be an
aerolite, because identical in physical character and composition with
certain aerolites which fell in some part of Hungary in 1751.  Durango is
650 miles from Mexico, and, according to Humboldt, 6845 feet above the
sea.  At the time of Mr. Ruxton’s visit, it was expecting an attack from
the Comanche Indians, of whose sanguinary ferocity he tells the following
“owre true” story:—

Half-way between Durango and Chihuahua, in the Rio Florido valley, lived
a family of hardy vaqueros, or cattle-herders, the head of whom, a
stalwart man of sixty, rejoiced in the sobriquet of El Coxo (“The
Cripple”).  He had eight sons, bold, resolute, vigorous fellows, famous
for their prowess in horsemanship, their daring and skill at the “colea”
or “el Gallo.”  Of this goodly company, reminding us of the Nortons in
Wordsworth’s “White Doe of Rylstone”—

    “None for beauty or for worth
    Like those eight sons—who, in a ring
    (Ripe men, or blooming in life’s spring),
    Each with a lance, erect and tall,
    A falchion and a buckler small,
    Stood by their sire,”—

the handsomest and most skilful was, perhaps, the third, by name
Escamilla, “a proper lad of twenty, five feet ten out of his zapatos,
straight as an organo, and lithesome as a reed.”  Having been educated at
Queretaro, he was more refined than his brothers, and had acquired a
taste for dress, which enabled him to set off his comeliness to the best
advantage, and made him the cynosure of “the bright eyes” of all the
neighbouring rancheras.  Next to him came Juan Maria, who was scarcely
less skilful, and certainly not less daring than his brother, and by good
judges was reputed to be even handsomer, that is, manlier and more
robust, though inferior in polish of manner and picturesqueness of
appearance.  Until Escamilla’s return from Queretaro, he had always been
victor at “el Gallo” and the “colea,” and had laid his spoils at the feet
of the beauty of the valley, Isabel Mora, a charming black-eyed damsel of
sixteen, called from the hacienda where she resided, Isabel de la Cadena.
It was understood that she accepted them with pleasure, and rewarded the
suitor with her smiles.

But the course of true love never does run smooth, and in this instance
it was fated to be interrupted by fraternal treachery.  Escamilla
contrived to win the fickle beauty’s affections from his brother, who,
however, instead of resenting the deceit, magnanimously forgave it, and
withdrew all pretensions to her hand.  Escamilla and Isabel were duly
affianced, and a day was fixed for their marriage, which was to take
place at the bride’s hacienda; and in honour of the occasion a grand
“funcion de toros” was proclaimed, to which all the neighbours (the
nearest of whom, by the way, was forty miles distant) were duly invited.

Two days before the appointed wedding-day, El Coxo and his eight sons
made their appearance, extorting an admiring murmur from all beholders
as, mounted on superb steeds, they rode gaily into the hacienda.

On the following day, leaving Escamilla at home El Coxo and the rest of
his sons accompanied the master of the hacienda into the plains, to
assist him in the arduous work of driving in the bulls required for the
morrow’s sport; while the other rancheros were busy in constructing the
large corral intended to secure them.

Evening was drawing near; the sun dropped rapidly behind the rugged crest
of the sierra, investing each ridge and precipice with a luminous glory
of gold and purple; while the cold grey shadow of the coming night was
swiftly creeping over the plain beneath.  The cry of the cranes was heard
in the silence, as, wedge-shaped, like the Macedonian phalanx of old,
they pursued their aerial flight; the shrill pipe of the mother quail
summoned together her foraging progeny; the brown hare stole from its
covert and prowled about in search of food; and the lowing cattle
assembled on the bank of the stream to quench their thirst before they
were driven to their stalls.  The peones, or labourers of the farm, with
slow gait were returning from the scene of their day’s work; while at the
doors of the cottages the women, with naked arms, were pounding the
tortillas on stone slabs in preparation for the evening meal.  Everything
indicated that the hours of labour had passed, and those of rest and
refreshment come.

Escamilla and Isabel were wandering among the hushed pastures, where the
last rays of the sun still lingered with a soft subdued radiance,
building those airy castles in the construction of which happy youth is
always so eager and so dexterous.  In the distance they saw a little
cloud of dust rising from the plain; in another direction they heard the
shouts of the returning cowherds, and the heavy hoofs of the bulls they
were driving towards the corral.  In advance rode a single horseman,
swiftly making for the hacienda.

Meanwhile, the cloud of dust rolled onwards rapidly, and out of it
emerged several cavaliers, who suddenly dashed towards the two happy
lovers.  “Here come the bull-fighters,” exclaimed Isabel; and with
natural modesty she added, “Let us return.”

“Perhaps they are my father and brothers,” answered Escamilla.  “Yes,
look; there are eight of them.  Do you not see?”

Ay, she _did_ see, as her gaze rested on the group of horsemen, who,
thundering across the mead, were now within a few yards of them.  She
_did_ see, and the blood ran cold in her veins, and her face turned white
with fear; for they were Comanche Indians, naked to the waist, horrible
in their war-paint, and fierce with brandished spears.  Escamilla saw
them, too, and shrieking, “Los barbaros! los barbaros!” he fled with
rapid foot, and, like a coward, abandoned his affianced to her fate.

A horseman met him: it was Juan Maria, who, having lassoed a little
antelope on the plains, was riding in advance of his company to present
it to the fickle Isabel.  Glancing around, he saw her imminent danger;
flung down the animal he was carrying in his arms, dashed his spurs
desperately into his horse’s sides, and hastened to her rescue.  “Salva
me, Juan Maria!” she cried, “salva me!” (“save me”).  But the
bloodthirsty savages were before him.  With a ferocious whoop, the
foremost plunged his spear into her heart, and in a moment her scalp was
hanging from his saddle-bow.  He did not long enjoy his triumph.  A
clatter of hoofs caused him to turn; and, behold, Juan Maria, with lasso
swinging round his head, and his heart beating with the desire of
vengeance, rode fiercely towards the murderer, heedless of the storm of
arrows that rained upon him.  The savage shrank from the encounter; but
the open coil of the lasso, whirling through the air, fell over his head,
and dragged him to the ground with a fatal crash.

The odds, however, were against Juan Maria, who, surrounded by Indians,
had no other weapon than a small machete, or rusty sword.  Bating not one
jot of heart or hope, he rushed on the nearest Indian, and dealt a blow
at his head, which cleft it open; the savage fell dead.  Daunted by the
Mexican’s surpassing courage, the others kept at a distance, discharging
their swift arrows, and piercing him with many wounds.  Spurring his
horse towards them, he fought on bravely, cheered by the shouts of his
father and brothers, who were galloping full speed to his support.
Before they could reach him, an arrow, discharged at but a few paces’
distance, penetrated his heart.  He slipped heavily from his horse, and
one of the Comanches rode away in triumph, with the heroic Mexican’s
scalp as a trophy.

At that moment the Indians were reinforced by some thirty or forty of
their tribe, and a desperate struggle ensued between them and El Coxo and
his sons.  The latter, burning with rage at the death of their brother,
fought with such eager courage, that, outnumbered as they were, they slew
half a dozen of the Comanches.  It is probable, however, they would have
been overpowered but for the arrival of the rancheros, who, coming up
from the hacienda, put the Indians to flight.  As night had darkened in
the sky, they did not pursue; but returned to the hacienda with the dead
bodies of Juan Maria and Isabel, who were buried the next day, side by
side, at the very hour that had been fixed for the unfortunate Isabel’s
marriage.  As for Escamilla, ashamed of his cowardice, he was seen no
more in the valley of the Rio Florido, but settled at Queretaro, where he
afterwards married.

This tragedy occurred on the 11th of October, 1845.

                                * * * * *

From Durango Mr. Ruxton proceeded westward for Chihuahua and New Mexico.
On the second day of his journey an unpleasant incident very sternly
convinced him of the treachery and bloodthirstiness of the lower
Mexicans.  He was riding slowly ahead of his native attendant, whom he
had hired at Durango, when the sudden report of fire-arms, and the whiz
of a bullet close to his head, caused him to turn sharply round, and he
beheld his amiable mozo [young man], pistol in hand, some fifteen yards
behind him, looking guilty as well as foolish.  Drawing a pistol from his
holsters, Mr. Ruxton rode up to him immediately, and was about to blow
out his brains, when his terror-stricken and absurdly guilty-looking face
turned his employer’s wrath into “an immoderate fit of laughter.”

“Amigo,” said Mr. Ruxton, “do you call this being skilled, as you
boasted, in the use of arms, to miss my head at fifteen yards?”

“Ah, caballero, in the name of all the saints, I did not fire at you, but
at a duck which was flying over the road.  Your worship cannot believe I
would do such a thing.”  Now, the pistols which Mr. Ruxton had given him
to carry were secured in a pair of holsters tightly buckled and strapped
round his waist.  To unbuckle them at any time was difficult; to unbuckle
them in time to get one out to fire at a flying duck, was impossible.
Mr. Ruxton knew that the duck was an invention, and a clumsy one, and to
prevent another treacherous attack, took from the fellow everything in
the shape of offensive weapon, including even his knife.  Then, after
lecturing him severely, he administered a sound thrashing with the
buckle-end of his surcingle, and promised him that, if he were suspected
of even dreaming of another attempt at murder, he would be pistolled
without a moment’s hesitation.

After narrowly escaping a collision with a party of Indians, Mr. Ruxton
reached a place called El Gallo, where he resided for a couple of days in
the house of a farmer.  He tells us that in a rancho the time is occupied
as follows:—The females of the family rise at daybreak, and prepare the
chocolate, or alde, which is eaten the first thing in the morning.  About
nine o’clock, breakfast is served, consisting of chile colorado, frijoles
(beans), and tortillas (omelettes).  Dinner, which takes place at noon,
and supper at sunset, are both substantial meals.  Meanwhile, the men
employ themselves in the fields or attending to the animals; the women
about the house, making clothes, cleaning, cooking, washing.  In the
evening the family shell corn, and chat; or a guitar is brought, and
singing and dancing are continued until it is time to retire.

Riding onward from El Gallo, Mr. Ruxton turned aside from the regular
route to kill an antelope and broil a collop for breakfast.  He was
descending the sierra to quench his thirst at a stream which flowed
through a cañon, or deep ravine, when a herd of antelopes passed him, and
stopped to feed on a grassy plateau near at hand.  He started in pursuit.
As soon as he got within rifle-shot, he crept between two rocks at the
edge of the hollow, and raised his head to reconnoitre, when he saw a
sight which startled him, as the footprint on the sand startled Robinson
Crusoe.  About two hundred yards from the cañon, and scarcely twice that
distance from his place of concealment, eleven Comanches, duly equipped
for war, each with lance and bow and arrow, and the chief with a rifle
also, were riding along in Indian file.  They were naked to the waist,
their buffalo robes being thrown off their shoulders, and lying on their
hips and across the saddle, which was a mere pad of buffalo-skin.  Slowly
they drew towards the cañon, as if to cross it by a deer-path near the
spot where Mr. Ruxton lay concealed.  The odds were great; but he was
advantageously posted, and he held in readiness his rifle, a
double-barrelled carbine, and a couple of pistols.  If he were attacked,
he thought he could make a good defence; but, if unobserved, he had
nothing to gain by attacking them.  On they came, laughing and talking,
and Mr. Ruxton, raising his rifle and supporting it in the fork of a bush
which served as a screen, covered the chief with deadly aim.  On they
came, but suddenly diverged from the deer-path and struck across the
plain, thereby saving the chief’s life, and probably Mr. Ruxton’s.  As
soon as they had disappeared, he recrossed the sierra, and returned for
the night to El Gallo.

The next stage from El Gallo was Mapimi, situated at the foot of a range
of mountains which teems with the precious metals.  There he got rid of
his mozo, or native attendant, and engaged in his place a little
Irishman, who had been eighteen years in Mexico, and had almost forgotten
his own language.  He readily agreed to accompany him to Chihuahua,
having no fear of the Indians, though they infested the country through
which the travellers would have to pass.  They reached Chihuahua,
however, without misadventure.  Its territory is described as a paradise
for sportsmen.  The common black or American bear, and the formidable
grizzly bear, inhabit the sierras and mountains; and in the latter is
found the carnero cimarron, or big-horn sheep.  Elk, black-tailed deer,
cola-arieta (a large species of the fallow deer), the common American red
deer, and antelope, are everywhere abundant.  Of smaller game the most
numerous are peccaries, hares, and rabbits; and in the streams the
beavers still construct their dams.  There are two varieties of wolf—the
white, or mountain wolf, and the cayeute, or coyote, commonly called the
prairie-dog.  Of birds the most common are the faisan (a species of
pheasant), snipe, plover, crane, and the quail, or rather a bird between
a partridge and a quail.

The entomologist would find much to interest him in the plains of
Chihuahua, and especially an insect which seems almost peculiar to that
part of Mexico.  From four to six inches in length, it has four long
slender legs.  Its body, to the naked eye, seems nothing more than a
blade of grass, and has no apparent muscular action or vitality except in
the two antennæ, which are about half an inch long.  It moves very slowly
upon its long legs, and altogether looks not unlike a blade of grass
carried by ants.  The Mexicans assert that if horse or mule swallow these
zacateros (so called from _zacato_, grass), it invariably dies; but the
assertion may well be doubted.  The variety of spiders, bugs, and beetles
is endless, including the tarantula and the cocuyo, or lantern-bug.  Of
reptiles the most common are the rattlesnake and the copper-head: both
are poisonous; and the sting of the scorpion is fatal under some
conditions.  The grotesque but harmless cameleon abounds in the plains.
On the American prairies it is known as the “horned frog.”

Vegetation is very scanty in Chihuahua.  The shrub that covers its
plains, the mezquit, is a species of acacia, growing to a height of ten
or twelve feet.  The seeds, contained in a small pod, resemble those of
the laburnum, and are used by the Apache Indians to make a kind of bread,
or cake, which is not unpleasant to the taste.  This constantly recurring
and ugly shrub, according to Mr. Ruxton, becomes quite an eyesore to the
traveller who crosses the mezquit-covered plains.  It is the only thing
in the shape of a tree seen for hundreds of miles, except here and there
a solitary alamo or willow, overhanging a spring, and invariably
bestowing its name on the rancho or hacienda which may generally be found
in the vicinity of water.  Thus day after day the traveller passed the
ranchos of El Sauz, Los Sauzes, Los Sauzilles—the willow, the willows,
the little willows,—or El Alamo, Los Alamitos—the poplar, the little
poplars.  The last is the only timber found on the streams in northern
Mexico, and on the Del Norte and the Arkansas it grows to a great size.

                                * * * * *

Leaving Chihuahua, Mr. Ruxton set out for the capital of New Mexico,
escorted by three dragoons of the regiment of Vera Cruz, and carrying
despatches from the governor to the commander of the American troops then
posted on the frontier.  At El Paso del Norte he entered a valley of
great fertility; but this delightful change of scenery lasted only as far
as San Diego, where begins the dreaded and dreadful wilderness
significantly known as the _Jornada del Muerto_, or “Dead Man’s Journey.”
Not only is it cursed by an absolute want of water and pasture, but it is
the favourite foraging-ground of the Apache Indians, who are always on
the alert to surprise the unwary traveller, to plunder and kill him.
There is no vegetation but artemisia (sago) and screw-wood (torscilla).
About half-way lies a hollow or depression called the _Laguna del
Muerto_, or “Dead Man’s Lake,” but this is hard and dry except in the
rainy season.  Mr. Ruxton’s horses suffered considerably, but the “Dead
Man’s Journey” of ninety-five or one hundred miles was performed,
nevertheless, without accident in twenty-four hours.

At Fray Cristoval Mr. Ruxton came upon the river Del Norte, and thence
pushed along its banks to the ruins of Valverde, where, encamped in the
shade of noble trees, he found a trading caravan and a United States
surveying party, under the command of a Lieutenant Abert.  The traders’
waggons were drawn up so as to form a corral, or square—a laager, as the
Boers of South Africa call it—constituting a truly formidable encampment,
which, lined with the fire of some hundred rifles, could defy the attacks
of Indians or Mexicans.  “Scattered about,” says Mr. Ruxton, “were tents
and shanties of logs and branches of every conceivable form, round which
lounged wild-looking Missourians; some looking at the camp-fires, some
cleaning their rifles or firing at targets—‘blazes’ cut in the trees—with
a bull’s-eye made with wet powder on the white bark.  From morning till
night the camp resounded with the popping of rifles, firing at marks for
prizes of tobacco, or at any living creature which presented itself.  The
oxen, horses, and mules were sent out at daylight to pasture on the grass
of the prairie, and at sunset made their appearance, driven in by the
Mexican herders, and were secured for the night in the corrals.  My own
animals roamed at will, but every evening came to the river to drink, and
made their way to my camp, where they would frequently stay round the
fire all night.  They never required herding, for they made their
appearance as regularly as the day closed, and would come to my whistle
whenever I required my hunting mule.”

Mr. Ruxton remained several days at Valverde in order to recruit his
animals.  He amused himself by hunting.  Deer and antelope were
plentiful; so were turkeys, hares, rabbits, and quail on the plain, geese
and ducks in the river; and he had even a shot—an unsuccessful one—at a
painter, or panther.  In some men the love of sport amounts to a passion,
and in Mr. Ruxton it seems to have been equalled or surpassed only by his
love of adventure.  But about the middle of December the camp broke up,
the traders departing for Fray Cristoval; while Mr. Ruxton resumed his
northward journey, in company with Lieutenant Abert’s party.  Crossing
the Del Norte, he arrived at Socorro, the first settlement of New Mexico
upon this river.  Here the houses are _not_ painted, but the women _are_;
they stain their faces, from forehead to chin, with the fire-red juice of
the alegria, to protect the skin from the effects of the sun.  At
Galisteo he met with a typical Yankee, of the kind Sam Slick has made us
familiar with—a kind that is rapidly dying out,—sharp, active,
self-reliant; a cunning mixture of inquisitiveness, shrewdness, and good
nature.  On reaching Mr. Ruxton’s encampment he unyoked his twelve oxen,
approached the camp-fire, and seated himself almost in the blaze,
stretching his long lean legs at the same time into the ashes.  Then he
began: “Sich a poor old country, I say!  Wall, strangers, an ugly camp
this, I swar; and what my cattle ull do I don’t know, for they have not
eat since we put out of Santa Fé, and are very near give out, that’s a
fact; and thar’s nothin’ here for ’em to eat, surely.  Wall, they must
jist hold on till to-morrow, for I have only got a pint of corn apiece
for ’em tonight anyhow, so there’s no two ways about that.  Strangers, I
guess now you’ll have a skillet among ye; if yev a mind to trade, I’ll
jist have it right off; anyhow, I’ll jist borrow it to-night to bake my
bread, and, if you wish to trade, name your price. . . .  Sich a poor old
country, say I!  Jist look at them oxen, wull ye!—they’ve nigh upon two
hundred miles to go; for I’m bound to catch up the sogers afore they
reach the Pass, and there’s not a go in ’em.”

“Well,” remarked Mr. Ruxton, “would it not be as well for you to feed
them at once and let them rest?”

“Wall, I guess if you’ll some of you lend me a hand, I’ll fix ’em right
off; tho’, I tell you! they’ve give me a pretty lot of trouble, they
have, I tell you! but the critturs will have to eat, I b’lieve!”

The aid asked for was given, and some corn added to the scanty rations
which he put before his wearied and hungry oxen.  When they had been
fixed, the Yankee returned to the fire and baked his cake, fried his
bacon, and made his coffee, while his tongue kept up an incessant
clatter.  He was all alone, with a journey of two hundred miles before
him, and his waggon and twelve oxen to look after; his sole thought and
object, however, were dollars, dollars, dollars!  He caught up every
article he saw lying about, wondered what it cost and what it was worth,
offered to trade for it, or for anything else which anybody might be
disposed to offer, never waiting for an answer, but rattling on, eating
and drinking and talking without pause; until at last, gathering himself
up, he said, “Wall, I guess I’ll turn into my waggon now, and some of you
will, maybe, give a look round at the cattle every now and then, and I’ll
thank you.”  No sooner said than done.  With a hop, step, and a jump, he
sprang into his waggon, and was snoring in a couple of minutes.

Next morning, at daybreak, while he was still asleep, Mr. Ruxton resumed
his journey, and before evening entered Santa Fé, after a ride in all of
nearly two thousand miles.

There was nothing in Santa Fé to repay him for all he had undergone in
getting there.  The houses were built of sun-dried mud, and every other
one was a grocery, that is, a gin or whisky shop, where Mexicans and
Americans were drinking eagerly or playing monté.  The streets were
filled with brawlers, among whom Pueblo Indians and priests endeavoured
to make their way.  Donkey-loads of hoja, or corn-shucks, were hawked
about for sale.  It was noise everywhere; noise and filth, dirt and
drink.  The town contains about 3500 inhabitants, and lies at the foot of
a summit of the eastern chain of the Rocky Mountains, about fourteen
miles from the river Del Norte.  As for the province, it covers an area
of 6000 square miles, with a population of 70,000, divided among the
Mexico-Spanish (descendants of the original settlers), the Mestizos (or
half-castes), and the Indian Manzos or Pueblos (the aboriginal
inhabitants).

Mr. Ruxton was so disgusted with Santa Fé, that in a very few days he had
packed his mules, taken his leave of its profanity, drunkenness, and
squalidness, and, through the valley of Taos, continued his northward
route.  The landscape was now ennobled by the majesty of the Rocky
Mountains, with cool green valleys and misty plains lying among them,
through which the river had hewn its way in deep rocky cañons.  The
scenery had assumed a new character of grandeur, and Mr. Ruxton surveyed
it with admiration.  At the Rio Colorado he crossed the United States
frontier, and plunged into the wild expanse of snow, with towering peaks
rising on every side, that lay before him; his object being to cross the
Rocky Mountains by the trail or track of the Ute Indians, and strike the
river Arkansas near its head-waters.  The cold was intense, and when a
cutting wind swept over the bleak plains or roared through the wooded
valleys, the hardy traveller found scarcely endurable.

Stricken almost to the heart, he suffered the antelope that bounded
past—hunter as he was!—to go unscathed.  His hands, rigid as those of
“the Commandant” in the statue-scene of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” dropped
the reins of his horse, and allowed him to travel as he pleased.  The
half-breed who attended him, wrapped himself round in his blanket, and
heaved a sigh at the thought of the fine venison that was being lost.  At
length, a troop of some three thousand swept almost over them, and Mr.
Ruxton’s instincts as a sportsman prevailed over the inertness and
deadness induced by the icy air; he sprang from his horse, knelt down,
and sent a bullet right into the midst.  At the report two antelopes
leaped into the air, to fall prostrate in the dust; one of them shot in
the neck, through which the ball had passed into the body of the other.
While he was cutting up the prize, half a dozen wolves howled around,
drawn to the spot by the scent of blood.  A couple of these creatures,
tamed by hunger, gradually drew nearer, occasionally crouching on their
haunches, and licking their eager lips as if already partaking of the
banquet.  Mr. Ruxton flung at them a large piece of meat; whereupon the
whole pack threw themselves upon it, growling and fighting, and actually
tearing each other in the wild, fierce fray.  “I am sure,” says our
traveller, “I might have approached near enough to have seized one by the
tail, so entirely regardless of my vicinity did they appear.  They were
doubtless rendered more ravenous than usual by the uncommon severity of
the weather, and from the fact of the antelope congregating in large
bands, were unable to prey upon these animals, which are their favourite
food.  Although rarely attacking a man, yet in such seasons as the
present I have no doubt that they would not hesitate to charge upon a
solitary traveller in the night, particularly as in winter they
congregate in troops of from ten to fifty.  They are so abundant in the
mountains, that the hunter takes no notice of them, and seldom throws
away upon the skulking beasts a charge of powder and lead.”

Mr. Ruxton pitched his camp at Rib Creek one night; at La Culebra, or
Snake Creek, the next; at La Trinchera, or Bowl Creek, on the third.  The
cold continued excessive.  The blast seemed to carry death upon its
wings; snow and sleet fell in heavy showers; the streams were covered
with a solid crust of ice.  But the worst part of the journey was through
the Vallerito, or Little Valley—the “Wind-trap,” as the mountaineers
expressively call it—a small circular basin in the midst of rugged
mountains, which receives the winds through their deep gorges and down
their precipitous sides, and pens them up in its confined area to battle
with one another, and with the unfortunates who are forced to traverse
it.  How they beat and rage and howl and roar!  How they buffet the
traveller in the face, and clasp him round the body as if they would
strangle him!  How they dash against the stumbling mules, and whirl the
thick snow about them, and plunge them into dense deep drifts, where they
lie half buried!  This “Wind-trap” is only four miles long; and yet Mr.
Ruxton was more than half a day in getting through it.

Once clear of it, he began the ascent of the mountain which forms the
watershed of the Del Norte and Arkansas rivers.  The view from the summit
was as wild and drear as one of the circles in Dante’s “Inferno.”
Looking back, the traveller saw everywhere a dense white pall or shroud
of snow, which seemed to conceal but partially the rigid limbs of the
dead and frozen earth.  In front of him stretched the main chain of the
Rocky Mountains, dominated by the lofty crest of James’s or Pike’s Peak;
to the south-east, large against the sky, loomed the grim bulk of the two
Cumbres Españolas.  At his feet, a narrow valley, green with dwarf oak
and pine, was brightened by the glancing lights of a little stream.
Everywhere against the horizon rose rugged summits and ridges, snow-clad
and pine-clad, and partly separated by rocky gorges.  To the eastward the
mountain mass fell off into detached spires and buttresses, and descended
in broken terraces to the vast prairies, which extended far beyond the
limit of vision, “a sea of seeming barrenness, vast and dismal.”  As the
traveller gazed upon them, billows of dust swept over the monotonous
surface, impelled by a driving hurricane.  Soon the mad wind reached the
mountain-top, and splintered the tall pines, and roared and raved in its
insatiable fury, and filled the air with great whirls of snow, and heaped
it up in dazzling drifts against the trees.  Its stern voice made the
silence and the solitude all the more palpable.  For not a sound of bird
or beast was to be heard; nor was there sign or token of human life.  In
such a scene man is made to feel his own littleness.  In the presence of
the giant forces of Nature he seems so mean and powerless that his heart
sinks within him, and his brain grows dizzy, until he remembers that
behind those forces is a Power, eternal and supreme—a Power that seeks
not to destroy, but to bless and comfort and save.

With no little difficulty, Mr. Ruxton and his guide conveyed their mules
and horses down the steep eastern side of the mountain into the valley
beneath.  Across Greenhorn Creek they pushed forward to the banks of the
San Carlos; and fourteen miles beyond, they struck the Arkansas, a few
hundred yards above the mouth of Boiling Spring River.  There he was
hospitably entertained in the “lodge” of a certain mountaineer and
ex-trapper, John Hawkins.

The home and haunt of the trapper is the vast region of forest and
prairie known as the Far West.  He extends his operations from the
Mississippi to the mouth of the western Colorado, from the frozen wastes
of the north to the Gila in Mexico; making war against every animal whose
skin or fur is of any value, and exhibiting in its pursuit the highest
powers of endurance and tenacity, a reckless courage, and an
inexhaustible fertility of resource.  On starting for a hunt, whether as
the “hired hand” of a fur company, or working on his own account, he
provides himself with two or three horses or mules—one for saddle, the
others for packs—and six traps, which are carried in a leather bag called
a “trap-sack.”  In a wallet of dressed buffalo-skin, called a
“possible-sack,” he carries his ammunition, a few pounds of tobacco, and
dressed deerskins for mocassins and other articles.  When hunting, he
loads his saddle mule with the “possible” and “trap-sack;” the furs are
packed on the baggage mules.  His costume is a hunting shirt of dressed
buckskin, ornamented with long fringes; and pantaloons of the same
material, but decorated with porcupine quills and long fringes down the
outside of the leg.  His head bears a flexible felt hat; his feet are
protected by mocassins.  Round his neck is slung his pipe-holder,
generally a love token, in the shape of a heart, garnished with beads and
porcupine quills.  Over his left shoulder and under his right arm hang
his powder-horn and bullet-pouch, in which are stored his balls, flint
and steel, and all kinds of “odds and ends.”  A large butcher-knife, in a
sheath of buffalo-hide, is carried in a belt, and fastened to it by a
chain or guard of steel.  A tomahawk is also often added, and a long
heavy rifle is necessarily included in the equipment.

Thus provided (we quote now from Mr. Ruxton), and having determined the
locality of his trapping-ground, he starts for the mountains, sometimes
with three or four companions, as soon as the worst of the winter has
passed.  When he reaches his hunting-grounds, he follows up the creeks
and streams, vigilantly looking out for “sign.”  If he observes a
cotton-wood tree lying prone, he examines it to discover if its fall be
the work of the beaver; and, if so, whether “thrown” for the purpose of
food, or to dam the stream, and raise the water to a level with its
burrow.  The track of the beaver on the mud or sand under the bank is
also examined; and if the “sign” be fresh, he sets his trap in the run of
the animal, hiding it under water, and attaching it by a stout chain to a
picket driven in the bank, or to a bush or tree.  A “float-stick” is
fastened to the trap by a cord a few feet long, which, if the animal
carry away the trap, floats on the water and indicates its position.  The
trap is baited with the “medicine,” an oily substance obtained from a
gland in the scrotum of the beaver.  Into this is dipped a stick, which
is planted over the trap; and the beaver, attracted by the smell, and
wishing a close inspection, very foolishly puts his leg into the trap,
and falls a victim to his curiosity.

When “a lodge” is discovered, the trap is set at the edge of the dam, at
the point where the amphibious animals pass from deep to shoal water, but
always beneath the surface.  In early morning the hunter mounts his mule,
and examines his traps.  The captured animals are skinned, and the tails,
a great dainty, carefully packed into camp.  The skin is then stretched
over a hoop or framework of osier twigs, and is allowed to dry, the flesh
and fatty substance being industriously scraped or “grained.”  When dry,
it is folded into a square sheet, with the fur turned inwards, and the
bundle of ten to twenty skins, well pressed and carefully corded, is
ready for exportation.

During the hunt, regardless of Indian vicinity, the fearless trapper
wanders far and near in search of “sign.”  His nerves must always be in a
state of tension; his energies must always rally at his call.  His eagle
eye sweeps round the country, and in an instant detects any unusual
appearance.  A turned leaf, a blade of grass pressed down, the uneasiness
of the wild animals, the flight of birds, are all paragraphs to him,
written in Nature’s legible hand and plainest language.  The subtle
savage summons his utmost craft and cunning to gain an advantage over the
wily white woodman; but, along with the natural instinct of primitive
man, the white hunter has the advantages of the civilized mind, and, thus
provided, seldom fails to baffle, under equal advantages, his Indian
adversary.

                                * * * * *

While hunting in the Arkansas valley, Mr. Ruxton met with many exciting
experiences; the most serious being that of a night in the snow.
Suspecting that some Indians had carried off his mules, he seized his
rifle, and went in search of them, and coming upon what he supposed to be
their track, followed it up with heroic patience for ten miles.  He then
discovered that he had made a mistake; retraced his steps to the camp,
and, with his friend, struck in another direction.  This time he hit on
the right trail, and was well pleased to find that the animals were not
in Indian hands, as their ropes evidently still dragged along the ground.
Carrying a lariat and saddle-blanket, so as to ride back on the mules if
they were caught, away went the two dauntless hunters, nor did they stop
to rest until midnight.  Then, in the shelter of a thicket and on the
bank of a stream, they kindled a fire, and thankfully lay down within
reach of its genial influence.  Alas! a gale of wind at that moment
arose, and scattering the blazing brands to right and left, soon ignited
the dry grass and bushes; so that, to prevent a general conflagration,
they were compelled to extinguish their fire.  To prevent themselves from
being frozen to death, they started again in pursuit of the missing
animals, following the trail by moonlight across the bare cold prairies.
Next day their labours were rewarded by the recovery of the mules, and
Mr. Ruxton and his Irish companion began to think of returning.  The
latter, by agreement, made at once for the trapper’s cabin; Ruxton, with
the animals, turned off in search of some provisions and packs that had
been left in their hunting encampment.  Since morning the sky had
gradually clouded over, and towards sunset had blackened into a dense,
heavy, rolling darkness.  The wind had gone down, and a dead, unnatural
calm, the sure precursor of a storm, reigned over the face of nature.
The coyote, mindful of the coming disturbance, was trotting back to his
burrow, and the raven, with swift wings, laboured towards the shelter of
the woods.

Lower and lower sank the clouds, until the very bases of the mountains
were hidden, and the firmament and the earth seemed mingled together.
Though neither branch nor spray was stirred, the valley rang with a
hoarse murmur.  Through the gloom the leafless branches of the huge
cotton-wood trees protruded like the gaunt arms of fleshless phantoms.
The whole scene was eery and weird, impressing the mind with an
indefinable sense of awe, with an apprehension of approaching disaster.
The traveller turned his animals towards the covert of the wood; and
they, quivering with terror, were not less eager than himself to gain it.
Two-thirds of the distance still lay before them, when the windows of
heaven opened, and the storm broke, and a tremendous roar filled the
valley, and thick showers of sleet descended, freezing as it fell.  The
lonely traveller’s hunting-shirt was soaked through in a moment, and in
another moment frozen hard.  The enormous hailstones, beating on his
exposed head and face—for the wind had carried away his cap—almost
stunned and blinded him.  The mule he bestrode was suddenly caparisoned
with a sheet of ice.  To ride was impossible.  He sprang to the ground,
and wrapped himself in the saddle-cloth.  As the storm beat in front of
them, the animals wheeled away from the wood, turned their backs upon it,
and made for the open prairies; still, through the intense darkness,
whirled and buffeted in clouds of driving snow, Mr. Ruxton steadfastly
followed them.  His sufferings were indescribable; but he persevered.
The wind chilled his blood; the sleet wounded his eyes; with difficulty
his weary feet toiled through the gathering snow, which was soon two feet
in depth; but he persevered.  This quality of tenaciousness, without
which no man can become a successful traveller, any more than he can
become a successful musician, painter, sculptor, engineer, Mr. Ruxton
possessed in an eminent degree.  He pursued the frightened animals across
the darkening prairie, until, suddenly, on the leeward side of a tuft of
bushes, they stood still.  Some vain attempts he made to turn them
towards the wood; they would not move; so that at length, completely
exhausted, and seeing before him nothing but inevitable death, he sank
down behind them in the deep snow, covering his head with his blanket—far
away from human habitation,—far away from all help, but that of God!

Ah, what a night was that!  How the wind roared over the frozen plain!
How the snow rolled before it in dense huge billows, that took in the
darkness a sombre greyish colour!  What horrible sounds surged upon the
ear and brain of the benumbed watcher, as, with his head on his knees,
pressed down by the snow as by a leaden weight, with the chilled blood
scarcely flowing in his veins, and an icy torpor threatening to arrest
the very motion of his heart, he struggled against the temptation of a
slumber from which he knew that he should wake no more on earth!  Once
yield to that fatal sleep, and farewell to life!  Yet how he longed to
close his aching eyes, to rest his weary brain, to cease from the tumult
of thought and feeling that confused and exhausted him!  Every now and
then the mules would groan heavily, and fall upon the snow, and again
struggle to their legs.  Every now and then the yell of famished wolves
arose in the pauses of the storm.  So passed the night, or, rather, to
the hunter it seemed as if it were prolonging itself into day; each
second was lengthened into a minute, each minute into an hour.  At last,
by keeping his hands buried in the bosom of his hunting-shirt, he so far
restored their natural warmth, that he was able to strike a match and set
light to his pipe, a large one made of cotton-wood bark, that chanced, by
great good fortune, to be filled with tobacco to the brim.  This he
smoked with intense delight, and no doubt the stimulus it afforded saved
his life.

He was sinking, however, into a dreamy drowsiness, when he was roused by
a movement among the mules, which cheered him by proving that they were
still alive.  With some difficulty he lifted his head to get a look at
the weather, but all was pitch dark.  Was it still night?  Suddenly he
remembered that he was buried deep in snow, and thrusting his arm above
him, he worked out a hole, through which he could see the sheen of stars
and the glimmer of blue sky.  After one or two efforts, he contrived to
stand on his feet, and then he discovered that morning was dawning slowly
in the east, whore the horizon was clear of clouds.  By dint of constant
exertion he regained the use of his limbs, and, springing on his horse,
drove the mules before him at full speed across the prairie, and through
the valley, until he reached the Arkansas, where he was welcomed as one
who had risen from the grave.  It took him two days, however, to recover
from the effects of that fearful night among the snow.

One of Mr. Ruxton’s most agreeable excursions was to the Boiling Spring
River and the Boiling Fountains, which he found to be situated in the
midst of picturesque combinations of wood and rock.  These celebrated
springs issue from round holes in a large, flat white rock, at some
distance from each other; the gas escapes with a hissing sound, like that
of water in a state of ebullition; and the taste is peculiarly
refreshing, like that of, but seeming more pungent than, the very best
soda-water.  The Indians call them the “medicine” springs, and regard
them with superstitious reverence as the haunts of a spirit, who, by
breathing through the transparent fluid, causes the perturbation of its
surface.  As to this water-spirit the Arapahoes attribute the power of
preventing the success or bringing about the failure of their war
expeditions, they never pass the springs without leaving there some
propitiatory offerings, such as beads, wampum, knives, pieces of red
cloth, strips of deerskin, and mocassins.  The country round about was
formerly in the hands of the Shoshone, or Snake Indians, of whom the
Comanches are a branch: the latter now dwell to the east of the Rocky
Mountains; the former to the west, or in the recesses of the mountains
themselves.

The Snake Indians connect a curious legend with these two springs of
sweet and bitter water.

They say that, hundreds of years ago, when the cotton-wood trees on the
Rio Colorado were no higher than arrows, and the red man hunted the
buffalo on the plains, all people spoke the same language, and two
parties of hunters never met without smoking together the pipe of peace.
In this happy age, it chanced on one occasion that a couple of hunters,
belonging to different tribes, met on the bank of a small rivulet, in
which they designed to quench their thirst.  A bright clear thread of
water, trickling from a spring in a rock a few feet from the bank, it
wound its silvery way into the river.  Now, while one of the hunters
threw himself at once on the ground, and plunged his face into the
running stream, the other first flung from his back a fine deer, and
then, turning towards the spring, poured some of the water out as a
libation to the Great Spirit, who had rewarded his prowess with bow and
arrow, and caused the fountain to flow, at which he was about to refresh
himself.

And it came to pass that the other hunter, who had killed no fat buck,
and had forgotten to make the usual peace-offering, felt his heart swell
with rage and jealousy; and the Evil Spirit taking possession of him, he
sought for an excuse to quarrel with the stranger Indian.  Rising to his
feet with a moody frown upon his brow, he exclaimed—

“Why does a stranger drink at the spring-head, when one to whom the
spring belongs is content to drink of the water that runs from it?”

“The Great Spirit,” replied the other, “places the cool water at the
spring, that his children may drink it pure and undefiled.  The running
water is for the beasts that inhabit the plains.  Au-sa-qua is a chief of
the Shoshone, and he drinks at the head of the waters.”

“The Shoshone,” answered the first speaker, “is but a tribe of the
Comanche.  Wa-co-mish is the chief of the great nation.  Why does a
Shoshone dare to drink above him?”

“He has said it.  The Shoshone drinks at the spring-head; let other
nations be satisfied with the water of the stream that runs into the
fields.  Au-sa-qua is chief of his nation.  The Comanche are brothers;
let them both drink of the same water.”

“The Shoshone pays tribute to the Comanche.  Wa-co-mish leads that nation
to war.  Wa-co-mish is chief of the Shoshone, as he is of his own
people.”

“Wa-co-mish lies,” said Au-sa-qua coldly; “his tongue is forked like the
rattlesnake’s; his heart is as black as the Misho-tunga (evil spirit).
When the Manitou made his children, whether Shoshone or Comanche,
Arapaho, Shi-an, or Pá-ui, he gave them buffalo to eat, and the pure
water of the crystal fountain to quench their thirst.  He said not to
one, ‘Drink here,’ or to the other, ‘Drink there,’ but gave to all the
bright clear fountain, that all might drink.”

A tempest of fury swept over the soul of Wa-comish as he listened to
these words; but he was a coward at heart, and durst not openly encounter
the cooler and more courageous Shoshone.  But when the latter, hot with
speaking, again stooped to drink of the refreshing waters, Wa-co-mish
suddenly threw himself upon him, pressed his head beneath the surface,
and held it there, until his victim, suffocated, ceased to struggle, and
fell forward into the spring, dead.

The murderer had satisfied his passion; but was he happy?  No; as he
gazed at the corpse of his victim, he was seized with a passionate sense
of remorse and regret.  Loathing himself for the crime he had committed,
he proceeded to drag the body a few paces from the water, which,
thereupon, was suddenly disturbed.  The wave trembled to and fro, and
bubbles, rising to the surface, escaped in hissing gas.  And, as a
vaporous cloud gradually rose and sank, the figure of an aged Indian was
revealed to the murderer’s straining eyes, whom, by his noble
countenance, his long sinewy hand, and his silvery beard, he knew to be
the great Wau-kan-aga, the father of the Shoshone and Comanche nation,
still remembered and revered for the good deeds and the heroic acts he
had done in life.

Stretching out a war-club towards the shrinking, trembling Wa-co-mish, he
said:

“Accursed of my tribe! this day hast thou snapt the link that bound
together the mightiest nations of the world, while the blood of the brave
Shoshone cries to the Manitou for vengeance.  May the water of thy tribe
be rank and bitter in their throats!”  And, swinging round his ponderous
war-club, he dashed out the brains of the treacherous Comanche, so that
he fell headlong into the spring, which, from that day, has ever been
nauseous to the taste, and an offence to thirsty lips.  But at the same
time, to preserve the memory of the noble Au-sa-qua, he struck a hard
flint rock, higher up the rivulet, with his club, and called forth a
fountain of crystal water, which, even in our own times, is the joy and
the delight of men.

“Never,” says Mr. Ruxton, “never was there such a paradise for hunters as
this lone and solitary spot.  The shelving prairie, at the bottom of
which the springs are situated, is entirely surrounded by rugged
mountains, and, containing perhaps about two or three acres of excellent
grass, affords a safe pasture to their animals, which would hardly care
to wander from such feeding.  Immediately overhead, Pike’s Peak, at an
elevation of 12,000 feet above the level of the sea, towers high into the
clouds; whilst from the fountain, like a granitic amphitheatre, ridge
after ridge, clothed with pine and cedar, rises and meets the stupendous
mass of mountains, well called ‘Rocky,’ which stretches far away north
and southward, their gigantic peaks being visible above the strata of
clouds which hide their rugged bases.”

                                * * * * *

But here our companionship with Mr. Ruxton ceases.  His travels in the
United States do not present any uncommon or remarkable feature; do not
differ from those of the thousand and one sightseers who yearly cross the
Atlantic, and survey the broad territories of the great Western Republic.
With a small party he crossed the wide-rolling prairies to Fort
Leavenworth; thence, passing the Kansas or Caro river, and entering upon
a picturesque country of hill and dale, well wooded and watered, he
penetrated into the valley of the Missouri.  Down that noble stream he
made his way to St. Louis, and afterwards traversed the prairies of
Illinois to Chicago; not then, as it is now, the capital of the West, and
the great corn depôt of the Mississippi States.  From Chicago he crossed
Lake Michigan to Kalamazoo, where he took the rail to Detroit.  A
Canadian steamer conveyed him to Buffalo.  Thence, by rail, he travelled
to Albany, and descended the majestic Hudson to New York.  His home
voyage was swift and prosperous, and he arrived at Liverpool in the
middle of August, 1847. {89}



DOCTOR BARTH,
AND CENTRAL AFRICA.


                                A.D. 1850.



I.


DR. HEINRICH BARTH, a native of Hamburg, and lecturer at the University
of Berlin upon geography, had already had some experience of African
travel, when, in 1849, he learned that Mr. James Richardson had planned
an expedition from London to Central Africa, with the view of opening up
the Soudan to European commerce, and substituting for the cruel
slave-trade the legitimate enterprise of working the natural riches of
the country.  Dr. Barth obtained permission to accompany it, and with
another volunteer, also a German, named Overweg, he repaired to
head-quarters.  The expedition was authorized and supported by the
British Government.  It met, therefore, with no preliminary difficulties;
and we may begin our summary of its adventures at Tripoli, whence it
started for the south on the 24th of March, 1850.  Entering the Fezzan,
it crossed the rocky and elevated plateau known as the Hammada, and
through fertile wadys, or valley-basins, separated by precipitous ridges
and broad wastes of sand, made its way to Mourzouk, the capital, situated
in a sandy plain, where agricultural labour is possible only under the
shelter of the date-palms.  The town has no rich merchants, and is not so
much a commercial depôt as a place of transit.  For Dr. Barth and his
companions it was, however, the first stage of their journey, and,
indeed, their true point of departure.  They made all haste, therefore,
to leave it, and on the 13th of June entered upon their great
undertaking.  On the 25th, after an unavoidable delay, they quitted
Tasua, crossed a considerable mass of sand-hills, and descended into a
more agreeable district, where the heights were crowned by tamarisk
trees, each height standing alone and isolated, like sentinels along the
front of an army.  This pleasant variety of scenery did not last long,
however; they came again upon a soil as rocky as that of the Hammada, and
met with an alternation of green valleys and sterile promontories,
similar to that which they had explored before they reached Mourzouk.

They had reached the Wady Elaveu, a huge depression running north and
south, when, at a distance of two hundred yards from their camp, they
discovered a pond, forming a centre of life in that solitary region.
Everybody hastened to enjoy a bath; a crowd of pintados and gangas
hovered, with bright-coloured wings, above the laughing, frolicking
company, waiting until they could take their places.  While in this
vicinity the travellers were disturbed by the conduct of some Towaregs,
who had been engaged to conduct them to Selompih.  Eventually, some
slight change was made in the plans of the expedition, which, it was
determined, should go on to Ghat, and remain there for six days; while
the Towaregs, on their part, undertook to set out immediately afterwards
for the Asben.  Striking into the valley of Tanesof, they saw before
them, revelling in the glow and gleam of the sunset, the Demons’
Mountain, or Mount Iniden; its perpendicular summit, adorned with towers
and battlements, showed its white outlines vividly against a dark-blue
sky.  Westward, the horizon was bounded by a range of sand-hills, which
the wind swept like a mighty besom, filling the air with sharp, gritty
sand, and covering the entire surface of the valley.

On the following morning, their course carried them towards an enchanted
mountain, which the wild legends of the natives have invested with
picturesque interest.  In spite of the warnings of the Towaregs, or
perhaps because they had cautioned Dr. Barth not to risk his life in
scaling that palace of the evil spirits, he resolved on attempting the
sacrilegious enterprise.  Unable to obtain guides, neither threats nor
bribes prevailing over their superstitious terrors, he set out alone, in
the belief that it had been formerly a place of religious worship, and
that he should find there either sculptures or curious inscriptions.
Unfortunately, he took with him no provisions but some biscuits and
dates, and worse food cannot be imagined where there is a want of water.
Crossing the sand-hills, he entered upon a bare and sterile plain, strewn
with black pebbles, and studded with little mounds or hillocks of the
same colour.  Then he followed the bed of a torrent, its banks dotted
with herbage, which offered an asylum to a couple of antelopes.  Anxious
for the safety of their young, the timid animals did not move at his
approach.  Affection inspired them with courage; they raised their heads
boldly, and waved their tails.  The enchanted palace seemed to recede as
he advanced; finding himself in front of a dark deep ravine, he changed
his course, only to find the passage barred by a precipice.  Under the
glare and glow of a burning sun he undauntedly pursued his way, and at
last, spent with fatigue and exertion, reached the summit, which was only
a few feet wide, and could boast neither of sculptures nor inscriptions.

From so lofty a watch-tower the prospect was necessarily extensive; but
on surveying the plain below with anxious glance, Dr. Barth failed to
detect any sign of the caravan.  He was hungry and athirst; but his dates
and biscuit were not eatable, and his supply of water was so limited that
he durst not indulge himself with more than a mouthful.  Feeble and spent
as he was, to descend was imperative; he had no water left when he once
more stood upon the plain.  He dragged his weary limbs onward for some
time, but at length was forced to own to himself that he did not know the
direction he ought to take.  He fired his pistol; but it elicited no
reply.  Wandering further and further from the route, he came upon a
small grassy oasis, where some huts had been constructed of the branches
of the tamarisk.  With hopeful heart he hurried towards them; they were
empty.  Then in the distance he saw a long train of loaded camels
ploughing their slow way through the sand; no, it was an illusion!—the
illusion of fever.  When night fell, he descried a fire gleaming redly
against the darkened sky; it must be that of the caravan!  Again he fired
his pistol, and again there was no answer.  Still the flame rose steadily
towards heaven, and seemed to beckon him to a place where he should find
rest and safety; but he was unable to profit by the signal.  He fired
again; no answering sound came forth from the silence of the mysterious
night, and Dr. Barth, on his knees, entrusted his life to the Divine
Mercy, and waited and watched for the dawn of day.  The dawn came, as it
comes to all God’s creatures, whether rich or poor, happy or
wretched—comes with a blessing and a promise that are too often accepted
without thought or emotion of gratitude; the dawn came, and still the
calm of the desert remained unbroken.  He loaded his pistol with a double
charge, and the report, travelling from echo to echo, seemed loud enough
to awaken the dead; it was heard by no human ear but his own.  The sun,
for whose beams he had prayed in the night-watches, rose in all its
glory; the heat became intense; slowly the belated wayfarer crawled along
the hot sand to seek the scanty shelter afforded by the leafless branches
of the tamarisk.  At noon there was scarcely shade enough to protect even
his head, and in an agony of thirst, he opened a vein, drank a little of
his own blood, and lost all consciousness.  When he recovered his senses,
the sun had set behind the mountain.  He dragged himself a few paces from
the tamarisk, and was examining the dreary level with sorrowful eyes,
when he suddenly heard the voice of a camel.  Never had he listened to
music so delightful!  For twenty-four hours had his sufferings been
prolonged, and he was completely exhausted when rescued by one of the
Towaregs of the caravan who had been sent in search of him.

The caravan spent six days in the double oasis of Ghat and Barakat, where
crops of green millet, taking the place of barley and rye, indicated the
neighbourhood of Nigritiá.  The gardens were neatly fenced and carefully
cultivated; turtle-doves and pigeons cooed among the branches; the clean,
well-built houses were each provided with a terraced roof.  Dr. Barth
observed that the male inhabitants worked with industry and intelligence;
as for the women, almost every one had a babe on her shoulders, and
children swarmed by the wayside.  As a whole, the population was far
superior, physically and morally, to the mixed, hybrid race of the
Fezzan.

They left the gracious and grateful oasis to plunge into the desert, a
chaos of sandstone and granite rocks.  On the 30th of July, they reached
the junction-point of two ravines which formed a sort of “four-ways”
among these confused masses.  The wady which crossed their route was
about sixty feet broad, but, at a short distance, narrowed suddenly into
a defile between gigantic precipices upwards of a thousand feet in
height—a defile which in the rainy season must be converted into a
veritable cataract, to judge from an excavated basin at the mouth, which,
when Dr. Barth and his companions passed, was full of fresh and limpid
water.  This “four-ways,” and these defiles, form the valley of Aguéri,
long known to European geographers by the name of Amaïs.

The unpleasant intelligence now arrived that a powerful chief, named
Sidi-Jalef-Sakertaf, projected an expedition against their peaceful
caravan.  Fortunately, it was only a question of the tribute which, by
right of might, the Towaregs levy from every caravan that crosses the
desert.  Sidi-Jalef-Sakertaf was pacified; and the enthusiasts went on
their way through sterile valleys and frowning defiles that would have
daunted the courage of any but a votary of science and adventure.

They next arrived at Mount Tiska, which is six hundred feet in height,
and surrounded by numerous lesser cones.  It forms a kind of geological
landmark; for the soil, hitherto so broken and irregular, thenceforward
becomes smooth and uniform, while rising gradually, and the vast plain
stretches far beyond the limit of vision without anything to interrupt
its arid monotony.  A two days’ journey brought our travellers to the
well of Afelesselez.  It is utterly wanting in shade; only a few clumps
of stunted tamarisks grow on the sandy hillocks; but, desolate as it is
and uninviting, the caravans resort to it eagerly, on account of its
supply of fresh water.

Sand; stones; little ridges of quartzose limestone; granite mixed with
red sandstone or white; a few mimosas, at intervals of one or two days’
march; abrupt pinnacles breaking the dull level of the sandstones; dry
and bushless valleys—such were the features of the country through which
Dr. Barth and his companions wearily plodded.  Herds of buffaloes,
however, are numerous; as is also, in the higher ground, the _Ovis
tragelaphis_.

On the 16th of August the travellers, while descending a rocky crest
covered with gravel, came in sight of Mount Asben.  The Asben or A’ir is
an immense oasis, which has some claim to be considered the Switzerland
of the Desert.  The route pursued by Dr. Barth on his way to Agadez
traversed its most picturesque portion, where, almost every moment, the
great mountain revealed itself, with its winding gorges, its fertile
basins, and its lofty peaks.

Agadez is built on a plain, where it seems to lament that the day of its
prosperity has passed.  At one time it was the centre of a considerable
commerce; but, since the close of the last century, its population has
sunk from sixty thousand to seven or eight thousand souls.  Most of its
houses lie in ruins; the score of habitations which compose the palace
are themselves in a deplorably dilapidated condition; of the seventy
mosques which it previously boasted only two remain.  The richer
merchants shun the market of Agadez, which is now in the possession of
the Touats, and supported by small traders, who do a little business in
the purchase of millet when the price is low.

The day after his arrival, Barth repaired to the palace, and found that
the buildings reserved for the sovereign were in tolerably good repair.
He was introduced into a hall, from twelve to fifteen yards square, with
a low daïs or platform, constructed of mats placed upon branches, which
supported four massive columns of clay.  Between one of these columns and
the angle of the wall was seated Abd-el-Kadir, the Sultan, a vigorous and
robust man of about fifty years old, whose grey robe and white scarf
indicated that he did not belong to the race of the Towaregs.  Though he
had never heard of England, he received Dr. Barth very kindly, expressed
his indignation at the treatment the caravans had undergone on the
frontier of A’ir, and, by-and-by, sent him letters of recommendation to
the governors of Kanó, Katséna, and Daoura.  Dr. Barth remained for two
months at Agadez, and collected a number of interesting details
respecting its inhabitants and their mode of life.  Thus, he describes a
visit which he paid to one of its more opulent female inhabitants.  She
lived in a spacious and commodious house.  When he called upon her, she
was attired in a robe of silk and cotton, and adorned with a great number
of silver jewels.  Twenty persons composed her household; including six
children, entirely naked, their bracelets and collars of silver excepted,
and six or seven slaves.  Her husband lived at Katséna, and from time to
time came to see her; but it appears that she scarcely awaited his visits
with the loving expectancy of a Penelope.  No rigid seclusion of women is
insisted upon at Agadez.  During the Sultan’s absence, five or six young
females presented themselves at Dr. Barth’s house.  Two of them were
rather handsome, with black hair falling down their shoulders in thick
plaits, quick lively eyes, dark complexion, and a toilette not wanting in
elegance; but they were so importunate for presents, that Dr. Barth, to
escape their incessant petitions, shut himself up.

                                * * * * *

Barth rejoined his companions in the valley of Tin-Teggana.  On the 12th
of December they resumed their march, crossing a mountainous region,
intersected by fertile valleys, in which the Egyptian balanite and indigo
flourished, and finally emerging on the plain which forms the transition
between the rocky soil of the desert and the fertile region of the
Soudan—a sandy plain, the home of the giraffe and the antelope leucoryx.
By degrees it became pleasantly green with brushwood; then the travellers
caught sight of bands of ostriches, of numerous burrows, especially in
the neighbourhood of the ant-hills, and those of the Ethiopian
orycteropus, which have a circumference of three yards to three yards and
a half, and are constructed with considerable regularity.

The wood grew thicker, the ground more broken, the ant-hills more
numerous.  As the travellers descended an abrupt decline of about one
hundred feet, they found the character of the vegetation entirely
changed.  Melons were abundant; the dilon, a kind of laurel, dominated in
the woods; then appeared an euphorbia, a somewhat rare tree in this part
of Africa, in the poisonous juice of which the natives steep their
arrows; parasites were frequent, but as yet lacked strength and pith; in
a pool some cows were cooling themselves in the shades of the mimosas
that fringed its banks; the thick herbage flourishing along the track
impeded the progress of the camels, and against the horizon were visible
the fertile undulating meads of Damerghue.  Continuing their journey,
they came upon a scattered village, where, for the first time, they saw
that kind of architecture which, with some unimportant modifications,
prevails throughout Central Africa.  Entirely constructed of the stems of
the sorghum and the _Asclepias gigas_, the huts of Nigritiá have nothing
of the solidity of the houses of the A’ir, where the framework is formed
of the branches and trunks of trees; but they are incontestably superior
in prettiness and cleanliness.  The traveller, in examining them, is
impressed by their resemblance to the cabins of the aborigines of Latium,
of which Vitruvius, amongst others, has furnished a description.  More
remarkable still are the millstones scattered round the huts; they
consist of enormous panniers of reeds, placed on a scaffolding two feet
from the ground, to protect them from the mice and termites.

On their arrival at Tagilet, the travellers separated.  Mr. James
Richardson undertook the road to Zindu, Overweg that to Marádi, and Barth
to Kanó.  Kúkáwa was named as the place, and about the 1st of April as
the date, of their reassembling.  Our business here is with Dr. Barth.

At Tasáwa he gained his first experience of a large town or village in
Negroland proper; and it made a cheerful impression upon him, as
manifesting everywhere the unmistakable marks of the comfortable,
pleasant sort of life led by the natives.  The courtyard, fenced with a
hedge of tall reeds, excluded to a certain degree the gaze of the
passer-by, without securing to the interior absolute secrecy.  Then, near
the entrance, were the cool and shady “runfá,” for the reception of
travellers and the conduct of ordinary business; and the “gída,” partly
consisting entirely of reed of the best wicker-work, partly built of clay
in the lower parts, while the roof is constructed only of reeds,—but
whatever the material employed, always warm and well adapted for domestic
privacy; while the entire dwelling is shaded with spreading trees, and
enlivened with groups of children, goats, fowls, pigeons, and, where a
little wealth has been accumulated, a horse or a pack-ox.

Dr. Barth afterwards arrived at Katséna, a town of considerable size,
with a population of eight thousand souls.  It was formerly the residence
of one of the richest and most celebrated princes in Nigritiá, though he
paid a tribute of a hundred slaves to the King of Bornu as a sign of
allegiance.

For two centuries, from 1600 to 1800, Katséna appears to have been the
principal town in this part of the Soudan.  Its social condition,
developed by contact with the Arabs, then reached its highest degree of
civilization; the language, rich in form and pure in pronunciation, and
the polished and refined manners of the inhabitants, distinguished it
from the other towns of the Háusa.  But a complete and pitiful change
took place when, in 1807, the Fulbi, raised to the highest pitch of
fanaticism by the preaching of the reformer, Othmán dan Fódiye, succeeded
in gaining possession of the town.  The principal foreign merchants then
emigrated to Kanó; the Asbenáwa also transferred their salt-market
thither; and Katséna, notwithstanding its excellent position and greater
salubrity, is now but of secondary importance as the seat of a governor.
Mohammed Bello, who held that post at the time of Barth’s visit, either
through capriciousness or suspicion, was very desirous of sending him on
to Sokoto, the residence of the Emir.  At first he employed persuasion,
and when that failed, resorted to force, detaining Barth a prisoner for
five days.  However, the energy and perseverance of the traveller
overcame every difficulty; and, having obtained his freedom, he directed
his steps towards the celebrated commercial entrepôt of the Central
Soudan.

Kanó, as he says, was an important station for him, not only from a
scientific, but a financial point of view.  After the extortions of the
Towaregs, and his long delay in A’ir, he was entirely dependent upon the
merchandise which had been forwarded thither in advance.  On his arrival,
he had to liquidate a debt which had risen to the large amount of 113,200
kurdi; and he was much disheartened by the low value set upon the wares
which were his sole resource.  Lodged in dark and uncomfortable quarters,
destitute of money, beset by his numerous creditors, and treated with
insolence by his servant, his position in the far-famed African city,
which had so long occupied his thoughts and excited his imagination, was
the reverse of agreeable.  Anxiety acted upon his physical health, and a
severe attack of fever reduced him to a state of great weakness.  Yet the
gloomy colours in which he naturally paints his own condition do not
extend to his description of Kanó.  _That_ is bright, vivid, and graphic.

The whole scenery of the town—with its great variety of clay houses,
huts, and sheds; its patches of green pasture for oxen, horses, camels,
donkeys, and goats; its deep hollows containing ponds overgrown with
water-plants; its noble trees, the symmetric gónda or papaya, the slender
date-palm, the spreading alléluba, and the majestic bombyx, or
silk-cotton tree; the inhabitants, gay in diversified costumes, from the
half-naked slave to the most elaborately dressed Arab—forms an animated
picture of a world complete in itself; a strange contrast to European
towns in external form, and yet, after all, in social inequalities, in
the difference of happiness and comfort, activity and laziness, luxury
and poverty, exactly similar.

Here a row of shops is filled with articles of native and foreign
produce, with noisy buyers and sellers in every variety of figure,
complexion, and dress, yet all intent upon gain, and endeavouring to get
the advantage of each other; there, a large shed, like a hurdle, full of
half-naked, half-starved slaves, torn from their quiet homes, from their
wives, husbands, parents, arranged in rows like cattle, and staring with
hopeless eyes upon the purchasers, wondering, perhaps, into whose hands
it would be their lot to fall.  How dark to them the mystery of life!  In
another part may be seen all that can minister to human ease and comfort,
and the wealthy buying dainties and delicacies for his table, while the
poor man eyes wistfully a handful of grain.  Here a rich governor,
dressed in silk and gaudy clothes, mounted upon a spirited and richly
caparisoned horse, is followed by a troop of idle, insolent menials;
there, a blind pauper gropes his way through the restless, excited
multitude, and fears at every step to be trodden underfoot.  Observe
yonder a yard neatly fenced with mats of reed, and provided with all the
comforts which the country affords; a clean, neat-looking cottage, with
nicely polished clay walls, a shutter of reeds placed against the low,
well-rounded door, to forbid abrupt intrusion on the privacy of domestic
life; a cool shed for the daily household work; a fine spreading alléluba
tree, affording a pleasant shade in the noontide hours, or a stately
gónda or papaya lifting its crown of feather-like leaves on a slender,
smooth, and undivided stem, or the tall and useful date-tree, adding its
charm to the fair scene of domestic peace and comfort,—the matron, in a
clean black cotton gown wound round her waist, and with her hair trimly
dressed, busily preparing the meal for her absent husband, or spinning
cotton, and at the same time urging the female slaves to pound the corn;
the children, naked and merry, playing about in the sand, or chasing a
straggling, stubborn goat; earthenware pots and wooden bowls, cleanly
washed, all standing in order.  Our survey also includes a “máciná”—an
open terrace of clay, with a number of dyeing-pans, and people actively
employed in various processes of their handicraft: one man stirring the
juice, and mixing some colouring wood with the indigo in order to secure
the desired tint; another drawing a shirt from the dye-pot, or suspending
it to a rope fastened to the trees; and a couple of men busily beating a
well-dyed shirt, and singing the while in good time and tune.  Further
on, a blacksmith with rude tools that an European would disdain, is
fashioning a dagger, the sharpness of which will surprise you, or a
formidable barbed spear, or some implement of husbandry; beyond, men and
women turn an unfrequented thoroughfare to account by hanging up, along
the fences, their cotton thread for weaving; and, lastly, close at hand,
a group of loiterers idle away the sunny hours.

Ever and anon comes upon the scene a caravan from Gónja, with the
much-prized kola-nut, chewed by all who can spare as much or as little as
“ten kurdi;” or a caravan passes, laden with natron, bound for Núpa; or a
troop of Asbenáwa, going off with their salt for the neighbouring towns;
or some Arabs lead their camels, heavily charged with the luxuries of the
north and east, to the quarters of the opulent; or a troop of gaudy,
warlike-looking horsemen dash towards the palace of the governor with
news from some distant province.  Everywhere you see human life in its
varied forms, the brightest and the most gloomy closely mixed together,
as in life itself happiness and sorrow are never divided; every variety
of national form and complexion—the olive-coloured Arab; the dark Kanuri,
with his wide nostrils; the small-featured, light, and slender
Ba-Fillanchi; the broad-faced Ba-Wángara; the stout, large-boned, and
masculine-looking Núpa female; the well-proportioned and comely Ba-Haúshe
woman.

The regular population of Kanó numbers about 30,000 souls, but is raised
to 60,000, from January to April, by the influx of strangers.  Its trade
principally consists of cotton stuffs sold under the form of tebi, a kind
of blouse; tenkédi, the long scarf or dark blue drapery worn by the
women; the zunie, a kind of plaid, very bright in colour; and the black
turban, worn by the Towaregs.  At Kanó are concentrated also the products
of northern, eastern, and western Africa, flowing thither through the
channels of Mourzouk, Ghat, Tripoli, Timbúktu, and the whole of Bornú.

Early in March the intrepid traveller resumed his journey, across an open
and pleasant country.  At Zurrikulo he entered Bornú proper.  The
beautiful fan-palm was here the prevailing tree; but as Barth advanced,
he met with the kuka, or _Adansonia digitata_, and the landscape
brightened with leafiness, and soon he entered upon a pleasant tract of
dense green underwood.  “The sky was clear,” he says, “and I was leaning
carelessly upon my little nag, musing on the original homes of all the
plants which now adorn different countries, when I saw advancing towards
us a strange-looking person, of very fair complexion, richly dressed and
armed, and accompanied by three men on horseback, likewise armed with
musket and pistols.  Seeing that he was a person of consequence, I rode
quickly up to him and saluted him, when he, measuring me with his eyes,
halted and asked me whether I was the Christian who was expected to
arrive from Kanó; and on my answering him in the affirmative, he told me
distinctly that my fellow-traveller, Yakúb (Mr. Richardson), had died
before reaching Kúkáwa, and that all his property had been seized.  This
sad intelligence deeply affected me; and, in the first moment of
excitement, I resolved to leave my two young men behind with the camels,
and to hurry on alone on horseback.  But as I could not reach Kúkáwa in
less than four days, and as part of the road was greatly infested by the
Tawárek (or Towaregs), such an attempt might have exposed me to a great
deal of inconvenience.  Therefore, we determined to go on as fast as the
camels would allow us.”

Four days later, and Dr. Barth saw before him the wall of white clay
which surrounds the capital of Bornú.  He entered the gate, and of some
people assembled there inquired the way to the sheikh’s residence.
Passing the little market-place, and following the dendal, or promenade,
he rode straight up to the palace which flanks the palace on the east.
The sheikh received him cordially, and provided him with quarters closely
adjoining the vizier’s house; these consisted of two immense courtyards,
the more secluded of which enclosed, besides a half-finished clay
dwelling, a spacious and neatly built hut, which, he ascertained, had
been specially prepared for the reception and accommodation of the
English mission.  It taxed all Dr. Barth’s energy and perseverance to
obtain the restoration of Mr. Richardson’s property; but he finally
succeeded.  He also obtained a loan of money on the credit of the British
Government, which enabled him to satisfy his creditors, pay Mr.
Richardson’s servants, and provide for the prosecution of the labours
which had been so unhappily interrupted.

The capital of Bornú consists of two towns, each surrounded by a wall:
one, inhabited by the rich, is well built, and contains some very large
residences; the other is a labyrinth of narrow streets of small and
squalid houses.  Between the two towns spreads an area of about eight
hundred yards each way, which, throughout its length, is traversed by a
great highway, serving as a channel of intercommunication.  This area is
largely peopled; and a picturesque aspect it presents, with its spacious
mansions and thatched huts, its solid walls of mud and its fences of
reeds, varying in colour, according to their age, from the brightest
yellow to the deepest black.

In the surrounding district are numerous little villages, hamlets, and
isolated farms, all walled.  Every Monday a fair is held between two of
these villages, lying beyond the western gate; to which the inhabitant of
the province brings, on the back of his camel or his ox, his store of
butter and corn, with his wife perched upon the top of the burden; and
the Yédiná, that pirate of Lake Tchad, who attracts our admiration by the
delicacy of his features and the suppleness of his figure, his dried
fish, flesh of hippopotamus, and whips made of the animal’s leathery
hide.  Provisions are abundant; but to lay in at one time a week’s supply
is a wearisome and troublesome task, and a task all the more wearisome
and burdensome, because there is no standard money for buying and
selling.  The ancient standard of the country, the pound of copper, has
fallen into disuse; and the currency partly consists of “gábagá,” or
cotton-strips, and “kungóna,” or cowries.  A small farmer, who brings his
corn to the market, will refuse cowries, however, and will rarely accept
of a dollar.  The would-be purchaser, therefore, must first exchange a
dollar for cowries; then, with the cowries, must buy a “kúlgu,” or shirt;
and in this way will be able at last to obtain the required quantity of
corn.

Provisions are not only abundant, but cheap, and the variety is
considerable.  For corn,—wheat, rice, and millet; for
fruits,—ground-nuts, the bito, or fruit of the _Balanites Ægyptiaca_, a
kind of _physalis_, the African plum, the _Rhamnus lotus_, and the
dúm-palm; for vegetables—beans and onions, and the young leaves of the
monkey-bread tree.

                                * * * * *

Dr. Barth had spent three weeks at Kúkáwa, when, on the evening of the
14th of April, the Sheikh Omar and his vizier departed on a short visit
to Ngornu, and at their invitation he followed next morning.  The road
thither was marked with the monotony which distinguishes the
neighbourhood of the capital.  At first, nothing is seen but the
_Asclepias gigas_; then some low bushes of cucifera; and gradually trees
begin to enliven the landscape.  The path is broad and well trodden, but
generally consists of a deep sandy soil.  There are no villages along the
road, but several at a little distance.  Two miles and a half from Ngornu
the trees cease, giving way to an immense fertile plain where cereals are
cultivated as well as beans.

At Ngornu, the town of “the blessing,” our traveller arrived about an
hour after noon.  The heat being very great, the streets were almost
deserted; but the houses, or rather yards, were crowded, tents having
been pitched for the accommodation of the visitors.  Except the sheikh’s
residence, scarcely a clay house was to be seen; yet the town gave a
general impression of comfort and prosperity, and every yard was fenced
with new “séggadé” mats, and well shaded by leafy koma-trees, while the
huts were large and spacious.

Early next morning the indefatigable traveller started forth on horseback
to refresh himself with a view of Lake Tchad, which he supposed to be at
no great distance, and of which he indulged the brightest visions.  But
no shining expanse of fair waters greeted his eye; wherever he directed
his gaze, he saw only an endless grassy, treeless plain, stretching to
the farthest horizon.  At length, riding through grass of constantly
increasing freshness and luxuriance, he reached a shallow swamp, the
irregular and deeply indented margin of which greatly impeded his
progress.  After struggling for some time to get clear of it, and vainly
straining his eyes to discover a shimmer of water in the distance, he
retraced his steps.  Mentioning on his return the ill success he had met
with, the vizier undertook to send some horsemen to conduct him along the
shore as far as Káwa, whence he could cross the country to Kúkáwa.

When the time came, however, the vizier’s promise was represented by two
horsemen only.  With them Dr. Barth started on his excursion, taking a
north-east direction.  The broad grassy plain seemed to roll away to an
immeasurable distance, unrelieved by tree or shrub; not a living creature
was visible, and the hot rays of the sun fell all around like burning
arrows.  After about half an hour’s ride, he reached swampy ground,
through which he and his companions forced their horses, often up to the
saddle.  Thus they arrived on the margin of a fine open sheet of water,
fringed thickly with papyrus and tall reed, from ten to fourteen feet
high, among which wound and interwound the garlands of a yellow-flowered
climbing plant, called “boibuje.”  Turning to the north, and still
pushing onward through deep water and grass, he made a small creek called
Dímbebú, and caught sight of a couple of small flat boats, each about
twelve feet long, and manned by a couple of men, who, on descrying the
stranger, pulled off from the shore.  They were Búdduma, or Yédiná, the
pirates of the Tchad, in search of human prey; and Dr. Barth hastened to
warn of their presence some villagers who had come to cut reeds for the
roofs of their huts, and evidently had not caught sight of their enemies.
He then continued his march.  The sun’s heat was intense, but a fresh
cooling breeze blowing from the lagoon rendered it endurable.  Large
herds of kelára, a peculiar kind of antelope, started up as he advanced,
bounding swiftly over the rushes, and sometimes swimming on the silent
waters.  They are like the roe in shape and size, with their under parts
white as snow.  At another creek, which the lake pirates sometimes use as
a harbour, river-horses abounded, and the air echoed with their snorting.
This was the easternmost period of Dr. Barth’s ride; turning then a
little west from north, he and his escort marched over drier
pasture-grounds, and, in about three miles, struck a deeply indented and
well-sheltered creek, called Ngómaíen.  Here the curiosity of the
traveller was rewarded by the sight of eleven boats of the Yédiná.  Each
was about twenty feet long, tolerably broad, with a low waist, and a high
pointed prow.  They are made of the narrow planks of the fógo-tree,
fastened together with ropes from the dúm-palm, the holes being stopped
with bast.

Another ride, and Dr. Barth turned westward—a course which brought him to
Maduwári, a pleasant village, lying in the shade of trees, where he
resolved on halting for the night.  From its inhabitants, who belong to
the tribe of the Sagárti, he obtained much information respecting the
numerous islands that stud the surface of the lake.  They also told him
that the open water begun one day’s voyage from Káya, the small harbour
of Maduwári, and is from one to two fathoms deep.  It stretches from the
mouth of the Sháry towards the western shore; all the rest of the lake
consisting of swampy meadow-lands, occasionally inundated.  Next morning,
on resuming his journey, he was charmed by the bright and gracious
picture before him.  Clear and unbroken were the lines of the horizon,
the swampy plain extending on the right towards the lake, and blending
with it, so as to allow the mind that delights in wandering over distant
regions a boundless expanse to rove in—an enjoyment not to be found in
mountainous regions, be the mountains ever so distant.  Thus they
travelled slowly northwards, while the sun rose over the patches of water
which brightened the grassy plain; and on their left the village
displayed its snug yards and huts, neatly fenced and shaded by spreading
trees.  At Dógoji he came upon a hamlet or station of cattle-breeders,
where a thousand head were collected; the herdsmen being stationed on
guard around them, armed with long spears and light shields.  Equidistant
poles were fixed in the ground, on which the butter was hung up in skins
or in vessels made of grass.

Turning to the eastward, Dr. Barth reached the creek “Kógorani,”
surrounded by a belt of dense reeds, and was there joined by a Kánemma
chief, named Zaitchua, with five horsemen.  The party rode on towards
Bolè, passing through very deep water, and obtained a view of the widest
part of the lake they had yet seen.  A fine open sheet of water, agitated
by a light easterly wind, rippled in sparkling waves upon the shore.  A
reedy forest spread all around, while the surface was bright with aquatic
plants, chiefly the beautiful water-lily, or _Nymphoea lotus_.  Flocks of
waterfowl of every description played about.  At length they reached
Káwa, a large straggling village, lying among magnificent trees, where
Dr. Barth’s’ excursion terminated; thence he returned to Kúkáwa.

On the 7th of May he was joined there by Mr. Overweg, and the two
travellers immediately made their preparations for resuming the work of
exploration with which they had been charged by the British Government.
These were completed by the 29th of May (1851), and the two travellers
then set out for the southward, accompanied by an officer of the sheikh,
and attended by a small company of servants and warriors.  A singular
variety of country greeted them as they moved forward: at first it was
low and swampy; then came a bare and arid soil, planted with scattered
tamarisks; next, a dense forest, partly inundated in the rainy season,
and, afterwards, a broad and fertile plain, sprinkled with villages, and
white with thriving crops of cotton.  This was the district of Uji, which
comprises several places of a considerable size.  Thence they entered
upon a fine open country, a continuous corn-field, interrupted only by
pleasant villages, and shaded here and there by single monkey-bread
trees, or Adansonias, and various kinds of fig-trees, with their
succulent dark-green foliage, or large fleshy leaves of emerald green.  A
fiumara, or water-course, which rises near Aláwó, traverses the plain
with numerous curves and bends, and passing Dekùa, falls into the Tchad.
The travellers crossed it twice before they reached Mabani, a large and
prosperous town, with a population of nine or ten thousand souls, which
covers the sides and summit of a hill of sand.  From this point their
road lay through fertile fields, where they were greeted by the sight of
the first corn-crop of the season, its fresh and vivid green sparkling
daintily in the sunshine.  Having crossed and recrossed the fiumara, they
ascended its steep left bank, which in some places exhibited regular
strata of sandstone.  Here they passed a little dyeing-yard of two or
three pots, while several patches of indigo flourished at the foot of the
bank, and a bustling group of men and cattle were gathered round the
well.  Villages were seen lying about in every direction; and single
cottages, scattered about here and there, gave evidence of a sense of
security.  The corn-fields were most agreeably broken by tracts covered
with bushes of the wild gónda, which has a most delicious fruit, of a
fine creamy flavour, and of the size of a peach, but with a much larger
stone.

Mount Délabida marked the border line of a mountainous region.  After
entering upon the district of Shamo, Barth observed that millet became
rare, and that the sorghum was generally cultivated.  Here he and his
party were joined by some native traders; for robbers haunted the
neighbourhood, and safety was to be found in numbers.  At every step they
came upon evidences of the misfortunes which had swept and scathed the
country: traces of ancient cultivation and ruined huts; and thick
interwoven jungles, where the grass grew so high as to hide both horse
and rider.  After three hours’ march through this land of desolation,
they arrived at what had once been a considerable village, but was then
inhabited only by a few natives, recently converted to the religion of
the Crescent.  As but a single hut could be found for the accommodation
of the whole company, Dr. Barth preferred to encamp in the open air.  But
he had scarcely laid down to rest, when a terrible storm arose, sweeping
his tent to the ground, and flooding his baggage with torrents of rain.
To such adventures is the daring traveller exposed!

Though they had embraced Islam, the natives wore no other clothing than a
strip of leather passed between the legs, and even this seemed by some of
them to be considered a superfluity.  The observer could not fail to
remark their harmonious proportions, their regular features, undisfigured
by tattooing, and, in not a few cases, presenting no resemblance to the
negro type.  The difference of complexion noticeable in individuals
presumably of the same race, was remarkable.  With some it was a
brilliant black; with others a rhubarb colour, and there was no example
of an intermediate tint; the black, however, predominated.  A young woman
and her son, aged eight years, formed a group “quite antique,” and worthy
of the chisel of a great artist.  The child, especially, in no respect
yielded to the ancient Discophorus; his hair was short and curled, but
not woolly; his complexion, like that of his mother and the whole family,
was of a pale or yellowish red.

Re-entering the forest, Dr. Barth observed that the clearings bore the
imprints of the feet of elephants of all ages.  A wealth of flowers
loaded the atmosphere with fragrant incense.  But the soil soon
deteriorated; the trees were nearly all mimosas, and nearly all of
indifferent growth, with here and there a large leafless Adansonia
flinging abroad, as if in despair, its gaunt gigantic arms; while the
herbage consisted only of single tufts of coarse grass, four or five feet
high.  When things are at their worst they begin to mend; and for the
traveller there is no motto more applicable than the old proverb, that it
is a long lane which has no turning.  With intense delight Dr. Barth and
his companions saw the monotonously gloomy forest giving way to scattered
clusters of large and graceful trees, such as generally indicate the
neighbourhood of human labour.  And they soon emerged upon bright green
meadow-lands extending to the base of the Wandala mountain-range, which
rose like a barrier of cloud upon the horizon, from north to south.  The
highest elevation of this range is about 3000 feet; its average elevation
does not exceed 2500 feet.  Behind it, to a point of 5000 feet above the
sea, rises the conical mass of Mount Mendefi, first seen by gallant Major
Denham.  The country now gradually assumed a wilder aspect; rocks of
sandstone and granite projected on all sides, while, in front, a little
rocky ridge, densely crowded with bush and tree, seemed to form a _ne
plus ultra_.  Suddenly, however, a deep recess opened in it, and a
village was seen, lying most picturesquely in the heart of the rocks and
woods.  This was Laháula, where the travellers rested for the night.
Next day they reached Uba, on the border of A’damáwa; A’damáwa, described
by Dr. Barth as “a Mohammedan kingdom engrafted upon a mixed stock of
pagan tribes—the conquest of the valorous and fanatic Pállo chieftain,
A’dáma, over the great pagan kingdom of Fúmbiná.”

Here the camels greatly excited the curiosity of the population; for they
are rarely seen in A’damáwa, the climate of which these animals are
unable to endure for any length of time.  Still more vivid was the
curiosity of the governor and his courtiers, when they saw Dr. Barth’s
compass, chronometer, telescope, and the small print of his Prayer-Book.
The Fulbi, he says, are intelligent and civilized, but prone to malice;
they lack the good nature of the real blacks, from whom they differ more
in their character than their colour.

At Bagma our travellers were struck by the size and shape of the huts,
some of them being from forty to sixty feet long, about fifteen broad,
and from ten to twelve feet high.  They narrowed above to a ridge, and
were thatched all over, no distinction being made between roof and wall.
They are so spaciously constructed, in order to provide a shelter for the
cattle against the inclemency of the weather.  The river separates the
village, which is inhabited entirely by Mohammedans, into two quarters.
“The news of a marvellous novelty soon stirred up the whole place, and
young and old, male and female, all gathered round our motley troop, and
thronged about us in innocent mirth, and as we proceeded the people came
running from the distant fields to see the wonder; but the wonder was not
myself, but the camel, an animal which many of them had never seen,
fifteen years having elapsed since one had passed along this road.  The
chorus of shrill voices, ‘Gelóba, gelóba!’ was led by two young wanton
Púllo girls, slender as antelopes, and wearing nothing but a light apron
of striped cotton round their loins, who, jumping about and laughing at
the stupidity of these enormous animals, accompanied us for about two
miles along the fertile plain.  We passed a herd of about three hundred
cattle.  Gradually the country became covered with forest, with the
exception of patches of cultivated ground.”  Through scenery of this
interesting character, the travellers pushed on to Mbtudi.

Next day their route laid through well-wooded and well-watered pastures,
and immense fields of millet and ground-nuts, which here form as large a
proportion of the food of the people as potatoes do in Europe.  Dr. Barth
liked them very much, especially if roasted, for nibbling after supper,
or even as a substitute for breakfast on the road.  From Segero the
travellers proceeded to Sara’wu, and thence to Béhur.  Forest and
cultivated land alternated with one another to the margin of a little
lake, lying in a belt of tall thick grass, where the unwieldy river-horse
snorted loud.  The sky was dark with clouds, and a storm was gathering,
when the caravan entered the narrow streets of Salléri.  That night it
obtained but scanty accommodation, and everybody was glad to find the
next morning bright and cheerful, so that the march could be resumed.
Their course was directed towards the river Bénuwé.  The neighbourhood of
the water was first indicated by numerous high ant-hills, which, arranged
in almost parallel lines, presented a sufficiently curious spectacle.  To
the north-west towered the insulated colossal mass of Mount Atlantika,
forming a conspicuous and majestic object in the landscape.  The savannas
were now overgrown with tall rank grass, and broken by many considerable
pools, lying in deep hollows; every year, in the rainy season, they are
under water.  Crossing these low levels with some difficulty, Dr. Barth
arrived on the banks of the Bénuwé.  A broad and noble stream, it flowed
from east to west through an entirely open country.  The banks were
twenty to thirty feet high; while, immediately opposite to the
traveller’s station, behind a pointed headland of sand, the river Fáro,
which has its source on the eastern side of Mount Atlantika, came in with
a bold sweep from the south-east, and poured its tributary waters into
the Bénuwé.  The Bénuwé, below the point of junction, bends slightly to
the north, runs along the northern foot of Mount Bágelé, thence traverses
the mountainous region of the Báchama and Zina to Hamárruwa and the
industrious country of Korórofa, until it joins the great western river
of the Kwára, or Niger.

The passage of the Bénuwé, which is here about eight hundred yards wide,
was safely accomplished in the native canoes, nor did any mishap occur in
the transit of the Fáro, which measures about six hundred yards.  The
current of the Fáro has a velocity of about five miles an hour; that of
the Bénuwé does not exceed three miles and a half.  By way of Mount
Bágelé, and through the rich low lands of Ribágo, the travellers repaired
to Yola, the capital of A’damáwa.



II.


Yola, the capital of A’damáwa, lies four degrees to the south of Kuka, on
the Fáro, in a marshy plain, which presents nothing attractive to the eye
of an artist.  Dr. Barth describes it as a large open place, consisting
mainly of conical huts, surrounded by spacious court-yards, and even by
corn-fields; only the houses of the governor and his brothers being built
of clay.  When he entered it, Lowel, the governor, was in his fields, and
could not be seen; but on his return the travellers proceeded to his
“palace” to pay their respects.  They were not allowed an interview,
however, until the following day, and then it was anything but
satisfactory.  The officer who had accompanied them from Kuka took the
opportunity of delivering certain despatches; and as they proved
displeasing to the governor, he immediately vented his wrath upon Dr.
Barth, accusing him of treacherous intentions.  The audience terminated
in confusion, and next day but one, Dr. Barth was ordered to leave Yola,
on the pretence that his sojourn there could not be allowed unless he
obtained the authorization of the Sultan of Sokoto.  He was suffering
from fever, and the heat of the day was excessive, but at once made
preparations for departure.  Sitting firmly in his large Arab stirrups,
and clinging to the pommel of his saddle, he turned his horse’s head
towards Bornú, and, though he fainted twice, was soon invigorated by a
refreshing breeze, which opportunely rose with healing on its wings.

But he was really ill when he arrived at Kúkáwa, and, unhappily, the
rainy season had begun.  During the night of the 3rd of August, the storm
converted his sleeping apartment into a small lake, and his fever was
seriously aggravated.  The pools which formed in every nook and corner of
the town were rendered pestiferous by the filth of all kinds which
stagnated in them.  He ought to have withdrawn to some healthier country,
but, in order to pay the debts of the expedition and prepare for new
explorations, was compelled to remain and sell the merchandise which had
arrived in his absence.  He made all haste, however, to discharge this
duty; and when, early in September, the Government despatched a body of
the Welád Shinán—Arab mercenaries whom they had enlisted—to reconquer the
eastern districts of the province of Kánem, he attached himself to the
expedition, accompanied by his fellow-traveller, Overweg.

In the course of this new journey they obtained another view of Lake
Tchad, under peculiar circumstances.  It was about seven o’clock in the
morning.  Far to their right, a whole herd of elephants, arranged in
almost military array, like an army of rational beings, slowly proceeded
to the water.  In front appeared the males, as was evident from their
size, in regular order; at a little distance followed the young ones; in
a third line were the females; and the whole were brought up by five
males of immense size.  The latter, though the travellers were riding
along quietly, and at a considerable distance, took notice of them, and
some were seen throwing dust into the air; but no attempt was made to
disturb them.  There were altogether about ninety-six.

Barth and Overweg returned to Kúkáwa on the 14th of November, but ten
days afterwards they again sallied forth, accompanying another warlike
expedition, which had been ordered to march against Mánderá.  It
presented, however, few features of interest or importance.  The
indefatigable pioneers were back again in Kúkáwa on the 1st of February,
1852, and there they remained until the 1st of March.  Though crippled by
want of means, enfeebled by fever, and beset by a thousand difficulties,
Dr. Barth resolved on continuing his work of exploration, and, on the
17th of March, entered into Bagirmi, a region never before visited by
Europeans.

Bagirmi forms an extensive table-land, with an inclination towards the
north, and an elevation of 900 to 1000 feet above the sea-level.  It
measures about 240 miles from north to south, and 150 from east to west.
In the north lie some scattered mountain ranges, which separate the two
basins of Lake Fittri and Lake Tchad.  The chief products are sorghum,
millet, sesamum, poa, wild rice, haricot beans, water-melons, citron, and
indigo.  Very little grain is cultivated.  The population numbers about
1,500,000 souls.

On reaching the broad stream of the Koloko, Dr. Barth found that he was
suspected of treacherous designs against the throne of Bagirmi, and the
boatmen refused to ferry him across, unless he obtained the Sultan’s
permission.  Resolved not to be baffled on the threshold of his
enterprise, he retraced his steps for about two miles, then turned to the
north-east, and at Mili succeeded in effecting the passage of the river.
The country through which he advanced was fertile and well cultivated;
village succeeded village in an almost unbroken series; here and there
groups of natives issued from the thick foliage; numerous herds of cattle
were feeding in the rich green water-meadows, and among them birds of the
most beautiful plumage, and of all descriptions and sizes, sported upon
nimble wing.  The gigantic pelican dashed down occasionally from some
neighbouring tree; the marabout stood silent, with head between its
shoulders, like a decrepit old man; the large-sized azure-feathered
“dédegami” strutted proudly along after its prey, the plotus, and
extended its long snake-like neck; and the white ibis searched eagerly
for food, with various species of ducks, and numerous other lesser birds,
in larger or smaller flights.

But an unexpected obstacle arrested his progress; an official arrived
with an intimation that he could not be allowed to continue his advance
without the formal consent of the supreme authority.  He therefore sent
forward a messenger with letters to the capital, and retraced his steps
to Mili, to await his return.  He had not long to wait.  The messenger
made his appearance on the following day, bearing a document with a large
black seal, which directed him to proceed to Búgomán, a place higher up
the river, until an answer could be obtained from the Sultan, who was
then absent on a campaign in Gógomi.  But on his arrival at Búgomán, the
governor refused to receive him, and the unfortunate traveller was glad
to find a resting-place at Bákadá.  There he had time and opportunity to
meditate on the vast numbers of destructive worms and ants which
afflicted the land of Bagirmi; especially a terrible large black worm, as
long as, but much bigger than, the largest of European grubs, which, in
its millions, consumes an immense proportion of the produce of the
natives.  There is also an injurious beetle, yellow as to colour, and
half an inch as to length; but the people of Bagirmi take their revenge
upon this destroyer by eating him as soon as he has grown fat at their
expense.  As for the ants, both black and white, they are always and
everywhere a scourge and a calamity.  Of the termites, or so-called white
ants, which, by the way, are not really ants, Dr. Barth had unpleasant
experience.  As early as the second day of his sojourn at Bákadá, he
observed that they were threatening his couch, which he had spread on a
mat of the thickest reeds, with total destruction.  To circumvent their
devices, he elevated it upon three large poles; but in two days’ time
they had not only raised their entrenchments along the poles to the very
top, but had eaten through mat and carpet, and accomplished much general
depredation.

No reply arriving from the Sultan, Barth not unnaturally lost patience,
and decided on quitting the inhospitable Bagirmi, and returning to
Kúkáwa.  But he was closely watched; and on arriving at Mili, was
arrested by order of the governor, who took possession of his arms, his
baggage, his watch, his papers, his compass, and his horse, and placed
him in charge of a couple of sentinels.  Happily, while at Bákadá he had
made a powerful friend, who, making his appearance at Mili, interfered on
his behalf, obtained the restoration of his property, and conducted him
in person to Másená, the capital.  There he was lodged in a clay house
standing in an open courtyard, which was likewise fenced by a low clay
wall.  The house contained an airy front room, which he found very
comfortable, and four small chambers at the back, useful for stowing away
luggage and provisions.

Másená occupies a considerable area, the circumference of which measures
about seven miles; but only about half this space is inhabited, the
principal quarter being formed in the midst of the town on the north and
west of the Sultan’s palace, while a few detached quarters and isolated
yards lie straggling about as outposts.  Its most distinctive feature is
a deep trough-like bottom, running from east to west, which in the rainy
season is filled with water, in the summer with verdure of the greatest
luxuriance.  To the south of this hollow, or bedá, lies the principal
quarter, which, however, is by no means thickly inhabited.  In the centre
stands the palace; which is simply an irregular cluster of clay buildings
and huts, surrounded by a wall of baked bricks.  Generally speaking, the
appearance of the town was one of decay and dilapidation; yet, as all the
open grounds were enlivened with fresh green pasture, it was not
deficient in a certain charm.  There are no signs of industrial activity.
The market-place is rather small, and without a single stall or shed.
The chief feature of interest is the bedá, which is bordered on the
south-west by picturesque groups of dúm-palms and other trees of fine
foliage; while at the western end, as well as on the south-east, spreads
a large tract of market-gardens.

In general, the houses are well built, and the thatched roofs are formed
with care, and even with neatness; but the clay is not of a good kind for
building, and the clay houses afford so little security from the rains,
that most persons prefer to reside during that part of the year in huts
of straw and reed.

While waiting the Sultan’s arrival, Dr. Barth’s time was chiefly occupied
in defending himself against the attacks of the large black ant (_Termes
mordax_).  One day, in particular, he maintained a long and desperate
encounter with a host of these voracious little insects.  In a thick
unbroken column, about an inch broad, they had marched over the wall of
the courtyard, and entering the hall where he abode both day and night,
advanced right upon the store-room.  But his couch being in their way,
they immediately assailed his own person, and compelled him to decamp.
Assisted by his servants, he then fell upon the bandits, killing all the
stragglers and foragers, and burning the main body of the army as it
proceeded on its way.  But fresh legions arrived on the scene of war, and
it took a struggle of two hours’ duration thoroughly to break up their
lines, and put them to flight.

The insects seemed to have been attracted by the corn which Dr. Barth had
stored up.  But it must be owned that, if inconvenient in one respect,
their attacks are beneficial in another; for they destroy all kinds of
vermin, mice included.  And while they thus act as the “scavengers of the
houses,” in many parts of Negroland they also render service through
their very greediness in gathering what man would fain appropriate for
himself.  They lay in such considerable stores of corn, that the poor
natives frequently dig out their holes in order to gain possession of
their supplies.

It was on the 3rd of July that the Sultan appeared before the walls of
his capital, escorted by about eight hundred cavalry.  At the head of the
_cortége_ rode the lieutenant-governor, surrounded by a troop of
cavaliers.  Then came the Barma, followed by a man carrying a spear of
ancient and peculiar shape, designed to represent the “fetish,” or idol
of Kénga-Matáya, the original patrimony of the kings of Bagirmi.  Next
rode the Fácha, or commander-in-chief, who is the second person in the
kingdom; and after him the Sultan himself, attired in a yellow burnous,
and mounted on a grey charger, the points of which could hardly be seen
owing to the amplitude of the war-trappings that hung about him.  Nor was
the head of his rider much more plainly visible, not only on account of
the horsemen gathered round him, but more particularly owing to two
umbrellas—one of green, the other of red—borne on each side of him by a
couple of slaves.

Six slaves, their right arms clad in iron, fanned the magnificent prince
with ostrich feathers attached to long poles, while round about him were
gathered a motley array of his captains and courtiers, gay in burnouses
of various colours, or in shirts of black or blue.  Behind them followed
the war-camel, bestridden by the drummer, Kodgánga, who made the echoes
resound with the clang of a couple of kettle-drums, fastened on each side
of the animal; and the charivari was swelled by the exertions of three
musicians, two of whom played upon horns, and the third upon a bugle.
Mention must be made of the long train of the Sultan’s female slaves, or
favourites, forty-five in number, all mounted upon horseback, all dressed
from head to foot in black cloth, and all guarded by a slave on either
side.  The procession was terminated by a train of eleven camels,
carrying the baggage.

A day or two afterwards, an officer of the Sultan demanded Dr. Barth’s
attendance at the palace.  He hastened thither; and being admitted into
an inner courtyard, found the courtiers sitting on either side of a door,
which was protected by screenwork made of very fine reeds.  Being desired
to sit down, along with his companions, and ignorant whom he should
address, he asked in a loud voice if the Sultan ’Abdel-Kadir were
present.  A clear voice, from behind the screen, answered that he was.
When fully satisfied that he was addressing the prince, he proceeded to
offer his respects, and present the compliments of the great and powerful
British Government, which desired to be on terms of unity with so
illustrious a prince.  His speech, which he delivered in Arabic, was
translated by an interpreter, and received a favourable reply.  His
presents also were accepted with satisfaction, and the audience ended.
Next day he had a second audience, at which he expressed his desire to
return to Kúkáwa.  After some slight delay, he obtained the Sultan’s
leave to depart, and was supplied with a camel and two horsemen to assist
him on his journey.  Well pleased with the result of his visit to Másená,
after the inauspicious circumstances which had attended its commencement,
he set out on his return to the capital of Bornú, and arrived there in
safety on the 21st of August.  He was glad to find Mr. Overweg in
excellent spirits, for liberal supplies had been forwarded by the British
Government, though looking physically weak and exhausted.  The sheikh
received him with great cordiality, and he enjoyed a degree of comfort
and repose to which he had long been a stranger.

His business, however, was to explore unknown countries, and to open up
new paths to the enterprise of commerce.  Considering it almost
impossible to penetrate southward, on account of the obstacles thrown in
his way by the native princes, he meditated a journey westward in the
hope of reaching the celebrated city of Timbúktu, at one time the centre
of so many extravagant legends.  The fulfilment of his projects was
delayed by an unhappy calamity.  During a short excursion in the
neighbourhood of Kúkáwa, Mr. Overweg got wet, caught a chill, and was
afterwards seized with a violent fever, which carried him off in a few
hours (September 27th).  He died, a martyr to science, and one of the
many victims of African exploration, in his thirtieth year.

A delay of some weeks was the necessary result of this melancholy event;
but Barth, though left alone, was not to be turned aside from the great
object of all his labours.  His gaze was directed towards the
Niger—towards the _terra incognita_ which lay between the route pursued
by the French traveller, Caillé, and the region in which Lander and Major
Clapperton had achieved so many important discoveries.  His preparations
completed, he took final leave of Kúkáwa on the 25th of November; and on
the 9th of December had crossed the frontier of Háusa.  On the 12th he
directed his course towards the north-east, and the mountain region of
Múniyo.  The road waved, serpent-like, through a succession of valleys,
the green sides of which were covered with groves and villages.  Múniyo
takes the form of a wedge, or triangle, the apex projecting towards the
desert.  The home of a peaceful and industrious population, who flourish
under a mild and orderly government, it presents an agreeable contrast to
the neighbouring territories, inhabited by nomads.  Its rulers, men of
courage and energy, have not only been able to defend their country
against the attacks of the Babus, but to encroach upon the district of
Diggéra, which had submitted to the latter.  The chief of this
independent province can bring into the field, it is said, an army of
1500 horse and 9000 or 10,000 archers; and his revenue amounts to
30,000,000 kurdi (about £6000) a year, without counting the tax which he
levies on the crops.

Barth diverged somewhat to the westward in order to visit U’shek, the
largest corn-producing district in western Bornú; it is characterized by
a curious alternation of luxuriance and sterility.  At the foot of a
mountain lies a barren, desolate tract, on the very threshold of which
lies an undulating country, bright with date-palms and tamarisks, with
crystal pools and rich grasses.  Around the town of U’shek spreads a
glittering girdle of corn-fields, onion-beds, cotton-fields, in various
stages of development.  Here the labourer is breaking up the clods and
irrigating the soil; there, his neighbour is weeding out his blooming
crops.  The vegetation everywhere is abundant.  The accumulation of
refuse prevents you, however, from gaining a general view of the village,
which lurks in the sheltering folds of the soil; but the main group of
houses surrounds the foot of an eminence, crowned by the habitation of
the chief.  Observe that while the huts are made of reeds and the stems
of millet, the towers in which the grain is pounded are constructed of
clay, and ten feet in height.

Beyond U’shek stretches a sandy table-land, waving with a dense growth of
reeds, and intersected by fertile valleys.  Then comes a spur of the
mountain-range which rises in the south-west; an irregular and broken
plain, carpeted with grass and broom; a jungle of mimosas, dense thickets
of capparis, and at intervals small patches of cultivated land.  The
climate is intensely hot; the very soil seems to burn; and our traveller,
feeling himself ill, was forced to rest.  During the night, a cold
north-east wind covered him and his followers with the feathery awns of
the pennixtum; and they rose in the morning in a condition of
indescribable uneasiness.  The next night was also cold; but there was no
wind.

At Badámuni, the fertile fields are brightened with springs, which feed a
couple of lakes, connected by a canal.  Notwithstanding this channel of
intercommunication, one of these lakes is of fresh water; the other
brackish, and strongly impregnated with natron.  It is noticeable that in
this region all the valleys and all the mountain-chains run from
north-east to south-west, and the direction of the two lakes is the same.
Their margin is fringed with papyrus, except that at the point where the
water turns brackish the papyrus is succeeded by the kumba, the pith of
which is edible.  Dr. Barth’s two attendants, born on the shores of the
Tchad, immediately recognized this species of reed as growing in a
similar manner at the point where that great inland sea touches the
basins of nature that surround it.  It is a curious circumstance that
while the lake of fresh water is of a bright blue, and calm and smooth as
a mirror, the other is green as the sea, and heaves to and fro in
constant commotion, rolling its foamy waves to the beach, which they
strew with marine weeds.

The town of Zindu is protected by a rampart and ditch.  Its aspect is
remarkable: a mass of rock rises in the western quarter; and outside the
walls stony ridges run in all directions, throwing forth a myriad crystal
streams, which fertilize the tobacco-fields, and secure for the immediate
neighbourhood an exceptional fertility.  The landscape is enlivened by
frequent clumps of date-palms and by the huts of the Touaregs, who
conduct a brisk trade in salt.  To the south extends an immense piece of
ground, utilized, at the time of Dr. Barth’s visit, as a garden of
acclimatization.  It is easy, let us say, to define the ground-plan of
Zindu, but not to depict the stir and movement of which it is the centre,
limited as that activity may be, compared with the feverish and
far-reaching life of the industrial centres of Europe.  Zindu has no
other manufacture than that of indigo; nevertheless, its commercial
energy is so great that it may justly be termed “the port of the Soudan.”

Here Dr. Barth received the welcome supply of a thousand dollars, which,
not to excite suspicion, had been carefully concealed in a couple of
sugar barrels.  He was enabled, therefore, to purchase the articles
necessary for barter or gifts in his expedition to Timbúktu, such as red,
white, and yellow burnouses, turbans, cloves, cutlery, beads, and
looking-glasses; and on the 30th of January, 1853, he resumed his march.

The country he had to traverse was the scene of incessant warfare between
the Fulbi and the independent tribes.  At the outset he met with some
salt merchants from A’ir, whose picturesque encampments would have
delighted an artist’s eye, but did not add to the security of the roads.
He arrived in safety, however, on the 5th of February, at Kátséna, and
took up his quarters in a residence specially assigned to him.  The house
was spacious; but so full of ants, that, having rested himself for an
hour on a bank of clay, he found that the freebooters had climbed the
wall, constructed covered galleries right up to his person, and delivered
a combined attack upon his shirt, in which they had eaten large holes.

The governor of Kátséna gave our traveller a courteous reception, and
deigned to accept with evident satisfaction the burnouses, cafton, cup,
two loaves of sugar, and pistol, which Dr. Barth offered him.  The pistol
gave him so much pleasure that he asked for a second; and, of course, a
refusal was impossible.  Thenceforth he ate and drank and walked and
slept with his two pistols in his belt, and terrified everybody who
approached him by snapping caps in their face.  It happened that, at this
time, the ghaladima of Sikoto, inspector of Kátséna, was in the town
collecting tribute.  He was a frank and simple-natured man, neither very
generous nor very intelligent, but of benevolent disposition and sociable
character.  Dr. Barth purchased some silk and cotton stuffs from the
looms of Mepè and Kanó, and being very anxious to pursue his journey,
waited for the ghaladima to set out, in order to enjoy the advantage of
his escort.  It was on the 21st of March that this high official,
accompanied by our traveller, took his departure.  The governor attended
them as far as the limits of his jurisdiction, and they had a numerous
guard; while, as a further protection against mishaps, they steered to
the south, instead of to the west, in which direction war was raging.

It was the happy time of spring; a bloom was on the earth, and a light
and perfume in the air; nature put on her greenest attire; the alleluba,
the parkia, the cucifera, the bombyx rose in masses of foliage.  The
country through which the travellers rode was fair and fertile, populous
and well cultivated; the pastures echoed with the low of cattle; the
fields rejoiced in profuse crops of yams and tobacco.  In the district of
Maja, cotton, indigo, potatoes were grown on a very large scale.  Beyond
Kuruyá, a town of 5000 to 6000 souls, the fertility of the land
increased, if such increase were possible; the many-rooted banyan, or
Indian fig-tree, displayed its colossal splendour:—

                         “Irregularly spread,
    Fifty straight columns propped its lofty head;
       And many a long depending shoot,
             Seeking to strike its root,
    Straight, like a plummet, grew towards the ground;
    Some on the lower boughs, which curved their way,
       Fixing their bearded fibres, round and round,
       With many a ring and wild contortion wound;
       Some to the passing wind, at times, with sway
             Of gentle motion moving;
    Others of younger growth, unmoved, were hung
    Like stone-drops from the cavern’s fretted height.”

Bassiaparkia, sorghum, and millet were abundant.  But at Kulfi the
travellers reached the limit which divides the Mohammedans from the
heathens—civilization (imperfect and undeveloped, if you will, but not
wholly without a respect for law and order) and barbarism.  As Dr. Barth
advanced, he seemed to pass from spring to winter; cultivation
disappeared; villages ruined and silent bore witness to the desolating
work of war; and it was only by the cattle browsing in the scanty
pastures that he knew the land was not entirely deserted.  At Zekka, a
town of some importance, with wall and ditch, he separated from the
ghaladima, and, through a dense forest, pushed forward to the ruins of
Moniya.  He had intended to halt there, but an armed force had encamped
at Moniya on the preceding evening, and he retreated into the shelter of
the forest until the morning.  A day’s march brought him to Zyrmi, a
considerable town, the governor of which was formerly chief of the whole
province of Zanfara.

On the 31st of March, he stood on the border of the Gúndúmi Desert, of
the passage of which Major Clapperton has left so exciting a narrative.
It is passable only by a forced march.  Dr. Barth began by striking too
far to the south, and lost valuable time in the midst of an impervious
jungle.  Recovering the direct track, he marched all that day, all that
night, without seeing any sign of human life, and until the middle of the
following day, when he met some horsemen who had been sent forward to
meet him, with vessels of water.  Two miles further, and he could see the
village where the Emir Aliyú had pitched his camp; he was then at war
with the people of Gober.  For thirty hours he and his followers had
marched without a halt; they were completely spent, and the men, in their
absolute weariness, fell prostrate upon the ground.  The intrepid Barth
rallied his energies; his excitement dispelled the sense of fatigue; and
he searched his baggage for some valuable gift to the Emir, who was to
depart on the following day, for upon him and his favour the success of
his enterprise wholly depended.  The day glided by, and he had begun to
despair of being admitted to an audience; but in the evening the Emir
sent him an ox, four fat sheep, and four hundred parcels of rice, and a
message to the effect that he awaited his visit.  It must be owned that
some of these barbaric potentates do things right royally!

Dr. Barth entered the august presence.  The Emir immediately seized him
by the hand, made him sit down, and interrupted him when he began to
excuse himself for not having visited Sokotó before he went to Kúkáwa.
His two requests, for the Emir’s safe-conduct as far as Timbúktu, and a
royal letter guaranteeing the lives and property of Englishmen visiting
his territories, he received very favourably; affirming that his sole
thought was for the welfare of humanity, and, consequently, he desired to
promote the friendly intercourse of all nations.  Next day Barth had
another interview, and offered a second supply of presents.  He describes
the Emir as a strongly built man, of average stature, with a round, full,
but not unpleasant face.

On the 4th of April, with the royal letter, of which he had dictated the
terms, and a hundred thousand kurdis which the prince had generously sent
to him to defray his expenses during his absence, he took up his
residence at Vurno, the Emir’s usual abode.  The unsavoury condition of
the town, which was traversed by a _cloaca_ more disgusting even than
those of Italy, surprised and shocked him.  Outside the walls, the
Gulbi-n-rima formed several basins of stagnant water in the middle of a
plain, where the traveller’s camels sadly pined for pasture.  The
frontiers of three provinces—Kebbi, Adar, and Gober—meet in this arid
plain, which, however, after the rainy season, wears a completely
different aspect.

The town became more and more deserted; daily its notables departed to
join the Emir; though, as a rule, these warriors cared only for their own
pleasure, and would sell their weapons for a dram of kola-nut wine.  In
no part of Negroland did Dr. Barth see less military ardour or more
physical depression.  Meanwhile, he amused himself by collecting
topographical details, studying the history of the country, and making
excursions in the neighbourhood; among others to Sokotó, on the river
Bugga.  It was not until the 23rd of April that the Emir returned to his
capital, after an expedition which, if not glorious, had been at least
successful.  Always generous towards Dr. Barth, he had invited him to
meet him, and king and traveller went together to the palace.  On the
same day, Barth made him a present of a musical box, which appears to be
the prize most eagerly coveted by African potentates.  The Emir, in his
rapture, summoned his grand vizier to see and hear the marvel; but the
mysterious box, affected by the climate and the length of the journey it
had undergone, refused to pour forth its melodious treasures.  However,
after a day or two’s labour, Dr. Barth succeeded in repairing it, and
releasing its imprisoned streams of music.  Who shall describe the Emir’s
excess of joy?  He proved the sincerity of his gratitude by immediately
giving Dr. Barth a commendatory letter to his nephew, the chief of Gando,
and the long-expected permission to depart.

Leaving Vurno on the 8th of May, Dr. Barth reached Gando on the 17th.  It
was the capital of another Fulbi chief, scarcely less powerful than the
Emir, whose protection was of the greatest importance to the traveller,
because both banks of the Niger were within his territory.  It was not
obtained without persevering effort—and many gifts, besides frequent
bribes to an Arab consul, who had contrived to make himself indispensable
to the feeble prince.

On the 4th of June our indefatigable explorer entered the deep valleys of
Kebbi, which, in the rainy season, are converted into extensive
rice-fields.  At Kombara, the governor hospitably sent him all the
constituents of a first-class Soudanian repast, from the sheep to the
grains of salt and the Dodua cake.  Gaumaché, formerly a thriving town,
is now a village of slaves.  A similarly fatal change has passed over
Yara; formerly rich and industrious, rank weeds now grow in its silent
streets.  But life and death lie cheek by jowl in these fertile regions;
and to the ruined towns and deserted villages immediately succeed
prolific rice-fields, shaded by clumps of trees.

The whole country was overshadowed by the thunder-clouds of war; yet the
traveller passed continuously through plantations of yams, and cotton,
and papyrus, whose fresh green foliage waved above the walls.  He halted
at Kola, where the governor could dispose of seventy matchlocks and the
men who handled them; an important personage in the disturbed condition
of the country, whom it was politic to visit.  The sister of this lord of
warriors presented Dr. Barth with a fine fat goose—an addition to his
dietary which rejoiced him greatly.  As he approached Jogirma, the three
sons of its chief came forth to salute him in their father’s name.  It
proved to be a much more considerable town than the traveller had
expected, and the palace was a spacious and even imposing building, in
its architecture recalling the characters of the Gothic style.  The
population numbered seven to eight thousand souls, whom civil discord had
reduced to a pitiful extremity.  It was with no little difficulty that
Dr. Barth obtained even a supply of millet.

On the 10th he entered a beautiful forest, where the air was heavy with
the sweet odours of flowering trees; but the place is noted for its
insalubrity.  Dr. Barth was compelled to remain there for twenty-four
hours, one of his camels having gone astray; and this circumstance
appeared so extraordinary, that the neighbouring peasants were in the
habit of referring to him as “the man who passed a whole day in the
deadly desert.”

On a quadrangular eminence, about thirty feet high, in the valley of
Fogha—an eminence built up of refuse—stands a village with some
resemblance to the ancient town of Assyria.  The inhabitants extract salt
from the black mud out of which their little hillock rises.  There are
other villages of a similar character.  The condition of the population
is most wretched; they suffer continually from the forays of the robbers
of Dendina.

After a march of two or three miles over a rocky soil, sprinkled with
bushes and brushwood, Dr. Barth, with intense satisfaction, caught the
glimmer of water, as if the sun were lighting up a broad mirror, and
rapidly pushing forward, came, in an hour’s time, to Say, a ferry on the
great river of the Soudan—the river which has divided with the Nile the
curiosity of geographers, and attracted the enterprise of the
adventurous; the river which, perhaps, surpasses the Nile in its promise
of future commercial industry; the river which we associate with the
names of so many heroic travellers, from Mungo Park to Cameron,—the
Niger.



III.


The Niger—all the various names of which (Joliba, Mayo, Eghirrau, Isa,
Kuara, Baki-a-rua) signify one and the same thing, _the River_—is about
seven hundred yards broad at the Say ferry, and flows from
north-north-east to south-south-west with a velocity of three miles an
hour.  The left bank has an elevation of about thirty feet; the right
bank is low, and crowned with a town of considerable size.  The traffic
is incessant; Fulbis and Sourays, with their asses and oxen, continually
pass to and fro.  The boats in use are constructed of two hollow trunks
of trees, fastened together, and measure a length of forty feet and a
breadth of four feet and a half.  With feelings of a mingled character
Dr. Barth crossed this stately river, the exploration of which has
necessitated the sacrifice of so many noble lives, and entered the busy
town of Say.  Its walls form a quadrilateral of fourteen hundred yards;
the houses of the inhabitants, all built of reeds except the governor’s,
are scattered in groups over the area they enclose.  In the rainy season,
a hollow or valley, which cuts across it from north to south, is filled
with water, which impedes communication, and renders the place
insalubrious.  When the river is flooded, the town is entirely inundated,
and all its inhabitants are compelled to migrate.  The market of Say is
not well provided: the supply of grain is small, of onions _nil_, of rice
_nil_, though the soil is well adapted to their cultivation; of cotton,
however, there is always a large quantity; and Say will prove an
important position for Europeans as soon as the great river route of
Western Africa begins to be utilized.

Dr. Barth was told by the governor—who had the manners of a Jew, but was
evidently born of a slave-mother—that he should welcome with joy a
European vessel bringing to the town the many articles its inhabitants
needed.  He was astonished to find that the traveller was not a trader;
and believing that only some very powerful motive could induce any man to
undertake such an expedition, he grew alarmed at the possibility of
treacherous and insidious designs, and requested him to leave the place.
Dr. Barth was by no means unwilling, and on the following day left behind
him the Niger, which separates the explored regions of Negroland from the
unexplored, and eagerly directed his course towards the mysterious zone
which stretched before him.

He had crossed the low swampy island occupied by the town of Say, and the
western branch of the river, at that season entirely dry, when a great
storm of thunder and rain broke upon him, and his progress was arrested
by the rolling clouds of sand which the wind accumulated in his path.
After a halt of three hours his march was resumed, though the soil was
flooded with water to a depth of several inches.  The country through
which he passed had been colonized by the Sourays; it is a dependency of
the province of Guinea, and the natives were at war both with the
colonists and the Fulbi.  Thence he entered a well-cultivated district,
where the Fulbi, who regard the cow as the most useful member of the
animal world, breed large herds of cattle.  The scenery was varied by
thickets of mimosas, with here and there a baobab or a tamarisk.  More
attractive to the traveller, because more novel, were the numerous
furnaces, six or seven feet high, used for casting iron.

The ground broke up into great irregularities; ridges of rock ran in all
directions; formations of gneiss and mica schist predominated, with rare
and beautiful varieties of granite.  There, through banks of twenty feet
in height, picturesque and rocky, flowed the deep waters of the Sirba.
To effect the passage, Dr. Barth’s followers could obtain only some
bundles of reeds; the chief and all the inhabitants of the village
sitting calmly on the bank, and watching their operations with lively
interest.  The men had expressive countenances, with effeminate features;
long plaited hair, which fell upon the shoulders; a pipe in their mouths;
and, for attire, a blue shirt and wide blue trousers.  The women were
dumpy and ill proportioned; they wore numerous collars, and pearls in
their ears; their bosom and legs were naked.

Another storm overtook the travellers, and converted the jungles through
which they wound their way into a wide expanse of water.  The
solitariness of the land was broken at one point by a village, charmingly
enclosed within a quickset hedge; fields of maize were succeeded by a
tract of forest; then they entered a populous district, where the loaded
camels laboured heavily through the clayey soil.  At Sibba, where the
governor, standing at the gate, was explaining to his people certain
verses of the Koran, Dr. Barth was handsomely lodged in a hut newly
built, with walls excellently polished, and quite an attractive and
refreshing appearance.  But, in life, there is always a flavour of
wormwood in the cup of joy; appearances are proverbially deceitful; and
Dr. Barth’s beautiful abode proved to be a nest of ants, which committed
wholesale depredations on his baggage.

The day after his arrival chanced to be the last of the great Mohammedan
feast of the Ramadan.  That it was to be a day of festival was announced
at earliest dawn by the sound of merry music; the Fulbi streamed forth
from their houses, clad in white chemises, as a sign of the white purity
of their faith; and the governor paraded through the town at the head of
a _cortége_ of forty horsemen.  As the cadi showed an inclination to
represent Dr. Barth in the unwelcome capacity of a sorcerer, he deemed it
prudent to distribute a largess among the people of the procession.

He arrived at Doré, the chief town of Libtako, on the 12th of July.  The
soil is dry, and troops of gazelles frolic about the arid plain which
borders on the market-place.  The market, on the occasion of Dr. Barth’s
visit, was frequented by four or five hundred persons, who were buying or
selling salt, and cotton stuffs, and copper vessels, and corn, and
kola-nuts, and asses.  The inhabitants of Doré are partial to ornaments
made of copper; and Dr. Barth noticed two young girls wearing in their
hair a copper device of a horseman, sword in hand and pipe in mouth.  The
pipe, be it observed, is in great request among the Sourays, who seem to
be of the opinion of Lord Lytton, that “he who doth not smoke hath either
known no great griefs, or refused himself the softest consolation, next
to that which comes from heaven.”

Beyond Doré the country was a network of rivers and morasses.  Buffaloes
were exceedingly numerous.  A venomous fly, very rare to the east of the
Soudan, seriously annoyed Dr. Barth’s cattle.  It was the wet season;
rain descended perpetually, as if the floodgates of heaven had been
opened, and water was everywhere—in front, in rear, on either side;
water, water, water!  For quiet English gentlemen, living at home at
ease, or occasionally indulging in a railway journey of a few hundred
miles, in a comfortable carriage, through fields well cultivated and well
drained, where rivers seldom break their bounds, or if they do, never
accomplish greater injury than the overflowing of a green meadow or two,
it is almost impossible to conceive the difficulty, and even danger, of
traversing the African plains in the rainy season, of conveying heavy
baggage through leagues upon leagues of swamps, which the unloaded camel
finds it laborious to cross.  More than once Dr. Barth was afraid that
his horse, in spite of its robust vigour, would fail to extricate its
limbs from the deep mud, and sink with its rider in the slough.  So
tremendous are the rains, that in a single night they have been known to
sweep away the fourth part of a large village, and in one house eleven
goats have perished.

Hitherto Dr. Barth had maintained his quality as a Christian; but on
entering Dalla, a province belonging to the fanatical chief of Masina,
who would never have permitted “an infidel” to traverse his territories,
Dr. Barth thought it advisable to assume the character of an Arab.  But a
dispute which he had with his host, respecting a pack of dogs that showed
a decided unwillingness to give place to a stranger, indicated no great
religious fervour on the part of the population.  Good Mohammedans have
no liking for the canine race.  The Fulbi will not employ them even as
guides for their cattle, which they direct by the voice.  All the dogs
were black; the poultry were black and white.  Dr. Barth observed that
the crops suffered greatly from the ravages of a large black worm, which
he had not met with since his expedition into Bagirmi.

On the 5th of August he entered into a region of swamp and morass, and he
was glad when, to relieve the monotony of the landscape, he caught sight
of the picturesque Souray villages and the fantastic outline of the chain
of the Hombori mountains.  The various forms of this singular range, none
of the peaks of which rise more than eight hundred feet above the level
of the plain, can hardly be imagined; they irresistibly attract the
traveller’s eye.  On a gentle slope, composed of masses of rock, is built
a perpendicular wall, the terraced summit of which is inhabited by a
native race who have ever maintained their independence.  That these
heroic hillmen sometimes descend from their fastnesses is shown by their
flocks of sheep and crops of millet.  Starting from this point, a twofold
range of remarkable crests extends along the plain, with a curious
similitude to the ruins of mediæval castles.

Refused admission at Boná, and afraid to enter Nuggera, well known to be
a hot-bed of fanaticism, Dr. Barth solicited the hospitality of some
Towaregs, who were encamped in the neighbourhood.  Their chief, a man of
agreeable physiognomy, with fine features and a fair complexion, placed
one of his huts at the traveller’s disposal, and sent him some milk and a
sheep ready cooked.  Next day, his tents of canvas figured in the midst
of those of his host, and he was besieged by a number of very stout
ladies, all importunate for gifts.  At Bambara, a considerable
agricultural centre, surrounded by the canals and affluents of the Niger,
he resided for several days.  It is situated upon a backwater (mariyet)
of the river, which, at the time of Barth’s visit, was almost dry.  In
the ordinary course of things, it ought, in three weeks, to be crowded
with boats, going to Timbuktú by Oálázo and Saráyamó, and to Dirá by
Kanima.  The prosperity of the town depends, therefore, on the rains; and
as these had not begun, the whole population, with the Emir at their
head, implored the pretended Arab doctor, whom they chose to regard as a
great magician, to exercise his powers to obtain from the skies a copious
benediction.  Dr. Barth eluded the request for a formal ceremony, but
expressed a hope that Heaven would listen to wishes so very reasonable.
As it happened, there was a slight fall of rain next day, which drew from
the inhabitants the sincerest gratitude; but, for all that, Dr. Barth was
very glad to put some distance between himself and Bambara.

On the 1st of September, at Saráyamó, Dr. Barth embarked on one of the
branches of the Niger, and sailed towards Timbuktú.  The stream was about
a hundred yards wide, and so thick with aquatic plants that the voyagers
seemed to be gliding over a prairie.  Moreover, in its bed the asses and
horses obtained the chief part of their sustenance.  In about two miles
and a half they entered open water, and the boatmen, whose songs had rung
the praises of the Julius Cæsar of Negroland, the Sultan Mohammed ben
Abubakr, carried them, from winding to winding, between banks clothed
with cucifers, tamarinds, and rich grasses, on which sometimes cattle
were feeding, and sometimes the gazelle.  The presence of alligators was
a sign that they approached a broader water, and the channel suddenly
widened to two hundred yards; its banks alive with pelicans and other
water-birds, while men and horses went to and fro.  The curves and bends
of the stream increased, and the banks assumed a more defined and regular
formation; wider and wider became the water-way, until it reached three
hundred and forty yards.  Some fires shone out against the evening
shadows.  At the bottom of a little creek clustered a little village.  In
no part of the course could any current be discerned; it was a kind of
lagoon which the voyagers were crossing, and sometimes the wave flowed in
one direction, sometimes in another.  After two centuries of war, its
shores, once so animated, have sunk into silence; and Gakovia, Sanyara,
and many other villages have ceased to be.  There, on the edge of the
bank, towered aloft a clump of graceful trees, the haunt of numerous
bees; here, a patch of greensward brightened with the colours of many
blossoms.  The river now flowed from south-west to north-east, with a
noble expanse of six hundred yards; its majestic flood rolling like a
volume of silver in the moonlight, with the reflection of stars sparkling
thickly on the crests of its waves.

After a pilgrimage of eight months’ duration, Dr. Barth arrived at
Kabara, the river-port of Timbuktú; and was lodged in a house on the
highest ground, which contained two large and several small rooms, and a
first floor.  The inner court was occupied by a numerous and varied
assortment of sheep, ducks, pigeons, and poultry.  At early dawn, on the
day after his arrival, our traveller, almost suffocated, left his room;
but he had scarcely begun his walk before a Towareg chief interrupted
him, and demanded a present.  Receiving a prompt refusal, he coolly
announced that, in his quality as a bandit, he could do him a good deal
of harm.  Dr. Barth, in fact, was _hors la loi_, and the first wretch who
suspected him of being a Christian might slay him with impunity.  He
succeeded, however, in getting rid of the Towareg.  Meanwhile, the house
was crowded with visitors from Timbuktú, some on foot, some on horseback,
but all wearing blue robes, drawn close to the figure by a drapery, with
short breeches and peaked straw hats.  All carried lances, while some had
swords and guns; they seated themselves in the courtyard, overflowed the
chambers, staring at one another, and asking each other who this stranger
might be.  In the course of the day, Dr. Barth was “interviewed” by fully
two hundred persons.  In the evening, a messenger whom he had despatched
to Timbuktú returned, accompanied by Sidi Alawat, one of the Sultan’s
brothers.  Dr. Barth confided to him the secret of his Christian
profession, but added that he was under the special protection of the
sovereign of Stamboul.  Unfortunately, he had no other proof of his
assertion than an old firman dating from his former residence in Egypt;
the interview, however, passed off very agreeably.

On the following day, they crossed the sand-hills in the rear of Kabara;
the yellow barrenness of the country contrasting vividly with the
fertility of the verdurous borders of the river.  It is, indeed, a
desert, infested by roving bands of murderous Towaregs.  Such is the
well-known insecurity of the route, that a thicket, situated midway,
bears the significant name of “It does not hear”—that is, it is deaf to
the cries of a victim.  To the left stands the tree of Wely-Salah, a
mimosa which the natives have covered with rags in the hope that the
saint will replace them by new clothes.  As they drew near Timbuktú, the
sky clouded over, the atmosphere was full of sand, and the city could
scarcely be seen through the rubbish surrounding it.  A deputation of the
inhabitants met Dr. Barth, and bade him welcome.  One of them addressed
him in Turkish.  He had almost forgotten the language, which, of course,
in his character of a Syrian, he ought to have known; but he recalled a
few words with which to frame a reply, and then avoided awkward questions
by spurring his horse and entering the city.  The streets were so narrow,
that not more than two horsemen could ride abreast; Dr. Barth was
astonished, however, by the two-storied houses, with their ornamented
façades.  Turning to the west, and passing in front of the Sultan’s
palace, he arrived at the house which had been allotted for his
accommodation.

He had attained the goal of his wishes; he had reached Timbuktú; but the
anxieties and fatigue of his journey had exhausted him, and he was seized
with an attack of fever.  Yet never had he had greater need of his energy
and coolness.  A rumour had already got abroad that a Christian had
obtained admission into the city.  The Sultan was absent; and his
brother, who had promised his support, was sulking because he had not
received presents enough.  On the following day, however, the fever
having left him, Barth received the visits of some courteous people, and
took the air on the terrace of his lodging, which commanded a view of the
city.  To the north could be seen the massive outlines of the great
mosque of Sankora; to the east, the tawny surface of the desert; to the
south, the habitations of the Ghadami merchants; while the picture gained
variety from the presence of straw-roofed huts among houses built of
clay, long rows of narrow winding streets, and a busy market-place on the
slope of the sand-hills.

A day or two later, there were rumours of a meditated attack upon his
residence, but his calm and intrepid aspect baffled hostile designs.  The
sheikh’s brother made an attempt to convert him, and defied him to
demonstrate the superiority of his religious principles.  With the help
of his pupils, he carried on an animated discussion; but Dr. Barth
confuted him, and by his candour and good sense secured the esteem of the
more intelligent inhabitants.  A fresh attack of fever supervened on the
17th; his weakness increased daily; when, at three o’clock in the morning
of the 26th, a blare of instruments and a din of voices announced the
arrival of the sheikh, El Bakay, and his warm welcome to the stranger
dispelled his pains and filled him with a new vigour.  He strongly
censured his brother’s ungracious conduct; sent provisions to Barth, with
a recommendation to partake of nothing that did not come from his palace;
and offered him his choice between the various routes that led to the
sea-coast.  Could he have foreseen that he was fated to languish eight
months at Timbuktú, Dr. Barth thinks that he could not have supported the
idea; but, happily, man never knows the intensity or duration of the
struggle in which he engages, and marches courageously through the
shadows which hide from him the future.

Ahmed El Bakay was tall of stature and well proportioned, with an open
countenance, an intelligent air, and the bearing and physiognomy of a
European.  His complexion was almost black.  His costume consisted of a
short black tunic, black pantaloons, and a shawl bound negligently round
his head.  Between him and Dr. Barth a cordial understanding was quickly
formed and loyally maintained.  He spoke frequently of Major Laing, the
only Christian whom he had ever seen; for, thanks to the disguise assumed
by the French traveller, Caillé, no one at Timbuktú was aware that he had
at one time resided in their city.

Timbuktú is situated about six miles from the Niger, in lat. 18° N.  Its
shape is that of a triangle, the apex of which is turned towards the
desert.  Its circuit at the present time is about three miles and a half;
but of old it extended over a much larger area.  It is by no means the
wealthy, powerful, and splendid city which was dreamed of in the fond
imaginations of the early travellers.  Its streets are unpaved, and most
of them narrow.  There are a thousand houses clay-built, and, in the
northern and north-western suburbs, some two hundred huts of reeds.  No
traces exist of the ancient palace, nor of the Kasba; but the town has
three large and three small mosques, and a chapel.  It is divided into
seven quarters, inhabited by a permanent population of thirty thousand
souls, which is increased to thirty-five or forty thousand from November
to January, the epoch of the caravans.  Founded early in the twelfth
century by the Towaregs, on one of their old pasture-grounds, Timbuktú
belonged to the Souray in the first half of the fourteenth.  Recovered, a
century later, by its founders, it was snatched from them by Sami Ali,
who sacked it, then rebuilt it, and drew thither the merchants of
Ghadami.  As early as 1373 it is marked upon the Spanish charts, not only
as the entrepôt of the trade in salt and gold, but as the scientific and
religious centre of the Western Soudan; and exciting the cupidity of
Mulay Ahmed, it fell, in 1592, with the empire of the Askias, under the
sway of Marocco.  Down to 1826 it remained in the hands of the Ramas, or
Maroccan soldiers settled in the country.  Next came the Fulbi; then the
Towaregs, who drove out the Fulbi in 1844.  But this victory, by
isolating Timbuktú on the border of the river, led to a famine.  Through
the intervention of El Bakay, however, a compromise was effected in 1848;
the Towaregs recognized the nominal supremacy of the Fulbi, on condition
that they should keep no garrison in the city; the taxes were to be
collected by two cadis, a Souray and a Fulbi; and the administration, or
rather the police, was entrusted to two Souray magistrates, controlled
simultaneously by the Fulbi and the Towaregs, between whom was divided
the religious authority, represented by the sheikh, a Rama by origin.

Dr. Barth’s residence in Timbuktú was a source of intense dissatisfaction
to some of the ruling spirits.  Even in the sheikh’s own family it led to
grave dissensions; and many demanded that he should be expelled.  El
Bakay remained firm in his support, and, to protect the life of his
visitor, moved him to Kabara.  Dr. Barth speaks in high terms of this
liberal and enlightened man, and of the happiness of his domestic circle.
Europe itself could not produce a more affectionate father or husband;
indeed, Dr. Barth hints that he yielded too much to the wishes of his
august partner.

Week after week, the storms of war and civil discord raged more and more
furious; the traveller’s position became increasingly painful.  His
bitterest enemies were the Fulbi.  They endeavoured to drag him from the
sheikh’s protection by force, and when this failed, had recourse to an
artifice to get him into their power.  The Welád Shinan, who assassinated
Major Laing, swore they would kill him.  On the 27th of February, 1854,
the chief of the Fulbi again intimated to the sheikh his request that
Barth should be driven from the country.  The sheikh peremptorily
refused.  Then came a fresh demand, and a fresh refusal; a prolonged and
angry struggle; a situation more and more intolerable; while commerce
suffered and the people were disquieted by the quarrels of their rulers.
So it came to pass that, on the night of the 17th of March, Sidi
Mohammed, eldest brother of El Bakay, beat the drum, mounted his horse,
and bade Dr. Barth follow him with two of his servants, while the
Towaregs, who supported them, clashed their bucklers together, and
shouted their shrill war-cry.  He found the sheikh at the head of a
numerous body of Arabs and Sourays, with some Fulbi, who were devoted to
him.  As might be expected, Dr. Barth begged that he might not be the
cause of any bloodshed; and the sheikh promised the malcontents that he
would conduct the obnoxious Christian beyond the town.  He encamped on
the frontier of the Oberay, where everybody suffered terribly from bad
food and insects.

At length, after a residence of thirty-three days on the creek of
Bosábango, it was decided that the march should be begun on the 19th of
April.  On the 25th, after having passed through various encampments of
Towaregs, they followed the windings of the Niger, having on their left a
well-wooded country, intersected by marshes, and enlivened by numerous
pintados.  Then they fell in with the valiant Wughduga, a sincere friend
of El Bakay, and a magnificent Towareg warrior, nearly seven feet high,
of prodigious strength, and the hero of deeds of prowess worthy of the
most famous knight of the Table Round.  Under his escort Dr. Barth
reached Gogo—in the fifteenth century the flourishing and famous capital
of the Souray empire, now a small and straggling town with a few hundred
huts.  Here he took leave of his kind and generous protector; and, with
an escort of about twenty persons, recrossed to the right bank of the
river, and descended it as far as Say, where he had passed it the year
before.  In this journey of one hundred and fifty leagues, he had seen
everywhere the evidence of great fertility, and a peaceable population,
in whose midst a European might travel in security; speaking to the
people, as he did, of the sources and termination of their great
fostering river—questions which interest those good negroes as much,
perhaps, as they have perplexed the scientific societies of Europe, but
of which they do not possess the most rudimentary knowledge.

Arriving at Sokotó and Vurno in the midst of the rainy season, Dr. Barth
was warmly welcomed by the Emir; but, with strength exhausted and health
broken, he could not profit by his kindness.

On the 17th of October he arrived at Kanó, where he had been long
expected; but neither money nor despatches had been forwarded for him—no
news from Europe had been received.  Yet at Kanó he had arranged to pay
his servants, discharge his debts, and renew his credits, long since
exhausted.  He pledged the little property remaining to him, including
his revolver, until he could obtain the cutlery and four hundred dollars
left at Zindu; but, alas! these had disappeared during recent intestine
commotions.  Kanó must always be unhealthy for Europeans; and Dr. Barth,
in his enfeebled condition, acutely felt the ill effects of its climatic
conditions.  His horses and camels fell ill, and he lost, among others,
the noble animal which for three years had shared all his fatigues.

Over every difficulty, every obstacle, that splendid energy which had
carried the great explorer to the Niger and Timbuktú ultimately
prevailed; and on the 24th of November he set out for Kúkáwa.  In his
absence it had been the theatre of a revolution.  A new ruler held the
reins of government, and Dr. Barth was doomed to encounter fresh
embarrassments.  It was not until after a delay of four months that he
was able to resume the journey through the Fezzan.  He followed this time
the direct route, by Bilma—the route formerly taken by the travellers,
Denham and Clapperton.

At the end of August he entered Tripoli, where he spent only four days.
By way of Malta he proceeded to Marseilles; and thence to Paris; arriving
in London on the 6th of September, 1855.

It may be doubted whether the English public have fully appreciated the
labours of this persevering explorer.  To us it seems that he occupies a
high place in the very front rank of African travellers, in virtue not
only of the work he did, but of the courage, perseverance, skill, and
energy which he displayed.  He failed in nothing that he undertook,
though his resources were very limited, and the difficulties in his path
of the gravest character.  He explored Bornú, A’damáwa, and Bagirmi,
where no European had ever before penetrated.  He surveyed, over an area
of six hundred miles, the region which lies between Katséna and Timbuktú,
though even to the Arabs it is the least known portion of the Soudan.  He
formed friendly relations with the powerful princes on the banks of the
Niger, from Sokotó to the famous city which shuts its gates upon the
Christian.  Five of his best years he dedicated to this astonishing
enterprise, enduring the gravest privations, and braving the most
pestilential climates, as well as the most implacable fanaticism.  All
this he did, without friends, without companions, without money.  Of the
five brave men who undertook this adventurous expedition, he alone
returned; and returned loaded with treasure, with precious materials of
all kinds for the use of the man of science or the merchant—with maps,
drawings, chronologies, vocabularies, historical and ethnological notes,
itineraries, botanical and geological data, and meteorological tables.
Nothing escaped his attention; he was not only a traveller and an
observer, but a scientific pioneer.  Let us give due honour to a
Livingstone, but let us not forget the debt we owe to a Barth. {156}



MR. THOMAS WITLAM ATKINSON,
AND HIS ADVENTURES IN SIBERIA
AND CENTRAL ASIA.


                              A.D. 1849–55.



I.


MR. THOMAS WITLAM ATKINSON among recent travellers is not one of the
least distinguished.  He ventured into what may be called “virgin
country”—a region scarcely known to Europeans; carrying his life in his
hand; animated by the desire of knowledge rather than the hope of fame;
quick to observe, accurate in his observations, and intelligent in
combining them into a distinct and satisfactory whole.  For some years he
lived among the wild races who inhabit Siberia and Mongolia, the Kirghiz
steppes, Chinese Tartary, and the wilder districts of Central Asia; and
he collected a vast amount of curious information in reference not only
to their manners and customs and mode of life, but to the lands which
they call their own.  The broad and irresistible wave of Western
civilization has reached the confines of their vast territories, before
long will pour in upon them, and already is slowly, but surely,
undermining many an ancient landmark.  In the course of another fifty
years its advance will have largely modified their characteristics, and
swept away much that is now the most clearly and picturesquely defined.
We need, therefore, to be grateful to Mr. Atkinson for the record he has
supplied of their present condition; a record which to us is one of
romantic interest, as to the future historian it will be one of authentic
value.

In introducing that record to the reader, he says:—“Mine has been a
tolerably wide field, extending from Kokhand on the west to the eastern
end of the Baikal, and as far south as the Chinese town of Tchin-si;
including that immense chain Syan-shan, never before seen by any
European; as well as a large portion of the western part of the Gobi,
over which Gonghiz Khan marched his wild hordes; comprising a distance
traversed of about 32,000 versts in carriages, 7100 in boats, and 20,300
on horseback—in all, 59,400 versts (about 39,500 miles), in the course of
seven years.”  Neither the old Venetian, Marco Polo, nor the Jesuit
priests, could have visited these regions, their travels having been far
to the south; even the recent travellers, Hue and Gobet, who visited “the
land of grass” (the plains to the south of the great Desert of Gobi), did
not penetrate into the country of the Kalkas.  It is unnecessary to
premise that in such a journey, prolonged over so many years, extended
into so many countries, he suffered much both from hunger and thirst, was
exposed to numerous tests of his courage and fortitude, and on several
occasions placed in most critical situations with the tribes of Central
Asia; that he more than once was called upon to confront an apparently
inevitable death.  Within the limits to which we are confined, it will be
impossible for us to attempt a detailed narrative of his labours, but we
shall hope to select those passages and incidents which will afford a
fair idea of their value and enterprise.

                                * * * * *

Armed with a passport from the Czar of All the Russias, which in many a
difficult conjuncture proved to its bearer as all-powerful as Ali Baba’s
“Open Sesame,” Mr. Atkinson left Moscow on the 6th of March, intent upon
the exploration of the wild regions of Siberia.  A ten days’ journey
brought him to Ekaterineburg, the first Russian town in this direction,
across the Asiatic boundary.  Here he took boat on the river
Tchoussowaia, which he descended as far as the pristan, or port, of
Chaitanskoï.  Thence he made an excursion to the house of an hospitable
Russian, the director of the Outskinkoï iron-works, traversing a forest
of pines, which deeply impressed him by its aspect of gloomy grandeur.
Resuming his river-voyage, {159} he observed that the valley widened
considerably as he advanced.  On the west bank spread a large extent of
meadow-land; on the eastern, the soil was partly cultivated, and bloomed
with young crops of rye.  The pastures shone with fresh strong verdure,
were already starred with flowers, while the birch trees were hourly
bursting into leaf.  In this region the change from winter to summer is
magically sudden, like that of a transformation scene.  At night, you see
the grass browned by frost, and the trees bare of buds; in twenty-four
hours, the meadows are covered with fresh greenness, and the woods spread
over you a thick canopy of vigorous foliage.  But if you come from a
temperate clime, you miss that sweet and gradual development of bud and
bloom, of leaf and flower, which is the charm and privilege of spring.
You miss the rare pleasure of watching the opening violet, the first
primrose, the early tinge of green upon the hedgerow and in the coppice,
which you recognize as the heralds and pledges of happy days to come.

At Oslanskoï Mr. Atkinson took his leave of the Tchoussowaia, and
prepared to cross the Ural Mountains.  But while staying at Nijne-Toura,
he resolved upon ascending the great peak of the Katchkanar.  The road
led through a tract of deep forest, which spread over high hills, and
down into deep valleys, filled with white vapour, through which the
branches of lightning-stricken pines loomed ghastly like the shivered
masts of a wreck through the ocean mist.  Towards noon a thunder-storm
came on, accompanied by heavy rain.  Portions of the forest were so thick
as completely to exclude the daylight; and Mr. Atkinson and his
companions frequently found it necessary to cut their way through the
intertangled growth.

Though bears and other beasts of prey frequent these wilds, Mr. Atkinson
met with none; the chief danger was a fall in the midst of rocks and
prostrate trees, which might have been attended with painful
consequences.  At last they emerged from the forest gloom, at the foot of
a steep ascent overlaid with huge blocks of stones.  As their horses
slowly clambered up the rugged acclivity, the sound was heard of the roar
of water, indicating a cataract close at hand.  It proved to be the
outcome of a small stream, which tumbled down a steep and rocky bed in a
succession of shining falls.  Crossing this stream, the riders pursued
their upward course until at eight o’clock they reached the Katchkanar,
after a tedious journey of eleven hours.  The guide, a veteran hunter,
proposed to halt for the night at the foot of some high rocks—a
proposition readily accepted.  All hands set to work, and soon a great
fire was blazing, not only for the purpose of warmth, but as a protection
against the clouds of mosquitoes which swarmed around, and threatened to
murder sleep.

At three o’clock, Mr. Atkinson was up and about.  The dawn was swiftly
advancing over the interminable Siberian forest.  Above the vast horizon
stretched long lines of pale yellow clouds, which every minute became
more luminous, until they seemed like so many waves of golden light
rolling and breaking on the far celestial shore.  As the sun gradually
rose into the heavens, every mountain-top blazed with fire, like gigantic
altars, and the pines were transformed into columns of gold.  The
adventurers were soon afoot, and, crossing a little grassy valley, began
the real ascent.

It was a chaotic mass of loose huge rocks, with snow filling up many of
the cavities; in other places they passed under colossal blocks, over
which it would have been no easy task to climb.  Further up they
stretched across large patches of frozen snow, and reached the foot of
the high crags of the Katchkanar; many of which stand out like huge
crystals, not less than one hundred feet in height, and are composed of
regular courses, with pure magnetic iron ore between their beds, varying
from one inch to four inches thick.  In some places cubes or crystals of
iron project from the solid rock, three and four inches square; and in
others the whole mass seems to be of iron, or some other mineral
substance.  Climbing one of the highest pinnacles, Mr. Atkinson enjoyed a
glorious prospect, such as it is difficult for the dweller in plains,
with their always limited horizons, to form even an idea of.  For
hundreds of miles the view to the east extended into Siberia, until all
disappeared in fine blue vapour.  “There is something truly grand,” says
Mr. Atkinson, “in looking over these black and apparently interminable
forests, in which no trace of a human habitation, not even a wreath of
smoke, can be seen to assure us that man is there.  Turning to the north,
and about one hundred versts distant, Pardinsky Kanem rises out of the
dark forest (this is one of the highest points in the Ural chain); it is
partly covered with snow, and shines like frosted silver in the bright
sun.  All the mountains near are blue, purple, and misty, with a rugged
foreground of rocks of great height, broken into all shapes and forms.
In fact, the summit of the Katchkanar is evidently a mountain in ruins,
the softer parts having been removed or torn away by the hand of time,
leaving the barren portion, or vertebræ of the mountain, standing like a
huge skeleton, which, seen at a distance, often assumed the most
fantastic and picturesque shapes.”

After a brief rest, Mr. Atkinson and his friends began the descent of the
mountain, taking, however, a circuitous route which secured them a
variety of scenes, and about seven o’clock in the evening they reached
the site of their encampment on the preceding night.  There they slept
until dawn, when they made the best of their way back to Nijne-Toura—a
long day’s journey.

While at Nijne Mr. Atkinson had an opportunity of seeing something of the
pastimes popular among the iron-workers of the district.  It was the
occasion of a popular festival, and the workmen and their families were
all holiday-making.  Females and children were riding merrily in the
boxes of the large swings that had been temporarily constructed.  The men
were wrestling, just as they might do in Devonshire or Cornwall.
Stripping off his coat, each man tied his long sash firmly round his
waist; this his antagonist gripped with the right hand, while the left
was placed on his shoulder; then the struggle began.  One of the athletes
was so conspicuously superior to the rest in skill and prowess, that at
length no one would respond to his repeated challenges to try a fall.
Assuming the honours of championship, he was on the point of quitting the
arena when a slim-built, but well-proportioned, young man suddenly
stepped forward as a competitor.  He was evidently a stranger, and his
appearance was greeted with a good deal of laughter, in which the
champion readily joined.  The latter acted as if assured of an easy
victory, but, to the general surprise, a sharp and prolonged contention
ensued.  The wrestler, angry at the prospect of losing his laurels,
exerted all his dexterity to throw his daring opponent, and when that
failed, endeavoured to overcome him by superior strength.  In vain: he
was flung prostrate on the ground.  Red with shame, he sprang to his feet
and repeated his challenge.  A second combat followed, and the would-be
champion, by a second defeat and a heavy fall, was taught a lesson in
modesty, which it is to be hoped he long remembered.

Meanwhile, the young girls, in their best and brightest costumes, shone
like a bed of many-coloured tulips.  Some, with hands clasped together,
walked to and fro, singing simple songs to those plaintive Russian
melodies which, in their sweet minor keys, are often so beautiful.
Others joined in a game which resembles our English see-saw.  A plank,
about seven feet long, was placed on a centre block, six inches high.  At
each end stood a player, who, by springing up and alighting again on the
board, caused her companion at the other end to rise higher every time.
The players in this way would sometimes bound as high as three feet or
three feet and a half.

From Nijne Mr. Atkinson made several excursions into the mining districts
of the Ural, and afterwards returned to Ekaterineburg, to complete the
preparations for his Siberian expedition.  He took with him a young man,
about twenty-four years old, who spoke German fluently, and bidding adieu
to his friends, started on his journey.  In spite of every effort, he
says, a feeling of deep sadness overtook him when his gaze rested for the
last time on the lofty mountain crest which forms the boundary of Europe.
But the die was cast; he gave the word “Forward!” and away dashed the
horses into Asia.  Kamenskoï was the first stage; beyond which he entered
the valley of the Issetz, and rapidly approached the great monastery of
St. Tolometz.  It stands on the left bank of the Issetz, near its
junction with the river Teleta, and in external appearance resembles the
Kremlin of Moscow.  The walls are strengthened by towers at the angles,
and close to the east end stands the church, an elegant and a spacious
edifice.  The road from this point still lay along the high bank of the
Issetz, which here flows through a well-wooded country and teeming fields
of wheat and rye.  There are no fences in the fields; but every village
has its ring-fence of posts and rails, enclosing an area of from two to
three miles in diameter, with gates on the high-road, and a watchman to
open and shut them.  Passing station after station, Atkinson crossed the
Issetz and the Tobol, and struck into the steppes of Ischim—a flat,
uninteresting tract of country between the rivers Tobol and Ischim.  It
is watered by several lakes, and the small sandy ridges—they can scarcely
be called hills—are often covered with pine-woods.

Here he fell in with a large party of convicts, marching, under a strong
guard, into Eastern Siberia.  There were ninety-seven in the gang, the
van of which was led by seventeen men and three women, in chains,
destined for Nertchinsk, more than four thousand versts further.  The
journey would occupy them eight months.  The others followed in pairs, on
their way to the government of Irkutsk; they had three thousand versts to
travel, or a march of six months.  Behind them came telagas {166} with
baggage, and eleven women riding; some of whom were accompanying their
husbands into their miserable exile.  In front and on each side rode
mounted Cossacks, who strictly guarded the prisoners; but what were they
to do if they escaped?  There was no prospect before them but death by
starvation.

At the various posting-stations barracks are built, the front buildings
of which are occupied by the officers, guards, and attendants.  From each
end, to the distance of about forty or fifty feet, stretches a high
stockade, which returns at right angles, and runs about sixty feet.  It
is then carried along the back so as to enclose in all an area of two
hundred feet by sixty; in the middle are the buildings for the prisoners.
The stockade is formed of trunks of trees, twelve inches in diameter,
standing fifteen feet above the ground, and cut to a sharp point at the
top; placed close together, they form a very strong barrier.  The
prisoners, moreover, are placed under continual supervision.  They march
two days, at a rate of twenty to twenty-five versts daily, and rest one.
A gang leaves Ekaterineburg every Monday morning.

After leaving Kiansk, which Mr. Atkinson anathematizes as “the worst town
in all Siberia,” he travelled directly south, with the view of visiting
Lakes Sartian and Tchany, the remains of a great inland sea.  From Lake
Tchany a chain of lakes, some of which are fifty or sixty versts broad,
extends south-west for nearly two hundred and fifty versts.  The country
was low and swampy, but rose occasionally in slight undulations, clothed
with long coarse grass, and frequently relieved by extensive clumps of
birch and aspen, or a thick underwood of bushes.  The lakes proved to be
surrounded by so dense a growth of reeds that the water was visible only
at a few points.  Beyond, the country was thickly wooded, with large
pieces of cultivated land, on which were fine crops of wheat and rye
growing.  The villages were well-built and clean; the inmates looked
comfortable and cleanly; and large herds of cattle grazed in the village
pastures.  Speeding onward in his tarantass, as fast as six horses could
carry him, our traveller crossed the Barabinsky steppe—a region curiously
unlike that dreariness of monotony, or monotony of dreariness, which is
generally associated with the name.  The traveller might have been
excused for thinking himself in some fair district of England, when he
looked around on hills of gentle slope, covered with noble trees, which
formed the boundaries of considerable plains, and saw the deer nimbly
bounding through the fresh green glades.  The view was brightened here
and there with plantations of large timber; at other points rose
sheltered belts of young trees; the effect being in each case so
picturesque as to induce the fancy that art had thus arranged them.  The
ground teemed with flowers, as if Proserpine’s fertile feet had
consecrated it—with the bright geranium, pale blue and deep blue
delphinium, white and dark rich crimson dianthus, peony, and purple
crocus.  The lakes that studded the expanse, like silver gems in an
emerald setting, bore expanded on their tremulous wave the blooms of the
white and yellow _Nymphoea_.  The whole scene was exquisitely sweet and
tranquil.

But in Siberia changes are frequent and sudden, and to this Eden bit
quickly succeeded a Slough of Despond.  Crossing a morass in a heavy
vehicle, drawn by six or seven horses, is not a pleasant sensation;
happily, the traject was accomplished without accident.  Another and
another followed; and through each, with hard struggling on the part of
the horses, and much yelling on the part of the yemtschick, or driver,
the traveller was carried successfully.  He was thankful, however, when
the country again improved, and his road once more lay among the hills
and pastures.  At Krontikha, he was greeted with a noble view of the
valley of the Ob, one of the great rivers of Siberia.  From one high
ridge to the other, twelve or fifteen versts is the width of the valley;
in the middle, with constant undulations, first to one side and then to
the other, like a coquette between two suitors, the shining stream
pursues its capricious way, sometimes breaking off into several channels,
divided by green little patches of island.  Looking to the north-east,
the traveller discerns, at a distance of one hundred and fifty versts,
Kolyvan, formerly the chief town of the government—a rank now assigned to
Tomsk, which lies one hundred and fifty versts further in the same
direction.  To the north and east the eye rests on a vast level, dark
with the heavy shadows of forests of pine.

At Barnaoul, the chief town in the mining district of the Altai, Mr.
Atkinson found himself 4527 versts from St. Petersburg.  After a night’s
rest he resumed his forward course, and the character of the country soon
warned him that he was approaching the steppes which extend westward to
the banks of the Irtisch.  These dreary wildernesses were the home and
haunt of the Kirghiz, before the Russians drove them across the river,
and built a line of forts along its bank from Omsk to the mouth of the
Bouchtarma.  The frontier to the Kirghiz steppe is guarded by a line of
barracks; the whole length of the line (about 2500 versts) stretching far
up into the Altai mountain range, and along the boundary of China.  Dull
beyond description is the landscape here.  The chief product is wormwood;
and around the fords and watercourses grow only a few bushes and stunted
willows.

Kolyvan Lake lies at the foot of some offshoots of the Altai chain.  The
masses of rocks which strew its shores, broken and fantastic of outline,
present all the appearance of a ruined city.  The granite seems to have
been forced up in a soft or liquid state; then to have flowed over and
cooled; after which it has been forced up again and again, with the
result that it has assumed, in hardening, the most extraordinary forms.
The rocks on the heights of the Altai are not less remarkable: some mock
you with the aspect of ruined battlements and feudal keeps; others might
be mistaken for human heads of a size so colossal that even the magic
helmet in “The Castle of Otranto” would have been a world too small for
them.

It is at Oubinskoï, a small town or village on the broad, deep,
willow-fringed Ouba, that the ascent of the Altai really begins.  Thence
you cross the Oulba, and ascend a valley full of charming bits for the
artist, to the silver mines of Riddersk.  About fifteen versts beyond
rises the snow-crowned height of Ivanoffsky-Belock, the source of the
Gromotooka, or stream of thunder (“grom”), one of the wildest rivers in
the Altai.  With a roar like that of thunder it hurls its foaming waters
down the rugged steep, frequently tearing off and whirling along with it
huge fragments of rock, and filling the startled air with a din and clang
which are audible for miles.  At Riddersk Mr. Atkinson was compelled to
abandon his tarantass; he engaged twenty horses to accompany him, and an
escort of fifteen men, five of whom carried rifles, while the rest were
equipped with axes.  A ride of twenty versts, and he reached
Poperetchwaia, the last village in this part of the Altai.  It is
occupied by only eighteen families, who live there in the solitude of the
mountain valley, with the great white peaks around them, ignorant of all
the events that daily help to make up the history of the age into which
they have been born—ignorant of the intellectual movements that are
agitating the minds and filling the thoughts of men.  A strange,
apparently a useless, life!  A life without action, without hope, without
purpose!  Surely ten years of our free, busy, progressive English life
are preferable to a hundred years in this lonely Siberian wild.  Each
family, we are told, have their horses and cows, and around the village
is pasture sufficient for large herds.  The stags on the mountains are
also theirs, and the deer on the hills, and the fish that teem in the
rivers.  Wild fruit is plentiful; and the bees in their hives produce
abundance of honey.  It is a Siberian Arcady; but an Arcady without its
poetic romance.

The patriarch of the village is described by Mr. Atkinson as a fine old
man, with a head and countenance which would have furnished an artist
with a model for one of the Evangelists.  Health and happiness shone in
his face, the ruddy glow of which was set off by his silver-white beard.
He wore a plain white shirt, hanging over trousers of thin linen, and
fastened round his waist with a red sash; the trousers were tucked into a
pair of boots which reached almost to the knee.  In winter, a wolf or
sheep skin coat is added to this picturesque costume.

In ascending the Altai our traveller plunged into a glorious forest of
cedars, which, with their gnarled and twisted branches, formed an arched
roof almost impervious to the sun.  The scene afterwards changed to a
silvery lake, the Keksa, which slept peacefully in the deep shadows of
the mountains.  Then came woods of larch, and pine, and birch, all
freshly green, and breathing a pungent aromatic odour; and grassy glades,
fit haunts for the Oreads of the Greek, or the fairies of the Teutonic
mythology, with high cedar-crowned mountains rising on either hand.
There were no birds; but on the crags stood numerous graceful stags,
watching suspiciously the passage of the strangers, and from bough to
bough the black squirrel leaped in his mirth.  Less pleasant inhabitants
were the flies and mosquitoes, which infested the valley depths and lower
levels.  Still continuing to ascend, Mr. Atkinson entered a rocky gorge
that crossed the shoulder of the mountain ridge.  Here the crags
presented their most savage grandeur.  Time had hewn them into various
imposing forms: some like turreted battlements and massive towers; others
like enormous buttresses thrown up to support the huge sides of the
mountain.  While threading the defile, the travellers were overtaken by a
terrible storm; the wind raged over the heights and through the ravines
with a cruel and sudden fury; the lightning like blood-streaks wound
across the darkened sky; the thunder broke in peal after peal, which the
echoes caught up and repeated until the air rang as with the din of
battle.  They sheltered themselves behind a crag until the tempest was
past, and then began the descent of the other side of the mountain.

Glad were they to find themselves in the more genial lowlands; and
leaving behind them the Chelsoun chain of the Altai, which they had just
crossed, they rode at a rapid rate towards Zirianovsky, a mining station
at the foot of the Eagle Mountains.  The silver mines here are the most
valuable in the Altai.  Some of the ores, which are exceedingly rich, lie
at a depth of two hundred and eighty feet; others have been followed to a
depth of four hundred and ninety feet.  In working them the great
difficulty to be confronted by the miners is the vast quantity of water
that almost inundates the mines; but this might be obviated by the
employment of a steam-engine.  To carry the ore to the smelting-works
upwards of two hundred horses are employed.  First, it is conveyed in
small carts, drawn by one horse, to Werchnayan pristan, on the Irtisch, a
distance of more than one hundred versts; thence it is sent down the
river in boats to Oust-Kamenogorsk pristan; and from the last place it is
removed again in carts to Barnaoul, Pavlovsky, and other zavods; making a
traject of nine hundred versts in all from the mines to the
smelting-works.

Skirting the base of the Kourt-Choum mountains, which form the boundary
between the Russian and Chinese empires, Mr. Atkinson turned his face
southward, and before long arrived at Little Narym—a small outpost of
Cossacks, stationed on a plain within a few versts of the Russian
frontier.  He was then on the military road, which extends only about
twenty versts further, to the last outpost from Western Siberia.  Having
obtained horses, two telagas, and Cossack drivers, he started down the
valley of the Narym, which opens into that of the Irtisch, and at
nightfall entered Great Narym.  To the officer in command he explained
his project of crossing the Chinese frontier; but was warned that, as
winter had already set in, and the snow lay deep in the Kourt-Chume
chain, he would probably be lost or frozen to death if he attempted that
route.  He was advised to go through the Kirghiz steppe; and the officer
courteously offered to forward him from one Cossack post to another,
until he reached the fortress at Kochbouchta.  Mr. Atkinson gladly
accepted the offer, and arranged to meet his new friend in
Ust-Kamenogorsk, on the Irtisch, hiring a boat and men to convey him
thither.  The boat consisted of two small canoes lashed together, five
feet apart, with beams placed across, and the whole boarded over so as to
provide a platform, or deck, about fifteen feet by ten.  In the head and
stern of each canoe sat a strong, sturdy fellow, with a small paddle, not
much larger than a child’s garden spade; this was used only to guide the
bark, its progress being sufficiently provided for by the rapidity of the
current.  Paddling out into the middle of the river, which was more than
a thousand yards broad, the boatmen soon got into the swing of the
current, and the voyage began.  “I was watching the changes in the
scene,” says Mr. Atkinson, “as one mountain peak after another came in
view; when suddenly, and without any previous intimation, two of the men
called out that their canoe was filling fast, and that they must make for
the shore without a minute’s delay!  Before we got halfway to the bank
she was nearly full of water, and when within about a hundred yards, the
men cried out that she was sinking; this brought our broad deck down to
the water on one side, and helped to float her.  The men paddled with all
their might, and at last we reached a thick bed of reeds, which assisted
in keeping us afloat, till we succeeded in getting near enough to the
bank to throw our luggage ashore; and then we landed.”

After some trouble, Mr. Atkinson was able to hire a good boat, used for
transporting the ore; and the luggage was transferred to it.  Then a new
difficulty arose; one of the men deserted.  But with great promptitude
Mr. Atkinson seized a bystander, and kept him prisoner until the deserter
was given up.  At last, a fresh start was effected.  The sun was setting;
a keen cutting wind blew up the river; and there was no shelter to be
obtained, nor wood for a fire, for many versts.  Fast over the valley
crept the cold shades of night, and swiftly did they steal up the
mountain sides.  No signs of any resting-place could be discovered, and
the scenery grew more and more gloomy.  Turning a rocky headland, they
beheld at a great distance the glimmer of a fire, though whether it was
in a dwelling, or on the river bank, they could not determine.  Bending
vigorously to their oars, the boatmen shot forward rapidly; and after a
long pull arrived at a small Cossack station, where Mr. Atkinson readily
obtained shelter.

Asia, he remarks, is the land for tea; there it is that a man learns to
appreciate the herb at its full and proper value.  After refreshing
himself with the popular beverage, he took a long walk alone on the bank
of the Irtisch.  The fine, picturesque scenery was seen with impressive
effect under the influence of a splendid moonlight, which cast the lower
mountains into deep shade, while a silver lustre rested on the
snow-crowned peaks, contrasting vividly with the gloom of the valleys.
“How infinitely small,” says Mr. Atkinson, “the sight of these mighty
masses made me feel, as I wandered on in my solitary ramble!  Excepting
myself, I could not see one living thing—all was silent as the grave.  I
had passed some high rocks that shut out the Cossack post from my view,
and had entered a valley, running up into the mountains, which lay
shrouded in dusky shadow.  Two white peaks rose far into the cold, grey
sky; the full light of the moon shining upon one of them, and aiding much
in giving a most solemn grandeur to the gloomy scene.  Fancy began to
people this place with phantoms, ghosts, and goblins of horrible aspect.
It required but the howling of the wolves to give a seeming reality to
the creations of the imagination.”

Passing the mouth of the Bouchtarma, Mr. Atkinson descended the river to
Mount Kamenogorsk.  There he found his friend, the Cossack colonel, who
provided him with an escort of two stalwart Cossacks, armed with sabre,
gun, pistol, and long lance.  His party also included an unarmed Cossack
driver, and his own attendant.  He set out in a light telaga, drawn by
three horses, and plunged into the solitude of the Kirghiz steppe, which
extends eastward to Nor-Zaisan and southward to the Tarbogatni Mountains.
There are many undulations on this vast plain, which in summer affords
pasturage for immense herds of horses.  While halting on the bank of a
dried-up stream to dine, Mr. Atkinson observed in the distance a small
column of white smoke, which he supposed to proceed from a Kirghiz aul,
or village; but a guide whom he had hired assured him there were no
encampments in that direction, and that the smoke issued from burning
reeds on the shores of Lake Nor-Zaisan.  Thitherward the traveller
immediately proceeded; sometimes over rich pastures, at others over a
rough tract of ground and stones almost bare of vegetation.  After riding
a couple of hours, they were able to make out that the steppe was on
fire, and that all the reeds were feeding the flame; and in due time they
came upon a miserable Kirghiz yourt, or dwelling, inhabited by a dirty
Kirghiz woman and four children, three of whom were very ill.  She
received the stranger, however, with simple hospitality, kindled the
fire, and set his kettle on it.  In return he made tea for himself and
the children, who were lying on a voilock, covered up with skins.  He
then walked to the summit of a neighbouring hill to gain a view of the
burning steppe.  The fire was still about ten versts to the east, but was
travelling west, and across Mr. Atkinson’s track, extending in breadth
some miles across the plain—a great wave of flame, which, accompanied by
rolling clouds of smoke, ran swiftly along the ground, consuming the long
grass, and reddening the horizon with a lurid glow.

Next morning Mr. Atkinson resumed his journey, passed a Kirghiz aul, and
reached the margin of the Nor-Zaisan, but was unable to obtain a glimpse
of its waters, owing to the dense masses of tall reeds which completely
encircled it.  He rode across to the Irtisch, but there too the view was
similarly blocked up.  There was nothing to be done but to return as
quickly as possible to Kochbouchta, and prepare for the expedition into
Chinese Tartary, which he had long had in contemplation.  A man of
irrepressible energy and singularly firm resolution, Mr. Atkinson, when
his plans were once formed, lost no time in carrying them into execution.
But while the necessary arrangements were being made, he found time to
accomplish some short but interesting excursions in the neighbourhood of
Kochbouchta, visiting the gold mines, and sketching the romantic scenery
of the valley of the Isilksou.  At length he was ready for his departure,
and with an escort of three Cossacks, his servant, and his own Cossack
attendant, he once more crossed the Irtisch, and began his journey across
the Kirghiz steppe.  All the party were well armed and well mounted, and
Mr. Atkinson felt competent to encounter, if need be, half a hundred of
the nomadic bandits, if they should attempt to plunder him.  His servant,
however, manifested so lively a dread of the robbers of the steppes, and
so strong a disinclination to a close acquaintance with the Kirghiz, that
Mr. Atkinson ordered him back to Ust-Kamenogorsk to await his return,
rightly judging that his fears would render him an incumbrance and an
impediment rather than a useful auxiliary.



II.


The tribes of the Kirghiz nation spread over the Asiatic steppes from the
Aral river to the Ala-Tau Mountains.  From time immemorial they have been
divided into the Great, the Middle, and the Little Hordes.  The Great
Horde occupies the territory north of the Ala-Tau, extending into China
and Tartary.  The Middle Horde inhabits the countries lying between the
Ischim, the Irtisch, Lake Balkash, and Khokand.  The Little, which is by
far the most numerous Horde, wanders over the undulating plains bounded
by the Yamba and the Ural, over Turkistan (now under Russian rule), and
into Siberia.  As a whole, the Kirghiz population may be assumed to
number about 1,250,000 souls.  They are of Turco-Tartaric origin; and,
according to Max Müller, Southern Siberia was their mother country.
Nominally, they own the supremacy of the Great White Czar on the one
side, and of the Chinese Emperor on the other; but their nomadic habits
secure their virtual independence.  Each tribe is governed by its sultan
or chief.  Quarrels and blood feuds between the different tribes are of
constant occurrence.  Many live wholly by brigandage; swooping down
suddenly, under cover of night, on the richer auls, or villages, they
carry off horses, cattle, and other objects of value, besides men, women,
and children, whom they sell into slavery.  These nocturnal raids are
called barantas.

The yourt, or tent, of the Kirghiz bears a close resemblance to the
kibitka of the Kalmucks.  One of the better class is thus described: It
was formed of willow trellis-work, put together with untanned strips of
skin, made into compartments which fold up.  It represented a circle of
thirty-four feet in diameter, five feet high to the springing of the
dome, and twelve feet in the centre.  This dome is formed of bent rods of
willow, an inch and a quarter in diameter, put into the mortice-holes of
a ring about four feet across, which secures the top of the dome, admits
light, and lets out the smoke.  The lower ends of the willow rods are
tied with leathern thongs to the top of the trellis-work at the sides,
which renders it quite strong and secure.  The whole is then covered with
large sheets of voilock, made of wool and camel’s hair, fitting close, so
that it is both warm and water-tight.  The doorway is formed of a small
aperture in the trellis-work, over which hangs a piece of voilock, and
closes it.  In the daytime this is rolled up and fastened on the roof of
the yourt.

The reader will not be surprised to learn that the furniture and fittings
of the yourt are remarkable for their simplicity; the Kirghiz having none
of the ingenuity of a Robinson Crusoe or the inventiveness of an American
backwoodsman.  The fire is kindled on the ground in the centre of the
yourt.  Directly opposite to the door, voilocks are spread; on these
stand sundry boxes containing the clothing of the family, pieces of
Chinese silk, tea, dried fruits, and ambas of silver (small squares,
about two inches and a half long, an inch and a half wide, and
three-tenths of an inch thick).  Some of the Kirghiz possess large
quantities of these ambas, which are carefully hoarded up.  Above the
boxes are bales of Bokharian and Persian carpets, often of great beauty
and value.  In another part of the yourt lies the large sack of koumis,
or mare’s milk, completely covered up with voilock to keep it warm and
promote the fermentation.  And near this bag stands a large leathern
bottle, sometimes holding four gallons, and frequently enriched with much
ornament; as are the small bottles which the horseman carries on his
saddle.  In another place may be seen the large iron caldron, and the
trivet on which it rests when used for cooking in the yourt.  There are
usually half a dozen Chinese wooden bowls, often beautifully painted and
japanned, from which the koumis is drunk; some of them hold three pints,
others are still larger.  On entering a Kirghiz yourt in summer, each
guest is presented with one of these Chinese bowls full of koumis.  To
return the vessel with any koumis in it is considered impolite, and the
rudeness is one of which a good Kirghiz is assuredly never guilty.

The saddles are deposited on the bales of carpets.  As the wealthy
Kirghiz greatly esteem rich horse trappings, many of these are beautiful
and costly.  If of Kirghiz workmanship, they are decorated with silver
inlaid on iron, in chaste ornamental designs, and are padded with velvet
cushions; the bridles, and other parts of the equipment, are covered with
small iron plates, similarly inlaid.

Leathern thongs, ropes made of camel’s hair, common saddles,
saddle-cloths, and leathern tchimbar hang suspended from the
trellis-work.  The tchimbar, or trousers, however, are not infrequently
made of black velvet, richly embroidered with silk, more especially the
back elevation; and they are so large and loose that a Kirghiz, when he
rides, can tuck into them the laps of his three or four khalats.  As he
ties them round his waist with a leathern strap, he presents a most
grotesque appearance with the centre part of his person bulging like a
great globe, out of which the very diminutive head and legs protrude.

The national dress of the Kirghiz is the khalat, a kind of pelisse, very
long and very full, with large sleeves, made of cashmere or silk, and in
the most dazzling colours; but the poorer nomad substitutes for this
state dress a horse-skin jacket.  Breeches fastened below the hips by a
girdle of wool or cashmere, high-heeled madder-coloured boots, and a
fox-skin cap, rising into a cone on the top, and lined inside with
crimson cloth, complete his costume.  His weapons are the spear, gun, and
axe.  The last is a long formidable weapon; the iron head is moderately
heavy and sharp; the handle, about four and a half feet long, is secured
by a leathern thong round the wrist.  It is often richly inlaid with
silver.  The women wear a high calico head-dress, a part of which falls
over the shoulders and covers up the neck; boots of the same make and
colour as the men’s, and a long and ample khalat, with, sometimes, a
shawl tied round the waist.

The Kirghiz begin to make koumis in April.  The mares are milked at five
o’clock in the morning and about the same time in the evening, into large
leathern pails, which are immediately taken to the yourt, and emptied
into the koumis bag.  The latter is five to six feet long, with a
leathern tube, about four inches in diameter, at one corner, through
which the milk is poured into the bag, and the koumis drawn out of it.  A
wooden instrument, not unlike a churning-staff, is introduced into the
bag, for the purpose of frequently agitating the koumis, which is not
considered in good condition until after the lapse of twelve to fourteen
days.  It is drunk in large quantities by such of the Kirghiz as are
wealthy enough to keep up a considerable stud of brood mares; and every
Kirghiz, rich or poor, slings his koumis bottle to his saddle in summer,
and loses no opportunity of replenishing it at the different auls he
visits.

In crossing the steppe, Mr. Atkinson fell in with the aul of Mahomed, a
Kirghiz chief, who was reputed to be very wealthy.  Mahomed was a fine
robust man, about sixty years old, stout and square-built, with broad
features, a fine flowing grey beard, a pair of small piercing eyes, and a
fairly pleasant countenance.  He wore on his head a closely fitting silk
cap, handsomely embroidered in silver; his dress consisting of a large
robe, or khalat, of pink and yellow striped silk, tied round the waist
with a white shawl.  His boots were of reddish-brown leather, small, with
very high heels, causing a real or apparent difficulty in walking.  His
wife, much younger than himself, and probably not more than thirty or
thirty-five years of age, had a broad face, high cheek-bones, twinkling
black bead-like eyes, a small nose, a wide mouth; she was neither pretty
nor prepossessing; but decidedly in want of a hot bath.  Attired in a
black kaufa (Chinese satin) khalat, with a red shawl round the waist;
reddish-brown high-heeled boots, like her husband’s; she also wore a
rather pointed white muslin cap, the lappets of which, finely wrought on
the edge with red silk, hung down nearly to her hips.  This couple were
rich in the world’s goods from a Kirghiz point of view.  Not only was
their yourt well stocked with voilocks and carpets, and richly ornamented
weapons, and costly caparisonings, but they owned an amount of live stock
which would astonish the most opulent English farmer.  The noise in and
around the aul was deafening.  It was a babel of sounds: the sharp cry of
the camels, the neighing of the horses, the bellowing of the bulls, the
bleating of the sheep and goats, and the barking of the dogs, all
combining in one hideous, ear-shattering chorus.  Mr. Atkinson counted no
fewer than 106 camels, including their young; besides more than 2000
horses, 1000 oxen and cows, and 6000 sheep and goats.  Yet even these
large totals did not represent all the wealth of the Kirghiz chief; for
he had two other auls, and at each were 1000 horses and numerous cattle.
It was a picturesque and interesting sight to see the women busily
milking the cows, and the men conducting the vast herds to their
pastures.  The horses and camels are driven to the greatest distance, as
far as ten and fifteen versts; the oxen come next; the sheep remain
nearest the aul, but still at a distance of five or six versts.

While Mr. Atkinson was sojourning in Mahomed’s aul, a night attack was
made upon it.  He was aroused, about two hours after midnight, by a
tremendous noise, which to him, sleeping on the ground, seemed as if it
issued from some subterranean hollow.  At first he thought it was the
rumbling of an earthquake, and immediately sat upright.  But the sound
rolled on, drew nearer and nearer; presently it passed, so that the whole
earth shook.  Then he knew that the herd of horses was dashing onward at
full gallop; and when he caught the shrieks of women and the shouts of
men, he understood that an assault had been made upon the aul by robbers.
In a moment he seized his rifle, and sallied forth from the yourt, to
behold the Kirghiz, battle-axe in hand, leap on their horses, and gallop
towards the point of attack.  The herds were rushing wildly round the
aul; the Cossacks, with their muskets loaded, were ready for the fray;
all was confusion and disorder.  Presently the sound of horses swiftly
approaching could be heard; they came nearer and nearer; in less than two
minutes a dark troop swept past like a whirlwind at twenty paces distant,
making the air ring with loud, defiant shouts.  Five bullets whistled
after them; there was a scream from a horse, but on they dashed.  The
Kirghiz followed quickly in pursuit, accompanied by two of the Cossacks,
who had rapidly mounted.  After riding about a verst they came up with
the robbers, to find they were three times their number, and prepared to
fight for their booty.  Against such odds no success could be hoped for,
and accordingly the Kirghiz retired to the aul.  When day dawned it was
ascertained that this daring razzia had cost Mahomed a hundred horses.

                                * * * * *

This was not the only adventure that befell Mr. Atkinson while he made
Mahomed’s aul his headquarters.  One day, he was returning from an
excursion to some finely coloured porphyry rocks, when the wind begun to
blow across the steppe in strong and frequent gusts, and his Kirghiz
guides announced that a storm was at hand.  Their prediction was
confirmed by the clouds that gathered about the lower peaks of the Altai,
and soon a dense mass of blackness, extending for a long distance from
north to south, rolled rapidly in the direction of the travellers.  Not a
tree or a rock offered the slightest shelter.  Spurring their horses
briskly, they galloped over the plain, pursued by the storm, as, in
Goethe’s ballad, the father and his doomed child are pursued by the Erl
King.  The gusts of wind ceased, and for a short time a deadly calm
prevailed.  Meanwhile, the clouds were painfully agitated, as if by some
internal force, and streams of vapour issuing from their blackness
whirled rapidly round.  A low murmur stole through the air; gradually it
deepened and strengthened, until, as the storm broke upon the steppe, it
swelled into a roar like that of a thousand cannon.  The grasses and low
bushes were rooted up, and sent flying into the air with fearful
velocity.  The terrified horses stopped suddenly; nor could they be
induced to move until the whirlwind had passed by.  Fortunately the
travellers had not been caught in its vortex, and no serious accident
occurred.

Leaving the hospitable Mahomed, Mr. Atkinson continued his explorations
of the steppe, and rode onward to the next aul, which lay to the
northward, and was reached in two days’ journey.  Here, after the usual
entertainment, he found himself free to write up his journal—much to the
astonishment of his companions, the three R’s being unknown in the steppe
to any but the mullahs, or priests, of the various tribes.  The
manuscript was a wonder to the children of the wilderness, and they
regarded its owner as a very wealthy mullah, possessed of the priceless
treasure of a book full of amulets.  For the mullah sells his amulets, or
charms, at the rate of a sheep for each scrap of paper, which he has
covered with unmeaning characters.  Mr. Atkinson’s ring was examined;
also his knife; also a piece of red sealing-wax.  On a piece of thick
paper from his sketch-book he took impressions of his seal, and presented
them to the women of the yourt, who doubtlessly long wore them in their
caps as talismans or ornaments of special value and importance.  His
watch was likewise an object of curiosity.  He held it to the ear of a
woman sitting near him.  Evidently she thought it was alive and talking,
for she communicated the fact to her companions, and they all expressed a
wish to hear it speak.

By way of Mount Kamenogorsk, his old quarters, Mr. Atkinson proceeded to
Barnaoul, which he reached on the 1st of November.  This town is built at
the junction of the small river Barnaulka with the Ob.  The streets are
wide, laid out in parallel lines, and intersected by others at right
angles.  There are three ugly brick churches, and one large hospital.
Its silver smelting works are on an extensive scale, producing annually
about nine thousand pounds.  Almost all the gold found in Siberia is also
smelted here, and cast into bars; and every year six caravans leave with
the precious metals for St. Petersburg—four in winter by the sledge
roads, and two in summer.  Barnaoul is the centre for the administration
of the mines of the Altai, and the residence of the Natchalink, or
director, as well as of the heads of the principal departments.

The public museum at Barnaoul contains a very good collection of
minerals, some Siberian antiquities, a few Siberian animals and birds,
and four tiger-skins.  The wearers of these skins were killed in
different parts of Siberia; in two instances their capture proving fatal
to some of the peasants engaged in it, for pea-rifles and hay-forks are
scarcely fit weapons with which to encounter the fiercest of the beasts
of prey.  They are seldom found in Siberia; only when driven by hunger do
they cross the Irtisch, and many peasants do not know them even by name.
The last of the Barnaoul company, now reposing peacefully in a glass
case, was discovered, early one morning, prone on the top of a small
hay-rick, near the village.  The peasant, who had come for some hay for
his horses, beheld with surprise and terror the strange and formidable
creature, and shrank from his glaring eyeballs, which seemed to sparkle
with fire.  At the same moment the peasant’s dog caught sight of him,
and, with a loud bark, bravely dashed towards the rick.  Growling
terribly, the tiger sprung to the ground.  The dog met him intrepidly,—to
be crushed in a moment beneath his heavy paw.  Hastening towards the
village, the man gave the alarm, and quickly returned with a valiant
company; some armed with pea-rifles, others with hay-forks and axes.
Several dogs followed them.  On approaching the rick, they were apprised
of the enemy’s position by a furious growl.  The dogs made a brilliant
charge; but the tiger crouched sullenly, and did not spring.  A small
shot through his hide roused him, and at a bound he was in among the
dogs, killing a couple of them instantly with his terrible paws, and
scattering the rest in ignominious flight.  He received two more balls,
but they served only to inflame his fury, and leaping in among his
assailants, he felled one of them to the ground, dead.  Again the dogs
charged him, while the peasants with their hay-forks stabbed him in the
back and sides.  At last he withdrew slowly towards a bank covered with
brushwood, followed by the dogs and their masters; but on reaching the
bank he halted, faced round, growled angrily, and prepared for another
spring.  His enemies halted, and poured in shot upon him; the dogs barked
furiously; but he held his ground, and could not be induced to move.
After a while, encouraged by his inaction, the dogs began to close in
upon him, and finally it was discovered that a ball had pierced him in a
vital part, and the beast was dead.

The river Ob, which flows past Barnaoul, is described as a magnificent
stream, running in a valley twelve versts broad; its numerous small
branches divide this valley into islands, on which large trees are
growing.  In May the melting of the snow swells the stream into a great
flood, which inundates much of the valley, and gradually widens from one
bank to the other, with the tops of the trees rising above the swirl of
waters like islands.  At this time many of the scenes along the Ob are
very grand, especially if seen at sunrise or sunset, when the various
colouring of the luminous sky is mirrored in the mighty stream, which,
flashing with golden and crimson lights, rolls through the deep purple
masses of the forest, to terminate its course in the Arctic Ocean.

The neighbourhood seems to be an attractive one for the sportsman; snipe
abound in June and July, blackcock in August, and rebchicks, or tree
partridges, in September.  Wild hen are also plentiful, and in winter,
hares.  Or if the hunter care for more venturous sport, he may sally out
against the wolves and bears.

The bears are dangerous antagonists.  A very large one was seen by some
woodcutters about fifteen versts from the gold mine; and two men, one of
whom was known as a bold, skilful, and veteran hunter, started in
pursuit.  They found the beast’s track quite fresh in the long dewy
grass, and cautiously followed it up, until a low growl warned them of
his presence.  He sprang out of a thicket, about thirty-five paces
distant, and confronted his pursuers.  The hunter fired, and his shot
told, but not in a vital part.  The wounded animal charged immediately,
the other man reserving his shot until he was within twenty paces.  Then,
unfortunately, his rifle missed fire.  The bear at once stood on his hind
legs, and sprang forward against his first assailant, striking him to the
earth with a blow that stripped his scalp and turned it over his face;
then, seizing his arm, he began to gnaw and crush it to the bone,
gradually ascending to the shoulder.  The sufferer called to his
companion to load and fire; but, losing heart when he saw his friend so
terribly mangled, the craven took to flight.

Returning to the gold mine, he related what had happened; but it was then
too late to despatch a party in search of the unfortunate hunter.  At
daylight next morning, however, they set out, with the craven as guide.
On arriving at the scene of the affray, no remains of the victim could be
found but some torn clothing and his rifle; and the trampled grass showed
that he had been carried off into the thick covert.  The trail was
pursued with the utmost diligence, and at length, under a heap of
branches, in a dense thicket of trees and bushes, the hunter’s body was
discovered, and, strange to say, though grievously mutilated, it still
throbbed with life.  With tender care the miserable victim was conveyed
to the gold mine and taken to the hospital, where he was treated with the
utmost kindness, and all was done that medical skill could do.  For a
long time he remained unconscious; but at the end of two months a slight
improvement was noticeable, and he recovered his reason.  His first
question was about the bear; his next, about his own defeat.  In truth,
his conversation turned only upon these subjects: he seemed possessed by
a monomania; was continually asking for his rifle, that he might go and
kill “Michael Ivanitch” (the bear).  As his strength returned, it was
thought necessary to place him under restraint, lest his desire to
contend with his fierce and powerful enemy should lead him into some
dangerous enterprise.

But when autumn arrived, and laid its magical finger on the forest, the
monomaniac seemed to have forgotten his hate, so that he was watched with
less rigour.  He took advantage of his comparative freedom to steal from
the hospital, gain his own cottage, and, in the absence of his family,
arm himself with his rifle and axe, and stow away in his wallet a loaf of
black bread.  Then, as the shades of evening began to fall, he started
for the forest, and soon disappeared in the gathering gloom.

As soon as his absence from the hospital was known, a close search for
him was instituted; but in vain.  A week passed by, and it was supposed
that he had perished, when one day he strode into the hospital, carrying
on his shoulders the skin of a huge black bear.  Throwing it down, he
exclaimed, “I told you I would have him.”  Thenceforward he rapidly
recovered; both his physical and mental health were re-established, and
he lived to bring down many another “Michael Ivanitch” with his deadly
rifle.

                                * * * * *

A curious incident befell a Cossack officer in the woods of Barnaoul.

Alone and unarmed, he was sauntering through the forest glades, gathering
specimen plants, when, at a distance of about eight versts from the gold
mine, he emerged into an open space, where stood a few isolated trees;
and the same moment he descried, not more than two hundred yards off, a
she-bear and her two cubs gambolling together.  She, too, recognized his
presence; and, with a fierce growl, drove her young ones into a tree as
an asylum, and, resolute to defend them, mounted guard at its foot.

To carry off the cubs as trophies was the Cossack’s resolve, but he
wanted a weapon.  Retiring into the wood a few steps, he came to a place
where the woodmen had felled several young birch trees, and from one of
these he selected four feet of a stout, strong, but manageable stem, with
which he returned to the scene of action.  At his approach the old bear
resumed her growling, and moved uneasily to and fro in front of the tree,
but carefully keeping within a few feet of it.  He continued his advance.
She growled more savagely, and plainly suspected his hostile intentions.
Still he moved forward, with his eyes steadfastly fixed upon her.  When
he was within about fifty paces, she made a fierce rush that would have
put most men to flight.  He held his ground, and as the cubs began to
whine, she trotted back towards the tree, in a mood of uncontrolled rage.
The Cossack followed; she turned; the two antagonists stood face to face
at a distance of twenty yards.

Retreat was now impossible; and there they stood, gazing keenly on each
other, and each waiting for an opportunity to attack.  The bear, with
fiery eyeballs, made a second rush, and at a few paces from her daring
enemy, rose on her hind legs, either to fell him with her heavy paws or
crush him in her cruel embrace; but, with wonderful coolness, he brought
down his club and toppled her over.  In a second she sprang to her feet,
and prepared to renew the charge; another tremendous stroke laid her on
the ground.  The combat assumed a desperate and deadly character, and
several “rounds” were determinedly fought.  Eventually, the Cossack’s
well-directed blows subdued her courage, and when she could neither
charge him in front nor get in his rear, she fell back towards the tree,
still fighting desperately.  Under the tree a fresh spirit was infused
into the affray, and every time she heard her cubs whine, she returned
with increased fury to the assault.  She was received, however, with such
a shower of blows, that, at last dispirited and exhausted, she retreated
hastily towards the forest, and entered its shades; contriving,
nevertheless, whenever the gallant Cossack moved towards the refuge of
her cubs, to make a rush in that direction.

All this time the cubs remained perched among the branches, and the
officer, considering himself victorious, longed to take possession of his
prize.  But he could devise no plan of getting at them, and it was
evident they would not come down at his call.  Luckily, a woodman, on his
way to the gold mine, rode into the arena.  The Cossack hailed him;
ordered him to dismount, to take from his saddle the zumka, or leather
saddle-bags, and, climbing the tree, to thrust the cubs into them, while
he himself kept watch over the mother bear.  This was done, though not
without several sharp encounters between the she-bear and the officer;
and, finally, the peasant threw his heavy bags across his horse, and led
the way to the ravine, the Cossack covering the rear.  In this fashion
they marched into Barnaoul; first, the woodman and his horse, next the
Cossack officer, and behind him the bear.  The march occupied two hours,
and the unfortunate mother persevered to the very last, not abandoning
her young ones until their captor had reached the cottages.  Then she
hastily returned into the forest, and was seen no more.



III.


There is much to attract and impress in the scenery of the lakes of the
Altai.  Lake scenery in a mountainous country is always picturesque,
always striking, from the variety of forms which it presents, and its
endless contrasts of light and shade, and its magical combinations of
colours.  Moreover, it passes so rapidly from the calmly beautiful to the
sublime! for at one moment the silver waters sleep as profoundly as a
babe on its mother’s breast; at another, the storm-wind issues from the
savage glen, and lashes them into a white wrath.  In the genial days of
summer it shines and sparkles with a peculiar radiance; a golden glory
seems to hang upon the mountain sides, and a purple light rests on the
bosom of the lake.  In the dreary winter, nothing can be grander in its
gloom; the hollows and the glens are heavy with an eery darkness, through
which the white peaks show like sheeted phantoms.  In truth, it appeals
to us by its twofold features of the mountain and the water.  The former
awakens our awe, lifts us out of our commonplace lives, and fills us with
a sense of the wonder and mystery of God’s work; it is an embodiment of
majesty and power, a noble and sublime architecture, the study of which
awakens the higher and purer impulses of the soul.  Beauty of colour,
perfection of form, an endless change in the midst of what seems to us an
everlasting permanency—all those are the mountain’s; all these belong to
that great cathedral of the earth, with its “gates of rock,” its
“pavements of cloud,” its snow-white altars, and its airy roof, traversed
by the stars.  Then as to water; has it not a wonder and a beauty of its
own?  “If we think of it,” says Ruskin, “as the source of all the
changefulness and beauty which we have seen in clouds; then as the
instrument by which the earth we have contemplated was modelled into
symmetry, and its crags chiselled into grace; then as, in the form of
snow, it robes the mountains it has made, with that transcendent light
which we could not have conceived if we had not seen; then as it exists
in the foam of the torrent, in the iris which spans it, in the morning
mist which rises from it, in the deep crystalline peaks which mirror its
hanging shore, in the broad lake and glowing river; finally, in that
which is to all human minds the best emblem of unwearied, unconquerable
power, the wild, various, fantastic, tameless unity of the sea; what
shall we compare to this mighty, this universal element, for glory and
for beauty? or how shall we follow its eternal changefulness of feeling?”
Bring the two together, the water and the mountain, and the landscape
attains its highest character; the picture is then as consummate in its
mingled beauty and grandeur as Nature can make it; and hence it is, I
think, that lake scenery has always such a power over the imagination.

The Altin-Kool, or Golden Lake, measuring about one hundred versts in
length, and from three to twelve in breadth, lies in an enormous chasm,
with peaks and precipices all around it, some of them two thousand feet
in height, and so perpendicular as to afford no footing even for a
chamois.  On the west side of the lake, the mountain pinnacles rise to
10,500 feet, and on the south several are even loftier.  On the east side
their elevation is less, but still they reach far above the line of
vegetation into the region of perpetual snow.  Having engaged some
Kalmucks, or boatmen, Mr. Atkinson and his companions set out in canoes
to explore the lake, beginning on the east.  For the first ten versts the
mountains do not rise very abruptly; they slope to the north, and green
cedar forests cover them to the very summit, while the banks on the
opposite side are almost treeless.  Winding round a small headland, the
lake expands into a splendid basin, with picturesque mountains grouped on
either shore.  Early in the evening the voyagers stopped near a torrent,
which poured its foam and din down a narrow gorge, and the Kalmucks
recommended it as a favourable site for an encampment.  A bed of clean
white sand, about fifteen feet wide, sloped gradually to the water-side.
Between the upper rim of the sand and the rocks, large cedars were
growing, and under these a bulayan, or wigwam, was constructed.  Though
consisting only of a few bare poles, covered with birch bark, open in
front, and the ends filled up with branches, it was warm, and it kept out
the mosquitoes; and within its welcome covert Mr. Atkinson and his party
contentedly passed the night.

At daybreak, a fresh wind was blowing, and until this subsided the
Kalmucks could not be induced to move.  Satisfied at last with the
promise both of sky and mountains, they pushed off, and doubling round a
rocky point, entered a broad and beautiful bay, curving gracefully in the
shadow of snow-capped mountains.  At Tasck-tash, a bold headland, the
lake turns directly south.  Climbing to its summit, Mr. Atkinson enjoyed
a noble view of the expanse of shining waters—one of those views which
rests in the memory for ever, and is at all times a beauty and a joy.
The general character of the landscape is boldness.  Along the west shore
the rocks dip to the east, at a very sharp angle, while upon their
foundations the crags rise perpendicularly, and, above all, a
snow-crowned summit shines like silver against the sapphire sky.  On the
east, as already stated, the mountains are less abrupt; but one, a
conspicuous peak, rears a lofty and rounded crest far into the clouds,
with white vaporous billows clinging to its rugged sides, and the eternal
snow whitening its remote crest.

As the voyage progressed, the voyagers came upon such mysteries of colour
as filled them with delight.  Out of the chinks and clefts in the deep
red granite bloomed bright plants and flowers with tropical luxuriance.
Some slate rocks, grey, purple, and orange, intervened; the bright yellow
of the birches lighted up the distant rocks; and the background was
filled in with the deep purple mountains.  The whole was a wonder of rich
harmonious colouring, like a symphony of Beethoven’s.  At another point a
gleaming waterfall leaped boldly over a succession of picturesque rocky
terraces, the colours of which were bright as those of the rainbow,
green, yellow, purple, and glowing red.  There was also a white marble,
spotted with purple; another, white, with veins of bluish purple; and a
mass of exquisite, deep plum-coloured jasper.  On the third day of their
exploration, the voyagers entered one of the wildest parts of the lake—a
deep circular recess in the Karakorum Mountains, into which three streams
fling their heedless waters, uniting near the brink of a mighty
precipice, and then tumbling down from ledge to ledge, to pass through a
natural arch and fall into the lake.  Prom the summit of the cliff, where
the water takes its first leap, to the level of the lake, is not less
than two thousand feet.  “Avalanches must sometimes sweep over this
place, and large trees are bent down and stripped of their branches.
Huge rocks are torn up and hurled along, crushing and grinding everything
in their course, as they rush on into the lake.  No man can conceive the
chaotic confusion into which the mass of ice and rocks has been heaped.
One enormous stone, weighing not less than a hundred and fifty tons, had
been placed on its end, on the edge of the rock, in an overhanging
position towards the lake.”

Various rivers flow into the Altin-Kool, such as the Tchoulishman, the
Kamga, and the Karbou.  They are navigated by the Kalmucks in light
canoes, each constructed from the trunk of a single tree.  The poplar is
much used for this purpose; but, notwithstanding the softness of its
wood, the labour of canoe-building is very great, owing to the rude
character of the tools employed.  The sides are cut down to a thickness
of about three-quarters of an inch; but the bottom, which is usually made
flat and without a keel, is nearly double the thickness.

                                * * * * *

Having completed his circumnavigation of the Altin-Kool, Mr. Atkinson,
with his thirst for new scenes unquenched, started on a visit to the
source of the river Katounaia.  His route lay past Kolyvan, a town where
the population is principally employed in cutting and polishing jasper
and porphyry, and across the river Tchenish.  He then crossed into the
valley of the Koksa, and descended upon the Yabagan steppe, where he met
with some Kalmuck auls, and was present at a curious pseudo-religious
ceremony, the offering up of an annual sacrifice to the Kalmuck deity.  A
ram was presented by its owner, who desired a large increase to his herds
and flocks.  It was handed to an assistant of the priest, who duly killed
it.  Meanwhile, the priest, looking eastward, chanted a prayer, and beat
on a large tambourine to attract the attention of his god, while he
petitioned for multitudes of sheep and cattle.  When the ram had been
flayed, the skin was hoisted on a pole above the framework of the
bulayan, and placed with its head to the east.  The tambourine was loudly
beaten, and the wild chant continued.  Then the flesh was cooked in the
large caldron, and all the tribe partook of the dainty—“there was a sound
of revelry by night.”

The Kalmuck priest wears a leather coat, over the laps of which impend
hundreds of strips, with leather tassels on the breast.  He fastens a
girdle round his waist; and an assortment of brass balls on his back, and
scraps of iron in front, produces a continuous jingle.  His crimson
velvet cap is ornamented over the forehead with brass beads and glass
drops, and at the back with feathers from the tail of the crane.

The Kalmucks who inhabit these steppes own large herds of horses and
oxen, and flocks of sheep.  Some of the men are sturdy fellows and
perfect Nimrods; they live by the chase, and spend months alone in the
mountain wilds.  Mr. Atkinson speaks of them as brave, honest, and
faithful.  “I have slept at their bulayan, and partaken of their venison.
A City alderman would be horrified to see the haunch of a fine buck cut
into small pieces an inch square and half an inch thick, through twenty
of which a sharp-pointed stick is run, and the thick end stuck into the
ground in a leaning position near the fire.  Every man here is his own
cook, and attends to the roast.  The upper piece is first done, when it
is slipped off, dipped in salt, and eaten quite hot—without currant
jelly.”

At Ouemonia Lake, the last village in the Altai, Mr. Atkinson halted in
order to obtain a sufficient number of men and horses for his ascent to
the source of the Katounaia, and the Bielouka, the highest point in the
Altai chain.  He was provided by the chief official, or magistrate, with
an escort of six Kalmucks and two Russians (one of them a veteran
hunter), and at seven o’clock on Wednesday morning sprang into his saddle
and rode away.  Including himself and his attendant, the party consisted
of ten men, with sixteen horses and one dog.  Crossing a little steppe,
about six versts long, they entered the forest belt which surrounds the
lower declivities of the forest-range, and through groves of pine, cedar,
birch, and poplar, began their ascent of the first chain.  Emerging from
the thick leafy covert, they came upon the bare mountain-side, with a
storm of rain and sleet beating in their faces, and pursued their way to
the foot of a lofty acclivity, across which lay their track.  Here they
rested, in a “cedarn shade,” until the gale had subsided: then _en
avant_!  Through masses of fallen granite and jasper, interspersed with a
few giant cedars, they slowly made their way, until they began in earnest
to climb the great steep; a slow operation and a dangerous, for great
crags, hurled from the upper heights, hung here and there so insecurely
as, apparently, to need but a breath to send them crashing downwards in
an avalanche, and at other places the ledges along which they rode were
so narrow, that the slightest stumble on the part of their patient horses
must have precipitated them into destruction!  A painful ride of two
hours brought them to the summit, which commanded a noble view of the
Katounaia valley and the mountains to the north.

Their ride was continued over a high plateau, on which huge rocks, rugged
and curiously wrought, the remains of shattered peaks, stood in their
awful grandeur; carrying back the imagination through the dim shadows of
the past to a period long before the present forms of life existed, and
speaking eloquently of the vast changes which earth has undergone.  Their
aspect was often that of colossal castles, grim with tower and
battlement, which fancy peopled with the demons of the mountain and the
wilderness.  But the travellers could not stay to study them; signs of a
terrible tempest were visible, and they dashed forward at a hard gallop
to seek shelter in the valley of the Tschugash.  A group of cedars, with
a patch of smooth turf, was found on the river bank, and there they
bivouacked.  The night passed without accident or adventure; and early
next morning they were again on horseback, and across ridge and valley,
through scenes of the strangest picturesqueness, pursued their track.
Across ridge and valley, but in a lofty region always—just below the line
of perpetual snow, but above the region of vegetation; the eye unrelieved
by branch of moss or blade of grass; until, towards evening, they
descended into the valley of the Arriga.  Then they wound over a low
wooded ridge, and struck into a rugged pass, at the head of which they
encamped for the night.  The tents were pitched; a huge fire blazed; and
the hunter having shot a very fine deer, a savour of venison speedily
perfumed the cool night air.  What with venison and wodky, the travellers
feasted gloriously, and the echoes rang with the wild songs of the
Kalmucks.

The morning came, and with it the signal “Forward!”  They ascended the
bank of the Arriga to its source—a small circular basin of about thirty
feet diameter, at the foot of a precipice seven or eight hundred feet in
height.  The basin was deep, with a bed of white pebbles; the water,
clear as crystal, issuing forth in a copious stream, rolled downward in a
series of small and shining cascades.  The path, from this point, lay
across a high mountain, the upper part of which was deep shrouded in
snow, and it toiled up to the summit in about a hundred bends and curves;
a summit like a razor-back, not more than twenty-five feet wide.  The
ascent was arduous and perilous, but still worse the descent on the other
side, owing to the exceeding steepness.  Accomplishing it in safety, Mr.
Atkinson found himself in the valley of the Mein.  The river rises at the
foot of a precipice which reaches far above the snow line, and winds its
course through a morass which, in the old time, has been a lake, shut in
by a barrier of rocks, except at one narrow gap, where the little stream
finds an exit in a fall of about fifty feet deep.  At the head of the
lake is another cataract, which throws its “sheeted silver’s
perpendicular” down the precipice in one grand leap of full five hundred
feet.

Crossing another chain, and still ascending, the explorers reached
another little lake, the Kara-goll, or “Black Lake,” with its waters
shining a deep emerald green.  This effect, however, is not produced by
any surrounding verdure, for the lake is almost encompassed by high
mountains, and crags of red and yellowish granite, that rise up into the
region of eternal snow.  At the upper end a huge mass of basaltic rocks,
of a deep grey colour, forms a fine contrast to the yellow castellated
forms at their base.  On the opposite side of the lake high precipices of
granite are backed by grand mountain summits, white with the snows of
uncounted ages.

Fording the Kara-sou, or “black water”—a stream issuing from the lake—and
crossing a beautiful valley, the riders entered a thickly wooded region
which stretches over the lower mountain range down to the Katounaia, and
arrived on the bank of the river Bitchuatoo.  Thrice had they changed
from summer to winter in the course of a day’s ride.  Turning to the
south, they ascended a steep and lofty summit, from which it was supposed
the Bielouka would be visible.  It proved to be a rocky height that
towered above all the mountains to the west of the Katounaia, even above
the loftiest crests of the Chelsoun; and vast and magnificent was the
panorama which it commanded.  In the foreground, a ridge of huge granite
crags, tinted with mosses of almost every hue.  In all directions rolled
chains of snowy peaks, like the storm-tossed waves of a suddenly frozen
sea; and as they rolled, they gradually ebbed, so to speak, down to the
far steppes of Chinese Tartary, and were lost in a vapour-shrouded
horizon.

But the Bielouka was not to be seen, and Mr. Atkinson resumed his ride,
keeping along the crest of the mountain for about two versts, and then
striking into a little valley, watered by several lakelets.  A dreary
place!  There were neither shrubs nor trees; and the barrenness of
desolation was relieved only by a few patches of short mossy grass.
Sharp edges of slate, projecting above the surface, showed that the
upheaval of the strata had been effected perpendicularly.  To the south
rose “half a mountain” in a precipice of not less than 2500 feet above
the lakes; while a similarly strange combination of cliffs faced it on
the north.  Between these precipices, at the head of the valley, towered
what might be taken for a colossal dome; beyond which a forest of white
peaks were sharply defined against the blue serene.

The travellers reached the head of the valley, and examined from a near
point the enormous dome.  From a distance the curve on its sides had
appeared as regular as if wrought by human skill; but they now found that
it was piled up with huge blocks of slate and granite, over which it
would be impossible to take the horses.  A steep ascent to the north
brought them, however, to its summit.  There the scene was sufficiently
remarkable: you might have thought that the Titans had been at play, with
great fragments of slate, granite, jasper, and porphyry for their
counters.  The horses and most of the men were sent round by the base of
the cliffs, while Mr. Atkinson, with his servant and the village-hunter,
scrambled through the chaos to the edge of a vast circular hollow, which
proved to be a vast volcanic crater, not less than nine to twelve hundred
feet in diameter, and fully fifty feet in depth.  It was heaped up with
blocks and boulders and fragments of all sizes, from a cube of twelve
inches to a mass weighing half a hundred tons.  It is a belief of the
Kalmucks that this gloomy spot is inhabited by Shaitan, and they regard
it with superstitious dread.  Certainly, it is eery enough to be haunted
by many a ghostly legend.

                                * * * * *

Next day, taking a different track, Mr. Atkinson descended the valley of
the Tourgau, listening to the music of the stream as it raced over its
rocky bed with the speed of a “swift Camilla.”  At a point where it
suddenly swept round the base of some cliffs of slate, the Kalmuck guide
said that it might be forded, though the passage was very difficult.  “We
stood on the high bank a few minutes,” says Mr. Atkinson, “and surveyed
the boiling and rushing water beneath, while immediately above were a
succession of small falls, varying from six to ten feet in height.  At
the bottom of the last there was a rapid, extending about twenty paces
down the river; then came another fall of greater depth; after which the
torrent rushes onward over large stones until it joins the Katounaia.
Across this rapid, between the falls, we had to make our passage—not one
at a time, but five abreast, otherwise we should be swept away.  As we
could only descend the rocky bank in single file, and scarcely find room
at the bottom for our horses to stand upon, it was no easy matter to form
our party before plunging into the foaming water.  Zepta was the first to
descend; I followed; then came three others, with two led horses.  To go
straight across was impossible; we could only land on some shelving rocks
a few paces above the lower fall.  The brave Zepta gave the word, and we
rode into the rushing waters, knee to knee.  Our horses walked slowly and
steadily on, as the water dashed up their sides; instinct making them
aware of the danger, they kept their heads straight across the stream.
The distance we forded was not more than twenty paces, but we were at
least five minutes doing it; and it was with no small satisfaction that
we found ourselves standing on the rocks, some twenty feet above the
water, wishing as safe a passage to our friends.  When I saw them drawn
up on the little bank, and then dash into the stream, I felt the danger
of their position more than when crossing myself.  Their horses breasted
the torrent bravely, and all were safely landed; the dog was placed on
one of the pack-horses, where he lay between the bags in perfect
security.  I am certain that every man felt a relief when the enterprise
was accomplished, which would have been impossible had the water been
three inches deeper.”

Continuing their ride down the valley, in about ten hours the party
reached the river Katounaia and the grassy valley through which it foams
and flows.  Their route lay up its banks, and speedily brought them to
the broad swift stream of the Tourgau, which reflects in its water groups
of cedars and birches, with rows of tall poplars decked in foliage of the
richest colours.  Fording the Tourgau, they soon afterwards came again
upon the Katounaia, and crossing it, reached a bend in the valley, which
presented to them the monarch of the Altai chain, the magnificent
Bielouka.  Its stupendous mass uplifts two enormous peaks, buttressed by
huge rocks, which enclose a number of valleys or ravines filled with
glaciers; these roll their frozen floods to the brink of the imposing
precipices which overhang the valley of the Katounaia.

Mr. Atkinson determined on attempting the ascent of this regal height.
It was a bright morning when he started, and the two white peaks shone
grandly in the early sunshine, which gradually dipped down into the
valley, and with its fringes of gold touched the sombre cedars.  An
hour’s ride carried him and his followers to the bifurcation of the
Katounaia, and then they ascended the north-eastern arm, which rises
among the glaciers of the Bielouka.  When they had got beyond the last
tree that struggled up the mountain’s side, they dismounted; and Mr.
Atkinson, with the hunter, Zepta, and three Kalmucks, pressed forward on
foot, leaving the others in charge of the horses.  At first they
clambered over the ruins of a mighty avalanche, which in the preceding
summer had cloven its way down the precipices, until they reached the
glacier, stretching far up the mountain, whence wells the Katounaia in
two little ice-cold, transparent streams.  There they halted for their
mid-day meal.  Turning to the west, they toiled up a terrific gorge,
filled with fallen rocks and ice, and then climbed a rugged acclivity
that, like an inclined plane, reached to the very base of one of the
peaks of the Bielouka.  Step after step they wearily but persistently
ascended, until they reached the frozen snow, scaling which for about
three hundred paces they reached the base of the peak, already at such a
height as to overlook every summit of the Altai.  Far away to the west
the vast steppes of the Kirghiz were lost in the blue distance.  To the
west many a mountain-ridge descended towards the steppes on the east of
Nor-Zaisan, and to the Desert of Gobi.  The shimmer of a lake was visible
at several points; while innumerable rivers, like threads of silver,
traced their fantastic broidery through the dark green valleys.

About a hundred paces further, the adventurers found themselves at the
head of another glacier, which stretched westward through a deep ravine.
Beyond it lay the great hollow between the two peaks.  This, in Mr.
Atkinson’s opinion, it was possible for them to reach, though they could
not hope to ascend either peak.  They are cones, he says, from eight
hundred to a thousand feet high, covered with hard frozen snow, with a
few points of the green slate jutting through.  We imagine, however, that
to a member of the Alpine Club, to any one who has conquered the
Matterhorn or the Jungfrau, they would offer no insuperable difficulties.

Mr. Atkinson retraced his steps in safety, gained the spot where the
Kalmucks were waiting with the horses, and rode rapidly towards the place
which he had selected for a camp.  Next morning he proceeded to cross the
mountains by a new route to the mouth of the river Koksa; it proved to be
the most arduous of his many enterprises.  Hour after hour, his Kalmuck
guide led him through a wilderness of rocks and sand, and he rejoiced
greatly when at last they descended towards the wooded region, and caught
sight of the dark Katounaia winding in a deep valley three thousand feet
below.  They followed downwards a track made by animals, but, though easy
for stags and deer, it was difficult for horses.  In many places the only
traject was a narrow ledge, with deep precipices beneath, and often
steep, rugged acclivities above.  In one place they had to ride over what
the Kalmucks call a “Bomb”—a narrow ridge of rocks, passable only by one
horse at a time.  Should two persons meet on any part of these “Bombs,”
one of the horses must be thrown over, as it is as impossible to turn
round as to pass.  On reaching the track by which the Kalmuck hunters
ascend the mountains, Zepta called a halt, and sent one of his companions
on foot to the other end of the fearful ridge, hidden from view by some
high crags, round which the party had to ride.  In less than half an hour
he returned, but without his cap, which had been left as a signal to any
hunters who might follow, that travellers were crossing the “Bomb.”

And now we shall allow Mr. Atkinson to speak himself:—

“Zepta and the hunter told me to drop the reins on my horse’s neck, and
he would go over with perfect safety.  The former led the van; I
followed, as desired, at three or four paces behind him.  For the first
twenty yards the sensation was not agreeable.  After that I felt perfect
confidence in the animal, and was sure, if left to himself, he would
carry me safely over.  The whole distance was about five hundred paces,
and occupied about a quarter of an hour in crossing.  In some places it
was fearful to look down—on one side the rocks were nearly perpendicular
for five or six hundred feet; and on the other, so steep, that no man
could stand upon them.  When over, I turned round and watched the others
thread their way across; it was truly terrific to look at them on the
narrow and stony path—one false step, and both horse and rider must be
hurled into the valley a thousand feet below!  These are the perils over
which the daring sable-hunters often ride.  With them it is a necessity;
they risk it to obtain food, and not for bravado, or from foolhardy
recklessness—like that of some men who ride their horses up and down a
staircase.  Kalmuck and Kirghiz would laugh at such feats.  I have seen
men who would ride their horses along the roof of the highest cathedral
in Europe, if a plank, eighteen inches wide, were secured along the
ridge.  Nor would they require a great wager to induce them to do it;
theirs is a continual life of danger and hardships; and they never seek
it unnecessarily.”

This ridge carried them across the valley, and they descended through a
dense cedar forest to the bank of the river, where they supped splendidly
on a fine fat buck that had fallen to the guns of Zepta and Mr. Atkinson.
Next morning, they were again in the saddle _en route_ for Ouemonia,
where their safe return excited much popular enthusiasm.  Bidding adieu
to his faithful companions, he crossed the Katounaia, and with a new
escort rode on towards the Koksa.  Leaving it to the south, he struck the
river Tschugash, encamped for the night in a clump of pines on its bank,
and in a day or two arrived at his old quarters on the Tchenish.

                                * * * * *

Mr. Atkinson’s next expedition was to the great Desert of Gobi, sometimes
called _Scha-ho_, or the Sandy River.  Beginning upon the confines of
Chinese Tartary, its vast expanse of sterile wilderness stretches over
some twelve hundred and fifty miles towards the coasts of the Pacific.
It consists in the main of bare rock, shingle, and loose sand,
alternating with fine sand, and sparsely clothed with vegetation.  But a
very considerable area, though for a great part of the year not less
monotonously barren, assumes in the spring the appearance of an immense
sea of verdure, and supplies abundant pasturage to the flocks and herds
of the Mongolian nomads; who wander at will over the wide
“prairie-grounds,” encamping wherever they find a sheltering crag or a
stream of water.  The general elevation of the Gobi above the sea is
about 3500 feet.

It must be owned that the Gobi is not as black as it is painted.  There
are fertile nooks and oases, where the sedentary Mongols, and especially
the Artous, sow and reap their annual crops of hemp, millet, and
buckwheat.  The largest is that of Kami.  The gloomy picture of “a barren
plain of shifting sand, blown into high ridges when the summer sun is
scorching, no rain falls, and when thick fog occurs it is only the
precursor of fierce winds,” {211} is true only of the eastern districts,
such as the Han-hai, or “Dry Sea,” or the Sarkha Desert, where, for
instance, you meet with scarcely any other vegetation than the
_Salsoloe_, or salt-worts, which flourish round the small saline pools.
“In spring and summer,” says Malte Brun, “when there is no rain, the
vegetation withers, and the sun-burnt soil inspires the traveller with
sentiments of horror and melancholy; the heat is of short duration, the
winter long and cold.  The wild animals met with are the camel, the
horse, the ass, the djiggetai, and troops of antelopes.”

It has been observed, and not without reason, that the great Asiatic
desert has exercised a fatal influence on the destinies of the human
race; that it has arrested the extension of the Semitic civilization.
The primitive peoples of India and Tibet were early civilized; but the
immense wilderness which lay to the westward interposed an impassable
barrier between them and the barbarous tribes of Northern Asia.  More
surely even than the Himalaya, more than the snow-crowned summits of
Srinagur and Gorkha, these desert steppes have prevented all
communication, all fusion between the inhabitants of the north and those
of the south of Asia; and thus it is that Tibet and India have remained
the only regions of this part of the world which have enjoyed the
benefits of civilization, of the refinement of manners, and the genius of
the Aryan race.

The barbarians who, when the darkness of ruin hung over the Roman Empire,
invaded and convulsed Europe, issued from the steppes and table-lands of
Mongolia.  As Humboldt says {212}:—“If intellectual culture has directed
its course from the east to the west, like the vivifying light of the
sun, barbarism at a later period followed the same route, when it
threatened to plunge Europe again in darkness.  A tawny race of
shepherds—of Thon-Khiu, that is to say, Turkish origin—the Hiounguou,
inhabited under sheep-skin tents the elevated table-land of Gobi.  Long
formidable to the Chinese power, a portion of the Hiounguou were driven
south in Central Asia.  The impulse thus given uninterruptedly propagated
itself to the primitive country of the Fins, lying on the banks of the
Ural, and thence a torrent of Huns, Avars, Chasars, and divers mixtures
of Asiatic races, poured towards the west and south.  The armies of the
Huns first appeared on the banks of the Volga, then in Pannonia, finally
on the borders of the Marne and the Po, ravaging the beautiful plains
where, from the time of Antenor, the genius of man had accumulated
monuments upon monuments.  Thus blew from the Mongolian deserts a
pestilential wind which blighted even in the Cisalpine plains the
delicate flower of art, the object of cares so tender and so constant.”



IV.


With three Cossacks, seven Kalmucks, eight rifles, and a store of powder
and lead, Mr. Atkinson passed into the Gobi.  His Kalmucks had their hair
cut close, except a tuft growing on the top of the head, which was
plaited into a long tail, and hung far down their back.  The chief was
named Tchuck-a-bir, a stalwart, powerful fellow, with a fine manly
countenance, large black eyes, and massive forehead.  He wore a
horse-skin cloak, fastened round his waist with a blood-red scarf.  In
warm weather he drew his arms from the sleeves, which were then tucked
into his girdle, and the cloak draped around him in graceful folds,
adding to the dignity of his tall and robust form.

Across the Kourt-Choum mountains the travellers took their way, directing
their course towards the Tanguor chain, many of the peaks of which soar
above the line of eternal snow.  Ascending one of these summits, they
enjoyed a noble prospect: immediately beneath them lay the Oubsa-Noor; to
the south-west were visible the Oulan-Koum Desert and the Aral-Noor; to
the south lay Tchagan Tala, and the ridges descending down to the Gobi;
to the south-east the white crests of the Khangai Mountains.  This was
such a view of Central Asia as never before had European enjoyed.

Keeping far away to the east, they approached the sources of the Selenga
and Djabakan, in the neighbourhood of which he hoped to meet with the
Kalka tribes.  In a rich green valley they came upon one of their auls,
and were hospitably received by Arabdan, the chief, who, according to the
custom of the desert, at once handed to Mr. Atkinson a bowl of tea.  Not,
indeed, tea as we English understand it, the clear thin fluid, sweetened
with sugar and tempered with cream; but a thick “slab” mixture of tea,
milk, butter, salt, and flour—tea-soup it might appropriately be called.
Arabdan was tall and thin, between fifty and sixty years of age,
dark-complexioned, with high cheek-bones, small black eyes, a prominent
nose, and a scanty beard.  His meagre figure was wrapped in a long
dark-blue silk khalat, buttoned across his chest; in a leather girdle,
adorned with a silver buckle, he carried his knife, flint, and steel.
His helmet-shaped black silk cap was trimmed with black velvet, and
looked very gay with its two broad red ribbons hanging down behind.  This
brave costume was completed by a pair of high-heeled, madder-coloured
boots.  As for the women, one wore a robe of black velvet, the other a
khalat of red and green silk; the waist of each was defined by a broad
red sash.  Their hair was fantastically coiffured, falling upon their
shoulders in a hundred small plaits, some of which glittered with coral
beads, the principal toilette ornament of the Mongolian women.  Their red
leather boots were very short and high at the heels, so that they walked
as badly and awkwardly as English ladies.  The children wore little more
than nature had provided them with; except that, by rolling in the mud,
they contrived to coat their bodies with reddish ochre, in striking
contrast to their elfin locks of jet black.

Externally the yourts of the Kalkas resemble those of the Kalmucks, but
they differ in the arrangements of the interior.  A small low table is
placed opposite the doorway, and upon it the upper idols, or household
gods, and several small metal vases, are set out.  In some are kept
grains of millet; in others, butter, milk, and koumis—offerings to the
aforesaid deities.  On the left side of this altar stand the boxes which
contain the family property, and near them various domestic utensils and
the indispensable koumis bag.  Opposite lie several piles of voilock, on
which the family take their rest.

Immediately on Mr. Atkinson’s arrival a sheep was slain to do him honour,
and it was soon steaming in the iron caldron, with the exception of a
portion broiled for his special delectation.  Supper, however, was not
served in the chief’s yourt, but in another; to which everybody repaired
with appetites which suggested that they had fasted for weeks.  When the
completest possible justice had been done to the mutton, men, women, and
children retired to their rude couches.

Next morning our indefatigable traveller was once more in the saddle.  We
cannot follow him in all the details of his daily journeyings, which
necessarily bore a close resemblance to one another; but we may accompany
him on a visit to the great Kalkas chief, Darma Tsyren.  On entering his
yourt, Mr. Atkinson was entertained with tea-soup as usual.  Then, he
says—

“The chief sat down in front of me, and the two young men who had
conducted me sat near him—they were his sons.  Beyond these sat ten or
twelve other Kalkas, watching my movements with intense interest.  I was
undoubtedly the first European they had ever seen.  My large felt hat,
shooting jacket, and long boots, will be remembered for years to come—not
that I think they admired the costume; theirs is far more picturesque.
Presently a number of women came into the yourt, and at their head the
wife of the chief.  She sat down near him, and was joined by her
daughter; the others got places where they could; but the gaze of all was
upon me.  No doubt it would have been highly amusing could I have
understood their remarks, as they kept up an incessant talking.

“At this moment a Cossack brought my samovar into the yourt; and these
people were much astonished to see the steam puffing out, with no fire
under it.  One man placed his hand on the top, and got his fingers burnt,
to the great amusement of his friends.  My dinner of broiled venison was
brought in on a bright tin plate; this and the knife and fork excited
their curiosity—such articles being quite new to them.  They watched me
eat my dinner, and nothing could induce them to move till the plates were
taken away.  Darma Tsyren had ordered a sheep to be killed, which had now
been some time in the caldron.  When the announcement was made that it
was ready, I was soon left to myself; the whole aul, men, women, and
children, were shortly enjoying the feast.”

From Darma Tsyren Mr. Atkinson obtained the loan of four Kalkas and
twelve horses, and taking also two of his Kalmucks and two Cossacks, he
started on a journey to the river Toss.  In the evening he and his party
encamped in a pretty valley, watered by a small lake, which supplied them
with some snipes and ducks for supper.  During the night a pack of wolves
visited the encampment.  On receiving warning of their approach by a
distant howl, Mr. Atkinson loaded his double-barrelled gun and
distributed ammunition among his people, in order to give the unwelcome
visitors a warm reception.  The horses were collected, and picketed in a
spot between the camp and the lake.  Nearer and nearer came the enemy;
the tramp of their feet could be heard as they galloped forward.  They
reached the camp, and through the night air rang their ferocious howl.
Some dry bushes flung on the fire kindled a sudden flame, which revealed
their gaunt figures, with eyes flashing and ears and tails erect; and
immediately a deadly volley crashed into their midst.  With a yell of
pain and terror they turned tail; and Mr. Atkinson and his party hastened
to reload their guns, feeling certain they would return.

The fire flickered down among its embers, and for a time all was silent.
Then arose a stir and an alarm among the horses; and it was discovered
that the pack had divided, one division stealing upon the animals from
the water side, the other interposing between them and the camp.  A rush
and a shout of the Kalmucks and Kalkas drove them back; and a Cossack and
a Kalmuck wore posted on each flank, to guard the approaches and give the
alarm.  Moreover, the fire was replenished, and its glare lighted up the
scene for miles around.  A hush, and a moment of expectation!  Then might
you see the hungry pack advancing once more to the assault, with eyeballs
glaring like red-hot iron.  A crack of rifles on the right was followed
by Mr. Atkinson’s two barrels, one of which brought down its victim,
while the other, discharged into the midst of the pack, wounded two or
three.  Gradually the growling ceased; the wolves again retired; but both
Kalkas and Kalmucks advised that a close watch should be kept, as they
would certainly make a third effort.

There was little fuel left, and it was necessary, therefore, to be doubly
vigilant.  The night was one of deep darkness, without moon or stars, and
nothing could be seen, even at a short distance, except towards the lake,
where a shimmer of dubious light rested on the waters.  Keen ears and
eyes were on the alert, but no sight or sound of wolf rewarded their
watchfulness.  The Kalkas said the wolves were simply waiting until all
was silent in the camp to make another dash at the horses.  For a long
time, however, no movement was made, when two of the horses grew uneasy,
tugging at the thongs and snorting loudly.  At the same time, the clouds
cleared from the sky, and the stars peering forth threw more light upon
the lake.  Howling was heard in the distance, and Tchuck-a-bir declared
that another pack of wolves was approaching.  As they drew near, the
former pack, still lurking in the shades, began to growl, and it seemed
possible that a combined attack would be delivered.  In order to renew
the fire, four of the men, two being armed, crept along the margin of the
lake, returning in about ten minutes, each with an armful of fuel.  The
embers were stirred into life, and the brushwood placed ready to be blown
into a flame when wanted.  Suddenly a great tumult arose; the other
wolves had come on the scene, and the echoes rang with a medley of
discordant sounds.  Again the watchers waited; and after their patience
had been tested for half an hour, the horses began to pull and plunge in
frenzied terror.  The bushes were lighted, and by their blaze Mr.
Atkinson saw a group of eight to ten wolves within fifteen paces.  He
fired both barrels at them; his men also fired; and the herd, with a
frightful howl, ignominiously fled.  At daylight Mr. Atkinson examined
the scene of action, and found the carcases of eight wolves.  With their
skins as trophies, he returned to Darma Tsyren’s aul.

                                * * * * *

A day or two later, Mr. Atkinson had an adventure with boars.  Leaving
four men to guard the camp, he had ridden out, with five followers, in
search of sport.  Plunging into a thick copse of long grass and low
bushes, they started more than one boar from his lair, and tracing them
by their motion in the herbage, galloped in hot pursuit.  As they emerged
into the open, they could see two large dark grizzly boars about a couple
of hundred yards ahead, and spurred after them with might and main.
Rapidly they gained upon the panting brutes, and when within about fifty
yards, Mr. Atkinson and a Cossack sprang from their horses, fired, and
wounded one of the boars.  While they reloaded, the rest of the party
galloped on, and presently other shots wore fired.  The boars had
separated: one, dashing across the valley, was followed up by two of the
men; the other was pursued by Mr. Atkinson and his Cossack.  After a
splendid chase, they drew near enough to see the foam on his mouth, and
his large tusks gnashing with rage.  The Cossack fired; the ball hit him,
but did not check his wild, impetuous course.  Swiftly Mr. Atkinson urged
on his horse, got abreast of the animal at about twenty paces distant,
and lodged a bullet in his shoulder.  This stopped him, but it took two
more shots to kill him.  He proved to be a noble fellow, weighing nine
poods, or about 324 lbs., with long, sharp tusks, which would have been
formidable weapons in a close encounter.

Leaving the Cossack and a Kalmuck to dress the prize and convey it to the
camp, Mr. Atkinson, after reloading his arms, hastened to join the rest
of his party, who were in full chase on the other side of the river, at a
distance of about three versts.  He rode briskly forward, but the hunt
was at an end before he reached the river.  His followers, on joining
him, announced that they had killed a large boar, though not the one
first started.  He had escaped, and while they were searching for his
trail amid some reeds and bushes, a large boar sprang in among them, and
charged at a Cossack’s horse.  When within three or four paces of his
intended victim he was stopped by a bullet from Tchuck-a-bir’s rifle; but
he got away before a second shot could be fired, and an animated chase
began.  He received several balls, but they seemed to have no effect on
his impenetrable hide.  Rushing into the river, he swam across, at a
point where it expanded into a deep broad pool; the men followed him, and
a ball from one of the Kalmucks inflicted a severe wound.  Furious with
rage and pain, he dashed full at the man who had wounded him; the Kalmuck
dexterously wheeled his horse aside, and a ball from Tchuck-a-bir laid
the monster dead.  With two large boars as the spoils of their prowess,
Mr. Atkinson and his “merry men” returned to camp triumphant.

Mr. Atkinson next travelled in a southerly direction for two days; after
which he turned to the west, and struck upon the river Ouremjour; his
object being to enter the Gobi to the north of the great chain of the
Thian-Chan, or, as he calls them, Syan-Shan Mountains.  These are the
highest in Central Asia, and amongst them rises that stupendous mass,
Bogda Oöla, with the volcanoes Pe-shan and Hothaou, to see which was his
leading purpose and aim.  He gives an animated description of his
approach to the Syan-Shan.  A bright sun was rising behind the wayfarer,
but its rays had not yet gilded the snowy peaks in his front.  As he rode
onward he watched for the first bright gleam that lighted up the ice and
snow on Bogda Oöla; presently the great crest reddened with a magical
glow, which gradually spread over the rugged sides, and as it descended,
changed into yellow and then into silvery white.  For many minutes Bogda
Oöla was bathed in sunshine before the rays touched any of the lower
peaks.  But in due time summit after summit shot rapidly into the brave
red light, and at last the whole chain shone in huge waves of molten
silver, though a hazy gloom still clothed the inferior ranges.  In these
atmospheric effects we cannot but recognize a marvellous grandeur and
impressiveness; there is something sublimely weird in the sudden changes
they work among the stupendous mountain masses.  Onward fared the
traveller, obtaining a still finer view of Bogda Oöla, and of some of the
other peaks to the west; but, as the day advanced, the clouds began to
fold around its head, and the huge peak was soon clothed with thick
surging wreaths of vapour.  The lower range of the Syan-Shan is
picturesque in the extreme; jagged peaks stand out in bold relief against
the snow-shrouded masses, which tower up some eight to ten thousand feet
above them, while the latter are clothed with a luminous purple mist that
seems not to belong to this world.  Mr. Atkinson continued his route in a
north-westerly direction, towards one of the lower chains which run
nearly parallel with the Syan-Shan.  Thence he could see the Bogda Oöla
in all its grand sublimity, and the volcanic peak Pe-shan, with black
crags outlined against the snow, still further to the west; while beyond
these a long line of snow-capped summits melted into the vaporous
distance.

In the course of his wanderings in Chinese Tartary, our traveller saw
much of the Kirghiz chiefs, the Sultans of the steppes.  On one occasion,
while riding in the sterile desert, he fell in with the aul of Sultan
Ishonac Khan—a stoutly built man, with strong-marked Kalmuck features,
who, in right of his descent from the famous Genghiz Khan, wore an owl’s
feather suspended from the top of his cap.  His costume was gallant and
gay; Chinese silk, richly embroidered.

About fifty versts to the south of Sultan Ishonac’s aul, lie the Barluck
Mountains, situated between the Tarbagatai and the Alatou Mountains, and
eastward of the small rocky chain of the Ala-Kool, which extends some
sixty versts from east to west, and measures about twenty-five in
breadth.  The highest summit is not more than three thousand feet above
the plain.  Vegetation thrives on the lower slopes, but the upper parts
are gloomily bare.  From Sultan Ishonac Khan Mr. Atkinson obtained a loan
of fresh horses, and of eight of his Kirghiz to escort him to the
Tarbagatai.  A dreary ride it was,—over sandy hills, through sandy
valleys, where not even a blade of grass was green.  In many places the
ground was thickly covered with a saline incrustation, which the horses’
feet churned up into a pungent dust, that filled every mouth and caused
intolerable thirst.  Welcome was the glimmer of a lake that relieved by
its sparkle the dulness of the landscape; but when horse and man rushed
forward to drink of its waters, to their intense disappointment they
found them bitter as those of Marah.  Not till the evening of the fifth
day, when they reached the river Eremil, did they enjoy the luxury of
fresh water.

Next day they reached the Tarbagatai, in the neighbourhood of the Chinese
town of Tchoubuchack, and encamped for the night at the foot of a great
tumulus or barrow, about one hundred and fifty feet high, which is
surrounded by many smaller barrows.  They are the last resting-places of
a Kirghiz chief and his people, who belonged to a remote generation, and
to a race of which these tumuli are the only memorials.  Another day’s
ride, and they arrived at the aul of Sultan Iamantuck, of whom and his
family Mr. Atkinson speaks as by far the most intelligent people he met
with in this part of Asia.  The aul was pitched among high conical tombs
of sun-burnt bricks, the cemetery of the Sultan’s ancestors; and it
appears that once a year it was regularly visited by their pious
descendant and representative.  With another relay of horses and a fresh
Kirghiz escort, Mr. Atkinson dashed onward, undeterred by the dreariness
of the sandy level, where neither water nor grass was to be found, and
the only living things were tarantulas and scorpions.  His course lay
direct for the Alatou (“Variegated Mountains”), and he could see the
shining peaks of the Actou (“White Mountain”), which forms its highest
crest, and raises its summits fourteen to fifteen thousand feet above the
sea.  After fording the broad deep stream of the Yeljen-sa-gash, he
arrived on the shore of Lake Ala-kool, measuring about sixty-five versts
in length by twenty in width, with a rocky island near the north shore,
erroneously described by Humboldt as the site of a volcano.  It has no
outlet, yet it receives the tribute of eight rivers; the water is carried
off by evaporation.

Here Mr. Atkinson struck westward to find the aul of Sultan Bak, the
Rothschild of the steppes; a man who owns ten thousand horses, and a
proportionate number of camels, sheep, and oxen.  Wealthy men are not
always well disposed towards stranger guests, and Sultan Bak evinced his
dislike of intrusion by sending Mr. Atkinson a diseased sheep!  This was
immediately returned, with an intimation that Mr. Atkinson wanted neither
his company nor his gifts; he was the first Sultan who had shown himself
so discourteous, and though he had a large body, it was clear his heart
was that of a mouse.  It is not surprising that a message of this kind
provoked him to wrath.  He ordered the intruders to quit his aul; if they
did not, his men should drive them into the lake.  But when he found that
they were well armed, that discretion which is the better part of valour
enabled him to subdue his temper; he sent one of his finest sheep as a
peace-offering, with an assurance that they might stay as long as they
liked, and should have men and horses when they left.  Evidently the
Kirghiz patriarch knew how to make the best of a bad situation.

Accompanied by his poet, he paid a visit to Mr. Atkinson’s camp, supped
heartily off his own mutton, and exchanged the warmest professions of
friendship.  The minstrel, at his master’s bidding, sang wild songs to
wilder tunes in glorification of the prowess and freebooting expeditions
of the Sultan and his ancestors, to the great edification of the
listening Kirghiz.  So the evening passed peacefully, and the Sultan and
the white man parted on cordial terms.  Next day, Mr. Atkinson was riding
towards the Karatou, a mountainous chain of dark purple slate; and six
days later he visited Sultan Boubania, on the river Lepson.  In the
neighbourhood were many large tumuli, the largest being the most ancient.
One of these was built up of stone, and formed a circle of 364 feet in
diameter, with a dome-like mound thirty-three feet in height.  Tradition
has not preserved the name of the dead honoured with so extraordinary a
memorial; the Kirghiz attribute it to demons working under the direction
of Shaitan.  Another kind of tumulus, of more recent construction, was
circular in plan, but carried up to the height of fifty-four feet, in the
shape of “a blast furnace,” with an aperture at the top, and lateral
opening two feet square and four feet from the ground.  In the interior
were two graves covered with large blocks of stone.  According to the
Kirghiz, these tombs were built by the people who inhabited the country
before the Kalmucks.  A third kind, of sunburnt bricks, and Mohammedan in
design, are ascribed to Timour Khan and his race.

Through the rocky gorge of the Balïïtz, Mr. Atkinson commenced his ascent
of the Alatou.  His eye rested with pleasure on the richly coloured rocks
that composed the cliffs on either side—deep red porphyry, flecked with
veins of white; slate, jasper, and basalt.  He explored several of the
valleys that break up the lower mass of the mountain chain, and rode
along many of its elevated ridges.  Sometimes the roar of torrents filled
his ears; sometimes bright streams and sources sparkled in the sunshine;
sometimes he saw before him a fair mosaic of wild flowers; sometimes the
landscape was ennobled by the conspicuous figures of white mountain
peaks, relieved by a background of deep blue sky; sometimes the distant
vapours hovered wraith-like above the calm surface of Lake Tengiz.  From
a plateau not far beneath the line of perpetual snow he obtained a noble
view of the Actou, and, to the south, of the lofty and picturesque peaks
of the Alatou; while, nearer at hand, the river Ara poured its thunderous
waters into a gorge some thousand feet in depth.  The plateau was covered
with tumuli; one of which, measuring two hundred feet in diameter and
forty feet in height, was enclosed within a trench, twelve feet wide and
six feet deep.  On the west side stood four masses of large stones in
circles; the altars, perhaps, on which, long ago, victims were sacrificed
to appease some sanguinary deity.  It is a tradition of the Kirghiz that
these antiquities belonged to a native who, for some unknown cause,
determined on a great act of murder and self-destruction, and that they
were constructed before the terrible work was begun.  They say that the
father killed his wife and all his children, excepting the eldest son, on
whom devolved the duty of killing, first his father, and then himself.

Mr. Atkinson visited, near the river Kopal, the Arasan, or warm spring,
which wells up in the centre Of a ravine formed of yellow and purple
marbles.  Its temperature, all round the year, is 29′ R. or 97° F.  Here,
in a remote past, the Kalmucks built a bath, which is still frequented by
Tartars, Kirghiz, and Chinese.  The waters, it is said, are wonderfully
beneficial for scurvy and other cutaneous disorders.

Another route carried him to the Tamchi-Boulac, or “Dropping Spring,” at
the foot of the Alatou.  The water oozes out of columnar cliffs in
myriads of tiny streams that glitter like showers of diamonds; while in
some parts they seem changed to drops of liquid fire by the reflected
colouring of the rocks, which vary in colour from a bright yellow to a
deep red.

For one hundred and three days Mr. Atkinson wandered among the Alatou
Mountains, exploring peak, precipice, valley, and ravine; surveying
torrent and river and waterfall; now ascending far above the line of
perpetual snow, now descending into warm and sheltered woods, where the
greensward was enamelled with blossoms.  From the eastern end of the
Alatou, a seventeen days’ ride over hill and steppe brought him to the
Russian frontier and the comforts of civilization at Semipalatinsk.  But,
almost as strongly possessed with the spirit of continuous motion as the
Wandering Jew in the grim old legend, he next set forth on a journey
across Siberia, from its western boundary on the Irtisch, to its Oriental
capital, Irkutsk.  In the course of his long journey he visited the Saian
Mountains; ascended the valley of the Oka; explored a bed of lava and a
volcanic crater in the valley of the Ojem-a-louk; rode across the rugged
shoulder of Nouk-a-Daban; and descended the little river Koultouk to Lake
Baikal, or, as the natives call it, the Holy Sea.  Hiring a small boat,
with a crew of seven men, he crossed the lake to the mouth of the river
Angara.  Baikal is the third largest lake in Asia—about four hundred
miles in length, and varying in breadth from nineteen miles to seventy.
Though fed by numerous streams, it has only one outlet, the Angara, a
tributary of the Yenisei.  Lying deep among the Baikal Mountains, an
off-shoot of the Altai, it presents some vividly coloured and striking
scenery.  Its fisheries are valuable.  In the great chain of
communication between Russia and China it holds an important place, and
of late years its navigation has been conducted by steamboats.  The
native peoples inhabiting its borders are the Buriats and Tungusians.

Mr. Atkinson spent eight and twenty days in exploring this Alpine sea,
and afterwards proceeded to Irkutsk. {228}



ALEXINA TINNÉ
AND HER WANDERINGS IN THE SOUDAN.


ABOUT 1862, letters from Khartûm, the capital of Nubia, stimulated the
curiosity of European geographers by announcing that three courageous
ladies had undertaken a journey into Central Africa, with the view of
reaching those mysterious Sources of the Nile which, for generations, had
been the object of Western research.  At first the news was received with
suspicion; many persons did not hesitate to speak of it as a hoax; but
incredulity vanished as the information grew more copious and more
precise, and it became known that the guiding spirit of the adventure was
a certain Miss Alexandrina or Alexina Tinné, a lady of great personal
charms and very wealthy.  It was then unanimously agreed that she was one
of those brave daughters of England who, in the Continental belief, will
go anywhere and do anything that is hazardous or eccentric.  And though
of Dutch extraction she really did owe something to English influences.
Her father was a Dutch merchant who, after acquiring an ample fortune in
Demerara, was naturalised in England, and finally settled at Liverpool.
He died while Alexina (born in October, 1835) was still a child, but the
wealthy heiress was brought up by her mother as befitted her social
position.  What impelled her, in her young maidenhood, to plunge into the
dangers of African exploration—whether her action was due to a love of
adventure, a thirst after knowledge, a spirit rebelling against the
conventionalisms of society, or to baffled hope and slighted
affection—does not seem to be known.  But it is certain that about 1859
she set out from the Hague, accompanied by her mother and aunt, and
visited various parts of Egypt and Syria.  For some months she resided at
Beirut and Tripoli; next she repaired to Damascus; afterwards, to the
ruins of Palmyra, haunted by the memory of Zenobia; and, finally, she
dreamed of imitating the romantic career of Lady Hester Stanhope, and
installing herself as Queen of the Lebanon.  Her mood, however, changed
suddenly; she returned to Europe, not to resume the monotonous habits of
social life, but to make preparations for an expedition in search of the
Sources of the Nile.

In this daring project she appears to have been encouraged partly by her
own fearlessness of nature; partly by the example of Mrs. Petherick, wife
of the English consul at Khartûm, whose fame had spread far and wide; and
partly by the flattering thought that it might be reserved for her, a
woman, to succeed where so many brave men had failed, and to be the first
to solve the great enigma of the Nilotic sphynx.  What immortality would
be hers if she triumphed over every danger and difficulty, and stood,
where no European as yet had stood, on the margin of the remote
well-head, the long secret spring, whence issued the waters of Egypt’s
historic river!  It must be owned that in this ambitious hope there was
nothing mean or unworthy, and that it could have been possible only to a
high and courageous nature.

She set out in the month of July, 1861, still accompanied by her mother
and her aunt, two ladies of mediocre character, who readily yielded to
the influence of a stronger mind.  A part of the winter was spent in a
pleasant country house in one of the suburbs of Cairo—a kind of palace of
white marble, situated in the midst of odorous gardens, and looking out
upon the ample Nile and the giant forms of the Pyramids.  There they made
extensive preparations for the contemplated journey; while Alexina spent
many thoughtful hours in studying the map of Africa, in tracing the
sinuosities of the White Nile above its point of junction with the Blue,
in laying down the route which should carry her and her companions into
the regions of the great lakes.

It was on the 9th of January, 1862, that she and her companions directed
their course towards Upper Egypt, voyaging in three boats, attended by a
numerous train of guides, guards, and servants.  In the largest and most
commodious “dahabeeyah” were installed the three ladies, with four
European servants and a Syrian cook.  Alexina’s journal, it is said,
preserves many curious details in unconscious illustration of the mixed
character of the expedition, which might almost have been that of a new
Cleopatra going to meet a new Mark Antony; we see the Beauty there as
well as the Heroine—the handsome woman who is mindful of her toilette
appliances, as well as the courageous explorer, who does not forget her
rifle and cartridges.

Passing in safety the first cataract, Miss Tinné’s expedition duly
arrived at Kousko; where she and her companions took a temporary leave of
the Nile, tourists, and civilization, and struck across the sandy desert
of Kousko to Abu-Hammed, in order to avoid the wide curve which the river
there makes to the westward.  The caravan, besides Miss Tinné’s
domestics, included six guides and twenty-five armed men.  Of camels
loaded with baggage and provisions, and dromedaries which carried the
members of her suite, there were a hundred and ten.  The desert did not
prove so dreary as it had been painted; sand and rock were often relieved
by patches of blooming vegetation; the monotony of the plains was often
broken by ridges of swelling hills.  The camels every evening browsed
contentedly on the herbage, and quenched their thirst in the basins of
water that sparkled in the rocky hollows.

The time usually required for crossing the desert is eight to nine days;
but as Alexina advanced very leisurely, by daily stages not exceeding
seven or eight hours, she occupied nearly three weeks.  In spite of this
easy mode of travelling, her mother was so fatigued that, on arriving at
Abu-Hammed, on the banks of the Nile, she insisted they should again take
to the river.  A dahabeeyah was accordingly hired, along with six
stalwart boatmen, who swore on the Koran to keep pace with the swiftest
dromedaries.  So while the caravan tramped onwards through the burning,
shifting sand, Alexina and her companions voyaged up the Nile; but the
rowers soon proved false to their promises, slackened their oars, and
allowed the caravan to outstrip them.  When reproached with their
lethargy, they excused themselves on the score of the arduousness of
their work and the great heat of the sun.

Meanwhile, the caravan had made considerable progress, and at nightfall
tents were pitched and fires lighted.  As no dahabeeyah could be seen,
men were sent in search of it; but in vain.  No news of it was obtained
until the following day, when it was ascertained that the Egyptian
boatmen had at last laid down their oars in sullen indolence, and that
Miss Tinné and her companions had been compelled to spend the night in a
Nubian village.  The misadventure taught them the lesson that in Eastern
countries it is generally wiser to trust to brutes than to men; the
boatmen were dismissed, and the travellers once more joined the caravan.

But the heat proved insupportable, driving them to make a second
experiment of the river traject.  A boat was again hired; again they
embarked on the glittering Nile; and again an evil fortune attended them.
Instead of reaching Berber, as they should have done, in four days, the
voyage was extended to over a week; but it was some compensation for
their fatigue when, at two hours’ march from the city, they were received
by some thirty chiefs, mounted upon camels, and attended by janizaries in
splendid attire, who, with much pomp and circumstance, escorted them to
the gates of Berber.  There they were received by the governor with every
detail of Oriental etiquette, installed in pavilions in his gardens, and
waited upon in a spirit of the most courteous hospitality.  No longer in
need of a complete caravan, Miss Tinné dismissed her camel-drivers; but,
desirous of leaving upon their minds an enduring impression, she rewarded
them with almost prodigal liberality.  Her gold coins were so lavishly
distributed, that the Arabs, in surprise and delight, broke out into
unaccustomed salutations; and to this very day, remembering her
largesses, they sing of her glory, as if she had revived the splendour of
Palmyra.

There was a policy in this apparently thoughtless profusion.  As a
natural result, her reputation everywhere preceded her; hospitality was
pressed upon her with an eagerness which may have been dictated by
selfish motives, but was not the less acceptable to her and her
companions.  Women, gathering round her, prostrated themselves at her
feet.  The young girls danced merrily at her approach; they took her for
a princess, or, at least, they saluted her as such.

After a residence of some weeks at Berber, the adventurous ladies hired
three boats, and ascended the Nile to Khartûm, the capital of the
Egyptian Soudan.  Situated at the confluence of the White and Blue Nile,
it is the centre of an important commerce, and the rendezvous of almost
all the caravans of Nubia and the Upper Nile.  Unfortunately, it is one
of the world’s _cloacinæ_, a kind of moral cesspool, into which the filth
and uncleanness of many nations pours—Italians, Germans, Frenchmen,
Englishmen, whom their own countries have repudiated; political gamblers,
who have played their best card and failed; fraudulent bankrupts,
unscrupulous speculators, men who have nothing to hope, nothing to lose,
and are too callous to fear.  The great scourge of the place, down to a
very recent date, was the cruel slave-traffic, at that time carried on
with the connivance of the Egyptian Government.  Recently the energetic
measures of Colonel Gordon have done much towards the extirpation of this
cancerous growth, and even the moral atmosphere of the town has been
greatly purified.  To Alexina Tinné the place was sufficiently loathsome;
but a residence of some weeks’ duration, while preparations were made for
the advance into Central Africa, was imperative.  She did what she could
to avoid coming into contact with the “society” of Khartûm, and exerted
all her energies to stimulate the labours of her subordinates, so that
she might depart at the earliest possible moment.  At length, provisions
were collected, and a supply of trinkets to be used as gifts or in
barter; an escort of thirty-eight men, including ten soldiers fully
armed, and all bearing a good character for trustworthiness, was engaged;
and, finally, she hired for the heavy sum of ten thousand francs, a small
steamboat, belonging to Prince Halim.  With a glad heart she quitted
Khartûm, and resumed the ascent of the White Nile, passing through a
succession of landscapes fair and fertile.  As for the river, its quiet
beauty charmed her; and she compared it to Virginia Lake, the pretty
basin of water that sparkles in the leafy shades of Windsor Forest.  Its
banks are richly clothed with trees, chiefly gumtrees, which frequently
attain the dimensions of the oak.  But the graceful tamarisk is also
abundant, and myriads of shrubs furnish the blue ape with a refuge and a
home.  The air glitters with the many-coloured wings of swarms of birds.
On the bright surface of the stream spread the broad leaves and white
petals of colossal lilies, among which the hippopotamus and the crocodile
pursue their unwieldy gambols.

How marvellous the effects of colour when this magical scene is bathed in
the hot rays of the sunshine!  Through the transparent air every object
is seen with a distinct outline, and the sense of distance is overcome.
Where a shadow falls it is defined as sharply as on canvas; there is no
softening or confusing mist; you see everything as in a mirror.  In the
noontide heats all nature is as silent here as in a virgin forest; but
when the cool breath of evening begins to be felt, and that luminous
darkness, which is the glory of a summer night in Central Africa, spreads
softly over the picture, the multiform life of earth swiftly re-awakens;
birds and butterflies hover in the air, the monkeys chatter merrily, and
leap from bough to bough.  The sounds which then break forth—song and hum
and murmur, the roll of the river, the din of insects, the cries of the
wild beasts—seem all to mingle in one grand vesper hymn, proclaiming the
might and majesty of the Creator.  These are generally hushed as the
night wears on; and then myriads of fireflies and glow-worms light their
tiny torches and illuminate the dark with a magical display; while the
air is charged with sweet and subtle odours exhaled from the corollas of
the plants which open only during the cool and tranquil hours.

While slowly making her way up the river, Alexina encountered an Egyptian
pasha, who was returning with a booty of slaves from a recent razzia.
She eagerly implored him to set the unhappy captives free, and when her
solicitations failed, purchased eight of the poor creatures, to whom she
immediately gave their liberty, supplying them also with provisions.
This has been termed an act of Quixotism; it was rather one of generous
womanly enthusiasm, and to our thinking redeems the failings of Alexina
Tinné’s character—compensates for the follies and frivolities which
encumbered her enterprise.  Her heart was true to every gentle impulse,
and she ceased not to suffer keenly at the sight of the wretched
condition of the poor negroes who fell victims to an unholy traffic.

This traffic had aroused such feelings of hatred and revenge in the
breasts of the riverine tribes of the Nile, that the passage of the river
had become very dangerous, and the journey by land almost impossible.
The natives looked upon every white man as a Turk and a slave-dealer; and
when a boat appeared on the horizon, mothers cried with terror to their
children, “The Tourké, the Tourké are coming!”  The scarlet tarbouch, or
fez, added to the repulsion.  “It is the colour of blood just spilled,”
said a negro to his family.  “It never fades,” they said; “the Turk
renews it constantly in the blood of the poor black men.”

Fortunately, they were able to distinguish between the boats of the
slave-dealers and Alexina Tinné’s steamer.  Twice or thrice they
approached the latter; at first not without fear, but afterwards with
good courage.  “Is the young lady who commands,” they asked, “the
Sultan’s sister?  Does she come to assist or to persecute us?”  When
fully informed of the object of her pacific expedition, they rapidly grew
familiar and ventured on board her boat.  “Since you mean no evil against
us,” they cried, “we will do _you_ no harm; we will love you!”  They
accepted from her hands a cup of tea, and courteously drank it without
manifesting their repugnance; and they explained to her their usages and
manners, and supplied her with interesting information respecting the
surrounding country.  Her reception was so much to her mind, that she
would have remained for some time among this kindly people, had she not
felt bound to prosecute her journey to the south.

Once more the sails were unfurled, the fires lighted, and the steamer
ploughed its steady course towards the land of the Derikas.  Two or three
villages were seen on the river banks, but the landscape was bare and
bland, and the adventurous Alexina pursued her voyage until she reached
Mount Hunaya.  There she landed and pitched her tents.  When it was known
to be her design to remain in this encampment during the rainy season,
her followers raised a vehement opposition, protesting that they would be
devoured by lions or trampled to death by elephants.  Their mistress,
however, remained firm in her intention; but as the steamer was in need
of repair, she sent it back to Khartûm in charge of her aunt.

It was during this lady’s enforced residence at Khartûm that she made the
acquaintance of an Englishman and his wife, whose names have become
household words in every civilized nation—Sir Samuel and Lady Baker.  Sir
Samuel, who belongs to the illustrious company of African explorers,
began his career of adventure by founding an agricultural colony at
Nuvera Ellia—that is, six thousand feet above the sea, among the breezy
mountain peaks of Ceylon.  In 1855 he visited the Crimea, and afterwards
he was engaged in superintending in Turkey the organization of its first
railway.  In 1861 he started with his wife on a journey of discovery in
Central Africa, with the design of meeting the Government expedition,
which, under Captain Speke, had been despatched in search of the Nile
sources.  In nearly a year he and his wife explored the Abyssinian
highlands, which form the cradle of the Blue Nile, arriving at Khartûm in
June, 1862.  There he collected a large company to ascend the Upper Nile,
and setting out in December, 1862, he reached Gondokoro in February,
1863, in time to meet Captain Speke and Grant returning victoriously from
their discovery of the Victoria Nyanza.  Baker furnished them with the
means of transport to Khartûm, and then pushed forward across a district
infested by slave-hunters, until he fell in with a great fresh-water
basin, the Luta N’zize, which he christened the Albert Lake, or Nyanza,
and ascertained to be one of the chief reservoirs or feeders of the Nile.
He returned to England in 1866.  Three years later, he accepted from the
Khedive of Egypt the command of a military force, with unlimited powers,
for the purpose of annexing savage Africa to the civilized world, and
opening up its fertile lake-regions to the enterprise of legitimate
commerce.  The work, which was well done, occupied him until 1873, and
was afterwards carried on by Colonel Gordon.

In all his adventures, which, as we shall see, were often of a most
critical character, Sir Samuel was accompanied by his wife, whose
sympathy consoled, while her example inspired him.  This brave and
chivalrous lady gave abundant proof of her heroic courage, her devoted
affection, and her indomitable resolution.

When the repairs of her vessel were completed, Alexina Tinné returned to
Gebel Hunaya.  She was received with shouts of joy, and with a salute of
several pieces of artillery, which awakened the greatest trepidation
among the natives.  Some few incidents had occurred during her absence,
but none of a very notable character.  One morning, Alexina was reading
at a short distance from the camp.  Feeling thirsty, she turned towards a
rivulet which sparkled among the herbage close at hand; but as she
approached it, the dog which accompanied her barked loudly with affright,
and showed a manifest unwillingness to draw nearer to the rocks impending
over the stream.  Accepting this intimation of danger, Alexina stepped
forward very cautiously, and soon discovered a young panther lurking
behind the rugged boulders.  She had the presence of mind to stand
perfectly still, while she summoned her soldiers and servants to her
assistance.  They speedily came up, and, drawing a cordon round the
animal, succeeded in capturing it alive.  On another occasion, her men
killed, before her eyes, a huge crocodile, which was duly stuffed as a
trophy.  They also caught a great ape, whose head was covered with long
hair, mixed black and white.  The animal would have been a valuable
specimen of the African fauna, but, unfortunately, it died within a few
months of its capture.

On the 7th of July, the steamer, which was heavily loaded and towed two
boats, left Hunaya, to continue its course up the river.  Between Hunaya
and the confluence of the Bahr-el-Ghazal (the Gazelle river) the scenery
is far from being attractive; the river banks are arid, and sunburnt.
Here and there, however, grow clumps of whispering reeds and aquatic
plants; while, at other points, the river overflows its limits for two or
three thousand yards, creating, on each side, an inaccessible swamp.

The voyagers did not pause until they reached the settlement of an Arab
chief, named Mohammed-Cher, who by his audacity had subjected the
neighbouring tribes, and ruled supreme over this part of the Soudan.
When, as frequently happened, he was in want of money, he exercised the
right of the strong hand, and, at the head of his freebooters, sallied
forth; destroying villages, slaying the male inhabitants, seizing upon
the women and children, and carrying off the cattle.  He loved to
surround himself with barbaric pomp, and paraded upon a magnificent
horse, the saddle of which was embroidered with gold and silver, and
sparkled with precious stones.  But when our voyagers arrived at his
village, this great warrior showed signs of recreancy; he was terrified
by the Turkish soldiers who occupied the steamer’s deck.  It was supposed
to be owing to this spasm of alarm that he received the ladies with royal
honours, sending them sheep, oxen, fruit, vegetables, dancers,
archæological curiosities; in short, he seemed anxious to offer them all
he possessed.  Afterwards, however, the secret of his ready liberality
came out; the swarthy chieftain thought he was doing honour to the
favourite daughter of the Grand Turk—in his zeal, he was anxious to
proclaim her Queen of the Soudan.

When his visitors were taking leave, he strongly advised them not to
advance further to the south.  “Take care,” said he, “you do not come
into collision with the Shillooks, who are our sworn enemies, and the
enemies of all who cross their frontiers.  Take care that they do not set
fire to your boats, as they have already done to all vessels coming from
Khartûm.”

In spite of these warnings, Alexina Tinné resolutely continued her
voyage, and, a few days later, anchored off a Shillook village.  The
sailors, frightened by Mohammed’s story, would not approach it; she
therefore landed with only an interpreter, an officer, and an escort of
ten soldiers.  But the news of the arrival of a daughter of the Sultan
had preceded her, and instead of being received as an enemy, she was
welcomed with every demonstration of respect.  The Shillooks, as is the
case with savage tribes in all parts of the world, endeavour to engage
every stranger in their personal enmities; and they now hoped to secure
the assistance of the expedition against that terrible Mohammed-Cher,
who, only a few days before, had shown so much anxiety to proclaim the
European lady Queen of the Soudan.  When she refused to join in their
campaign, their disappointment was extreme.  All travellers speak warmly
of this unfortunate tribe, who suffer scarcely less from Europeans than
from Arabs.  The conditions under which they live are very pitiful;
wherever they turn, they are met by enemies.  Constantly falling victims
to the cruelty of the slave-hunters, it is no wonder that they regard
with suspicion, and too often treat with ferocity, the strangers who come
among them; naturally implicating them in the traffic by which they
suffer so severely.  The slave-hunting abomination is, we must repeat,
the mortal wound of Central Africa; it impedes commercial enterprise, and
paralyzes the efforts of the pioneers of Christian civilization.  Let us
hope that, in the lake regions, the vigorous action of Colonel Gordon has
greatly diminished, if it has not absolutely rooted out, the evil.

Pressing southward with unshaken resolution, Alexina Tinné reached at
length the junction of the Sobat with the Nile.  She resolved to ascend
that tributary as far as it was navigable, calculating that the
_excursus_, going and returning, would occupy seven or eight days.  The
valley of the Sobat is more interesting in character than much of the
course of the White Nile.  Its broad pastures, stretching away to the
distant horizon, teem with flocks of ostriches and herds of giraffes.
The river banks are thickly indented by the heavy hoofs of elephants, and
the colossal animals themselves wander freely over the uplands.  For some
weeks the voyagers lingered in the Sobat, well pleased with its
succession of striking scenes; and then they steamed up the Nile again,
until they reached the mouth of the Bahr-el-Ghazal, the majestic stream
which, with slow current, traverses Lake Nû.

Here the Nile strikes sharply towards the south, forming a complete right
angle; and broadens into an imposing expanse of shining waters.

The flora of the surrounding country is very picturesque: tamarinds,
mimosas, climbing plants, the papyruses, and the euphorbias thrive in
unchecked luxuriance, as they have thriven for countless centuries, and
blend together their thick growth of various foliage.  The colouring of
the flowers is often so intense that the eye aches in contemplating it.
It should be added that the euphorbia, which is very common in this
region, yields a poisonous milky juice, in which the natives dip their
arrows.  A scratch from one of these envenomed weapons will rapidly prove
mortal.

Beyond Lake Nû, the White Nile breaks into an intricate series of curves
and meanders, pouring its waters downwards with violent swiftness.  Such,
indeed, was the strength of the flood, that the steamer was compelled to
throw off the towing-rope of the two dahabiehs, and the sailors and
servants landed in order to haul them against the stream.  But in the
greatest stress of the current the rope broke, and the boats, drifting
away, were threatened with destruction.  Osman Aga, a resolute and
courageous soldier, who was on the deck of the steamer, seized another
rope and leaped instantly into the river.  With vigorous strokes he made
for the shore.  He had almost gained it, and had flung the rope to his
expectant comrades, when he suddenly disappeared.  After a while his dead
body was found, and immediate preparations were made to give it an
honourable burial.  Wrapped round, according to the custom of the
country, with twenty yards of calico, it was interred, in the presence of
the whole crew, at the foot of a patriarchal tree, on the trunk of which
was cut a commemorative inscription.

Some days after this melancholy event, the expedition ascended the river
to Heiligenkreuz, where some Austrian Catholic missionaries have founded
a settlement.  Remaining there until the 15th of September, Alexina Tinné
made a short excursion into the interior, crossing rivers, traversing
forests, and meeting with numerous villages, half hidden in leafiness.

As the voyagers approached Gondokoro, they observed that the panoramas
assumed a grander character; that the landscapes were on a loftier scale.
Tropical forests extended their deep shades along the river banks; and
sometimes in their recesses it was possible to catch sight of the remains
of ancient buildings, at one time, perhaps, inhabited by a busy race.
Gondokoro, long regarded as the _Ultima Thule_ of the Nile Valley, was
reached on the 30th of September.  It proved to be the extreme southward
limit of Alexina Tinné’s explorations.  She ardently longed to advance—to
share some of the glory resting upon the names of Speke and Grant, Baker
and Petherick—to see with her own eyes the immense basin of the Victorian
Sea—to trace to its well-head the course of the Nile; but the obstacles
thrown in her way proved insurmountable.  Moreover, most of her followers
were seized with malarious fever, and she herself had an attack, which
for some days held her life in danger.  When she recovered, she began to
study the habits and manners of the native tribes residing in the
neighbourhood of Gondokoro.  They are all Baris, and very ignorant and
superstitious, but not naturally cruel.  No trade flourishes among them
like that of the sorcerer, who is also the medicine-man.  When a Bari
falls ill, he hastens to consult the Punok, who gives him some absurd but
infallible recipe, and the cure is effected!  One of these magicians
succeeded in persuading the negroes that he was invulnerable.  Oxen,
sheep, and presents of all kinds were poured into his willing hands; but
unluckily he declaimed against the expeditions of the Egyptians, who, not
having any sense of humour, put him to death.  His dupes, gathering round
his dead body, waited patiently for his resurrection; and only began to
doubt when the corpse putrefied.

Among the Bari sorcerers a high rank is held by the “rain-maker”—a
personage of great repute, to whom the villagers bring oxen, fruits, and
trinkets, in days of drought, to bribe him to invoke the clouds and their
treasures of fertilizing rain.  But his position is not without its
inconveniences; if, after the performance of his rites, the drought
continues, the people assemble at his house, drag him forth, and without
more ado, cut open the stomach of the unfortunate Kodjour, on the plea
that the storms must be shut up in it, as they make no external
manifestation.  Few are the years in which one of these rain-makers does
not perish, unless he has the wit to escape out of danger before his
deception is discovered.

From Gondokoro Alexina Tinné returned without delay to Khartûm, where she
received the congratulations of the European community; but her rest was
not of long duration.  She had nothing of the lotos-eater in her
temperament, and could find contentment only in action.  Hers was the
true traveller’s character—energetic, active, daring, tenacious, with an
insatiable thirst for new scenes.  Thwarted in her first design, she
immediately took up another.  She would ascend the great western
tributary of the Nile, the Bahr-el-Ghazal, explore the streams which feed
it, and penetrate into the land of the Nyam-nyam, of whom Doctor Heughlin
has furnished so interesting an account.  Her preparations were soon
completed.  This time she and her mother—her aunt remained at Khartûm—did
not travel alone; their expedition was reinforced by three experienced
travellers, Doctor Heughlin, the naturalist, Doctor Steudner, and Baron
d’Ablaing.  The first two started in advance, so as to open up the route
for the adventurous Alexina, who, with her mother and Baron d’Ablaing,
quitted Khartûm at the end of February, 1863, in command of a flotilla
composed of a steamer, a sailing-vessel, and several small boats.

Heughlin, who had set out some days before, passed, on the 31st of
January, the Gebel Tefafan, a lofty mountain which rises at no great
distance from the river.  He reached Lake Nû—a point from which the
voyager has more than two hundred miles to accomplish across the
Bahr-el-Ghazal.  At that time of the year the river in many places is as
narrow as a canal, though on both sides bordered by a swampy plain, which
stretches further than the eye can see, and bears a thick growth of
gigantic reeds.  At other places it deepens into considerable lakes.

The natives navigate it in light canoes, which they manage with much
dexterity.  They sit astride the stem, with their legs hanging down in
the water; and if they fall in with no branches capable of being
converted into oars, they row with their hands.  The Nouers, who inhabit
this land of marsh and morass, furnish an apparent exemplification of the
Darwinian theory: by a process of natural selection they have become
thoroughly adapted to the conditions of a soil and climate which would
rapidly kill off an unaccustomed population.  Their muscular strength is
remarkable; and they are a race of Anaks, averaging from six to seven
feet in height.  Alexina Tinné records that, in spite of the heat of a
tropical sun, and the attacks of swarms of insects, they would stand
erect, with lance in hand, on the summit of the mounds thrown up by
termites, anxiously watching the steamer and the boats in tow as they
passed by swiftly and steadily, against wave and current—a type, shall we
say? of the irresistible progress of civilization.

While Doctor Heughlin, in the true scientific spirit, industriously
explored the banks of the Bahr-el-Ghazal, Alexina Tinné was making a
persistent effort to rejoin him.  Innumerable difficulties assailed her.
When only a few miles from Khartûm, her captain came to tell her, with
signs of the utmost terror, that the steamer was leaking, and would
shortly sink.  Her alarm may easily be imagined; but fortunately she was
never wanting in presence of mind.  She gave orders that the cargo should
be immediately unloaded; the leak was repaired, and the voyage resumed.
A few hours later, and the vessel was again in danger, the water rushing
in with greater violence than before.  A close investigation was made,
and then it was discovered that the pilot and captain had each agreed to
bore a hole in the ship’s hull, with the view of putting a stop to a
voyage which they, as well as the crew, dreaded.  But our heroine was not
to be conquered.  She at once dismissed a part of the crew, and sent away
both the captain and the pilot; then, with men pledged to be true to her,
she sailed away resolutely for the Bahr-el-Ghazal.

At first, she made but slow progress, on account of the mass of tall
dense grasses and aquatic plants that choked up the stream.  In many
places it was necessary to clear a way for the steamer with knife and
axe.  In the sun-baked mud grisly crocodiles swarmed; the snort of the
hippopotamus rose from amid the reedy tangle; the elephant with calm eyes
watched the movements of the strangers.  The swamps of the Bahr-el-Ghazal
are a paradise of wild beasts, and Mademoiselle Tinné saw thousands of
them wandering to and fro.  But though game is so abundant, to hunt it is
very difficult.  The sportsman cannot penetrate into the midst of the dry
and withered vegetation without a crackling of leaves and a snapping of
stems, which give instant alarm to vigilant and suspicious ears.  No
sooner does he set foot in the jungle, than, as if warned by some secret
telegraphic agency, all its denizens take to flight.  But while
Mademoiselle Tinné’s followers were vainly attempting to pursue the trail
of the great pachyderms, a huge elephant, which had probably entered too
far into the river in the keenness of his thirst, was caught up in the
current, and driven against one of the boats.  The opportunity was not
neglected; the boatmen immediately assailed the unfortunate animal,
killed it, and cut it in pieces.

Lake Reg is the highest navigable point of the Ghazal. {249}  Our heroine
found here a fleet of five and twenty craft, some with cargoes of ivory,
others with cargoes of dourra or millet.  She was received with
enthusiasm, which specially manifested itself in the discharge of three
volleys of musketry—a compliment to which Alexina Tinné replied by
hoisting the Dutch flag.

As soon as her little flotilla was safely moored among the trading craft,
the enterprising lady prepared to undertake a journey into the interior.
But as it was found impossible to collect a sufficient number of porters
to carry the baggage, she arranged that Doctors Heughlin and Steudner
should start in search of suitable winter-quarters.  The two travellers
set out, but the malarious climate broke down their health, and both were
seized with a dangerous marsh fever.  They suffered greatly; but,
sustained by their strong will, they pushed forward, crossing, on the 2nd
of April, the river Djur, and arriving, the same evening, at the village
of Wau.  Here Doctor Steudner rapidly grew worse.  Before long he was
unable to walk; he fell into a profound stupor, and passed away, almost
without pain, on the 10th of April.  Doctor Heughlin describes, with much
pathos, the feelings of grief and melancholy which overpowered him when
he buried his friend.  The body was wrapped in Abyssinian cloth and
covered with leaves; then interred in a deep trench dug at the foot of a
clump of trees.

On the 17th of April, Doctor Heughlin quitted the lonely shades of Wau,
and, having lured a large number of porters, returned to Lake Reg.  Then,
to complete the necessary arrangements for the projected expedition to
the country of the Nyam-nyam, Baron d’Ablaing went on a trip to Khartûm,
whence he brought back an abundant supply of provisions.  During his
absence, Alexina Tinné was visited by Mrs. Petherick, the wife of the
English consul—a woman not less courageous than herself, who had
accompanied her husband in most of his explorations.  She claims the
honour of having added numerous places to the map of Africa, and of
having been the first European lady who had penetrated into those remote
regions.

While Alexina Tinné represents Holland, and Mrs. Petherick England,
Germany is represented by the wife of Sir Samuel Baker, to whom allusion
has already been made.  A woman of delicate and even feeble appearance,
with a countenance of remarkable amiability of expression; she possesses,
as Queen Elizabeth said of herself, “the heart of a man,” and of a brave
and chivalrous man.  Deeds worthy of the most famous knights have been
accomplished by this lady, who, it might have been thought, would have
sunk before the first breath of the Simoom.  One may here be recorded.
While out hunting, Sir Samuel Baker was attacked by a buffalo, which had
sprung upon him unperceived through the high thick grasses, and was on
the point of impaling him on its horns, when Lady Baker, with cool and
steady aim, raised her rifle, and lodging a bullet between the animal’s
eyes, stretched it dead on the ground.  A moment’s hesitation, the
slightest wavering or nervousness, and Sir Samuel would have been lost.

Alexina Tinné, with Mr. and Mrs. Petherick, made numerous excursions in
the neighbourhood of Lake Reg, in one of which they were surprised by a
terrible storm.  In the memory of living man no such hurricane had been
known; and it seemed to spend its worst fury upon the traveller’s
caravan, which it threatened every moment to sweep from the earth.  When
it had somewhat subsided, other difficulties arose.  The soldiers who
formed the escort were not only inveterately idle, but irrepressibly
dishonest; while as for the negroes, they were contumacious, and refused
to follow the route indicated by their employer.  A serious disturbance
was on the point of breaking out, when the gale returned with fresh
violence, tore down at least half of the encampment, and almost
suffocated Alexina Tinné amidst the wreckage of her hut.  While it
lasted, terror prevented her followers from resorting to acts of open
insubordination; but they regained their audacity as the tempest passed
away, and, declaring that their supply of food was insufficient, demanded
larger rations.  A general mutiny seemed imminent; but the fair leader of
the expedition was equal to the occasion.  Though suffering from bodily
pain and weakness, she boldly confronted the insurgents; with flashing
eye, and in a fierce voice, addressed to them a severe reprimand, and
ordered them to lay down their arms.  Her intrepid demeanour awed them
into submission, and the encounter ended in their humbly supplicating her
forgiveness.

The crisis over, her overwrought system gave way.  So serious was her
illness that at one time recovery seemed impossible, and the deepest
sorrow was manifested by the whole camp.  Quinine, however, which is the
sheet-anchor (so to speak) of African travellers, saved her.  A gradual
improvement took place, and by the 30th of May all danger had
disappeared.

As soon as she was able to move, she gave orders for the expedition to
advance.  It travelled by short stages; and when, towards night, Miss
Tinné came upon a village which promised convenient quarters, she sent
for the sheikh, and the gift of a few beads was sufficient to make him
expel from their huts the native families.  Without striking a blow, the
travellers got possession of the place, and in a few hours had settled
themselves comfortably, while taking due care of their camels and cattle.
As for the dispossessed inhabitants, they were left to find what shelter
or accommodation they could, consoling themselves with the promise of
ample compensation on the morrow.

The African villages are sometimes of considerable size.  They are nearly
always surrounded by a belt of cultivated ground, where dourra, sesamum,
and culinary vegetables grow in profusion.  The flocks scattered over the
pastures often include some thousands of sheep, though they are never
killed by the natives for purposes of food.  Miss Tinné purchased
several; but as soon as it was known that she slaughtered them for
provision, their owners refused to sell.  The natives apparently make the
sheep the object of a superstitious _cultus_, as the Lapps do the hare.
It is true, however, that their scruples vanished at the sight of Alexina
Tinné’s trinkets; their religion proved unable to withstand the
temptation of a bright ring or glittering bracelet.  Yet who shall blame
them when Christians have been known to forswear their faith for equally
small bribes?  It is a curious fact that each tribe has its favourite
colour—that while one swears by blue beads, another has eyes only for
green; so that a tribe which will violate its conscience for a handful of
blue beads or yellow, will preserve it intact if tested by beads of any
other colour.  But no bribe is so powerful, will prevail over so many
vows, will appease so many scruples, as a piece of blue or red cotton.
This, however, was reserved as a gratification for the chiefs alone; and
it was a sight to make you laugh or weep, according as your philosophy is
that of Democritus or Heraclitus, to see them strutting through their
villages, proud as peacocks in their gaudy attire, haughtier than a mayor
with his official chain round his portly chest, happier than a Frenchman
with the ribbon of the Legion of Honour in his button-hole.

                                * * * * *

The countries of Djur and Dör, traversed by our caravan, offered a
succession of the most varied panoramas.  For several days it passed
through marshy lowlands, covered with a coarse hard grass: the herbage
was besprinkled with rare flowers, many of which belonged to species
unknown to European botanists.  As they advanced trees became more
numerous; groves developed into woods, and woods expanded into a
luxurious forest, where the eye surveyed with delight a rich network of
climbing plants and wild vines, spreading from tree to tree, while the
dense cloud of verdure was lighted up profusely with starry blossoms.  In
this happy land the mosquito was never found; nor were there any
injurious insects, except the termites or white ants.

The picture suddenly changed as the travellers penetrated further into
the interior; immense plains stretched away to a remote horizon, where
earth and heaven seemed to mingle.  Occasionally, however, the monotonous
level was broken pleasantly by clumps of graceful trees, forming so many
isles of greenery, in which the calm bland air was perfumed by the sweet
odours that rose, like a breath, from magnificent cactuses, orchids, and
irises.  Thousands of birds, surprised among the tall grasses by the
passing caravan, sprang aloft and filled the air with the whir of
winnowing wings.

Enraptured by the beauty of this fortunate and favoured region, Alexina
forgot the sufferings she had endured, and, giving a free rein to her
womanly enthusiasm, exclaimed—“This is a delightful country, a marvellous
land, which compensates us for all our fatigue; yes, and for all our
outlay!”  These last words may be considered as a striking example of
bathos, or “the art of sinking,” considering the circumstances under
which they were pronounced; but it would appear that the enormous
expenses of the expedition had by this time made a serious inroad even on
Miss Tinné’s large fortune.

                                * * * * *

As for some years a marked diminution had taken place in the number of
elephants inhabiting the valley of the White Nile, the ivory dealers
pushed forward into the countries watered by the Bahr-el-Ghazal and the
Djur.  There they found themselves in a virgin region, which hitherto had
not been contaminated by the influences of a corrupt civilization.  It
was a mine to be worked with the happiest results, and accordingly they
established a series of stations, each in charge of a vakil or manager.
In the month of November these were visited in person by the traders, who
loaded their boats with ivory, too frequently adding to their cargoes of
elephants’ tusks the unfortunate negroes who had served them as guides
and hunters.  As time went on, they extended their relations, and gave
free course to their ambition.  They armed the tribes one against
another, promoted internecine contests, and in this way consolidated
their cruel and unscrupulous despotism.

Our travellers nearly fell victims to one of these infamous speculators
in the blood of the feeble and defenceless.  Yielding to his repeated
pressure, Alexina and her followers advanced to Bongo, where he exercised
authority.  They were received with a splendid welcome.  On their arrival
volleys of musketry woke all the surrounding echoes.  Biselli (such was
the name of their self-appointed host) met them at the entrance to the
village, and conducted them into a spacious and convenient habitation,
where, with the most courteous attention, they were served with sherbet,
coffee, and other refreshing drinks.  No one was forgotten in his profuse
hospitality; masters and servants were entertained with equal liberality.
The abrek, the delicious beer of the country, was freely circulated among
the people, and generously distributed to the very porters.

As Biselli was absolute master in the village and its neighbourhood, and
owned almost everything, Alexina Tinné requested him to sell some corn
and oxen.  He answered, like a true gentleman, that for twenty-four hours
he was her host; that he had abdicated his position as a trader, and had
no thought but her comfort, and to give her an honourable reception.  His
profuseness, far from diminishing, largely increased; and his European
guests were almost ashamed to be the recipients of an hospitality so
cordial, so unlimited, and so unexpected.

But unfortunately a change came over the spirit of the dream.  Next day,
clouds gathered on the horizon which had previously been so fair.  The
travellers wished to hire a small zoriba, or plantation, comprising two
tents.  Biselli named thirty thalers as the price.  No objection was
offered, and Miss Tinné’s people began to store the baggage, when he
suddenly made a demand for two hundred thalers.  This exorbitant sum was
promptly and firmly refused; he then reduced it to forty thalers, which
was paid.  Soon afterwards the caravan was in need of dourra, and there
was no help for it but to apply to Biselli.  Well aware of their
necessity, the scoundrel charged forty times more than they would have
had to pay at Khartûm, and on every other article he put in like manner a
tax of forty or fifty per cent.  The ex-gentleman had resumed his old
character as an unprincipled speculator.

Our travellers, however, felt that they could no longer endure his
impositions, and abandoning Bongo and Biselli, returned to Lake Reg.
Here Alexina’s mother was seized with an illness which carried her off in
a few days (July 23rd).  Two European servants were also attacked by
fever, and succumbed to its fatal influence.  Overwhelmed with grief,
Miss Tinné abandoned her schemes of African exploration, and slowly and
with difficulty made her way back to Khartûm, to find that her aunt, the
Baroness van Capellan, had died during her absence (in May, 1864).  As
soon as she had recruited her strength, she removed to Cairo, where she
took up her residence, and for four years made a conspicuous figure in
its brilliant European circle.

The love of new scenes, however, had not been quenched by her adventures,
and in her yacht she made frequent visits to Naples and Rome, Smyrna and
Jaffa, Algiers and Tripoli.  While at the latter port, a caravan arrived
from the Sahara, with the products of the rich lands that lie beyond that
famous desert.  The incident suggested to her bold imagination the idea
of an expedition which in romance and interest should eclipse her
previous enterprise, and she traced the plan of a journey across Tripoli
to the capital of Fezzan, thence to Kuka, and westward, by way of Wadai,
Darfur, and Kordofan, to the Nile.  As this route would carry her into
the territory of the brave but treacherous Towaregs, a race to whom
plunder and rapine seem the breath of life, she took care to provide
herself with a sufficient escort, and on the 29th of January, 1869, set
out from Tripoli at the head of a troop of fifty armed men.  At Sokna, in
Fezzan, which she reached on the 1st of March, she engaged the services
of a Towareg chief, one Ik-nu-ken; but at the last moment he failed her,
and she accepted as guides two chiefs of the same tribe, who professed to
have been sent by Ik-nu-ken.  These men, in conjunction with her
attendant, Mohammed, a Tunisian, resolved upon murdering her in order to
gain possession of her money and valuables.  Soon after her departure
from Sokna (it was on the 1st of August) they excited a quarrel among the
camel-drivers, and when Alexina quitted her tent to ascertain the cause,
one of the Towaregs shot her with a rifle-bullet, mortally wounding her.
For four and twenty hours she lay dying at the door of her tent, no one
venturing to offer assistance or consolation.

Such was the melancholy fate of Alexina Tinné!  It is satisfactory to
know that the murderers who, with their plunder, had escaped into the
interior, were eventually captured, tried, and sentenced to imprisonment
for life. {259}



MR. J. A. MACGAHAN,
AND CAMPAIGNING ON THE OXUS.


I.


MR. J. A. MACGAHAN, as special correspondent for the _New York Herald_, a
journal well known by the liberality and boldness of its management,
accompanied the Russian army, under General Kauffmann, in its campaigns
in Central Asia in 1873 and 1874.

Bound for the seat of war, he made his way, in company with Mr. Eugene
Schuyler, the American _chargé d’affaires_ at St. Petersburg, who desired
to see something of Central Asia, to Kasala, a Russian town on the
Syr-Daria (the ancient _Jaxartes_), where he arrived in April, 1873.  He
describes this town, or fort, as the entering wedge of the Russians into
Central Asia.  Its population, exclusive of Russian soldiers and
civilians, consists of Sarts, or Tadjiks, Bokhariots, Kirghiz, and
Kara-Kalpaks; all being Tartar tribes, in whom an infusion of Aryan blood
has more or less modified the old Mongolian type.  As for the town, it is
picturesque enough to a European eye—its low mud houses, with flat roofs,
windowless, and almost doorless; its bazár, where long-bearded men, in
bright-coloured robes, gravely drink tea among the wares that crowd their
little shops; and the strings of laden camels that stalk through its
streets, presenting a novel combination.  As soon as he had obtained all
the information he could with respect to the movements of the Russian
force, Mr. MacGahan resolved on making a dash for the Oxus, hoping to
reach that river before General Kauffmann’s army had crossed it.  But
when the Russian authorities learned his design, they at once interfered,
declaring that the journey was dangerous, if not impracticable, and must
not be undertaken without leave from the Governor-General.  Mr. MacGahan
then resolved on pushing forward to Fort Perovsky, as if going only to
Tashkent; trusting to find there an officer in command who would not be
troubled by such conscientious scruples about his personal safety.  No
objection was made to a journey to Tashkent; Mr. MacGahan and Mr.
Schuyler therefore hurried their preparations, stowed their baggage in a
waggon, and themselves in a tarantass, and shaking the dust off their
feet at inhospitable and suspicious Kasala, took their course along the
banks of the Syr-Daria.

This, the ancient Jaxartes, is one of the most eccentric of rivers.  It
is continually changing its bed, like a restless traveller; “here to-day,
and gone to-morrow,” and gone a distance of some eight to ten miles.  To
adapt it to the purposes of navigation seems almost impossible, or, at
all events, would be unprofitable; and the best use that could be made of
its waters would be to irrigate with them the thirsty sands of the desert
of Kyzil-Kum.

On Mr. MacGahan’s arrival at Fort Perovsky, he proceeded to engage a
guide and horses, having fully resolved to carry out his bold enterprise.
From the commandant he was fortunate enough to obtain a passport, and on
the 30th of April he bade farewell to Mr. Schuyler, and set out.  His
_cortége_ consisted of Ak-Mamatoff, his Tartar servant, Mushuf, the
guide, and a young Kirghiz attendant, all mounted, with ten horses to
carry the baggage and forage.  As a man of peace, he says, he went but
lightly armed.  Yet a heavy double-barrelled hunting rifle, a
double-barrelled shot gun (both being breech-loaders), an
eighteen-shooter Winchester rifle, three heavy revolvers, and one
ordinary muzzle-loading shot gun throwing slugs, together with a few
knives and sabres, would seem to make up a tolerable arsenal!  Mr.
MacGahan, however, assures us that he did not contemplate fighting, and
that he encumbered himself with these “lethal weapons” only that he might
be able to discuss with becoming dignity questions concerning the rights
of way and of property, on which his opinions might differ from those of
the nomads of the desert, who hold to Rob Roy’s good old rule, that

    “They should take who have the power,
    And they should keep who can.”

That night our traveller accepted the hospitality of a Kirghiz.  Next
morning he and his men were in the saddle by sunrise, riding merrily away
to the south-west, across a country innocent of road or path.  Sometimes
their course lay through tangled brushwood, sometimes through tall reeds
which completely concealed each rider from his companions, sometimes over
low sandy dunes, and sometimes across a bare and most desolate plain.
Occasionally they heard the loud sharp cry of the golden pheasant of
Turkistan; then they would pass large flocks and herds of sheep, cattle,
and horses, quietly grazing; and again they would meet and salute a
Kirghiz shepherd on horseback.  To eyes that have been trained to _see_
no desert can be utterly barren of interest; the vigilant observer will
discover, in the most sterile waste, something of fresh and novel
character, something suggestive of thick-coming fancies.  For example,
Mr. MacGahan noted the remarkable difference between the wide stretches
of the sandy plain and the occasional streaks of ground that had been
under recent cultivation; and he perceived that the desert had the
advantage.  Parched and sun-scorched, and without a trace of vegetation,
was the land that had been irrigated only the year before; while the
desert assumed a delicate tint of green, with its budding brushwood and
thin grass, which always springs into life as soon as the snow melts, to
flourish until stricken sore by the heats of summer.

At nightfall the travellers, weary with eleven hours’ ride, drew up at a
Kara-Kalpak aul, or encampment, consisting of a dozen kibitkas, pitched
near a little pond in the centre of a delightful oasis.  The owner of one
of the kibitkas proved to be the guide’s brother, and gave the party a
cordial welcome.  The Kara-Kalpaks are nomads like the Kirghiz, but
though they live side by side with them, and frequently intermarry, they
seem to belong to a different race of men.  They are taller than the
Kirghiz, and well-made; their skin is almost as white as that of a
European; and instead of the small eyes, high cheek-bones, flat noses,
thick lips, and round beardless faces of the Kirghiz, they have long
faces, high noses, large open eyes, and are bearded “like the pard.”

“After supper,” says Mr. MacGahan, “I stepped outside the tent to take a
look on the surrounding scene, and enjoy the cool air of the evening.
The new moon was just setting; lights were gleaming in every direction
over the plain, showing that ours was not the only aul in the vicinity.
The bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle could be heard, mingled
with the playful bark of dogs and the laughing voices of children, which
came to us on the still evening air like music.  In places the weeds and
grass of last year had been fired to clear the ground for the new growth,
and broad sheets of fire crawled slowly forward over the plain, while
huge volumes of dense smoke, that caught the light of the flames below,
rolled along the sky in grotesque fantastic shapes like clouds of fire.”

The kibitka, according to our traveller, is made up of numerous thin
strips of wood, six feet long, which are fastened loosely together like a
vine trellis, and can be opened out or folded up compactly, as necessity
requires.  As the strips are slightly curved in the middle, the
framework, when expanded, naturally takes the form of a segment of a
circle.  Four of these frames constitute the skeleton sides of the tent;
and on their tops are placed some twenty or thirty rafters, properly
curved, with their upper ends inserted in the hoop, three or four feet in
diameter, that serves as a roof-tree.  The method of pitching a kibitka
may be thus described:—As soon as the camel with the felt and framework
reaches the chosen site, he is made to kneel down, and a couple of women
seize the framework, which they straightway set up on end, and extend in
the form of a circle.  Next the doorposts are planted, and the whole
bound firmly together with a camel’s-hair rope.  Then one of the women
takes the afore-mentioned wooden hoop, and raising it above her head on a
pole, the other proceeds to insert in their proper holes the twenty or
thirty rafters, fastening their basis to the lower framework by means of
hoops.  When a thick fold of felt has been let down over the framework,
the kibitka, which measures about fifteen feet in diameter, and eight
feet in length, is complete.  In appearance it is not unlike a magnified
beehive of the old pattern.

The Kirghiz nomads are fierce, crafty, often cruel, but they hold the
life of a guest sacred.  For his property, however, they have no such
high consideration, and they are not above the temptation of plundering
him of any article that attracts their fancy.  Their chief amusements are
horse exercises and falconry.  They love the chase with a true
sportsman’s passion; loving it for itself, rather than for the game it
procures, as they can conceive of nothing daintier than a dish of
mutton—a dish which they prepare with touching simplicity.  For, a sheep
having been skinned, they cut it into quarters, which they plunge into a
large caldron of water, and boil for a couple of hours.  Generally, on a
principle of severe economy, they cook the intestines with the meat, not
taking the trouble even to separate them.  The guests arrange themselves
in a circle on carpets of felt; the men, as recognized lords of the
creation, occupying the foremost places, the women and children sitting
in the rear.  The smoking quarters of mutton are removed from the pot;
each man draws his knife, slashes off a cantle, eats until satisfied, and
passes what is left to his wife and children, who speedily effect a
clearance.  The dogs come in for the bones.  Afterwards, bowls of the
liquor in which the meat has been boiled are handed round, and not a
Kirghiz but swallows the greasy potion with as much zest as an epicure
takes his glass of dry champagne.  This broth, koumis (fermented mare’s
milk), and tea, are his customary liquors; but the tea, instead of being
prepared in the European fashion, is made into a kind of soup with milk,
flour, butter, and salt.  In every respectable Kirghiz kibitka the women
keep constantly upon the fire a vessel of this beverage, which they offer
to visitors, just as a Turk serves up coffee, and a Spaniard chocolate.

In their mode of life the Kirghiz display a certain originality.  They
spend the three winter months in mud huts on the bank of a river or a
small stream, and resume their annual migrations as soon as the snow
begins to melt.  During these migrations they live in tents, and never
halt in one spot for longer than three days.  Their march is often
continued until they have travelled three or four hundred miles; then
they turn round, and retrace the same route, so as to reach their place
of hibernation before the snow falls.  In their selection of quarters
they seem guided by some traditions handed down in the different auls;
and not unfrequently a body of Kirghiz will pass over much excellent
grazing ground, and travel many a league to inferior pasturage.  The
hardships they undergo are so many, their pleasures so few and mean,
their objects so commonplace, that one is tempted to wonder what kind of
answer an intelligent Kirghiz would return to the question not long ago
put with some emphasis before the reading public, “Is life worth living?”
Those higher motives, those purer aspirations which the cultivated
European mind delights to recognize, are unknown to the wild nomad, and
he spends day after day, and month after month, in what would seem to be
a drearily monotonous struggle for existence, under conditions which
might be supposed to render existence an intolerable burden.  But then he
can love and suffer as we know civilized men and women love and suffer;
and love and suffering will invest the harshest, coarsest life with a
certain grace and consecration.

There was once a young Kirghiz, named Polat, who was affianced to Muna
Aim, the comeliest maiden in the aul, or community, of Tugluk.  Her
father, Ish Djan, had received the customary kalym, or wedding present,
and the marriage day had been appointed.  But before it arrived, “the
blind fury with the abhorred shears” had “slit” Polat’s “thin-spun life;”
and Muna Aim was set free from her promise.  Suluk, Polat’s brother, came
forward, however, and, in his anxiety to recover his brother’s property,
which she had received as her dower, claimed her as his wife.  The claim
was supported by her father; but Muna Aim, who had sufficient means to
live on, considered herself a widow, and refused to marry.  She was
driven from her father’s kibitka; and taking her camel, with her sheep
and goats, her clothes and carpets, she bought a little kibitka for
herself, and lived alone, but not unhappy.  For her heart was really with
Azim, a young Kirghiz belonging to another aul, and she had consented to
marry Polat only in obedience to her father.  A second sacrifice she was
determined not to make.  But the old women grew very angry with Muna Aim,
as she continued to enjoy her independence.  “What is the matter with
her?” they cried.  “She will not go to her husband, but lives alone like
an outlaw.”  She was an innovator, boldly breaking through a traditional
custom, and they resolved to “reason” with her.  Their arguments were
those which the strong too often employ against the feeble; they hurled
at her bad names, and they scratched her face and pulled her hair.  Still
she would not yield; and in contentment she milked her sheep and goats,
drove them to the pasture, and drew water for them from the well, waiting
for some happy turn of fortune which might unite her with her Azim.

At last Suluk also resolved to try the effect of “reason.”  With three or
four friends he repaired one night to her kibitka, and broke it open,
resolved to carry her off to his tent, and compel her to be his wife.
Love and despair, however, lent her so wonderful an energy, that she
resisted all their efforts.  They dragged her to the door; but she
clutched at the door-posts with her hands, and held so firmly, that to
make her let go they were forced to draw their knives and slash her
fingers.  When they succeeded in hauling her into the open air, her
clothes were torn from her body, and she was covered with blood from head
to foot.  She continued her brave struggle; and Suluk, leaping on his
horse and catching her by her beautiful long hair, dragged her at his
horse’s heels, until it came out by the roots, and he was compelled to
leave her on the ground, naked, bleeding, half dead.

Information of this outrage, however, reached the Yarim-Padshah (or “half
emperor”), as the tribes of Central Asia call the redoubtable General
Kauffmann; and he despatched a party of Cossacks to seize its author.
Suluk was speedily captured, and sent, a prisoner, to Siberia; while the
faithful and courageous Muna Aim recovered her health and her braids of
long dark hair, and in the winter met the lover for whom she had endured
so much, and was happily married.

Thus the reader will perceive that romance flourishes even in the
wildernesses of the Kyzil-Kum; and that a Kirghiz woman can be elevated
by a true love like an English maiden.

                                * * * * *

Continuing his ride after the Russians, Mr. MacGahan, when near Irkibai,
came upon the ruins of an ancient city.  It had once been about three
miles in circumference, walled, and on three sides surrounded by a wide
and deep canal, on the fourth by the Yani-Daria.  The wall had been
strengthened by watch-towers, and on the summit of a hill in the centre
stood two towers thirty to forty feet in height.  The whole was built of
sun-dried brick, and was fast crumbling into shapeless mounds.  At
Irkibai Mr. MacGahan met with every courtesy from the commandant, but
nothing was known of the whereabouts of General Kauffmann.  There were
but two courses before the traveller—to return, or go forward.  Mr.
MacGahan was not the man to retrace his steps until his work was done, if
it were possible to do it; and he resolved on continuing his progress to
the Oxus.  On the 7th of May he rode forward.  At first he followed the
regular caravan route, which, as many traces showed, had also been that
of the Russian division, under the Grand-Duke Nicholas.  It crosses the
thirsty desert—twenty leagues without a well.  Fair enough is it to the
eye, with its rolling lines of verdant hills; but the hills are only
sand, and the verdure consists of a coarse soft weed that, when it
flowers, exhales a most offensive odour.  Beneath the broad leaves lurk
scorpions and tarantulas, great lizards, beetles, and serpents.  The
traveller, if he lose his way in this deadly waste of delusion, may
wander to and fro for days, until he and his horse sink exhausted, to
perish of thirst, with no other covering for their bones than the rank
and noxious herbage.

Across the gleaming burning sands, while the sun smote them pitilessly
with his burning arrows, rode our brave traveller and his companions.
Their lips cracked with thirst, and their eyes smarted with the noontide
glare, and their weary horses stumbled in the loose shifting soil; but
rest they durst not until they reached the well of Kyzil-Kak.  How glad
they were to throw themselves down beside it, while some kindly Kirghiz,
who had already refreshed their camels and horses, drew for them the
welcome water!  MacGahan made a short halt here, feeding his horses, and
sharing with his attendants a light meal of biscuits and fresh milk,
supplied by the Kirghiz, and then—the saddle again!  Meeting with a
caravan, he learned from its Bashi, or leader, that the Russian army was
at Tamdy—that is, instead of being, as he had hoped, within a day’s
march, it must be upwards of two hundred miles distant; and as it was
just on the point of starting for Aristan-Bel-Kudluk, which was still
further south, it was impossible to say when he might overtake it.  His
disappointment was great; but his cry was still “Onwards!”  By nine
o’clock next morning the indefatigable traveller reached the foot of the
grey, bare, treeless heights of the Bukan-Tau.  Though but a thousand
feet in elevation, they presented, with their glancing peaks, their
conical summits, their deep valleys, and awful precipices, all the
characteristics of an Alpine range of mountains.  Resting there for some
hours, he took up, on the morrow, a line of march around their northern
slope, and gradually descended into the plain.  From some Kirghiz he
ascertained that the Grand-Duke Nicholas had joined General Kauffmann two
days before, and that the united Russian army had then marched for
Karak-Aty.  The problem of overtaking it seemed more incapable than ever
of a satisfactory solution.  But, on studying his map, he found that from
the point which he had reached it was no further to Karak-Aty than to
Tamdy, and he instantly resolved to follow up a caravan route to the
south, which promised to lead to the former.

At noon he rode into the little valley of Yuz-Kudak, or the “Hundred
Wells.”  It was completely bare of vegetation, except a little thin
grass, but was brightened by a small, narrow runlet, which led, in less
than a quarter of a mile, to the water.  There, along the valley, bubbled
about twenty-five or thirty wells or springs; in some the water trickling
over the surface, in others standing at a depth of from five to ten feet.
Thence, to the next well, was a distance of twenty-five miles.  The
country was sandy, but high and broken up, with a low range of mountains
on the left, extending north-east and south-west.  Next day Mr. MacGahan
fell in with a Kirghiz aul, where he was hospitably entertained by a
chief named Bii Tabuk.  From him he learned that Kauffmann had left
Karak-Aty and arrived at Khala-Ata, one hundred miles further to the
south, and that the shortest way to Khala-Ata lay right across the desert
in the direction of the Oxus, a little west of south.  As there was no
road, nor even a sheep path, Mr. MacGahan sought for a guide, and
eventually engaged a young Kirghiz at the exorbitant fee of twenty-five
roubles.  Then, having enjoyed a couple of days’ rest, he started before
sunrise on that interminable hunt after General Kauffmann, which seemed
to promise as romantic a legend as the voyage of Jason in search of the
Golden Fleece, or Sir Galahad’s famous quest of the Sangreal.

He had not ridden far, when, as the issue of a little intrigue between
his Tartar, his old guide, Mushuf, and his new guide, the last named
suddenly refused to proceed unless, in addition to the twenty-five
roubles, he received a horse or the money to buy one.  With prompt
decision MacGahan dismissed the guide, and when Ak-Mamatoff showed a
disposition to be recalcitrant, threatened him with his revolver.  This
display of firmness and courage immediately produced a satisfactory
effect.  Ak-Mamatoff humbled himself, and to prove the sincerity of his
penitence, rode to a neighbouring aul, and procured another and more
trustworthy guide.  Afterwards they all breakfasted, and once more rode
across the sandy wastes in the direction of Khala-Ata.  Sand, sand, sand,
everywhere sand.  The horses struggled with difficulty through the huge
drifts, and on the second night one of them gave up, and had to be left
behind.  Sand, sand, sand, everywhere sand; by day as by night, and all
so lonely and silent!  For fifteen days MacGahan had bravely plodded
through the dreary, inhospitable desert—when and how would his journey
end?  Still he persevered: stumbling through the low coarse brushwood,
sliding down into deep sandy hollows; again, clambering painfully up
steep ascents, where the horses panted and laboured, and strove with the
heavy inexorable sand; over the hard-bound earth, where their hoof’s rang
as on a stone pavement; late in the night, he was glad to fling himself
on the sand to snatch a brief repose.

“We have scarcely shut our eyes,” says this intrepid, indefatigable
traveller, “when we are called by the guide to renew the march.  It is
still night, but the desert is visible, dim and ghostly under the cold
pale light of the rising moon.  Vegetation has entirely disappeared;
there is scarcely a twig even of the hardy saxaul.  Side by side with us
move our own shadows, projected long and black over the moonlit sand,
like fearful spectres pursuing us to our doom.

“Thin streaks of light begin to shoot up the eastern sky.  The moon grows
pale, the shadows fade out, and at last the sun, red and angry, rises
above the horizon.  After the sharp cold of the night its rays strike us
agreeably, suffusing a pleasant sensation of warmth over our benumbed
limbs.  Then it grows uncomfortably warm, then hot, and soon we are again
suffering the pangs of heat and thirst; our eyes are again blinded by the
fiery glare, and our lungs scorched by the stifling noonday atmosphere.”

Throughout that day the ride was continued, and even far into the night.
Early next morning the traveller reached the summit of the mountain range
behind which lies Khala-Ata.  With feelings of eager expectancy and hope,
he spurred forward his horse, and with his field-glass looked down upon
the bleak bare plain which stretched far away in the direction of
Bokhara; there, at the distance of eight miles, he saw a dome-like mound,
encircled by small tents, which shone in the morning sunlight, and at
various points were grouped masses of soldiers in white uniform, and the
sheen of steel.  At last, then, he had overtaken Kauffmann!

Though weary and spent, and covered with the dust of the desert, it was
with a cheerful heart that, at about six o’clock on the morning of the
16th of May, he rode into the camp and fortress of Khala-Ata, after a
ride of five hundred miles and a chase of seventeen days.  All the more
bitter was his disappointment when, on asking the young officer on duty
to direct him to the quarters of General Kauffmann, he was informed that
the general had left Khala-Ata, five days before, and by that time must
certainly have reached the Amu-Darya.  The chase, then, had been
fruitless; the rider, daring and indefatigable as he had showed himself,
had missed his mark.  The commandant at Khala-Ata proved to be a Colonel
Weimam, who received the special correspondent with marked discourtesy,
and refused to allow him to continue his search for General Kauffmann,
unless he first obtained that general’s permission.  The sole concession
he would make was, that he would send on Mr. MacGahan’s letters of
introduction, and then, if the Russian commander-in-chief expressed a
wish to see him, he would be at liberty to go.  This arrangement,
however, would evidently involve a delay of ten or twelve days.  In the
mean time the army would cross the Oxus, would capture Khiva, and the
special correspondent’s “occupation” would be “gone.”  Anxiously did Mr.
MacGahan meditate on the course it would be best for him to adopt.  To
break through the Russian lines and effect his escape seemed
impracticable.  In all probability, the swift-footed and ferocious
Turcoman cavalry were hanging in General Kauffmann’s rear; and how,
without an escort, was he to make his way through their ranks?  Yet the
more he reflected, the more he became convinced that this was his only
chance of reaching the Russian army in time to witness the capture of
Khiva.  The difficulties in the way, apart from the danger, were
enormous.  His horses were exhausted; he had neither provisions nor
forage, nor any means of procuring them; and he might reckon on Colonel
Weimam’s despatching a squadron of Cossacks to pursue and arrest him.
Ascertaining, however, that the colonel was about to move forward with a
couple of companies of infantry, one hundred Cossacks, and two
field-pieces, he resolved on the bold plan of quitting the camp with the
cavalry, trusting to the darkness to escape detection, and afterwards
making a wide circuit to pass the detachment.  Several days passed by in
wretched inaction.  The heat was oppressive; clouds of dust filled the
atmosphere, and almost choked the unfortunate victims exposed to its
irritating influence; provisions were painfully scarce, and Colonel
Weimam absolutely refused to sell or give a grain of barley to the
traveller’s starving horses.  At last, about one a.m. on the 14th of May,
the Russian detachment marched out of camp, and struck to the westward,
in the direction of Adam-Kurulgan and the Amu-Daria.  Mr. MacGahan and
his men were on the alert.  “I dropped silently,” he says, “in the rear
of the Cossacks, who led the column, followed by my people, and when we
had gained the summit of the low sand-hill, a mile from the camp, over
which the road led, I as silently dropped out again, turned my horses’
heads to the west, and plunged into the darkness.”

Once more he was in the open desert, once more he was free, and he could
not repress a feeling of exultation, though he was suffering from hunger,
his horses were spent with starvation, and at any moment he might fall
into the hands of the murderous Turcomans.  A more daring enterprise, or
one conceived in a more resolute and intrepid spirit, is hardly recorded,
I think, in the annals of adventure.  When he supposed himself at a
sufficient distance from the Russian column, he turned sharp round to the
west, and made as straight as he could for the Amu-Darya, expecting to
reach it before Colonel Weimam.  But after a hard day’s ride, he found,
as he approached Adam-Kurulgan, that the Russian soldiers were before
him!  There seemed no alternative but to return to Khala-ata or surrender
himself to the obnoxious and despotic Weimam.  Yes; if he could get water
for his exhausted beasts he might avoid Adam-Kurulgan altogether, and
still pursue his wild ride to the Oxus!  Some Kirghiz guides, on their
way to Khala-Ata, informed him that twenty miles further on was
Alty-Kuduk, or the “Six Wells;” it was not on the road to the Amu, but
some four miles to the north, and Kauffmann had left some troops there.
This news revived his drooping spirits.  “Forward!” he cried, and away
through the deep sand-drifts the little company toiled and struggled.  He
lost another of his horses, and the survivors were almost mad with
thirst; but his cry was still “Forward!”  He himself longed for water,
with a longing unknown to those who have not travelled in the arid desert
and under the burning sun, for hours and hours, without moistening the
parched lips; but his only thought was “Forward!”  On the following day
the brave man’s persistency was rewarded.  He reached the camp of
Alty-Kuduk, met with a most friendly reception from all its inmates, and
obtained meat and drink for himself and his men, and barley and water for
his horses.

A day’s rest, and he was again in the saddle (May 27th).  It was soon
apparent by the dead camels that lined the road that he had got into the
trail of the Russian army, and from time to time he could recognize the
tracks of cannon.  Then he came upon the bodies of Turcoman horses,
which, as he afterwards learned, had been slain in a skirmish two days
before.  Towards sunset the character of the country changed: the rolling
sand dunes disappeared, and the traveller entered upon a level plain,
which sank away into a lower kind of terrace.  The day drew rapidly to a
close: lower and lower down the western sky sunk the blood-red sun; at
last it dropped below the horizon, and as the sky flashed momently with
broad streaks of red and purple and golden light, the shimmer of water
became visible in the distance.  It was the Oxus!

It was long after dark when MacGahan reached the river.  He refreshed his
horses with its waters, and then encamped for the night.  At daylight he
ascended a hill, and looked out upon the scene.  The broad, calm river,
winding north and south, sparkled before him, like a belt of silver on a
golden mantle.  But where was the Russian army?  Where was General
Kauffmann?

Nowhere could he discover a trace of human habitation, of tent or
kibitka.  Nowhere could he see a single picket, not even a solitary
Cossack.

Again was MacGahan disappointed.  I have read of an old superstition
which represents a cup of gold as the prize of the fortunate mortal who
shall find the exact spot where a rainbow touches the earth.  And I have
read that men, believing it, have pursued the radiant iris with eager
footsteps, only to find her eluding them when most they think themselves
sure of grasping her.  So was it with our special correspondent.  He had
hoped to overtake the Russians at Myn-Bulak, but they had vanished; at
Khala-Ata, but he was too late; and again on the Oxus, but they had
disappeared.  He was almost tempted to look upon himself as the victim of
a portentous delusion.  Would there really be a Kauffmann?  Was the
expedition to Khiva other than a myth?

The tracks of cannon and the ashes of extinct campfires reassured him on
these points; and, rallying his energies, he set out once more on his
strange quest, following the course of the Oxus.  That day he rode five
and forty miles.  At night he encamped, but as Khivans might be prowling
in the vicinity, he resolved to keep watch.  For hours he paced up and
down in the darkness, a darkness that would have been death stillness but
for the murmur of the flowing river; and at length he caught a flash of
light.  To him, like the light which Columbus saw on the eve of the
discovery of the New World, it portended the end of his adventure; for it
proceeded, as he knew, from either a Khivan or a Russian bivouac.  In the
morning he started early, and had ridden but a short distance, when loud
upon his ears broke the rolling thunder of artillery!  Then he knew that
the army was close at hand, and engaged in desperate combat with its
Khivan enemies.

A few miles more, and Mr. MacGahan reached a sand-hill which afforded him
an extensive view of the valley of the river.  The opposite bank was
crowded with horsemen, who were galloping to and fro, while a couple of
cannon placed in front of a small pit were busily discharging missiles.
On his own side the Russians were posted in loose order, and looking
quietly on; their artillery replying to the Khivan fire with whizzing
shells.  “It was a curious scene,” says our traveller; “and I suppose the
old Oxus, since the time it first broke from the ice-bound springs of
Pamir, had never heard such music as this.  Five times before had the
Russians attempted to reach this very spot, and five times had they
failed.  Five times had they been driven back, beaten, and demoralized,
either by the difficulties of the way, the inclemency of the season, or
the treachery of the Khivans.  The one detachment which had succeeded in
capturing Khiva had afterwards been slaughtered to the last man; and now
the Russians stood at last, this bright morning, on the banks of that
historic river, with their old enemy once more before them.”  The Khivans
soon retired, leaving the opposite bank entirely free.  Mr. MacGahan then
started down the river to join the Russian army, and in a short time
found himself in their midst, overwhelmed with friendly attentions.  News
of his gallant ride across the Kyzil-Kum had preceded him, so that he was
received as a man who had quietly done a truly heroic thing.  His first
duty was to pay his respects to the object of his prolonged quest,
General Kauffmann.  The general, wrapped up in a Bokharan khalat or gown,
was seated in an open tent, drinking tea and smoking a cigarette; a man
of middle age, bald, rather short of stature, beardless, but wearing a
thick moustache, prominent nose, blue eyes, and a pleasant kindly
countenance.  He shook hands with MacGahan, asked him to sit down, and
remarked, with a smile, that he appeared to be something of a
“molodyeltz” (a brave fellow).  After questioning him respecting his
adventures, he briefly told the story of his campaign up to that time,
and gave him full and free permission to accompany the army the rest of
the way to Khiva.  By the Grand-Duke Nicholas Mr. MacGahan was received
with equal courtesy.

The traveller now develops into the special correspondent, and his record
of travel changes into a chronicle of military events.  It would be
inconsistent with our purpose to follow minutely his narrative of the
Khivan war; but we shall endeavour to select such passages as throw some
light on the nature of the country and the character of its inhabitants.



II.


The Khivans, according to Mr. MacGahan, are generally medium-sized, lean,
muscular fellows, with long black beards, and no very agreeable
physiognomy.  They dress in a white cotton shirt, and loose trousers of
the same material, over which is worn a khalat, or long tunic, cut
straight, and reaching to the heels.  The Khivan khalat, with its narrow
stripes of dirty brown and yellow, differs very much indeed from the
beautiful and brilliant khalat of the Bokhariots.  Most of the Khivans go
barefoot, and they cover their head with a tall, heavy, black sheepskin
cap, which is heavier, uglier, and more inconvenient than even the
bearskin of our household troops.  In the neighbourhood of Khiva they
chiefly cultivate the soil, and their prowess as horticulturists deserves
to be renowned.  For miles around their capital the country blooms with
well-kept gardens, where fruit trees of all kinds flourish, and little
fields of waving corn.  The houses and farmyards are enclosed by stout
walls, from fifteen to twenty feet high, solidly buttressed, and flanked
by corner towers.  The entrance is through an arched and covered gateway,
closing with a massive timber gate.  The farmhouse, a rectangular
building, from twenty-five to seventy-five yards square, is built of
dried mud, worked into large blocks like granite, and measuring three or
four feet square and as many thick.  There is always a little pond of
clear water close at hand, and this is shaded by three or four large
elms, while the enclosures are planted with elms and poplars.

Khiva surrendered to the Russians on the 9th.  Mr. MacGahan entered it in
company with the victorious troops, but confesses to experiencing a
feeling of disappointment.  The grand or magnificent he had not expected;
but his dreams of this Oriental city, secluded far away in the heart of
the desert, had pictured it as impressive and picturesque, and they
proved entirely false.  Through narrow, dirty, and crooked streets, he
advanced to the citadel.  Entering by a heavy arched brick gateway, he
came in sight of a great porcelain tower, shining brilliantly with green,
and brown, and blue, and purple.  This tower, about one hundred and
twenty-five feet high, measured about thirty feet in diameter at the
base, and tapered gradually towards the top, where its diameter was about
fifteen feet.  It was covered all over with burnt tiles, arranged in a
variety of broad stripes and figures, as well as with numerous verses of
the Koran.  With the Khan’s palace, it forms one side of a great square,
enclosed by the walls of the citadel; the opposite side being occupied by
a new médressé, and the other two sides by sheds and private houses.

In the palace nothing is worthy of notice except the Khan’s audience
chamber, or great hall of state.  Of this you can form a good idea if you
will tax your imagination to conceive a kind of porch, opening on an
inner court, measuring about thirty feet high, twenty feet wide, and ten
feet deep, and flanked on either side by towers ornamented with blue and
green tiles.  The floor was raised six feet, and the roof supported by
two curved, slender wooden pillars.  The other rooms were mostly dark and
ill ventilated.  At the back of the hall of state was the Khan’s
treasury, a low vaulted chamber, the walls and ceilings of which were
covered with frescoes of vines and flowers, executed on the most
fantastic principles of colouring.  The gold, silver, and precious stones
had been removed, but not so the weapons, of which there was a most
various assortment: swords, guns, daggers, pistols, revolvers, of almost
every shape and description.  Two or three sabres were of English
manufacture.  There were also many of the beautiful broad, slightly
curved blades of Khorassan, inlaid with gold; slender Persian scimitars,
their scabbards blazing with turquoises and emeralds; and short, thick,
curved poniards and knives from Afghanistan, all richly enamelled, and
their sheaths set in precious stones.  In the hurry of the Khan’s
departure, beautiful carpets had also been left behind, silk coverlets,
cushions, pillows, khalats, and rich and rare Kashmir shawls.

In another apartment were found about three hundred volumes of books,
some old telescopes, bows and arrows, and several fine suits of armour,
which doubtlessly belonged to the era of the Crusades, when the chivalry
of Europe encountered the Saracens on the plains of Syria and Palestine.

In the course of his wanderings Mr. MacGahan lighted upon the Khan’s
harem, where his favourite Sultana and some other women still remained.
As he was an American—or, rather, because they supposed him to be an
Englishman—the ladies gave him a cordial reception, and entertained him
to tea.  They were eight in number: three were old and exceedingly ugly;
three middle-aged or young, and moderately good looking; one was
decidedly pretty; and the other whom Mr. MacGahan speaks of as the
Sultana, was specially distinguished by her superior intelligence, her
exquisite grace of movement, and her air of distinction.  She wore a
short jacket of green silk, embroidered with gold thread; a long chemise
of red silk, fastened on the throat with an emerald, slightly open at the
bosom, and reaching below the knees; wide trousers, fastened at the
ankles; and embroidered boots.  She had no turban, and her hair was
curled around her well-shaped head in thick and glossy braids.  Curious
earrings, composed of many little pendants of pearls and turquoises,
glanced from her ears, and round her wrists gleamed bracelets of solid
silver, traced with gold.

The chamber in which these ladies sat was ten feet wide, twenty long, and
twelve high.  Parts of the ceiling were embellished with coloured
designs, rude in conception and execution.  Against one side of the room
were placed elegant shelves, supporting a choice assortment of the finest
Chinese porcelain.  The floor was strewn with carpets, cushions,
coverlets, shawls, robes, and khalats, all in admired disorder, together
with household utensils, arms, an English double-barrelled hunting rifle,
empty cartridges, percussion caps, and—strange contrast!—two or three
guitars.  It was evident that preparations for flight had been begun, and
the principal valuables already removed.

The Khan soon found that nothing was to be gained by flight, and as the
Russians were disposed to treat him leniently, he decided on returning to
Khiva, and surrendering to the great Yarim-Padshah, the victorious
Kauffmann.  Mr. MacGahan, who was present at the interview, describes the
Asiatic potentate, Muhamed Rahim Bogadur Khan, as at that time a man of
about thirty years of age, with a not unpleasing expression of
countenance; large fine eyes, slightly oblique, aquiline nose, heavy
sensual mouth, and thin black beard and moustache.  He was about six feet
three inches high, with broad shoulders and a robust figure.  “Humbly he
sat before Kauffmann, scarcely daring to look him in the face.  Finding
himself at the feet of the Governor of Turkistan, his feelings must not
have been of the most reassuring nature.  The two men formed a curious
contrast; Kauffmann was not more than half as large as the Khan, and a
smile, in which there was apparent a great deal of satisfaction, played
on his features, as he beheld Russia’s historic enemy at his feet.  I
thought there never was a more striking example of the superiority of
mind over brute force, of modern over ancient modes of warfare, than was
presented in the two men.  In the days of chivalry, this Khan, with his
giant form and stalwart arms, might have been almost a demi-god; he could
have put to flight a regiment single-handed, he would probably have been
a very Cœur de Lion; and now the meanest soldier in Kauffmann’s army was
more than a match for him.”

The capital of this Asiatic potentate is, as I have hinted, deficient in
remarkable characteristics.  With three or four exceptions, the buildings
are all of clay, and present a miserable appearance.  There are two
walls—an outer and an inner; the interior enclosing the citadel, which
measures a mile in length by a quarter of a mile in breadth, and in its
turn encloses the Khan’s palace and the great porcelain tower.  The outer
wall is on an average twenty-five feet high, and it is strengthened by a
broad ditch or moat.  There are seven gates.  The area between the walls
is at one point converted into a kind of cemetery; at another it is
planted out in gardens, which are shaded by elms and fruit trees, and
watered by little canals.  Of the houses it is to be said that the
interior is far more comfortable than the wretched exterior would lead
the traveller to anticipate.  Most of them are constructed on the same
plan.  You pass from the street into a large open court, all around which
are arranged the different apartments, each opening into the court, and
seldom having any direct communication with each other.  Facing the north
stands a high porch, with its roof some seven or eight feet above the
surrounding walls; this serves to catch the wind, and bring it down into
the court below on the principle of a wind-sail aboard ship.  The free
circulation of air thus maintained is, undoubtedly, very pleasant in the
summer heat, but in a Khivan winter it must have its disadvantages.

With twenty-two médressés, or monasteries, and seventeen mosques, is
Khiva endowed.  Of the latter, the most beautiful and the most highly
esteemed is the mosque Palvan-Ata, which raises its tall dome to a height
of sixty feet, shining with tiles of glaring green.  The interior of the
dome is very striking: it is covered, like the exterior, with tiles, but
these are adorned with a beautiful blue tracery, interwoven with verses
from the Koran.  In a niche in the wall, protected by a copper
lattice-work, are the tombs of the Khans; and Palvan, the patron-saint of
the Khivans, is also buried there.

From the mosques we pass to the bazár, which is simply a street covered
in, like the arcades so popular in some English towns.  The roof consists
of beams laid from wall to wall across the narrow thoroughfare,
supporting planks laid close together, and covered with earth.  On
entering, you are greeted by a pleasant compound scent of spices, by all
kinds of agreeable odours, and by the confused sounds of men and animals.
As soon as your eyes grow accustomed to the shade, they rest with delight
on the rich ripe fruit spread everywhere around you in tempting masses.
Khiva would seem to be the paradise of fruit epicures.  There are
apricots, and grapes, and plums, and peaches, and melons of the finest
quality and indescribable lusciousness.  But if you want more solid fare,
you can enjoy a pilaoff with hot wheaten cakes, and wash down the repast
with stimulating green tea.  After which, refreshed and thankful, you may
sally forth to make your purchases of boots or tobacco or khalats, cotton
stuffs or silk stuffs, calico from Manchester, muslin from Glasgow, robes
from Bokhara, or Russian sugar.  This done, you are at leisure to survey
for a while the motley crowd that surges to and fro.  The Uzbeg, with his
high black sheepskin hat and long khalat, tall, well-formed, swarthy,
with straight nose and regular features; the Kirghiz, in coarse
dirty-brown khalat, with broad, flat, stolid countenance; the Bokhariot
merchant, with turban of white and robe of many colours; the Persian,
with quick, ferret-like eyes, and nimble, cat-like motions; and the Yomud
Turcoman, with almost black complexion, heavy brows, fierce black eyes,
short upturned nose, and thick lips.  These pass before you like figures
in a phantasmagoria.

Weary with the noise and shifting sights, you gladly accept an invitation
to dine with a wealthy Uzbeg, and accompany him to his residence.  The
day is very warm; in a cloudless sky reigns supreme the sun; and you
rejoice when you find that your host has ordered the banquet to be spread
in the pleasant garden, amid the shade of green elms and the sparkle of
running waters.  Your first duty is to remove your heavy riding-boots,
and put on the slippers which an attendant hands to you; your second is
to make a Russian cigarette, and drink a glass of nalivka, or Russian
gooseberry wine, as a preparation for the serious work that awaits you.
Then a cloth is spread, and the dinner served.  Fruits, of
course—apricots, melons, and the most delicious white mulberries; next,
three or four kinds of dainty sweetmeats, which seem to consist of the
kernels of different nuts embedded in a kind of many-coloured toffee.
Into a frothy compound, not unlike ice-cream with the ice left out, you
dip your thin wheaten cakes, instead of spoons.  Various kinds of nuts,
and another glass of nalivka, precede the principal dish, which is an
appetizing pilaoff, made of large quantities of rice and succulent pieces
of mutton, roasted together.

The dinner at an end, large pipes are brought in.  Each consists of a
gourd, about a foot high, filled with water; on the top, communicating
with the water through a tube, rests a bowl, containing the fire and
tobacco.  Near the top, on either side, and just above the water, is a
hole; but there is no stem.  The mode of using it is this: you take up
the whole vessel in your hand, and then blow through one of the holes to
expel the smoke.  Next, stopping up one hole with your finger, you put
your mouth to the other, and inhale the smoke into your lungs.  You will
probably be satisfied with three or four whiffs on this gigantic scale.

Mr. MacGahan had an opportunity of seeing the interior of an Uzbeg house,
and he thus describes it:—

“There is little attempt at luxury or taste in the house of even the
richest; and in this respect the poorest seems almost on an equality with
the most opulent.  A few carpets on the floor; a few rugs and cushions
round the wall, with shelves for earthenware and China porcelain; three
or four heavy, gloomy books, bound in leather or parchment; and some pots
of jam and preserved fruit, generally make up the contents of the room.
There are usually two or three apartments in the house different from the
others, in having arrangements for obtaining plenty of light.  In these
rooms you find the upper half of one of the walls completely wanting,
with the overhanging branches of an elm projecting through the opening.
The effect is peculiar and striking, as well as pleasant.  From the midst
of this room—with mud walls and uneven floor, with the humblest household
utensils, and perhaps a smoking fire—you get glimpses of the blue sky
through the green leaves of the elm tree.  A slightly projecting roof
protects the room from rain; in cold weather, of course, it is abandoned.
Two or three other rooms are devoted to the silkworms, the feeding and
care of which form the special occupation of the women.  The worms
naturally receive a great deal of attention, for their cocoons pay a
great part of the household expenses.”

But let us suppose that an Uzbeg host closes up the entertainment he has
provided for us with a dance.

The dancers are two young boys—one about eight, the other about ten years
of age—with bare feet, a little conical skull-cap on their shaven heads,
and a long loose khalat drooping to their ankles.  The orchestra is
represented by a ragged-looking musician, who sings a monotonous tune to
the accompaniment of a three-stringed guitar.  The boys begin to dance;
at first with slow and leisurely movements, swaying their bodies
gracefully, and clapping their hands over their heads to keep time to the
music.  But as this grows livelier, the boys gradually become more
excited; striking their hands wildly, uttering short occasional shouts,
turning somersaults, wrestling with each other, and rolling upon the
ground.

Towards nightfall, torches will be brought on the scene; some being
thrust into the ground, and others fastened to the trunks and branches of
trees.  The comelier of the juvenile dancers now attired himself as a
girl, with tinkling bells to his wrists and feet, and a prettily
elaborate cap, also decked with bells, as well as with silver ornaments,
and a long pendent veil behind.  He proceeds to execute a quiet and
restrained dance by himself, lasting, perchance, for about a quarter of
an hour; and the other boy coming forward, the two dance together, and
enact a love-scene in a really eloquent pantomime.  The girl pretends to
be angered, turns her back, and makes a pretence of jealousy, while the
lover dances lightly around her, and endeavours to restore her to
amiability by caresses and all kinds of devices.  When all his efforts
fail, he sulks in his turn, and shows himself offended.  Thereupon the
lady begins to relent, and to practise every conciliatory art.  After a
brief affectation of persistent ill humour, the lover yields, and both
accomplish a merry and animated measure with every sign of happiness.

When the Russians left Khiva in the month of August, Mr. MacGahan’s
mission was ended.  He had been present with them at the fall of Khiva,
and in the campaign which they afterwards undertook—it would seem, with
little or no justification—against the Yomud Turcomans.  On the return
march he accompanied the detachment in charge of the sick and wounded,
descending the Oxus to its mouth, and then proceeding up the Aral Sea to
the mouth of the Syr-Daria.  The voyage on the Aral occupied two days and
a night.  Having entered the Syr-Daria, thirty-six hours’ sailing brought
the flotilla to Kasala—the point from which, as we have seen, Mr.
MacGahan had started, some months before, on his daring ride through the
desert.  After a sojourn of three days, he started in a tarantass for
Orenburg.

It will be owned, I think, that Mr. MacGahan’s enterprise was boldly
conceived and boldly executed; that he displayed, not only a firm and
manly courage, but a persistent resolution which may almost be called
heroic.  He showed himself possessed, however, of even higher qualities;
of a keen insight into character, a quick faculty of observation, and a
humane and generous spirit.



                        COLONEL EGERTON WARBURTON,
                    AND EXPLORATION IN WEST AUSTRALIA.


THE north-west of the “island-continent” of Australia seems to have been
discovered almost simultaneously by the Dutch and Spaniards about 1606.
Twenty years later, its west coast was sighted; and in 1622 the long line
of shore to the south-west.  Tasmania, or, as it was first called, Van
Diemen’s Land, was visited by the Dutch navigator Tasman in 1642.  Half a
century passed, and Swan River was discovered by Vlaming.  The real work
of exploration did not begin, however, until 1770, when Captain Cook
patiently surveyed the east coast, to which he gave the name of New South
Wales.  In 1798, in a small boat about eight feet long, Mr. Bass, a
surgeon in the navy, discovered the strait that separates Tasmania from
Australia, and now perpetuates his memory.  He and Lieutenant Flinders
afterwards circumnavigated Tasmania; and Flinders, in 1802 and 1803,
closely examined the south coast, substituting, as a general designation
of this “fifth quarter of the world,” Australia for the old boastful
Dutch name of New Holland.  He also explored the great basin of Port
Philip, and discovered the noble inlets of St. Vincent and Spencer Gulfs.
In 1788 the British Government selected Botany Bay, on the east coast, as
a place of transportation for criminals; and from this inauspicious
beginning sprang the great system of colonization, which, developed by
large and continual emigration from the mother country, has covered
Australia with flourishing States.  Tasmania became a separate colony in
1825; West Australia, originally called Swan River, in 1829; South
Australia in 1834; Victoria in 1851; Queensland in 1859.  Meanwhile, the
exploration of the interior was undertaken by a succession of bold and
adventurous spirits, starting at first from New South Wales.  The barrier
of the Blue Mountains was broken through, and rivers Macquarie, Darling,
and Lachlan were in time discovered.  In 1823 Mr. Oxley surveyed the
Moreton Bay district, now Queensland, and traced the course of the
Brisbane.  In 1830 Captain Sturt explored the Murray, the principal
Australian river, to its confluence with Lake Victoria.  In 1840 Mr.
Eyre, starting from Adelaide, succeeded, after enduring severe
privations, in making his way overland to King George’s Sound.  In the
following year he plunged into the interior, which he believed to be
occupied by a great central sea; he found only the swamp and saline bays
of Lake Torrens.  Captain Sturt, in 1845, penetrated almost to the
southern tropic in longitude 130° E., traversing a barren region as
waterless and as inhospitable as the Sahara.  About the same time Dr.
Ludwig Leichhardt, with some companions, successfully passed from Moreton
Bay to Port Errington; but, in 1848, attempting to cross from east to
west, from New South Wales to the Swan River, he and his party perished,
either from want of provisions or in a skirmish with the natives.  In the
same year Mr. Kennedy, who had undertaken to survey the north-east
extremity of Australia, was murdered by the natives.  Thus Australian
exploration has had its martyrs, like African.  In 1860 Mr. M’Douall
Stuart crossed the continent from ocean to ocean, or, more strictly
speaking, from South Australia to a point in lat. 18° 40′ S., about two
hundred and fifty miles from the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.  The
hostility of the natives prevented him from actually reaching the coast.
In August, 1860, a similar expedition was projected by some gentlemen
belonging to the colony of Victoria; and, under the command of Robert
O’Hara Burke, it started from Melbourne for Cooper’s Creek, whence it was
to proceed to the northern coast.  Some of the members, namely, Burke,
Mr. Wills, the scientific assistant, and King and Gray, two subordinates,
succeeded in reaching the Gulf of Carpentaria; but on their return route
they suffered from want of provisions, and all perished except King.  In
1862 Mr. M’Douall Stuart renewed his bold project of crossing the
continent, and starting from Adelaide, arrived in Van Diemen’s Bay, on
the shore of the Indian Ocean, July 25th.  Numerous other names might be
added to this list; but we shall here concern ourselves only with that of
Colonel Egerton Warburton, as one of the most eminent and successful of
Australian explorers.

                                * * * * *

Peter Egerton Warburton was born in August, 1813.  After passing through
the usual examination in the East India Company’s college at Addiscombe,
he entered the Bombay army in 1834, and served in India until 1853,
passing the greater part of the time in the Adjutant-General’s
Department, and rising through each grade until he attained his majority,
and was appointed Deputy Adjutant-General at head-quarters.  But,
attracted by the prospects opened up to colonists in New Zealand, he
resigned the service, intending to proceed thither with his wife and
family.  Eventually, circumstances led to his preferring South Australia
as a field for his energies; and soon after his arrival at Adelaide he
was selected to command the police force of the whole colony—an onerous
post, which he held with distinction for thirteen years.  He was
afterwards made commandant of the volunteer forces of the colony of South
Australia.  In August, 1872, the South Australian Government resolved on
despatching an expedition to explore the interior between Central Mount
Stuart and the town of Perth, in West Australia, and chose Colonel
Warburton as its leader.  Afterwards, the Government drew back, and the
cost of the expedition was eventually undertaken by two leading
colonists, Messrs. Elder and Hughes, who authorized Colonel Warburton to
organize such a party and prepare such an outfit as he considered
necessary, and provided him with camels and horses.  It was arranged that
the party should muster at Beltana Station, the head-quarters of the
camels; thence proceed to the Peake, lat. 28° S., one of the
head-quarters of the inland telegraph; and, after a détour westward, make
for Central Mount Stuart, where they would receive a reinforcement of
camels, and, thus strengthened, would be able to cross the country
unknown to Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

                                * * * * *

With his son Richard as second in command, Colonel Warburton left
Adelaide on the 21st of September, 1872; reached Beltana Station on the
26th; and on the 21st of December arrived at Alice Springs (1120 miles
from Adelaide), the starting-point of his journey westward.  The party
consisted of himself, his son, T. W. Lewis, two Afghan camel-drivers,
Sahleh and Halleem, Denis White (cook and assistant camel-man), and
Charley, a native lad.  There were four riding and twelve baggage camels,
besides one spare camel; the horses being left at Alice Springs.  All
needful preparations having been completed, the explorers quitted the
station on the 15th of April, 1873, and turned their faces westward.

For the first five days not a drop of water was seen, and on the fifth,
of the supply carried with them only one quart was left, which it was
necessary to reserve for emergencies.  When they encamped for the night,
no fire was lighted, as without water they could not cook.  Next day, the
20th, Lewis and the two Afghans were sent, with four camels, to refill
the casks and water-bags at Hamilton Springs, about twenty-five miles
distant.  Meanwhile, a shower of rain descended; all the tarpaulins were
quickly spread, and two or three buckets of water collected.  What a
change!  All was now activity, cheerfulness, heartfelt thanksgiving.  A
cake and a pot of tea were soon in everybody’s hands, and in due time
Lewis returned with a full supply of water, to increase and partake in
the general satisfaction.

Keeping still in a general westerly direction, they crossed extensive
grassy plains, relieved occasionally by “scrub” or bushes, and coming
here and there upon a spring or well.  “The country to-day,” writes
Warburton, on one occasion, “has been beautiful, with parklike scenery
and splendid grass.”  In the “creeks,” as the water-courses are termed in
Australia, they sometimes found a little water; more often, they were
quite dry.  “This is certainly,” he writes, “a beautiful creek to look
at.  It must at times carry down an immense body of water, but there is
none now on its surface, nor did its bed show spots favourable for
retaining pools when the floods subsided.”  On the 9th of January they
struck some glens of a picturesque character.  At the entrance of the
first a huge column of basalt had been hurled from a height of three
hundred feet, and having fixed itself perpendicularly in the ground,
stood like a sentry, keeping guard over a fair bright pool, which
occupied the whole width of the glen’s mouth—a pool about fifteen feet
wide, fifty feet long, and enclosed by lofty and precipitous basaltic
cliffs.  At the entrance, the view does not extend beyond thirty yards;
but, on accomplishing that distance, you find that the glen strikes off
at a right angle, and embosoms another pool of deep clear water, circular
in shape, and so roofed over by a single huge slab of basalt that the
sun’s rays can never reach it.  There is a second glen, less grand, less
rugged than the former, but more picturesque.  At the head of it bubble
and sparkle many springs and much running water.

The surrounding country was clothed with porcupine-grass (spinifex)—a
sharp thorny kind of herbage, growing in tussocks of from eighteen inches
to five feet in diameter.  When quite young, its shoots are green; but as
they mature they assume a yellow colour, and instead of brightening,
deepen the desolate aspect of the wilderness.  “It is quite uneatable
even for camels, who are compelled to thread their way painfully through
its mazes, never planting a foot on the stools, if they can possibly
avoid it.  To horses on more than one occasion it has proved most
destructive, piercing and cutting their legs, which in a very short time
become fly-blown, when the animals have either to be destroyed or
abandoned.  The spiny shoots are of all heights, from the little spike
that wounds the fetlock to the longer blade that penetrates the hock.  It
is one of the most cheerless objects that an explorer can meet, and it is
perhaps unnecessary to say that the country it loves to dwell in is
utterly useless for pastoral purposes.”

Coming to a range of granite, steep, bare, and smooth, Colonel Warburton
clambered up its face on hands and knees, to find there a fine hole or
basin in the rock, perfectly round and nearly full of water.  This hole
was, of course, the work of nature, and, strange to say, was on the point
of a smooth projecting part of the rock, where it would have seemed
impossible that any water could lodge.  How it was wrought in such a
place one cannot imagine, but the position was so prominent as to be
visible from the plain at a considerable distance.

Another day the travellers fell in with a bees’ hive;—unfortunately, it
was empty.  The Australian bee is stingless, and very little larger than
our common house-fly, but its honey is remarkably sweet.  The nest, or
“sugar-bag,” as the bushmen call it, is generally made in a hollow tree.
They also saw some specimens of the crested dove—one of the loveliest of
the Australian pigeons.  In truth, it is hardly surpassed anywhere in
chasteness of colouring and elegance of form, while its graceful crest
greatly enhances the charm of its appearance.  It frequently assembles in
very large flocks, which, on visiting the lagoons or river banks for
water, during the dry seasons, generally congregate on a single tree or
even branch, perching side by side, and afterwards descending in a body
to drink; so closely are they massed together while thus engaged, that
dozens may be killed by a single discharge of a gun.  Their flight is
singularly swift; with a few quick flaps of the wings they gain the
necessary impetus, and then sail forward without any apparent exertion.

The diamond-sparrow, or spotted pardalote, was also seen.  This bird
inhabits the whole of the southern parts of the Australian continent,
from the western to the eastern border, and is very common in Tasmania.
It is nearly always engaged in searching for insects among the foliage
both of the tallest trees and the lowest shrubs, in the garden and
orchard as in the open forest; and it displays in all its movements a
remarkable activity, clinging about in every variety of position, both
above and beneath the leaves, with equal facility.  Its mode of
nest-building differs from that of every other member of the genus to
which it belongs.  It first excavates, in some neighbouring bank, a hole
just large enough to admit of the passage of its body, in a nearly
horizontal direction, to the depth of two or three feet; at the end of
this burrow or gallery, it forms a chamber; and in this chamber it
deposits its nest, which is beautifully woven of strips of the inner bark
of the Eucalypti, and lined with finer strips of the same or similar
materials.  In shape it is spherical, about four inches in diameter, with
a lateral hole for an entrance.  To prevent the ingress of rain the
chamber is raised somewhat higher than the mouth of the hole.  Mr. Gould,
the Australian naturalist, speaks of these nests as very difficult to
detect; they can be found, he says, only by watching for the ingress or
egress of the parent birds, as the entrance is generally concealed by
herbage or the overhanging roots of a tree.  Why so neat a structure as
the diamond-sparrow’s nest should be constructed at the end of a gallery
or tunnel, into which no light can possibly enter, is beyond
comprehension; it is one of those wonderful results of instinct so often
brought before us in the economy of the animal kingdom, without our being
able to explain them.  The diamond-sparrow rears two broods, of four or
five each, in the course of the year.  Its song or call is a rather
harsh, piping note of two syllables, frequently repeated.

The great difficulty which besets the Australian explorer is the want of
water.  He travels day after day across open grassy plains, relieved by
few variations of surface, except the sand ridges, to meet with neither
spring nor watercourse.  Sometimes he comes upon the native wells, but
these, very frequently, are dry or almost dry; he digs well after well
himself, but no water rises.  Colonel Warburton’s party suffered severely
from this deficiency.  They met with much trouble, moreover, through the
straying of their camels.  Thus, one evening, “Charley,” who acted as
camel-herd, reported that they had run away southward.  He traced their
tracks for several miles, and observed that one camel had broken its
hobbles. {302}  Halleem, the Afghan camel-driver, then mounted the
Colonel’s riding camel, “Hosee,” and started in search of them at five
o’clock on a Sunday evening.  He was to push on for five or six miles,
then camp for the night, and at dawn follow up the tracks vigorously, so
as to overtake the truants, and return by mid-day.

Monday came, but Halleem and the camels came not with it.  Sahleh, who
had been exploring in the vicinity of the camp with a gun, returned in
the evening with the startling information that he had seen Hosee’s
_return_ track, coming near the camp, and then striking off in a
north-easterly direction.  Colonel Warburton now also learned for the
first time that Halleem was occasionally subject to fits, and that while
they lasted he knew not what he was doing or where he was going.  It was
evident that such a man ought not to have been trusted alone, and it
became a question whether Halleem had lost his camel or his wits; the
latter seemed more probable, as Hosee, if he had come near the other
camels, would certainly have joined them.

Next day, Monday, July 22nd, the Colonel writes:—“I sent my son and
Charley with a week’s provisions on our back tracks, to try for Halleem
first; but, in the event of not finding his _foot_ tracks, to continue
on, and endeavour to recover the camels.  Lewis also went in the other
direction, to run up Hosee’s tracks; so that I hoped that by one or other
of these means I should learn what had become of Halleem.  Unfortunately,
Lewis, supposing he had only a few hours’ work, took neither food nor
water.  Now, 6 p.m., it is beginning to rain, and Lewis has not returned.
I know he will stick to the tracks as long as he can, but I wish he were
back; if Halleem be demented, he may urge the camel on sixty or seventy
miles without stopping, and thus get a start in his mad career that will
make it impossible for Lewis to help him.

“23rd.  It has rained lightly all night.  Lewis is still absent; I am
greatly grieved at his having nothing to eat.

“1 p.m.  Lewis returned; he had camped with Richard, and so was all
right.

“It appears from his report that Sahleh, whilst out ‘birding,’ must have
stumbled upon a mare’s nest, for Lewis soon abandoned the track he
started on, and turned after Richard to find Halleem’s first camp.  They
did not find this, but they fell on his tracks of next day, steadily
following the runaway camels; it is clear, therefore, that Sahleh has
done his countryman some injustice, and caused much unnecessary alarm. . . .
Richard returned, having seen Halleem, and promised to take out
provisions to meet him on his return.

“26th.  Sahleh shot an emu (_Dromaius Novoe Hollandicæ_), a welcome
addition to our larder.  Every scrap of this bird was eaten up, except
the feathers.  The liver is a great delicacy, and the flesh by no means
unpalatable.

“27th and 28th.  Sent provisions to Ethel Creek for Halleem.

“29th.  The camel-hunters returned in the evening, but without the
camels.  This is a double loss; the camels are gone, and so is our time;
our means of locomotion are much reduced, whilst the necessity of getting
on is greatly increased.  Halleem has, however, done all he could do; he
followed the camels nearly one hundred miles, but as they travelled night
and day, whilst he could only track them by day, he never could have
overtaken them.  No doubt these animals will go back to Beltana, where
alarm will be created as soon as they are recognized as belonging to our
party.”

                                * * * * *

Such is the Colonel’s simple, unaffected account of what was really an
annoying and perplexing incident.

At this date (July 29th) the explorers had accomplished seventeen hundred
miles.  The country continued to present the same general features—plains
yellow with porcupine-grass, alternating with low hills of sand; but as
they advanced, the sand-hills became more numerous, and among them lay
numerous half-dry salt lagoons of a particularly cheerless aspect.  Dense
spinifex—high, steep sand-ridges, with timber in the flats, and nothing
for the camels to eat but low scrubby bushes;—that horses should cross
such a region is obviously impossible.  The want of water again became
urgent.  From the burnt ground clouds of dust and sand were thrown up by
the wind, almost choking the travellers, and intensifying their thirst.
They were temporarily relieved by coming upon a native well.  But the
country still wore the same cheerless aspect of inhospitality; the
desolate arid plain extended in every region—a desert of sand, which
wearied the travellers by its monotony.  Even when they arrived at the
so-called basaltic hills, there was no water, no sign of green and
pleasant vegetation.  It was quite an excitement when, for the first
time, they descried some flock-pigeons.  The birds were very wild, and
they could kill only three or four, but they were excellent eating, and
made quite a dainty dish.  Soon after this cheerful episode, Lewis, who
had been sent on a short excursion south in quest of water, returned with
intelligence of an Eden oasis which he had discovered in the wilderness.
A beautiful clump of large gum trees flourished at the bottom of a small
creek, which was hemmed in by a high sand-hill, and afterwards broke
through a rocky ridge sprinkled with fine, clear, deep water-holes, one
hundred feet in circumference.  The rich green foliage of the gum trees
contrasted vividly with the red sand-hills on either side, and the bare
rocky barrier in front.  To this delightful spot of greenery, bustard,
bronze-wing pigeons, owls, and other birds resorted.

Colonel Warburton, however, was averse to retrace his steps, even to
enjoy a halt in such an “earthly paradise;” and, pushing forward, was
rewarded for his persistency by discovering a fine large lake of fresh
water, haunted by ducks, flock-pigeons, and parrots.  He halted on its
borders for a couple of days.

Of the bronze-wing pigeon, to which allusion has just been made, it may
be affirmed that it prevails in every part of Australia.  In some
individuals the forehead is brown, in others buff white; the crown of the
head and occiput, dark brown, shading into plum colour; sides of the
neck, grey; upper surface of the body, brown, each feather edged with
tawny brown; wings, brown, with an oblong spot of lustrous bronze on the
coverts; the tail feathers, deep grey, with a black band near the tip,
except the two central, which are brown; under surface of the wing,
ferruginous; breast, deep wine-colour, passing into grey on the under
parts; bill, blackish grey; legs and feet, carmine red.  It is a plump,
heavy bird, and, when in good condition, weighs nearly a pound.  Its
favourite haunts are the dry hot plains, among the bushes or “scrub.”
Its speed is very surprising; in an incredibly short time it traverses a
great expanse of country.  Before sunrise it may be seen in full flight
across the plain, directing its course towards the creeks, where it
quenches its thirst.  The traveller who knows its habits can, by
observing it, determine, even in the most arid places, whether water is
near at hand; if he descry it wending its way from all quarters towards a
given point, he may rest assured that there he will obtain the welcome
draught he seeks.  Mr. Gould says that it feeds entirely upon the ground,
where it finds the varieties of leguminous seeds that constitute its
food.  It breeds during August and the four following months, that is, in
the Australian spring and summer, and often rears two or more broods.
Its nest is a frail structure of small twigs, rather hollow in form; and
is generally placed on the horizontal branch of an apple or gum tree,
near the ground.  On one occasion, Mr. Gould, during a long drought, was
encamped at the northern extremity of the Brezi range, where he had daily
opportunities of observing the arrival of the bronze-wing to drink.  The
only water for miles around lay in the vicinity of his tent, though that
was merely the scanty supply left in a few small rocky basins by the
rains of many months before.  Hence, he enjoyed an excellent opportunity
for observing not only the bronze-wing, but all the other birds of the
neighbourhood.  Few, if any, of the true insectivorous or fissirostral
birds came to the water-holes; but, on the other hand, the species that
live upon grain and seeds, particularly the parrots and honey-eaters
(_Trichoglossi_ and _Meliphagi_), rushed down incessantly to the margins
of the pools, heedless of the naturalist’s presence, their sense of peril
vanquished temporarily by their sense of thirst.  The bronze-wing,
however, seldom appeared during the heat of the day; it was at sunset
that, with the swiftness of an arrow, it rushed towards the
watering-place.  It did not descend at once, says Mr. Gould, to the brink
of the pool, but dashed down upon the ground at about ten yards’
distance, remained quiet for a while until satisfied of its safety, and
then leisurely walked to the water.  After deep and frequent draughts, it
retired, winging its way towards its secluded nest.

Just before reaching the lake, the Colonel’s party made a capture, a
young native woman; and they detained her in order that she might guide
them to the native wells.  On the 1st of September, however, she effected
her escape by gnawing through a thick hair-rope, with which she had been
fastened to a tree.

Spinifex and sand resumed their predominance as the travellers left the
lake behind them.  The heat was very great, and crossing the hot sand and
the steep hills was trying work.  On the 12th, they rejoiced in the
discovery of some excellent wells.  Then again came spinifex and
sand-hills.  These troublesome ridges varied considerably in height and
in distance from one another; but their elevation seldom exceeded eighty
feet, and the space between them was not often more than three hundred
yards.  They lay parallel to one another, running from east to west; so
that while going either eastward or westward the travellers could keep in
the intervening hollows, and travel with comparative facility, but when
compelled to cross them at a great angle, the feet of the camels ploughed
deep in the sand, and the strain upon the poor animals was terrible.  Yet
the Australian waste is, after all, less wearisome than the sandy deserts
of Nubia or the great Sahara; it is sadly deficient in water, but the
sand-hills disguise their inhospitality with many varieties of shrubs and
flowers, as well as with acacias and gum trees.  The shrubs are not
edible, and the trees are of no value as timber, but they serve to hide
the nakedness of the land.

A grave danger beset them on the 15th.  Their master bull (or male) camel
had eaten poison, and fell ill; he was of immense value to the
travellers, not only on account of his great strength, but because
without his help it would be almost impossible to keep the young bulls in
order, and they might elope with all the ewe (or female) camels.  They
administered to him a bottle of mustard in a quart of water—the only
available medicine—but without any beneficial effect.  In every herd of
camels, it is necessary to explain, is found a master bull, who, by his
strength, preserves order among his young brethren.  These gay cavaliers
are always desirous of a harem to themselves; and, if allowed an
opportunity, would cut off three or four cows from the herd, and at full
speed drive them for hundreds of miles.  They are quiet only while under
subjection to the master bull, and become intractable if, through illness
or accident, his supremacy should be relaxed.  Colonel Warburton was
surprised at the marvellous instinct of the young bulls in his little
camel harem; they knew that their master was ailing almost before the
camel-men did, and at once showed signs of insubordination, so that it
was necessary to watch them by night and to knee-halter them.

The old camel did not improve, and on the 16th the Colonel was compelled
to abandon him.  Three misfortunes followed: on the 17th two riding
camels were taken ill, having been struck in the loins by the night wind;
and on the 18th the same fate befell Richard Warburton’s riding camel.
Thus, in three days the travellers lost four camels.  They endeavoured to
make some profit out of the misadventure by “curing” a quantity of
camel-meat.  The inner portions of the animal were first eaten—not the
liver and other dainty parts only, but the whole; every single scrap was
carefully consumed, not a shred was wasted.  Then, head, feet, hide,
tail, all went into the boiling pot.  Even the very bones were stewed
down, for soup first, and afterwards for the sake of the marrow they
contained.  The flesh was cut into thin flat strips, and hung upon the
bushes for three days to be dried by the sun.  The tough thick hide was
cut up and parboiled, the coarse hair scraped off with a knife, and the
leathery substance replaced in the pot and stewed until, both as to
flavour and savour, it bore a disagreeable resemblance to the inside of a
carpenter’s glue-pot.  As may be supposed, such a dish as this was not so
nutritious as the roast beef (or mutton) of Old England; but it stifled
for a while the cry of an empty stomach.  The attack next fell upon the
head, which was speedily reduced to a polished skull.  As for the foot,
like cow-heel or sheep’s trotters, it was looked upon as a delicacy, and
its preparation was a marvel of culinary skill.  First, a good fire was
lighted, and allowed to burn down to bright red embers, while the foot,
severed at the hock, was scraped and singed as thoroughly as time
permitted.  The foot was thrust into the glowing coals, burnt for some
considerable time, removed, placed on its side on the ground, and
deprived of its tough horny sole.  After this elaborate series of
operations, the reader will doubtless suppose that the delicacy is fit
for the table.  Not a bit of it!  It must be placed in a bucket of water,
and kept steadily boiling for six and thirty hours; then, and then only,
may it be served up.  On the whole, we should not consider it a dish for
a hungry man.

The 21st of September was the anniversary of their departure from
Adelaide.  Two of the party went out on camels to search for water, and
two, in a different direction, on foot.  As they had only two riding
camels left, and these in a weak condition, they threw away their tents,
and most of their private property, retaining only their guns and
ammunition, and clothing enough for decency.  Happily, one of the
reconnoitring parties found a well, to which the travellers at once
proceeded, and watered the thirsty, weary camels.

After a three days’ halt they resumed their advance, but moved very
slowly.  They were sick and feeble, and the country was difficult to
traverse.  Another camel had to be abandoned; so that out of seventeen
animals, only eight remained.  A plague of insects was added to their
troubles.  Not only did clouds of common flies buzz and worry around
them, and legions of ants assail them, but the Australian bee, or
honey-fly, tormented them by its pertinacious adhesion to their
persons—an unwelcome adhesion, as it is famed for its intolerable smell.
To get water they were again compelled to wander from the direct route,
and at one time they descended as far south as lat. 20° 2′.  Hence they
began to suffer from want of provisions, and a grim alternative faced
them: if they pressed forward, they ran the chance of losing their camels
and dying of thirst; if they halted, they could hope only to prolong
their lives on sun-dried camel flesh.

On the 3rd of October their condition was critical.  The improvident
Afghans, having consumed all their flour and meat, had to be supplied
from the scanty rations of the white men, and Colonel Warburton resolved
that if water were but once more found, so that he might not be compelled
to retrace his steps, he would at all risks push forward to the river
Oakover.  Another riding camel broke down, and was killed for meat.  A
well was discovered, but the supply of water was so small that only one
bucketful could be obtained in three hours, and on the second day it ran
dry.  On the 8th, having slightly recruited their animals, the undaunted
travellers again moved forward; but one of the camels was still so feeble
that Colonel Warburton and his son took it in turns to walk.  The Colonel
had the first stage, and, owing to stoppages from loads slipping off at
the sand-hills, he soon struck ahead of the camels.  Suddenly, hearing a
noise behind him, he turned;—nine armed blacks were rushing full upon
him!  He halted to confront them, and they too stopped, at fifteen yards
apart; two of them, in bravado, poised their spears, but, on his
advancing pistol in hand, immediately lowered them, and a parley
followed, in which, however, as neither understood the other’s language,
there was very little edification.

The blacks were all chattering round him, when he heard a shot, as he
supposed, on his “right front.”  In reality it was fired from quite an
opposite direction; but he was unwilling to answer the signal, because he
did not wish to lose one of the three charges of his pistol.  Moreover,
the natives might have supposed that the single discharge had exhausted
his resources, and have made an attack upon him.  He accompanied them to
their camp, and got a little water.  The women and children would not
approach him, but, thanks to his grey beard, the men similarly equipped
welcomed him readily.  There was a general passing of hands over each
other’s beards—a sign of friendship, it is to be presumed; for, after
this little ceremony, the intercourse was conducted on the most amicable
terms.  Eventually the Colonel resumed his walk across the hot glaring
sand-hills, until he thought he had covered the required distance, and
that the camels would soon overtake him; then he stopped, lighted a fire,
smoked a pipe, and would have indulged in a short nap, had the ants been
agreeable.  Finding that sleep was impossible, he resolved on returning
to the camp of the blacks for some more water; but, at that moment, his
son and Lewis arrived with Charley, who had followed up his tracks, and
he found that he must retrace his steps, having gone astray.  Exhausted
by heat, hunger, and fatigue, he could scarcely stagger along; but his
companions supported his tottering feet, and in the evening he reached
their encampment.

A good supply of water had been discovered, and, notwithstanding the
alarming scarcity of provisions, it was indispensable that they should
halt by it for some days, in order to give the camels an opportunity of
partially recovering their strength.  Without them the explorers could
hardly hope to cross the wide and weary wilderness in which they were
involved.  Their rapidly diminishing store of food they endeavoured to
eke out by killing such feathered spoil as came within their range—Gular
parrots, and bronze-wing and top-knot pigeons—and by a mess of boiled
salt-plant (_Salicornia_).  On the 14th they resumed their weary march.

An entry or two from Colonel Warburton’s journal will afford a vivid idea
of his distressed condition at this period:—

“19th.  This is Sunday.  How unlike one at home!  Half a quart of flour
and water at four a.m.; a hard, sinewy bit of raw, that is, sun-dried,
but uncooked, camel-meat for dinner at two p.m.; supper uncertain,
perhaps some roasted acacia seeds: this is our bill of fare.  These seeds
are not bad, but very small and very hard; they are on bushes, not trees,
and the natives use them roasted and pounded.

“20th.  Got a pigeon; and some flour and water for breakfast.  We can
only allow ourselves a spoonful of flour each at a time, and it won’t
last many days even at this rate.

“Killed a large camel for food at sunset.  We would rather have killed a
worse one, but this bull had, in the early part of our journey, got a
very bad back, and was unable to work for a long time. . . .

“21st.  Cutting up and jerking camel-meat.  The inside has given us a
good supper and breakfast.  This is a much better beast than the old,
worn-out cow we killed before, and we have utilized every scrap, having
had a sharp lesson as to the value of anything we can masticate. . . .

“25th.  All the camel-meat has been successfully jerked, and we have
lived since the 20th on bone-broth and gristle.  The birds were getting
shy, so when we killed the camel we gave them a rest; to-day we go at
them again.  I hope the water-searchers will return this evening; our
prospects are not very bright under any circumstances, but if we get
water anywhere between south and west we shall have a prospect of
overcoming the difficulties and dangers that threaten us. . . .

“29th.  A short rain squall passed over us last evening; it has cooled
the ground a little.  Economy is, of course, the order of the day in
provisions.  My son and I have managed to hoard up about one pound of
flour and a pinch of tea; all our sugar is gone.  Now and then we afford
ourselves a couple of spoonfuls of flour, made into paste.  When we
indulge in tea the leaves are boiled twice over.  I eat my sun-dried
camel-meat uncooked, as far as I can bite it; what I cannot bite goes
into the quart pot, and is boiled down to a sort of poor-house broth.
When we get a bird we dare not clean it, lest we should lose anything.

“More disasters this morning.  One of our largest camels very ill; the
only thing we could do for it was to pound four boxes of Holloway’s
pills, and drench the animal. . . .  One of the Afghans apparently wrong
in his head. . . .  In the evening the camel was still very sick.”

The animal, however, was better on the following day, and the expedition
again toiled onward across the sands.  Very troublesome were the ants,
which seemed to have undertaken a deliberate campaign against the
much-suffering travellers.  They were small black ants, and in such
numbers that a stamp of the foot on the ground started them in thousands.
When the wearied men flung themselves down in the shade of a bush to
obtain the solace of half an hour’s sleep, these pestilent persecutors
attacked them, making their way through their scanty clothing, and
dealing sharp painful nips with their strong mandibles.

On the evening of the 1st of November, they began their “rush” or forced
march for the Oakover river, and across the wearisome sand-hills actually
accomplished five and twenty miles.  Colonel Warburton then felt unable
to continue the journey, thirst, famine, and fatigue having reduced him
to a skeleton, while such was his weakness that he could scarcely rise
from the ground, or when up, stagger half a dozen steps forward.
“Charley” had been absent all day, and when he did not return at sunset,
much alarm was felt about him.  The Colonel knew not what to do.  Delay
meant ruin to them all, considering their want of food and water; yet to
leave the camp without the Colonel seemed inhuman, as it was dooming him
to certain death.  Until nine o’clock in the evening they waited.  Then a
start was made, but before they had gone eight miles, the poor lad joined
them.  Notwithstanding the fatigue of the previous night’s travelling,
the lad had actually walked about twenty miles; he had fallen in with a
large party of natives, and accompanied them to their water.  “It may, I
think, be admitted,” says Colonel Warburton, “that the hand of Providence
was distinctly visible in this instance.”—Is it not in _every_
instance?—“I had deferred starting until nine p.m., to give the absent
boy the chance of regaining the camp.  It turned out afterwards that if
we had expedited our departure by ten minutes, or postponed it for the
same length of time, Charley would have crossed us; and had this
happened, there is little doubt that not only myself, but probably other
members of the expedition, would have perished from thirst.  The route
pursued by us was at right angles with the course pursued by the boy, and
the chances of our stumbling up against each other in the dark were
infinitesimally small.  Providence mercifully ordered it otherwise, and
our departure was so timed that, after travelling from two to two hours
and a half, when all hope of the recovery of the wanderer was almost
abandoned, I was gladdened by the ‘cooee’ of the brave lad, whose keen
ears had caught the sound of the bells attached to the camels’ necks.  To
the energy and courage of this untutored native may, under the guidance
of the Almighty, be attributed the salvation of the party.  It was by no
accident that he encountered the friendly well.  For fourteen miles he
followed up the tracks of some blacks, though fatigued by a day of severe
work, and, receiving a kindly welcome from the natives, he had hurried
back, unmindful of his own exhausted condition, to apprise his companions
of the important discovery he had made.”

At the native camp, Colonel Warburton’s party obtained some kangaroo
meat, and a good supply of fresh water.  They rested for twenty-four
hours, and the repose and the food together temporarily reinvigorated
them.  At this time their position was lat. 20° 41′, and long. 122° 30′;
so that they were only three days’ journey from the Oakover.  Forward
they went, the country still presenting the two main features of sand and
spinifex; forward they went, over the cheerless, monotonous plains,
broken by sand ridges; growing weaker every day, but losing not one jot
of hope or resolution.  The annals of travel present few examples of more
heroic tenacity and persistent purpose; few records of suffering more
patiently borne, or of obstacles more steadfastly overcome.  The highest
energy, perseverance, and fortitude were necessary to the leader of an
exploring expedition through so forlorn a wilderness, and these were
never wanting on the part of Colonel Warburton, whose name, amongst the
pioneers of civilization in Australia, must always be held in honour.

On the 11th of November, the seven members of the expedition were living
wholly on sun-dried strips of meat, as devoid of nutriment as they were
of taste; and as these were almost exhausted, they had to consider the
probability of having to sacrifice another camel.  They had no salt—a
terrible deprivation; no flour, tea, or sugar.  Next day, they were
surrounded by sand-hills, and no water was visible anywhere.  It was
certain that, unless some providentially opportune help arrived, they
could not live more than twenty-four hours; for the burning heat and the
terrible country could not be endured without water.  Not a snake, kite,
or crow could they discover; one little bird, the size of a sparrow, was
all that their guns could procure.  Writing in his journal, the Colonel
calmly says:—“We have tried to do our duty, and have been disappointed in
all our expectations.  I have been in excellent health during the whole
journey, and am so still, being merely worn out from want of food and
water.  Let no self-reproaches afflict any one respecting me.  I
undertook the journey for the benefit of my family, and was quite equal
to it under all the circumstances that could reasonably be anticipated,
but difficulties and losses have come upon us so thickly for the last few
months that we have not been able to move; thus our provisions are gone,
but this would not have stopped us could we have found water without such
laborious search.  The country is terrible.  I do not believe men ever
traversed so vast an extent of continuous desert.”

Early on the 14th Charley sighted in the distance a native camp, and
while the remainder of the party, with the camels, kept out of sight, he
advanced alone towards it.  The blacks received him kindly and gave him
water, but when he “cooed” for the party to come up, they seem to have
thought he had entrapped them, and instantly speared him in the back and
arm, cut his skull with a tomahawk, and nearly broke his jaw.  After
perpetrating this cruelty, they fled ignominiously.  Colonel Warburton
took possession of the fire they had kindled, and rejoiced at obtaining
water.  Charley’s wounds were serious, but they were bound up as
carefully as circumstances permitted, and it is satisfactory to state
that he recovered from them.  Another camel was killed, and Charley was
nursed upon soup.  This supply of meat enabled the expedition to continue
its march towards the Oakover, which receded apparently as they advanced;
and they toiled onward painfully, with the hot sun and hot wind
exhausting their small resource of energy, the ants tormenting them at
night, the sand and spinifex oppressing them by their monotony.  On the
25th, to save themselves from starvation, they killed another camel, and
all hands were employed in cutting up and jerking the meat.  At last, on
the 4th of December, they camped on a rocky creek, tributary to the
Oakover, and were able to take leave of the dreadful desert which had so
long hemmed them in on every side.  Their spirits revived, for there was
no longer a scarcity of water and they hoped that the river would supply
them with the means of subsistence.

But they had soon reason to feel that their difficulties were not all at
an end.  It was pleasant to look on the beautiful trees and profuse
vegetation of the creek, but the charms of nature will not satisfy
stomachs that have had no food for two days.  So, on the evening of the
6th, a third camel was killed.  Next day a few small fish were caught;
they were greatly relished, and proved of real benefit.  The 8th was
happily marked by another banquet of fish; but as they had no net or
fishing apparatus, it was by no means easy work to catch them.  Still,
the travellers did not grow stronger; want of rest and of wholesome food,
and the strain of continuous exertion and anxiety for so long a period,
had undermined the whole system, and they could not rally.

On the 11th they struck the Oakover in lat. 21° 11′ 23″.  This must be a
noble river, writes the Colonel, when the floods come down.  The bed is
wide and gravelly, fringed with magnificent cajeput or paper-bark trees.
How grateful was its lovely and shady refuge from the hot fierce sun
after the terrible sand-hills among which the travellers had wandered so
long!

On the 13th Lewis and an Afghan driver, on the only two camels that could
travel, were sent forward to search for the station of Messrs. Harper and
Co., and procure some help both in food and carriage.  During his absence
the Colonel and his companions lived, to use an expressive phrase, from
hand to mouth.  They could not get the fish to bite; but one day Richard
Warburton shot a teal, and they rescued from the talons of a hawk a fine
black duck, which supplied them with a splendid dinner.  They were
compelled, however, to fall back upon their last camel, though he was so
lean and worn-out that he did not cut up well.  On the 23rd they rejoiced
in the capture of a couple of wood-ducks, and they also secured a little
honey—a delightful novelty for persons who for many weeks had been
deprived of the strengthening and useful properties of sugar.  Still,
these occasional “tidbits” could not supply the want of regular and
nutritious food; and all the travellers could hope for was to stave off
actual famine.  Day after day passed by, and Lewis did not return.
Colonel Warburton had calculated that he would be absent about fourteen
days; but the seventeenth came, and yet there was no sign of Lewis.
Writing in his journal, Colonel Warburton, on December 20th, sums up his
position in a few pithy and pregnant sentences:—“We have abundance of
water, a little tobacco, and a few bits of dried camel.  Occasionally an
iguana or a cockatoo enlivens our fare; and, lastly, I hope the late rain
will bring up some thistles or some pig-weed that we can eat.  Our
difficulties are, to make our meat last, though, so far from doing us
good, we are all afflicted with scurvy, diarrhoea, and affection of the
kidneys from the use of it.  We cannot catch the fish; we cannot find
opossums or snakes; the birds won’t sit down by us, and we can’t get up
to go to them.  We thought we should have no difficulty in feeding
ourselves on the river, but it turns out that, from one cause or another,
we can get very little, and we are daily dropping down a peg or two
lower.”  But a few hours after making this entry, the Colonel’s long
period of suffering and anxiety was at an end.  He and his son were lying
down near the little hut of boughs which they had constructed as a
shelter, and listlessly eyeing the boy Charley, who had climbed a tree to
look for honey, when they were startled by his cry—whether a yell of pain
or shout of joy, it was impossible to determine.  But in a moment the
cause of his emotion was satisfactorily explained; out from the thick
brushwood trotted a string of six horses, driven by the gallant Mr.
Lewis, accompanied by another white man from a station on the De Grey
river.  They brought an ample supply of nutritious food, and on the
following day some additional stores came up on camels.  Mr. Lewis’s
apparent delay was soon explained; the station, which belonged to Messrs.
Grant, Harper, and Anderson, was one hundred and seventy miles distant.

On the 3rd of January Colonel Warburton started down the river.  For the
first few days he had to be lifted on his horse’s back, but with good
food and moderate exercise he regained something of his old strength, and
the journey to the station was accomplished in a week and a day.  Ten
days were then given to rest under the hospitable roof of Messrs. Grant,
and on the 21st he started for Roebourne, one hundred and seventy miles
further, arriving there on the 26th.  His after stages were Lepack,
Fremantle, Perth, Albany.  At Glenelg, in South Australia, the Colonel
and his companions arrived on Easter Sunday, having travelled by land
four thousand miles, and by sea two thousand miles.

The casualties are quickly recorded: the Colonel lost the sight of one
eye, and his son’s health was seriously shaken.  Out of seventeen camels,
only two arrived safely at the station on the De Grey river.

It is almost needless to say that everywhere in West Australia Colonel
Warburton was received with the public honours due to a man who has
courageously and successfully accomplished a work of equal difficulty and
danger.  He was entertained in the most generous and cordial manner, and
the high utility of his labours was liberally acknowledged.  On his
return to South Australia he met, of course, with an enthusiastic
welcome.  A great banquet was given to the explorers, and the Legislative
Assembly voted the sum of £1000 to the leader, and £500 to be divided
among the subordinates.  In 1874 the Royal Geographical Society of London
conferred upon him its gold medal, and a few months later the Queen
appointed him a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

Here closes a simple but stirring narrative, of which it is not, perhaps,
too much to say, as has been said, that scarcely has a record of terrible
suffering more nobly borne been given to the world.  Hunger and thirst,
intense physical exhaustion, the burning heat of a tropic sun, the
glowing sands of an arid desert—not a single circumstance was wanting
that could test the heroic endurance and patient heroism of the
explorers.  The country through which they toiled day after day was
barren, inhospitable, desolate; a wilderness of coarse yellow herbage, a
sombre waste of sand-hills.  Their hearts were never cheered by bright
glimpses of gorgeous scenery, of forests clothed with magnificent
vegetation, of rivers pouring their ample waters through sylvan valleys;
everywhere the landscape was melancholy and unprofitable.  He who, with
his life in his hand, penetrates the frozen recesses of the Polar World,
and dares its storms of snow and its icy winds, has at least the
inspiration to support him that springs from the grandeur of huge cliffs
of ice and vast glaciers and white-gleaming peaks outlined against a deep
blue sky.  But in the wide Australian interior the landscape is always
marked by the same monotony of dreariness, the same uniformity of gloom;
and it tests and taxes the traveller’s energies to rise superior to its
depressing influences.

The reader, therefore, will feel that “the Municipal Council and
inhabitants of Fremantle” used no language of undeserved eulogy when, in
their address of welcome to Colonel Egerton Warburton, they said—

“The difficulties to be overcome in the work of Australian exploration
are acknowledged to be as formidable as are to be found in any part of
our globe, and to meet these difficulties requires a combination of
intelligence, energy, perseverance, and fortitude that few men possess;
and the fact that you have surmounted all obstacles, and borne up under
so many privations, has awakened in all our minds the deepest feelings of
gratitude and admiration.”  {324}



MAJOR BURNABY,
AND A RIDE TO KHIVA.


I.


THAT vast and various region of sandy deserts and fertile valleys, of
broad open plains and lofty highlands, which extends eastward from the
Caspian Sea to the borders of Afghanistan, and from Persia northward to
the confines of Siberia, is known to geographers by the name of
Turkistan, or “the country of the Turks.”  Across it, from north to
south, strikes the massive chain of the Bolor-tagh, dividing it into two
unequal portions.  The western division is popularly known as Independent
Tartary, or Great Bokhara; it covers an area of nearly 900,000 square
miles—that is, it is ten times as large as Great Britain—and it consists
of the arid sandy plain of the Caspian and Aral Seas, and of the hilly
districts which skirt the ranges of the Bolor-Tagh, the Thian-Shan, and
the Hindu Kush.  The eastern division, or Upper Tartary, probably
contains 700,000 square miles, and extends from Asiatic Russia on the
north to Thibet and Kashmir on the south, from Mongolia on the east to
the Bolor-Tagh on the west.  The Thian-Shan separates its two provinces,
which the Chinese call Thian-Shan-Pe-lû and Thian-Shan-Nan-lû.  The
reader’s attention, however, will be here directed only to Western
Turkistan, which is divided into the Khanates of Khokan (north-east),
Badakshan (south-east), Bokhara (east), and Khiva (west).  To the north
stretch the steppes of the nomadic Kirghiz; to the south the hills and
dales are occupied by the hordes of the Turkomans.  Its two great rivers
are the Amu-Daria and the Syr-Daria, the ancient _Oxus_ and
_Jaxartes_,—the former traversing the centre, and the latter the south of
the district, on their way to the great Arabian Sea; and the valleys
through which they flow, as well as those of their tributary streams, are
mostly fertile and pleasant.  As might be inferred from the character of
the country, the chief resources of the population are the breeding of
domestic animals, and the cultivation of the soil; but in the towns of
Khokand, Bokhara, Urgondji, and Karshi, a brisk manufacturing industry
flourishes, which disposes of its surplus produce, after the local demand
is satisfied, to the merchants of Russia, Persia, India, and China.

Since 1864, the supremacy of Russia has been steadily advancing in
Western Turkistan.  In ordinary circumstances, the extension of the power
of a civilized nation over a number of semi-barbarous states, constantly
engaged in internecine warfare, is regarded as a just and legitimate
movement, or, at all events, as one that is inevitable and calls for no
expression of regret; but the eastward progress of Russia has long been
considered, by a large party in England, as a menace to the safety of our
Indian empire.  Every fresh step of the Russian armies has therefore
excited alarm or created suspicion among those who are known as
Russophobists.  How far their fear or their mistrust is justifiable or
dignified it is not our business in these pages to inquire; but it has
been necessary to allude to it because it was this Russophobism which
impelled Major (then Captain) Burnaby to undertake the difficult, if not
dangerous, task of visiting Western Turkistan, that he might see with his
own eyes what the Russians were doing there.  The Russians had recently
conquered Khokand and Khiva; it was thought they were preparing for
further annexations; and Major Burnaby determined on an effort to reach
Khiva, which during the Russian campaign had been visited, as we have
seen, by Mr. MacGahan, the war correspondent of the _New York Herald_.
Having obtained leave of absence from his regiment, the Royal Horse
Guards, Major Burnaby rapidly equipped himself for his adventurous
journey.  He was well aware that the Russian authorities did not welcome
the inquisitive eyes of English travellers, and that from them he could
expect no assistance.  His confidence in his resources, however, was
great; he felt _totus in se ipso_; and he did not intend to be baffled in
his object by anything but sheer force.  The climate was another
difficulty.  The cold of the Kirghiz desert is a thing unknown in any
other part of the world, even in the Arctic wastes and wildernesses; and
he would have to traverse on horseback an enormous expanse of flat
country, extending for hundreds of miles, and devoid of everything save
snow and salt-lakes, and here and there the species of bramble-tree
called saxaul.  The inhabitants of Western Europe can form no conception
of the force of the winds in Turkistan.  They grumble at the pungent,
irritating east; but they little imagine what it is like in countries
exposed to the awful vehemence of its first onset, before its rigour has
been mitigated by the kindly ocean, and where its wild career is
unimpeded by trees or rising land, by hills or mountains.
Uninterruptedly it blows over dreary leagues of snow and salt, absorbing
the saline matter, and blighting or almost gashing the faces of those
unfortunates who are exposed to its fury.  But no fear of the east wind
prevailed over Major Burnaby’s patriotic curiosity.  He provided against
it as best he could: warm were the garments specially made for him; his
boots were lined with fur; his hose were the thickest Scottish fishing
stockings; his jerseys and flannel shirts of the thickest possible
texture; and he ordered for himself a waterproof and airproof
sleeping-bag, seven feet and a half long, and two feet round.  A large
aperture was left on one side, so that the traveller might take up his
quarters in the interior, and sleep well protected from the wintry
blasts.  For defensive purposes he took with him his rifle, a revolver,
cartridges, and ball.  His cooking apparatus consisted of a couple of
soldier’s mess-tins.  A trooper’s hold-all, with its accompanying knife,
fork, and spoon, completed his kit; and, by way of instruments, he
carried a thermometer, a barometer, and a pocket sextant.

On the 30th of November, 1875, Major Burnaby left London.  He arrived at
St. Petersburg on the 3rd of December, and immediately set to work to
obtain the necessary authorization for his proposed journey, which he
defined as a tour to India _viâ_ Khiva, Merv, and Kabul; in other words,
across Central Asia and Afghanistan.  All that he _did_ obtain was a
communication to the effect that the commandants in Russian Asia had
received orders to assist him in travelling through the territory under
their command, but that the Imperial Government could not acquiesce in
his extending his journey beyond its boundaries, as it could not answer
for the security or the lives of travellers except within the Emperor’s
dominions—a self-evident fact.  The reply was evidently intended to
discourage Major Burnaby; but Major Burnaby was not to be discouraged.
It is not in the English character to be daunted by a consideration of
prospective or possible dangers; certainly, it is not in the character of
English officers.  So the adventurous guardsman started by railway for
Orenburg, the great centre and depôt of Central Asiatic traffic.  At
Riajsk he obtained a vivid illustration of the heterogeneous character of
the Russian empire, the waiting-room being crowded with representatives
of different nationalities.  Here stalked a Tartar merchant in a long
parti-coloured gown, a pair of high boots, and a small yellow fez.  There
a fur trader, in a greasy-looking black coat, clutched his small leather
bag of coin.  Here an old Bokharan, in flowing robes, was lulled by opium
into a temporary forgetfulness of his troubles.  There Russian peasants
moved to and fro, with well-knit frames, clad in untanned leather, which
was bound about their loins by narrow leather belts, studded with buttons
of brass and silver.  Europe and Asia met together in the waiting-room at
Riajsk station.

The railway went no further than Sizeran, where Major Burnaby and a
Russian gentleman hired a troika, or three-horse sleigh, to take them to
Samara.  The distance was about eighty-five miles; but as the thermometer
marked 20° below zero (R.), the travellers found it necessary to make
formidable preparations.  First they donned three pairs of the thickest
stockings, drawn up high above the knee; next, over these, a pair of
fur-lined low shoes, which in their turn were inserted into leather
goloshes; and, finally, over all, a pair of enormously thick boots.
Allow for extra thick drawers and a pair of massive trousers; and add a
heavy flannel under-shirt, a shirt covered by a thick wadded waistcoat
and coat, and an external wrap in the form of a large shuba, or fur
pelisse, reaching to the heels; and you may suppose that the protection
against the cold was tolerably complete.  The head was guarded with a fur
cap and vashlik, _i.e._ a kind of conical cloth headpiece made to cover
the cap, and having two long ends tied round the throat.  Thus accoutred,
the travellers took their places in the troika, which, drawn by three
horses harnessed abreast, and with jingling bell, rapidly descended the
hill, and dashed on to the frozen surface of the river Volga.  Along the
solid highway furnished by the ice-bound stream, past frozen-in shipping
and sledges loaded with various kinds of wares, sped the troika;
sometimes, in its turn, outstripped by other troikas,—drivers and
passengers all alike white with glittering hoar-frost, until they seemed
a company of grey-beards.  The solid river flashed like a burnished
cuirass in the rays of the morning.  Here the scene was varied by a group
of strangely patterned blocks and pillars; there a fountain gracefully
shooting upwards with shapely Ionic and Doric columns, reflected a myriad
prismatic hues from its diamond-like stalactites.  Here a broken Gothic
arch overhung the shining highway; there an Egyptian obelisk lay half
buried beneath the snow.  Such were the fantastic shapes into which the
strong wind had moulded the ice as it was rapidly formed.

Regaining the main road, Major Burnaby and his companion sped on towards
Samara.  Their first halting-place was a farmhouse, called Nijny Pegersky
Hootor, twenty-five versts from Sizeran, where some men were winnowing
corn after a fashion of antediluvian simplicity.  Throwing the corn high
up into the air with a shovel, they allowed the wind to blow away the
husks, and the grain fell upon a carpet laid out to catch it.  As for the
farmhouse, it was a square wooden building, containing two low but
spacious rooms.  A large stove of dried clay was so placed as to warm
both apartments; and above it, a platform of boards, not more than three
feet from the ceiling, supplied the family with sleeping accommodation.
On the outside of the building a heavy wooden door opened into a small
portico, at one end of which stood the obraz, or image—as usual an
appendage to a Russian house, as were the Lares and Penates, or household
gods, to a Roman house.  The obrazye are made of different patterns, but
usually represent a saint or the Trinity; they are executed in
silver-gilt on brass relief, and adorned with all kinds of gewgaws.

A fresh team having been obtained, the travellers resumed their journey;
but the cold had increased, the wind blew more furiously, and their
suffering was severe.  In thick flakes fell the constant snow, and the
driver had much ado to keep the track, while the half-fed horses
floundered along heavily, and frequently sank up to the traces in the
gathering drift.  The cracks of the whip resounded from their jaded
flanks like pistol-shots.  With sarcastic apostrophes the driver
endeavoured to stimulate their progress:—

“Oh, sons of animals!” (whack!)

“Oh, spoiled one!” (whack!)  This to a poor, attenuated brute.

“Oh, woolly ones!” (whack, whack, whack!)  Here all were upset into a
snow-drift, the sleigh being three-parts overturned, and the driver flung
in an opposite direction.

The sleigh was righted; the travellers once more took their seats; and on
through the darkening day they drove, until they came to a long
straggling village, where the horses stopped before a detached cottage.
Benumbed with the bitter cold, Major Burnaby and his companion dashed
inside, and made haste, in front of a blazing stove, to restore the
suspended circulation.  Then, while the women of the house made tea in a
samovar, or urn, they unfroze in the stove some cutlets and bread which
they had carried with them, and proceeded to enjoy a hearty repast.  In
one hour’s time they were ready to start; but their driver demurred.  The
snowstorm was heavy; wolves prowled along the track; the river ice might
give way.  It was better to wait until the morning, when, with beautiful
horses, they might go like birds to the next station.  The two travellers
could do nothing with him, and were compelled to resign themselves to
pass the night on the hard boards, in an atmosphere infested by many
unpleasant smells.  A good hour before sunrise all were again in motion.
The Major and his companion abandoned their heavy troika, and engaged two
small sleighs with a pair of horses to each, one for themselves and one
to carry their luggage.

It was a glorious winter morning, and the sun came forth like a
bridegroom to run his course, invested with indescribable pomp of colour.
First, over the whole of the eastern horizon extended a pale blue streak,
which seemed, like a wall, to shut off the vast Beyond.  Suddenly its
summit changed into rare lapis-lazuli, while its base became a sheet of
purple.  From the darker lines shot wondrous waves of grey and crystal;
and in time the purple foundations upheaved into glowing seas of fire.
The wall broke up into castles, battlements, and towers—all with magical
gleams, which gradually floated far away, while the seas of flame,
lighting up the whole horizon, burst through their borders and swelled
into a mighty ocean.  The sight was one on which the eye of man could
scarcely gaze.  The sunny expanse of the winter-bound earth reflected as
in a mirror the celestial panorama.  Shafts of light seemed to dart in
rapid succession from earth to sky, until at last the vast luminous orb
of day rose from the depth of the many-coloured radiance, and with its
surpassing glory put everything else to shame.

The travellers reached Samara—a well-built prosperous town, situated on a
tributary of the Volga.  There Major Burnaby parted from his companion,
whose road thenceforward lay in a different direction, and proceeded to
make his preparations for a drive across the steppes to Orenburg.

He started next morning, in a sleigh which he had purchased, and had
caused to be well repaired, and took the road towards Orenburg.  The
country was flat and uninteresting; buried beneath a white shroud of
sand, with a few trees scattered here and there, and at intervals a
dreary-looking hut or two.  The first post-station, for changing horses,
was Smeveshlaevskaya, twenty versts (a verst is two-thirds of an English
mile); the next, Bodrovsky, where Burnaby arrived a little after sunset.
After drinking a few glasses of tea to fortify himself against the
increasing cold (25° below zero, R.), he pushed forward in the hope of
reaching Malomalisky, about twenty-six and a half versts, about nine p.m.
But plunging into the heart of a terrible snowstorm, he and his driver
were so blinded and beaten, and the horses so jaded by the swiftly
forming snow-drifts, that he was compelled to give the order to return,
and to pass the night at Bodrovsky.

At daybreak the resolute guardsman was on his way.  In the course of the
day he fell in with General Kryjonovsky, the governor of the Orenburg
district, who was bound for St. Petersburg; and a brief conversation with
him showed that the authorities, as he had suspected, by no means
approved of his expedition to Khiva.  At one of the stations, the man
assigned to him as driver had been married only the day before, and
undertook his duties with obvious reluctance.  His sole desire was to
return as quickly as possible to his bride, and with this intent he
lashed his horses until they kicked and jumped in the most furious
contortions.  The Major was thrown in the air, and caught again by the
rebound; upset, righted, and upset again; gun, saddle-bags,
cartridge-cases, and traveller, all simultaneously flying in the air.
After a third of these rough experiences, the Major resolved to try the
effect of a sharp application of his boot.

“Why do you do that?” said the driver, pulling up his horse.  “You hurt,
you break my ribs.”

“I only do to you what you do to me,” replied the Major.  “You hurt, you
break my ribs, and injure my property besides.”

“Oh, sir of noble birth,” ejaculated the fellow, “it is not my fault.  It
is thine, oh moody one!” to his offside horse, accompanied by a crack
from his whip.  “It is thine, oh spoilt and cherished one!” to his other
meagre and half-starved quadruped (whack!) “Oh, petted and caressed sons
of animals” (whack, whack, whack!), “I will teach you to upset the
gentleman.”

                                * * * * *

At length, after a journey of four hundred versts, Orenburg was reached.
At this frontier town, situated almost on the verge of civilization, our
traveller was compelled to make a short sojourn.  He had letters of
introduction to present, which procured him some useful friends; a
servant to engage, provisions to purchase, information to collect about
the route to Khiva, and his English gold and notes to convert into
Russian coin.  Through the good offices of a Moslem gentleman, he was
able to engage a Tartar, named Nazar—not five feet high—as a servant; and
after some delay he obtained from the military chief a podorojoraya, or
passport, as far as Kasala, or Fort No. 1.  This pass ran as follows: “By
the order of His Majesty the Emperor Alexander, the son of Nicolas,
Autocrat of the whole of Russia, etc., etc.  From the town of Orsk to the
town of Kasala, to the Captain of the English service, Frederick, the son
of Gustavus Burnaby, to give three horses, with a driver, for the legal
fare, without delay.  Given in the town of Orenburg, 15th December,
1875.”

The next day, Frederick, “the son of Gustavus Burnaby,” with his Tartar
servant, took their departure from Orenburg, and in a few minutes were
trotting along the frozen surface of the river Ural.  Every now and then
they fell in with a caravan of rough, shaggy, undersized camels, drawing
sleighs laden with cotton from Tashkent; or a Cossack galloped by,
brandishing his long spear; or a ruddy-faced Kirghiz slowly caracolled
over the shining snow.  Three stations were passed in safety, and Burnaby
resolved on halting at the fourth, Krasnojorsk, for refreshment.  But as
the afternoon closed in, the Tartar driver began to lash his weary jades
impatiently; as an excuse for his vehemence, pointing to the clouds that
were rising before them, and the signs of a gathering snowstorm.  Soon
the air was filled with flakes; the darkness rapidly increased; the
driver lost his way, and, at length, the team came to a standstill,
breast deep in a snow-drift.  What was to be done?  It was equally
impossible to go forward or to return; there was no wood in the
neighbourhood with which to kindle a fire, no shovel with which to make a
snow house; nothing could the belated wayfarer do but endure the bitter
cold and the silent darkness, and wait for morning.  Burnaby suffered
much from the exposure, but the great difficulty was to prevent himself
from yielding to the fatal lethargy which extreme cold induces—from
falling into that sleep which turns inevitably into death.  How he
rejoiced when the day broke, and he was able to despatch the driver on
one of the horses for assistance; and how he rejoiced when the man
returned with three post horses and some peasants, and the road was
regained, and the journey resumed, and the station reached at last!
There they rested and refreshed themselves, before, with invigorated
spirits, they dashed once again into the snow-bound depths of the
steppes.

After a while the aspect of the country grew more cheery.  The low chain
of mountains to the north-east was sometimes abruptly broken, and a
prominent peak thrust its summit into the interval.  Through the fleecy
snow various coloured grasses were visible.  Olive-tinted branches, and
dark forests of fir and pine, contrasted strongly with the whitely
shining expanse that spread as far as the eye could see.  Spider-like
webs of frozen dew hung from the branches.  The thin icicles glistened
like prisms with all the colours of the rainbow.  Thus, through a
succession of fairy landscapes, such as the dwellers in Western lands can
form but a faint idea of, the travellers dashed onward to Orsk.

Then the face of the country underwent another change.  They were fairly
in the region of the steppes—those wide and level plains which, during
the brief summer, bloom with luxuriant vegetation, and are alive with the
flocks and herds of the nomads, but in the long drear winter, from north
to south and east to west, are buried deep beneath frozen snow.  Wherever
you direct your gaze it rests upon snow, snow, still snow; shining with a
painful glare in the mid-day sun; fading into a dull, grey, melancholy
ocean as noon lapses into twilight.  “A picture of desolation which
wearies by its utter loneliness, and at the same time appals by its
immensity; a circle of which the centre is everywhere, and the
circumference nowhere.”  Travel, in this world-beyond-the-world, in this
solitude which Frost and Winter make all their own, tests the courage and
endurance of a man, for it makes no appeal to the imagination or the
fancy, it charms the eye with no pleasant pictures, suggests no
associations to the mind.  But it has its dangers, as Major Burnaby
experienced.  He had left the station of Karabootak (three hundred and
seventeen miles from Orsk), and as the road was comparatively smooth, and
the wind had subsided, he leaned back in his sleigh and fell asleep.
Unluckily he had forgotten to put on his thick gloves, and his hands,
slipping from the fur-lined sleeves of his pelisse, lay exposed to the
full potency of the cold air.  In a few minutes he awoke with a feeling
of intense pain; and looking at his hands, he saw that the finger-nails
were blue, blue too the fingers and back of the hands, while the wrists
and lower part of the arms had assumed the hue of wax.  They were
frost-bitten!  He called his servant, and made him rub the skin with some
snow in the hope of restoring the vitality.  This he did for some
minutes; but, meanwhile, the pain gradually ascended up the arms, while
the lower portion of the arms was dead to all feeling, all sensation.
“It is no good,” said Nazar, looking sorrowfully at his master; “we must
drive on as fast as possible to the station.”

The station was some miles off.  Miles?  Each mile seemed to the tortured
traveller a league; each league a day’s journey; the physical pain
consumed him, wore him down as mental anguish might have done.  But at
last the station was reached; Burnaby sprang from the sleigh, rushed into
the waiting-room, and to three Cossacks whom he met there showed his
hands.  Straightway they conducted him into an outer apartment, took off
his coat, bared his arms, and plunged him into a tub of ice and water up
to the shoulders.  He felt nothing.

“Brother,” said the eldest of the soldiers, shaking his head, “it is a
bad job; you will lose your hands.”

“They will drop off,” remarked another, “if we cannot get back the
circulation.”

“Have you any spirit with you?” asked a third.

Nazar, on hearing this inquiry, immediately ran out, and returned with a
tin bottle containing naphtha for cooking purposes; upon which the
Cossacks, taking the Major’s arms out of the icy water, proceeded to rub
them with the strong spirit.

Rub, rub, rub; the skin peeled under their horny hands, and the spirit
irritated the membrane below.  At last a faint sensation like tickling—we
are using the Major’s own words—pervaded the elbow-joints, and he
slightly flinched.

“Does it hurt?” asked the eldest Cossack.

“A little.”

“Capital, brothers,” he continued; “rub as hard as you can;” and after
continuing the friction until the flesh was almost flayed, they suddenly
plunged his arms again into the ice and water.  This time, the pain was
sharp.

“Good,” exclaimed the Cossacks.  “The more it hurts, the better chance
you have of saving your hands.”  And after a short time they let him
remove his arms from the tub.

“You are fortunate, little father,” said the eldest Cossack.  “If it had
not been for the spirit your hands would have dropped off, even if you
had not lost your arms.”

“Rough, kind-hearted fellows were these poor soldiers,” adds Major
Burnaby; “and when I forced on the oldest of them a present for himself
and comrades, the old soldier simply said, ‘Are we not all brothers when
in misfortune?  Would you not have helped me if I had been in the same
predicament?’”

The Major shook his hand heartily, and retired to the waiting-room to
rest upon the sofa, as the physical shock he had undergone had for the
moment thoroughly prostrated him.  Moreover, his arms were sore and
inflamed, the spirit having in some places penetrated the raw flesh; and
several weeks elapsed before he thoroughly recovered from the effects of
his carelessness.

                                * * * * *

At Terekli, about five hundred miles from Orenburg, our traveller entered
the province of Turkistan, and found himself in the region which
acknowledges the authority of General Kauffmann—a restless and ambitious
soldier, to whose energy much of Russia’s recent advance eastward would
seem to be due.  He still pushed forward with characteristic resolution,
braving the terrors of the climate and the dangers of the road in his
determined purpose to reach Khiva.  At one station no horses were to be
obtained, and, instead, three gigantic camels were harnessed to the tiny
sleigh.  A strange spectacle!  “I have tried many ways of locomotion in
my life, from fire-balloons to bicycles, from canoes and bullocks to
cows, camels, and donkeys; whilst in the East the time-honoured sedan of
our grandfathers has occasionally borne me and my fortunes; but never had
I travelled in so comical a fashion.  A Tartar rode the centre camel.
His head-gear would have called attention, if nothing else had, for he
wore a large black hat, which reminded me of an inverted coal-scuttle,
whilst a horn-like protuberance sticking out from its summit gave a
diabolical appearance to his lobster-coloured visage.  The hat, which was
made of sheepskin, had the white wool inside, which formed a striking
contrast to the flaming countenance of the excited Tartar.  He had
replaced the usual knout used for driving, by a whip armed with a thin
cord lash, and he urged on his ungainly team more by the shrill sounds of
his voice than by any attempt at flagellation, the Tartar seldom being
able to get more than four miles an hour from the lazy brutes.

“All of a sudden the camel in the centre quickly stopped, and the rider
was precipitated head-over-heels in the snow.  Luckily, it was soft
falling; there were no bones broken, and in a minute or two he was again
in the saddle, having changed the system of harnessing, and placed one of
the camels as leader, whilst the other two were driven as wheelers.  We
got on very fairly for a little while, when the foremost of our train
having received a rather sharper application of the lash than he deemed
expedient remonstrated with his rider by lying down.  Coaxing and
persuasion were now used; he was promised the warmest of stalls, the most
delicious of water, if he would only get up.  But this the beast
absolutely declined to do, until the cold from the snow striking against
his body induced him to rise from the ground.

“We now went even slower than before.  Our driver was afraid to use his
whip for fear of another ebullition of temper on the part of the
delinquent, and confined himself to cracking his whip in the air.  The
sounds of this proceeding presently reaching the ears of the leader,
perhaps made him think that his companions were undergoing chastisement.
Anyhow, it appeared to afford him some satisfaction, for, quickening his
stride, he compelled his brethren behind to accelerate their pace; and
after a long, wearisome drive we arrived at our destination.”

Under the influence of milder weather the aspect of the country rapidly
modified and brightened, and instead of a uniform sheet of frozen snow,
broad patches of vegetation met the eye.  On these the Kirghiz horses
were browsing with evident delight.  How they live through the winter is
a mystery, as their owners seldom feed them with corn, and they are
compelled to trust to the scanty grasses which may still be partially
alive underneath the snow.  Nor are they in any way protected from the
cold.  As a necessary consequence, the spring finds them reduced to mere
skeletons, whose ribs are barely covered by their parchment-like skin;
but they soon gain in flesh and strength when once the rich pasturage of
the steppes is at their disposal.  Their powers of endurance are
wonderful; and without rest, or water, or food, they will accomplish
surprising distances, maintaining a first-rate speed.  An instance is on
record of a Kirghiz chief having galloped two hundred miles, over a rocky
and mountainous ground, in twenty-four hours.  A Russian detachment of
cavalry, mounted on Kirghiz horses, marched 333 miles in six days.

Major Burnaby was soon apprised that he was nearing the Sea (or Lake) of
Aral by the salt breeze which blew persistently in his face.  The whole
district for miles around was impregnated with salt, and the springs and
streams had all a brackish taste and strong saline flavour.  At
Nicolaivskaya his road touched close upon the north-eastern extremity of
the sea.  This great inland basin of brackish water is separated from the
Caspian by the dense plateau of Ust-Urt.  It measures about 260 miles
from north to south, and 125 from east to west.  On the north-east it
receives the waters of the Syr-Daria, or Jaxartes; on the south-east
those of the Amu-Daria, or Oxus.  As it is on the same level with the
Caspian, we may reasonably suppose that both seas were at one time
connected.  Owing to the excessive evaporation which takes place, it is
understood to be decreasing in size.

At Kasala, or Fort No. 1, our traveller struck the Syr-Daria, some forty
or fifty miles above its outlet in the Aral.  Kasala is inhabited by
nomad Kirghiz, who pitch their kibitkas in its outskirts in the winter,
to resume their migratory life with the first breath of spring; by
Russian and Tartar merchants, who dwell in one-storied houses, built of
brick or cement; and by a motley population of Greeks, Khivans,
Bokharans, Tashkentians, and Turcomans generally, attracted thither by
the hope of gain.  Owing to its geographical position, it is the centre
of a considerable trade; for all goods to Orenburg from Western Turkistan
must pass through it.  Its civil population numbers about 5000 souls; its
garrison consists of about 350 infantry and 400 cavalry, and it is also
the head-quarters in winter of the sailors of the Aral fleet, which is
made up of four small steamers of light draught.  As for the fort, it is
simply an earthwork, constructed in the shape of a half-star, with a
bastion on the south extending to the bank of the Syr-Daria.  A dry
ditch, thirty feet broad by twelve feet deep, and a parapet, eight feet
high and twelve feet thick, surround it.  Sufficiently strong to overawe
the Kirghiz, it could offer no effective resistance to an European force.

Major Burnaby paid a visit to a Kirghiz kibitka, or tent, and his
description of it may be compared with Mr. Atkinson’s.  Inside it was
adorned with thick carpets of various hues, and bright-coloured cushions,
for the accommodation of the inmates.  In the centre a small fire gave
out a cloud of white smoke, which rose in coils and wreaths to the roof,
and there escaped through an aperture left for the purpose.  The fuel
used is saxaul, the wood of the bramble tree, and it emits an acrid,
pungent odour.  The women in the tent had their faces uncovered; they
received their visitor with a warm welcome, and spread some rugs for him
to sit down by their side.  They were all of them moon-faced, with large
mouths, but good eyes and teeth.

The master of the kibitka, who was clad in a long brown robe, thickly
wadded to keep out the cold, poured some water into a large caldron, and
proceeded to make tea, while a young girl handed round raisins and dried
currants.  A brief conversation then arose.  The Kirghiz were much
surprised to learn that their visitor was not a Russian, but had come
from a far Western land, and were even more surprised to find that he had
brought no wife with him—a wife, in the opinion of the Kirghiz, being as
indispensable to a man’s happiness as a horse or camel.  In entering into
matrimony, the Kirghiz have one great advantage over the other Moslem
races; they see the girls whom they wish to marry, and are allowed to
converse with them before the bargain is concluded between the parents,
one hundred sheep being the average price given for a young woman.

                                * * * * *

On the 12th of January Major Burnaby left Kasala for Khiva.  His retinue
consisted of three camels, loaded with a tent, forage, and provisions,
his Tartar servant, who bestrode the largest camel, and a Kirghiz guide,
who, like himself, was mounted on horseback.  His provisions included
stchi, or cabbage soup, with large pieces of meat cut up in it, which,
having been poured into two large iron stable buckets, had become hard
frozen, so that it could be easily carried slung on a camel’s back.  He
also took with him twenty pounds of cooked meat.  A hatchet, to chop up
the meat or cut down brushwood for a fire, and a cooking lamp, with a
supply of spirit, formed part of his equipment.

Crossing the icy surface of the Syr-Daria, our traveller once more
plunged into the solitude of the steppes, bravely facing the storm-wind
and the ridges of snow which rolled before it, like the wave-crests of a
frozen sea.  After a five hours’ march, he called a halt, that the camels
might rest and be fed—for they will feed only in the daytime; wherefore
it is wise to march them as much as possible during the night.  Their
ordinary pace is about two miles and a third in an hour; and the best
plan is to start at midnight, unload them for about two hours in the day
to feed, and halt at sunset: thus securing sixteen hours’ work per day,
and accomplishing a daily journey of at least thirty-seven miles.

The kibitka was soon raised.  “Imagine,” says our traveller, “a bundle of
sticks, each five feet three inches in length, and an inch in diameter;
these are connected with each other by means of cross sticks, through the
ends of which holes are bored, and leather thongs passed.  This allows
plenty of room for all the sticks to open out freely; they then form a
complete circle, about twelve feet in diameter, and five feet three in
height.  They do not require any pressing into the ground, for the
circular shape keeps them steady.  When this is done, a thick piece of
cashmar, or cloth made of sheep’s wool, is suspended from their tops, and
reaches to the ground.  This forms a shield through which the wind cannot
pass.  Another bundle of sticks is then produced.  They are all fastened
at one end to a small wooden cross, about six inches long by four broad;
a man standing in the centre of the circle raises up this bundle in the
air, the cross upwards, and hitches their other ends by means of little
leather loops one by one on the different upright sticks which form the
circular walls.  The result is, they all pull against each other, and are
consequently self-supporting; another piece of cloth is passed round the
outside of this scaffolding, leaving a piece uncovered at the top to
allow the smoke to escape.  One stick is removed from the uprights which
form the walls.  This constitutes a door, and the kibitka is complete.”

While the Major and his followers were enjoying a meal of rice and
mutton, and a glass of hot tea, three Khivans rode up to them—a merchant
and his two servants.  The Khivan merchant was strongly built, and about
five feet ten inches in height.  He wore a tall, conical black Astrakhan
hat; an orange-coloured dressing-gown, thickly quilted, and girt about
the loins with a long, red sash; and over all, enveloping him from hand
to foot, a heavy sheepskin mantle.  His weapons consisted of a long,
single-barrelled gun, and a short, richly mounted sabre.  An exchange of
civilities followed, and then both parties retired to rest.  At about
three o’clock in the morning, after some difficulty with his guide and
camel-driver, the Major resumed his march, and for six hours the weary
tramp and toil over the frost-bound plain continued.  At nine a halt was
called, soup was made, and the party breakfasted.  By the time they were
ready to set out again, the Khivan merchant’s caravan had come up, and
all went on together.

In advance rode the guide, singing a song in praise of mutton, and
descriptive of his partiality for that succulent meat.  The Kirghiz poets
make the sheep the special subject of their metrical eulogium; in truth,
it fills in their poetry as conspicuous a place as the dove in the
love-songs of the Latin bards.  Nor is to be wondered at.  The sheep
represents the wealth, the property of the nomads.  During the summer and
autumn they live upon their milk, and never think of killing them except
to do honour to a guest by serving up before him a leg of mutton.  In the
winter they are, of course, obliged very frequently to sacrifice the
highly esteemed animal, but they live upon horseflesh and camel’s flesh
as much as they can.  Their clothing is furnished by the sheep, being
made entirely of sheep’s wool wrought into a coarse homespun.  Finally,
if they want to buy a horse, a camel, or a wife, they pay in sheep; and a
man’s worth in the world is reckoned by the numbers of his flock.

On the following day, in the course of their march, the travellers came
upon a Kirghiz encampment, the members of which were considerably excited
by Major Burnaby’s announcement of his desire to purchase a whole sheep.
The head of the principal kibitka, accompanied by a pretty Kirghiz girl,
hastened to conduct him to the sheepfold, that he might select an animal,
and the fattest of the flock became his for the small sum of four
roubles.  The pretty young girl acted as butcher, receiving the skin and
head in acknowledgment of her trouble, and the carcase was conveyed to
the Major’s tent, where it was duly cooked, and devoured by his
followers, who showed the most intense appreciation of his liberality.

The march being resumed, Major Burnaby made for a place called
Kalenderhana, instead of the Russian settlement of Petro-Alexandrovsky,
having a shrewd suspicion that if he went thither, as the governor of
Kasala had desired, he would, in some way or other, be prevented from
reaching Khiva.  Pushing forward steadily, he left his Khivan merchant
far behind, and strode across an undulating country in the direction of
south-south-west.  Next he came into a salt district, barren and dreary;
and afterwards reached the desert of Jana-Daria, the dried-up bed of a
river, which is lost in the sand.  Still continuing his march, he came
upon an unbounded ocean of sand, which, in the glaring sunshine,
glittered like a sea of molten gold.  When this was traversed, the
country grew pleasanter and more fertile.  Traces of game appeared.
Sometimes a brown hare darted through the herbage; while in the distance
herds of saigak, or antelopes, bounded with elastic tread across the
sward.  A chain of mountains running east and west rose up before the
wanderer’s path, and presented a picturesque spectacle, with their broken
crests, sharp pinnacles, and masses of shining quartz.  Upon their rugged
sides could be traced the furrows ploughed by the torrents which the
spring lets loose and feeds with its abundant rains.  Through a dark and
deep defile, about seven miles long, the little company penetrated the
mountain barrier of the Kazan-Tor, and descended into a broad plain,
overspread by a network of canals for irrigation, where a striking
indication of the desultory but ceaseless hostilities waged between the
Kirghiz and the Turcomans was presented in the rude fortifications, a
high ditch and a wattled palisade, that encircled every little village.
Kalenderhana was fortified in this manner.  Here Major Burnaby was warmly
welcomed, and in great state escorted to his Kirghiz guide’s house, or
kibitka, where a curious throng quickly surrounded him, and proceeded to
examine, and comment unreservedly upon, every part of his attire.  Major
Burnaby, if less outspoken, was not less curious, and carefully noted
that the hostess was a good-looking woman, clad in a flowing white
dressing-gown, with a whiter turban, folded many times around her small
head.  The brother-in-law, a short hump-backed fellow, had a horse to
sell, which Major Burnaby expressed his willingness to purchase, if he
went to Khiva.  The guide had been ordered by the Russian governor of
Kasala to conduct the Englishman to Petro-Alexandrovsky, and at first he
was reluctant to run the risk of punishment; but the domestic pressure
put upon him could not be resisted, and he agreed to go to Khiva, on
condition that the Major completed his bargain with the horse-dealer.
This was at last arranged, and a Tartar being sent forward with a letter
to the Khan, requesting permission to visit his capital, the traveller
resumed his journey, with Nazar proudly seated astride the new purchase.

A brief ride carried them to the bank of the great Amu-Daria, the Oxus of
Alexander the Great, which at this time was frozen over, presenting a
solid highway of ice, half a mile in breadth.  There they met with some
Khivan merchants—stalwart men, with dark complexions and large eyes,
dressed in long red thickly wadded dressing-gowns and cone-shaped black
lambskin hats.  A caravan of camels was crossing the river, and numerous
arbas, or two-wheeled carts, each drawn by one horse, passed to and fro.
Every man whom they encountered saluted them with the customary Arab
greeting, “_Salam aaleikom_!” to which the response was always given,
“_Aaleikom salam_!”  Soon after crossing the frozen river, Major Burnaby
determined to halt for the night; and the guide began to look about for
suitable quarters.  He pulled up at last by the side of a large,
substantial-looking square building, built of clay.  A rap at the high
wooden gates brought out an old man bent nearly double with age, who, on
hearing that the travellers wanted a night’s hospitality, immediately
called to his servants to take charge of the horses and camels, and
across the square-walled courtyard ushered Major Burnaby into his house.
The guest-room was spacious and lofty.  One end of it was covered with
thick carpets; this was the place of honour for visitors.  In the centre
a small square hearth was filled with charcoal embers, confined within a
coping about three inches high.  On the coping stood a richly chased
copper ewer—which might have been dug out of the ruins of the buried
Pompeii, so classic was it in shape and appearance—with a long swan-like
neck, constructed so as to assist the attendant in pouring water over the
hands of his master’s guests before they began their repast.  On one side
of the hearth was a square hole about three feet deep, filled with water,
and reached by a couple of steps.  It was the place of ablution—something
like the _impluvium_ in a Roman villa—and its sides were lined with
ornamental tiles.  The windows were represented by two narrow slits, each
about two feet long by six inches wide, while some open wooden
trellis-work supplied the place of glass.

After a brief absence the host reappeared, carrying in his hand a large
earthenware dish full of rice and mutton, while his servants followed,
with baskets of bread and hard-boiled eggs.  A pitcher of milk was also
produced, and an enormous melon, weighing quite twenty-five pounds.  When
the host and his visitor had completed their repast, they began to
converse, the Khivan asking many questions about the countries which the
Englishman had travelled.  To his inquiry whether there were camels in
England, Major Burnaby replied with an amusing description of our
railways and locomotives.

“We have trains,” he said, “composed of arbas with iron wheels; they run
upon long strips of iron, which are laid upon the ground for the wheels
to roll over.”

“Do the horses drag them very fast?” asked the Khivan.

“We do not use live horses, but we make a horse of iron and fill him with
water, and put fire under the water.  The water boils and turns into
steam.  The steam is very powerful; it rushes out of the horse’s stomach,
and turns large wheels which we give him instead of legs.  The wheels
revolve over the iron lines which we have previously laid down, and the
horse, which we call an engine, moves very quickly, dragging the arbas
behind him; they are made of wood and iron, and have four wheels, not
two, like your arbas in Khiva.  The pace is so great that if your Khan
had an iron horse and a railway, he could go to Kasala in one day.”

Next morning, after remunerating his host for his hospitality, Major
Burnaby proceeded towards the goal of his daring enterprise.  He passed
through the busy trading town of Oogentel, the first in Khivan territory
on the road from Kalenderhana, and, as an Englishman, attracted the
attention of the population.  This attention grew into wild excitement,
when he found his way to a barber, intent upon getting rid of a beard of
thirteen weeks’ growth.  In Oogentel the people shave their heads and not
their chins; so that the traveller’s desire to have his chin shaved,
instead of his head, begat an extraordinary sensation.  An increasing
crowd gathered round the barber’s shop; moullahs (or priests),
camel-drivers, and merchants jostling one another in their anxiety to
obtain good points of view, like the London populace on the Lord Mayor’s
Show day.  The thought occurred to Major Burnaby that this fanatical
Moslem multitude might not be displeased if the barber cut an
unbeliever’s throat, and it was not without a qualm he resigned himself
to his hands.  No such catastrophe happened, however; but the barber,
rendered nervous by the accumulated gaze of hundreds of eyes, let slip
the thin strip of steel which did duty for a razor, and inflicted a
slight wound on his customer’s cheek.  As no soap was used, and the
substitute for a razor was innocent of “edge,” the operation was
sufficiently disagreeable; and if the crowd were sorry, Major Burnaby was
heartily rejoiced when it came to an end and he was free to continue his
journey.

At nine versts from Oogentel he and his party crossed the canal of the
Shabbalat, and rode through a barren tract of sand until they arrived at
a cemetery.  The tombs were made of dried clay, and fashioned into the
strangest shapes; while over several of the larger floated banners or
white flags, from poles ten or twelve feet high, indicating the last
resting-place of some unknown and unchronicled hero.  _Multi fortes
vixerunt ante Agamemnona_; but they have found no bard to record their
deeds of prowess in immortal verse.  The Khivan warriors who fell in
defence of their wild father-land must sleep for ever in nameless graves.

At a village called Shamahoolhur, the traveller was received with true
Khivan hospitality.  His entertainer was a fair-looking man, with a
genial address and a hearty glance in his dark eyes, and appeared, from
his surroundings, to be possessed of considerable wealth.  He was a
sportsman, and kept several hawks; these birds being used in Khiva to fly
at the saigahs and hares.  The bird strikes his victim between its eyes
with a force which stuns or confuses it, so that it can make no
resistance or attempt at escape when the hounds seize it.

“Do you not hunt in this way in your country?” said the Khivan.

“No; we hunt foxes, but only with hounds, and we ourselves follow on
horseback.”

“Are your horses like our own?” he asked.

“No; they are most of them stouter built, have stronger shoulders, and
are better animals; but though they can gallop faster than your horses
for a short distance, I do not think they can last so long.”

“Which do you like best, your horse or your wife?” inquired the man.

“That depends upon the woman,” I replied; and the guide, here joining in
the conversation, said that in England they did not buy or sell their
wives, and that I was not a married man.

“What! you have not got a wife?”

“No; how could I travel if I had one?”

“Why, you might leave her behind, and lock her up, as our merchants do
with their wives when they go on a journey!”

The next morning Major Burnaby encountered on the road the messenger he
had despatched to Khiva.  He was accompanied by two Khivan noblemen, one
of whom courteously saluted the English traveller, and explained that the
Khan had sent him to escort him into the city, and bid him welcome.

They rapidly approached the capital, and above its belt of trees could
see its glittering crown of minarets and domes.  The landscape round
about it was very pleasant to see, with its leafy groves, its walled
orchards, and its avenues of mulberry trees; and recalled to the
traveller’s mind the descriptions which figure in the pages of Oriental
story-tellers.  A swift ride brought the party to the gates of Khiva.
The city is built in an oblong form, and surrounded by two walls; of
which the outer is not less than fifty feet in height, and constructed of
baked bricks, with the upper part of dried clay.  This forms the first
line of defence.  At a quarter of a mile within it rises the second wall,
somewhat lower than the first, and protected by a dry ditch.  It
immediately surrounds the tower.  The space between the two walls is used
as a market, and high above the throng of vendors and buyers, and the
press of cattle, horses, sheep, and camels, rises the cross-beam of the
ghastly gallows, on which all people convicted of theft are executed.

But as we have already spoken of this now famous city, we must confine
ourselves in these pages to Major Burnaby’s individual adventures.
Lodging was provided for him in the house of his escort, and directly on
his entry he was served with refreshments.  Afterwards he was conducted
to the bath.  In the evening a succession of visitors arrived; and it was
late when the Major was at liberty to seek repose.



II.


In the afternoon of the following day two officials arrived from the
Khan, with an escort of six men on horseback and four on foot, to conduct
the English officer to the palace.  Mounting his horse, he rode forth,
preceded by the six horsemen, and with an official on either side; the
rear being brought up by Nazar, with some attendants on foot, who lashed
out freely with their long whips when the staring crowd drew
inconveniently near the _cortége_.  Fresh sightseers arrived every
moment, for the name of England exercises a charm and a power in Khiva,
where people are never weary of talking of the nation which holds in fee
the gorgeous Indian empire, and is regarded as the rival and inevitable
foe of the White Czar.  The very housetops were lined with curious eyes.
Through the hum and din of voices the Englishman proceeded to the Khan’s
residence; a large building, with pillars and domes reflecting the sun’s
rays from their bright glazed tiles.  At the gates stood a guard of
thirty or forty men with flashing scimitars.  The company passed into a
small courtyard, from which a door opened into a low passage, and this
led to some squalid corridors, terminating in a large square room, where
was seated the treasurer, with three moullahs, busily engaged in counting
up his money.  He made a sign to the attendants, and a large wooden box
was at once pushed forward, and offered to Major Burnaby as a seat.  An
interval of fifteen minutes, as the playwrights say, followed.  Then a
messenger entered the room, and announced that the Khan was at liberty to
receive the stranger.  Away through a long corridor, and across an inner
courtyard, to the reception-hall—a large dome-shaped tent or kibitka.  A
curtain was drawn aside, and the Englishman found himself face to face
with the celebrated Khan.

The portrait he draws of the Khivan potentate differs in some particulars
from that drawn by Mr. MacGahan (see p. 283):—“He is taller than the
average of his subjects, being quite five feet ten in height, and is
strongly built.  His face is of a broad massive type; he has a low square
forehead, large dark eyes, a short straight nose, with dilated nostrils,
and a coal-black beard and moustache.  An enormous mouth, with irregular
but white teeth, and a chin somewhat concealed by his beard, and not at
all in character with the otherwise determined appearance of his face,
must complete the picture.  He did not look more than eight and twenty,
and had a pleasant genial smile, and a merry twinkle in his eye, very
unusual amongst Orientals; in fact, a Spanish expression would describe
him better than any English one I can think of.  He is _muy simpatico_. . . .
The Khan was dressed in a similar sort of costume to that generally
worn by his subjects, but it was made of much richer materials, and a
jewelled sword was lying by his feet.  His head was covered by a tall
black Astrakhan hat, of a sugar-loaf shape.”

Tea having been served in a small porcelain cup, the Khan entered into
conversation with his visitor, through the medium of Nazar, a Kirghiz
interpreter, and a moullah.  At first it turned upon the relations
existing between England and Russia, the Crimean War, the Indian
Government, and other branches of _la haute politique_; the Khan
displaying a quick and clear intelligence.  At last he said—

“You do not have a Khan at the head of affairs?”

“No,” replied Burnaby, “a Queen; and her Majesty is advised as to her
policy by her ministers, who for the time being are supposed to represent
the opinion of the country.”

“And does that opinion change?”

“Very frequently; and since your country was conquered we have had a
fresh Government, whose policy is diametrically opposite to that held by
the previous one; and in a few years’ time we shall have another change,
for in our country, as the people advance in knowledge and wealth, they
require fresh laws and privileges.  The result of this is, they choose a
different set of people to represent them;” and the Major entered on a
brief exposition of constitutional principles, which to the Khan must
surely have been unintelligible.

“Can your Queen have a subject’s head cut off?”

“No, not without a trial before our judges.”

“Then she never has their throats cut?” [the Khivan punishment for
murder].

“No.”

“Hindostan is a very wonderful country,” continued the Khan; “the envoy I
sent there a few years ago {359} has told me of your railroads and
telegraphs; but the Russians have railroads, too.”

“Yes,” replied Burnaby; “we lent them money, and our engineers have
helped to make them.”

“Do the Russians pay you for this?” he inquired.

“Yes; so far they have behaved very honourably.”

“Are there not Jews in your country like some of the Jews at Bokhara?”

“One of the richest men in England is a Jew.”

“The Russians do not take away the money from the Jews?”

“No.”

Here the Khan said a few words to his treasurer, and then remarked, in
allusion to the tribute he pays to Russia annually:—“Why do they take
money from me, then?  The Russians love money very much.”  As he said
this, he shook his head sorrowfully at the treasurer; and the latter,
assuming a dolorous expression, poured out with a pitiful accent the
monosyllable “Hum!” which, in Khivan language, seems to convey as
pregnant a meaning as Lord Burleigh’s shake of the head in “The Critic.”

With a low bow from the Khan, the interview terminated.

On the following day Major Burnaby visited the Khan’s gardens, which lie
about three-quarters of a mile from the town.  They are five in number,
surrounded by high walls of sun-dried clay, and each from four to five
acres in extent.  Entering one of them, our traveller discovered that it
was neatly laid out and trimly kept.  The fruit trees, arranged in long
avenues, were carefully cut and pruned; apple, pear, and cherry trees
abounded.  In the spring melons are grown on a large scale; and in the
summer trellis-work arbours of vines, loaded with grapes, afford a
delightful shelter from the sun’s fierce glare.  In a small summer-palace
here, the Khan holds his court in June and July, and on a raised stone
daïs outside sits to administer justice.

Returning to Khiva, Burnaby visited the prison and the principal
school—the invariable accompaniments of civilization, however imperfect.
But may we not hope that, some day, the school will destroy the gaol, and
relieve civilization from the reproach of barbarism that still attaches
to it?  Meanwhile, Nazar was preparing for the Major’s contemplated
expedition to Bokhara, his tour to Merv and Meshed, and his journey from
Persia into India, and so back to England.  It was the 27th of January,
and he had determined to spend only one more day in Khiva.  But his plans
were upset by an unexpected incident.  On the morning of the 28th, just
after his return from a ride through the market, he was “interviewed” by
two strangers, who presented him with a letter from the commandant of
Petro-Alexandrovsky, the Russian fort he had so determinedly avoided.  It
was to the effect that a telegram, which had been forwarded _viâ_
Tashkent, awaited him at the fort, whither he must be pleased to repair
to receive it.  How or why any person should consider him of importance
enough to despatch a telegram so many thousands of miles, and should go
to the expense a sending it from Tashkent where the telegraph ends, to
Khiva, a distance of nine hundred miles, by couriers with relays of
horses, Burnaby could not understand.  But there was no help for it.  He
must hasten to Petro-Alexandrovsky, where he did not want to go, and
abandon his trip to Bokhara and Merv, where he very much wished to go.
So he paid a visit to the bazar, and afterwards took leave of the Khan,
who bestowed upon him the honourable gift of a khalat, or dressing-gown,
and on the 29th bade adieu to Khiva.

He reached Petro-Alexandrovsky on the second day, and found that the
important telegram which had travelled so far was one from the Duke of
Cambridge, Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, requiring his immediate
return to European Russia.  He found also that the Russian Government had
given orders for his return by the shortest route to Kasala.  All hope of
further exploration and adventure in Central Asia had to be abandoned.
Before leaving Petro-Alexandrovsky, the disappointed traveller had an
opportunity of accompanying a coursing party, and sharing in a day’s
novel sport.  There were horses and men of all kinds and shapes,
Russians, Bokharans, Kirghiz, short-legged men on giant steeds, and
long-legged men on short-legged horses.  A short colonel, said to be well
versed in the pastime, acted as master of the hunt.  Behind him were led
seven or eight greyhounds in couples; while a stalwart Khivan bore on his
elbow a hooded falcon, graceful enough to have figured in Mr. Tennyson’s
poetical little drama.  Amid a storm of cries and shouts and yells, the
hunters rode forward at a rattling pace, crossing a flat open country,
intersected by a ditch or two; until, after an eight miles’ run, they
arrived at the cover, a narrow tract of bush and bramble-covered ground
stretching down to the bank of the frozen Oxus.  Forming in a line, at a
distance of twenty yards from one another, the horsemen rode through bush
and bramble.  A sharp yell from a Kirghiz, and after a startled hare,
which had left its covert, dashed Russians, Bokharans, Englishman, and
hounds.  On they went, down the slippery river bank, across the shining
ice, towards a dense bit of copse, where it looked as if poor puss might
find an asylum from her pursuers.  But at this moment the falcon was
launched into the air.  A swift swooping flight, and whir of wings, and
in a second it was perched on its victim’s back, while around it gathered
the well-trained dogs, with open mouths and lolling tongues, not daring
to approach the quarry.  The master galloped up, seized the prize, and in
a few minutes more the hunt was resumed; nor did the horsemen turn their
faces homeward until five hares had rewarded their chivalrous efforts.

In company with two Russian officers, and an escort of ten Cossacks,
Major Burnaby, after a pleasant sojourn at Petro-Alexandrovsky, set out
on his return to Kasala.  As the weather was warmer, and the snow had
begun to melt, the three officers travelled in a tarantass, drawn by six
Kirghiz horses; the said tarantass closely resembling a hansom cab which,
after its wheels have been removed, has been fastened in a brewer’s dray.
It has no springs, and it runs upon small but solid wooden wheels.  They
had gone but a few miles before they came again into a land of snow; the
horses had to be taken out, and a couple of camels substituted.  At night
they bivouacked, resuming their journey before daybreak.  It was a
picturesque sight:—“First, the Cossacks, the barrels of their carbines
gleaming in the moonlight, the vashlik of a conical shape surmounting
each man’s low cap, and giving a ghastly appearance to the riders.  Their
distorted shadows were reflected on the snow beneath, and appeared like a
detachment of gigantic phantoms pursuing our little force.  Then the
tarantass, drawn by two large camels, which slowly ploughed their way
through the heavy track, the driver nodding on his box but half awake,
the two officers in the arms of Morpheus inside, and the heavy woodwork
creaking at each stride of the enormous quadrupeds.  In the wake of this
vehicle strode the baggage camels.  The officers’ servants were fast
asleep on the backs of their animals, one man lying with his face to the
tail, and snoring hard in spite of the continued movement; another fellow
lay stretched across his saddle, apparently a good deal the worse for
drink.  He shouted out at intervals the strains of a Bacchanalian ditty.
Nazar, who was always hungry, could be seen walking in the rear.  He had
kept back a bone from the evening meal, and was gnawing it like a dog,
his strong jaws snapping as they closed on the fibrous mutton.  I
generally remained by our bivouac fire an hour or so after the rest of
the party had marched, and seated by the side of the glowing embers,
watched the caravan as it vanished slowly in the distance.”

At mid-day, on the 12th of February, Burnaby and his companions galloped
across the frozen highway of the Syr-Daria, and into the streets of
Kasala, having ridden three hundred and seventy one miles in exactly nine
days and two hours.  He remained at Kasala for a few days, endeavouring
to obtain permission to return to European Russia _viâ_ Western Siberia;
but his application failed, and he was informed that the authorization he
had received to travel in Russian Asia had been cancelled.  There was
nothing to be done, therefore, but to complete the necessary preparations
for his journey to Orenburg.  A sleigh was hired, and amid a chorus of
farewells from his Russian acquaintances, who showed themselves more
friendly than their Government, he started on his homeward route, having
undergone some novel experiences, and seen Khiva, but gathered no
information of any value to geographers or men of science.  In fact, the
chief interest attaching to Major Burnaby’s expedition is personal: it
shows that he was a man of much energy, resolution, and perseverance, and
he may fairly be complimented on the good use he made of these qualities
in his bold but unsuccessful Ride to Khiva. {364}



SIR SAMUEL BAKER,
AND THE SOURCES OF THE NILE.


I.


OF late years the Lake Regions of Central Africa have offered a fertile
and attractive field to the explorer.  The interest of the public in
African discovery, which had for some time been dormant, was revived in
1849, by the achievements of Dr. Livingstone, who, starting from the
south, crossed the tropic of Capricorn, and penetrated to the shores of
Lake Ngami.  In 1853 to 1856 the same great traveller traced the course
of the river Leeambye or Zambési, and traversed the entire breadth of the
“black continent” from Angola on the west coast to Zanzibar on the east.
In 1865 he resumed his labours, striking into the very heart of Africa,
with the view of tracing out the Sources of the Nile, and entering into a
fertile country, the resources of which he found to be capable of immense
development.  For the first two or three years of his absence his letters
and despatches reached England with some degree of regularity, but at
length a veil of silence fell across his path, and it began to be feared
that he, like other explorers, had fallen a victim to his enthusiasm.  An
expedition in search of the missing traveller was equipped by Mr. Gordon
Bennett, proprietor of the _New York Herald_, in 1871, and placed in
charge of Mr. Henry M. Stanley, who had the good fortune to find
Livingstone at Ujiji, near Unyanyembé, on the 10th of November.  He
remained with him until the 14th of March, 1872, when he returned to
England with his diary and other documents.  Dr. Livingstone at this time
reported that, in his belief, the Nile springs up about six hundred miles
to the south of the southernmost point of Lake Victoria Nyanza.  In
November, 1872, a relief or auxiliary expedition, under Lieutenant V.
Lovett Cameron, started from Zanzibar; but in October, 1873, while at
Unyanyembé, its leader received the intelligence of Livingstone’s death,
which had taken place at Ujiji, and soon afterwards the corpse arrived in
charge of his faithful followers.  Cameron then took up the work of
exploration, and in spite of immense difficulties, great mental and
physical suffering, and obstacles of every kind, he made his way to Lake
Tanganyika, thence to Nyangwé, and after identifying the Lualaba with the
Kongo, struck to the southward, and passing through regions hitherto
unexplored, struck the west coast at Benguela.  As a result of his
observations, Lieutenant Cameron thus sketches the river system of
Africa:—

“The basin of the Nile is probably bounded on the south-west by the
watershed reached by Dr. Schweinfurth; on the south of the Albert Nyanza,
by the high lands between that lake and the Tanganyika, whence the
watershed pursues a tortuous course to Unyanyembé (where, I believe, the
basins of the Nile, Kongo, and Lufiji approach each other), and then
follows a wave of high land running east till it turns up northwards
along the landward slopes of the mountains dividing the littoral from the
interior.  Passing by Mounts Kilima Njaro and Kenia, it extends to the
mountains of Abyssinia, where the sources of the Blue Nile were
discovered by Bruce [1770], and so on to the parched plains bordering the
Red Sea, where no rains ever fall.  The western boundary of the Nile
basin is, of course, the eastern portion of the desert.

“The basins of the Niger and the Ogowai cannot yet be defined with any
degree of exactitude, and the northern boundary of the basin of the Kongo
has still to be traced.

“The Zambési drains that portion of the continent south of the Kongo
system, and north of the Kalahari desert and the Limpopo, the northern
boundary of the Transvaal Republic; some of its affluents reaching to
within two hundred and fifty miles of the west coast.

“The mighty Kongo, king of all the African rivers, and second only to the
Amazon (and perhaps to the Yang-tse-Kiang) in the volume of its waters,
occupies a belt of the continent lying on both sides of the equator, but
most probably the larger area belongs to the southern hemisphere.  Many
of its affluents fork into those of the Zambési on a level tableland,
where the watershed is so tortuous that it is hard to trace it, and
where, during the rainy season, floods extend right across between the
head-waters of the two streams.

“The Kelli, discovered by Dr. Schweinfurth, may possibly prove to be the
Lowa, reported to me as a large affluent of the Lualaba [or Kongo] to the
west of Nyangwé; or, if not an affluent of the Lualaba, it most probably
flows either to the Ogowai or the Tchadda, an affluent of the Niger.”

In 1874 another expedition of discovery was fitted out, at the joint
expense of the proprietors of the London _Daily Telegraph_ and the _New
York Herald_, and Mr. H. M. Stanley was appointed to the command.  In
1875 he reached Lake Victoria Nyanza, and through the good offices of
Mtesa, King of Uganda, obtained a flotilla of canoes, with which he
circumnavigated the lake.  It proved to be the largest basin of fresh
water in the world, occupying the immense area of sixty thousand square
miles.  Mr. Stanley next pushed on to Lake Albert Nyanza; afterwards
circumnavigated the northern half of Lake Tanganyika; struck westward to
the Lualaba at Nyangwé (1876), and thence descended the Lualaba as far as
the Isangila Falls (June, 1877), whence he crossed the country to
Kalinda, on the west coast.

                                * * * * *

But we must now return to 1857, when Captains Burton and Speke, under the
auspices of the Royal Geographical Society of London, started from
Zanzibar to explore the inland lacustrine region; and discovered, to the
south of the equator, Lake Tanganyika, which they partially explored in a
couple of canoes.  Captain Burton being taken ill, Speke pushed on to the
north alone, and discovered the immense basin now known as the Victoria
Nyanza, which he immediately conceived to be the great reservoir and
head-waters of the Nile.  To ascertain the truth of this supposition, he
started again from the east coast in October, 1860, accompanied by
Captain Grant; crossed the great equatorial table-land of the interior;
reached the Victoria Nyanza; skirted its shores until they discovered its
main outlet, which proved to be the Nile, and then traced the course of
the famous river to Gondokoro, whence, by way of Assouan, Thebes, and
Cairo, they proceeded to Alexandria.  Their well-directed energy had to a
great extent solved the geographical problem of ages, and dispelled the
cloud-land in which the Nile springs had so long been hidden:—

    “The mystery of old Nile was solved; brave men
       Had through the lion-haunted inland past,
    Dared all the perils of desert, gorge, and glen,
       Found the far Source at last.”

With heroic patience they had accomplished on foot their journey of
thirteen hundred miles, and shown that the parent stream of the Nile,
even in its earliest course a considerable river, was fed by the vast
reservoir of the “Victorian Sea.”  What remained to be discovered was the
feeders of this vast basin, and which among them was indeed the primary
source of the Nile.  Some fresher light was thrown on the subject by Sir
Samuel Baker, {369} who, with his wife, underwent some remarkable
experiences in Central Africa, and earned a right to be included among
our Heroes of Travel.  Let us now follow him “through scorching deserts
and thirsty sands; through swamp and jungle and interminable morass;
through difficulties, fatigues, and sickness,” until we stand with him on
that high cliff where the great prize burst upon his view, and he saw
before him one of the chief sources of the Nile in the Luta N’zige, or
Albert Lake.

                                * * * * *

Accompanied by his courageous and devoted wife, who insisted upon sharing
his labours and his perils, he sailed up the Nile from Cairo on the 15th
of April, 1861.  In twenty-six days they arrived at Kousko, whence they
crossed the Nubian desert, so as to cut off the western bend of the
river, touching it again at Aboù Hamed.  Eight days more and they reached
Berber, where they remained until the 11th of June.  A year was spent in
exploring the Abyssinian frontier and the Abyssinian tributaries of the
Nile; and the travellers made their appearance at Khartûm on the 11th of
June, 1862.  Khartûm is a densely populated, unclean, and pestiferous
town, in lat. 15° 29′, at the junction point of the White and Blue Nile;
it is the capital of the Soudan, and the seat of a governor-general.
Twenty years ago it was also the centre of a cruel and desolating
slave-trade, but the exertions of Sir Samuel Baker and Colonel Gordon
have done much to lessen its proportions.

Having engaged a Nile boat, or dahabeeyah, and two larger noggens or
sailing barges, with an escort of forty armed men, and forty sailors, and
accumulated four months’ supplies of provisions, Sir Samuel set sail from
Khartûm on the 18th of December, 1862.  On Christmas Day he was slowly
ascending the river, the banks of which were fringed with immense
forests.  These trees are the soont (_Acacia Arabica_), which produce an
excellent tannin; the fruit is used for that purpose, and yields a rich
brown dye.  The straight smooth trunks are thirty-five feet high, and
about eighteen inches in diameter.  When in full foliage they look well
from a distance, but on a closer approach the forest is seen to be a
desolate swamp, completely overflowed; “a mass of fallen dead trees
protruding from the stagnant waters, a solitary crane perched here and
there upon the rotten boughs; floating water-plants massed together, and
forming green swimming islands, hitched generally among the sunken trunks
and branches; sometimes slowly descending with the sluggish stream,
bearing, spectre-like, storks thus voyaging on nature’s rafts to freer
lands unknown.”  This kind of scenery—depressing enough, no
doubt—continues for a considerable distance, and so long as it lasts
deprives the Nile of that romance with which it has been invested by the
imagination of poets.  There is neither beauty nor interest in it; and
one is surprised to see the low flat banks studded with populous
villages.  The flooded plains, however, afford abundant pasture for the
herds of the Shillooks, who in their choice of a locality are governed by
considerations of utility, and not by the principles of æstheticism.

The junction of the Sobat takes place in lat. 9° 21′.  This tributary, at
the point of confluence, is a hundred and twenty yards broad, and flows
at the rate of two miles and a half per hour.  Still the Nile valley
presents the same characteristics—broad tracts of marsh and grasses;
dull, monotonous levels, unrelieved by any vividness of colour.  After
receiving the Bahr-el-Ghazal, the White Nile turns abruptly to the
south-east, and winds upward through a flat country, which, in the rainy
season, is resolved into a system of extensive lakes.  Its highway is
half choked with floating vegetation, which nurtures innumerable clouds
of mosquitoes.  The people on its banks belong to the Nuehr tribe; the
women pierce the upper lip, and wear an ornament about four inches long,
of beads upon a iron wire, which projects like the horn of a rhinoceros.
The men are both tall and robust, and armed with lances.  They carry
pipes that will hold nearly a quarter of a pound of tobacco; when the
supply of “the weed” fails, they substitute charcoal.

The monotony of the voyage was broken one day by the appearance of a
hippopotamus close to Sir Samuel’s boat.  He was about half grown, and in
an instant a score of men jumped into the water to seize him.  The
captain caught him by the hind-leg; and then the crowd rushed in, and,
with ropes thrown from the vessel, slipped nooses over his head.  A grand
struggle ensued, but as it seemed likely to result in a victory for the
hippopotamus, Sir Samuel slew him with a rifle ball.  The Arab seamen,
who have an extraordinary appetite, like the old school-men, for the most
trivial arguments, observing that the animal had been “bullied” and
scarred by some other and stronger hippopotamus, plunged into a fierce
contention on the point whether he had been misused by his father or his
mother.  As they could not agree, they referred the question to the
arbitration of Sir Samuel, who pacified both parties by the felicitous
suggestion that perhaps it was his uncle!  They set to work at once with
willing vigour to cut up the ill-treated hippopotamus, which proved to be
as fat as butter, and made most excellent soup.

Continuing their “up-river” course, the voyagers came to the country of
the Kegtah tribe.  Such savages as they saw were equally uncivilized and
emaciated.  The young women wore no clothing, except a small piece of
dressed hide across the shoulders; the men, instead of the hide, assumed
a leopard-skin.  There was greater appearance of intelligence in the
termites, or white ant, than in these poor half-starved wretches.  The
white-ant hills here rise like castle-towers above the water of the
marshes.  Their inmates build them ten feet high in the dry season, and
when the rains come, live high and dry in the upper stories.  Humanity,
meanwhile, sickens in the stagnant swamp, and lingers out a miserable
existence.  The Bohr and Aliab tribes are a degree higher in the scale of
civilization, but the Shir go beyond them.  They are armed with well-made
ebony clubs, two lances, a bow and arrows; they carry upon their backs a
neatly made miniature stool, along with an immense pipe.  The females are
not absolutely naked; they wear small lappets of tanned leather as broad
as the hand; at the back of the belt which supports this apron is a tail,
depending to the lower portions of the thighs—a tail of finely cut strips
of leather, which has probably given rise to the Arab report that a tribe
in Central Africa had tails like horses.  The huts here, and all along
the Nile, are circular, with entrances so low that the inmates creep in
and out on hands and knees.  The men decorate their heads with tufts of
cock’s feathers; their favourite attitude, when standing, is on one leg,
while leaning on a spear, the uplifted leg reposing on the inside of the
other knee.

All the White Nile tribes are quick to collect their harvest of the
lotus, or water-lily, seed, which they grind into flour, and make into a
kind of porridge.  The seed-pod of the white lotus resembles an unblown
artichoke, and contains a number of light red grains about the size of
the mustard-seed, but in shape like those of the poppy, and like them in
flavour.  The ripe pods are strung upon reeds about four feet long,
formed into large bundles, and carried from the river to the villages, to
be dried in the sun, and stored away until wanted.

The 1st of February was a “white day” in the voyagers’ calendar, for on
that day the scenery of the river underwent a welcome improvement.  The
marshes gave place to dry ground; the well-wooded banks rose four feet
above the water level; the thickly populated country bloomed like an
orchard.  At Gondokoro the picture was fresh and pleasant, with a distant
view of high mountains, and neat villages nestling under the shade of
evergreen trees.  Gondokoro is not a town, but merely a station of the
ivory traders, and for ten months of the year is almost a solitude.  Its
climate is hot and unhealthy.  Sir Samuel Baker did not meet with a
friendly reception.  The men who profited by the slave-trade regarded him
with suspicion; they believed he had come to watch their doings, and
report them to the world.  Their hostility, however, did not disturb his
composure, and he amused himself in riding about the neighbourhood, and
studying the place and its inhabitants.  He admired the exquisite
cleanliness of the native dwellings, which almost rose to the standard of
the famous village of Brock.  Each house was enclosed by a hedge of the
impenetrable euphorbia, and the area within was neatly plastered with a
cement of ashes, cow-dung, and sand.  Upon this well-kept surface stood
one or more huts, surrounded by granaries of neat wicker-work, thatched,
resting upon raised platforms.  The huts are built with projecting roofs
for the sake of shade, and the entrance is not more than two feet high.
On the death of a member of the family, he is buried in the yard, his
resting-place being indicated by a pole crowned by a bunch of cock’s
feathers, and ornamented with a few ox-horns and skulls.  Each man
carries with him, wherever he goes, his weapons, pipe, and stool, the
whole (except the stool) being held between his legs when he is standing.
The Gondokoro natives belong to the Bari tribe: the men are well grown;
the women are not prepossessing, with good features, and no sign of negro
blood, except the woolly hair.  They tattoo themselves on stomach, sides,
and back, and anoint their persons with a peculiar red clay, abounding in
oxide of iron.  Their principal weapon is the bow and arrow; the arrow
they steep in the juice of euphorbia and other poisonous plants.

At the secret instigation of the slave-traders, Sir Samuel Baker’s escort
broke out into open mutiny, declaring that they had not meat enough, and
demanding leave to carry off the oxen of the natives.  The ringleader, an
Arab, was so violent that Sir Samuel ordered him to receive twenty-five
lashes.  The vakeel, Saati, advanced to seize him, when many of the men
rushed to his rescue; and Sir Samuel was compelled to interfere.  The
Arab then rushed at his employer; but Sir Samuel knocked him back into
the middle of the crowd, caught him by the throat, and called to the
vakeel for a rope to bind him; but in an instant all the mutineers sprang
forward to his assistance.  How the affair would have ended seems
doubtful; but as the fray took place within ten yards of the boat, Lady
Baker, who was ill with fever in the cabin, witnessed the whole of it,
and seeing her husband surrounded, rushed out, forced her way into the
middle of the crowd, and called on some of the least mutinous to assist.
For a moment the crowd wavered, and Sir Samuel seized the opportunity to
shout to the drummer-boy to beat the drum.  Immediately, the drum beat,
and in his loudest tones Sir Samuel ordered the men to “fall in.”  The
instinct of discipline prevailed: two-thirds of the men fell in, and
formed in line, while the others retreated with the ringleader, declaring
he was badly hurt.  Then Sir Samuel insisted upon their all forming in
line, and upon the ringleader being brought forward.  At this critical
moment, Lady Baker, with true feminine tact, implored her husband to
forgive the man if he kissed his hand and begged for pardon.  The men
were completely conquered by this generosity, and called on their
ringleader to apologize, and that all would be right.  Thus the affair
ended; but Sir Samuel rightly foresaw in it the promise of future
troubles.  According to the custom of the White Nile, the men had five
months’ wages in advance; he had therefore no control over them; yet he
and his wife were about to penetrate into the midst of a probably hostile
native population, with an escort on whose faithfulness no reliance could
be placed.

On the 15th of February, Captains Speke and Grant arrived at Gondokoro,
from the Victoria Nyanza, and the meeting between them and Sir Samuel was
necessarily very cordial.  The information they communicated had a
material effect upon his plans.  He found that they had been unable to
complete the actual exploration of the Nile—that a most important portion
remained to be determined.  It appears that in lat. 2° 17′ N. they had
crossed the Nile, after tracking it from the Victoria Lake; that the
river then turned suddenly to the west, and that they did not touch it
again until they arrived in lat. 3° 32′ N., when it was then flowing from
the west-south-west.  The natives, and Kamrasi, King of Unyoro, had
assured them that the Nile from the Victoria Nyanza, which they had
crossed in lat. 2° 17′ N., flowed westward for several days’ journey, and
at length fell into a large lake called the Luta N’zige (“Dead Locust”);
that this lake came from the south, and that the Nile, on entering its
northern extremity, almost immediately made its exit, and as a navigable
river continued its course to the north through the Koshi and Madi
countries.  Circumstances prevented Speke and Grant from pushing their
explorations as far as the Luta N’zige; and the question that remained to
be answered was, What was the exact position of this lake in the basin of
the Nile? what was its relation to the great river?

This question Sir Samuel Baker resolved upon settling.  Speke and Grant
sailed from Gondokoro, homeward bound, on the 26th, and he immediately
began to prepare for his journey to the Luta N’zige.  His preparations
were delayed, however, by the mutinous conduct of his escort, and the
obstacles thrown in his path by the nefarious ivory-traders and
slave-hunters; and it was the 26th of March before he was able to effect
a start.  Then, with his escort reduced in number to fifteen men, with
two faithful servants, Richard and the boy Saat, and a heavily loaded
caravan of camels and donkeys, with Lady Baker mounted on a good strong
Abyssinian hunter, Tétel (“Hartebeest”), and Sir Samuel himself on his
horse Filfil (“Pepper”), and the British flag waving proudly above the
_cortége_, they left Gondokoro, and began their march into Central
Africa.

The country was park-like, but dried up by the hot weather.  The soil was
sandy, but firm, and numerous evergreen trees enlivened the landscape,
which was further animated by clusters of villages, each surrounded by a
fence of euphorbia.  It varied greatly in character as the travellers
advanced; sometimes presenting a magnificent forest, sometimes a dense
jungle, sometimes a labyrinth of ravines, through which the caravan made
its way with difficulty.  The view of the valley of Tollogo was
exceedingly picturesque.  An abrupt granite wall rose on the east side to
a height of about a thousand feet; from this perpendicular cliff huge
blocks had fallen, strewing the bottom with a confused mass of fragments,
among which the natives had built their village.  A slow stream wound its
way in the hollow, which was nowhere more than half a mile wide, in the
shade of numerous fig trees.  At Ellyria Sir Samuel narrowly escaped a
hostile encounter with an ivory-trader’s party, but through the firmness
and skilfulness of himself and his wife, not only was it avoided, but
friendly relations were established with its leader.  No supplies,
however, could be procured from the natives, whose character Sir Samuel
paints in the darkest colours.  Of the village of Wakkala he gives a
pleasant description.  The soil was very rich, and the ground being
protected from the burning sun by the large trees, there was a wealth of
luscious grass; while the good pasturage, the extensive forest, and a
plentiful supply of water insured a not less plentiful supply of wild
animals—antelopes in numerous varieties, rhinoceros, buffaloes,
elephants, and giraffes.  The next town was Latomé, where the traveller’s
presence of mind and courage were tested by another mutiny; but again he
succeeded in defeating the intentions of the insurgents, and reducing
them to obedience.

Along the foot of the Lafut mountains, which attain a general elevation
of six to seven thousand feet, the travellers pursued their way.
Desertions reduced their escort by five men, but they abated not their
high hopes or spirit of daring enterprise.  They duly arrived at
Tarangdlé, famous for its fine trees—the chief settlement of the
Latookas, a fine, frank, and warlike race, who resemble the Irish in
their readiness to join either in a feast or a fray.  The town contains
three thousand houses, each of which, as well as the town itself, is
protected by an iron-wood palisade.  The cattle are kept in large kraals,
and at various points high platforms are erected, where sentinels keep
watch and ward both day and night.  The cattle are the wealth of the
country, and so rich are the Latookas in them, that ten or twelve
thousand head are housed in every large town.  The natives are constantly
on guard to prevent the depredations of neighbouring tribes.

“The houses of the Latookas,” says Sir Samuel, “are generally
bell-shaped, while others are precisely like huge candle-extinguishers,
about twenty-five feet high.  The roofs are neatly thatched, at an angle
of about 75°, resting upon a circular wall about four feet high; thus the
roof forms a cap descending to within two feet and a half of the ground.
The doorway is only two feet and two inches high, thus an entrance must
be effected upon all-fours.  The interior is remarkably clean, but dark,
as the architects have no idea of windows.  It is a curious fact that the
circular form of hut is the only style of architecture adopted among all
the tribes of Central Africa, and also among the Arabs of Upper Egypt;
and that, although these differ more or less in the form of the roof, no
tribe has ever yet sufficiently advanced to construct a window.  The town
of Tarangdlé is arranged with several entrances, in the shape of low
archways through the palisades; these are closed at night by large
branches of the hooked thorn of the kittur bush (a species of mimosa).
The main street is broad, but all others are studiously arranged to admit
of only one cow, in single file, between high stockades; thus, in the
event of an attack, these narrow passages could be easily defended, and
it would be impossible to drive off their vast herds of cattle unless by
the main street.  The large cattle kraals are accordingly arranged in
various quarters in connection with the great road, and the entrance of
each kraal is a small archway in the strong iron-wood fence, sufficiently
wide to admit one ox at a time.  Suspended from the arch is a bell,
formed of the shell of the Oolape palm-nut, against which every animal
must strike either its horns or back, on entrance.  Every tinkle of the
bell announces the passage of an ox into the kraal, and they are thus
counted every evening when brought home from pasture.”

While at Latooka Sir Samuel was enabled to gratify his passion for the
chase, and his skill and prowess were rewarded by the capture of an
elephant.  There is a great difference, or rather, there are three great
differences between the African and the Asiatic elephant: the back of the
former is concave, that of the latter convex; the former has an enormous
ear, the latter a comparatively small one; the head of the former has a
convex front, while that of the latter exposes a flat surface a little
above the trunk.  The African animal is much larger than the Asiatic; and
while the latter seeks the forest depths during the day, and does not
wander forth upon the plains till towards evening, the former remains all
day in the vast open prairies, where the thick grass springs to a height
of twelve feet.  The African elephant feeds chiefly on the foliage of
trees; the Asiatic is an extensive grass feeder.

The natives hunt the elephant for the sake of the flesh and the tusks.
Sometimes he is caught in pitfalls; at other times, the grass of the
prairies is fired, and the elephants gradually driven back into a
confined area, where they are surrounded and speared to death.  Or,
should a number of elephants be in the neighbourhood of a village, about
a hundred men, armed with heavy-bladed lances, post themselves in as many
trees, while a multitude of natives gradually drive the animals towards
this ambush, when such as pass near enough are speared between the
shoulders.  The Bagara Arabs are famous elephant hunters.  Armed with
bamboo lances, tipped with a sharp iron head, two of them, mounted on
good horses, sally forth to secure a prize.  On coming in sight of a
herd, they single out the finest tusker and separate him from the others.
One man then leads the charge, and the animal, hotly pursued, turns
against the horse, which the rider so manages as to draw the elephant
further and further after him, while carefully keeping a safe distance
ahead.  The other man, meanwhile, is at the elephant’s heels, and
suddenly dismounting, while at full gallop, plunges his spear into its
body about two feet below the junction of the tail, driving it with all
his strength into the abdomen, and then withdrawing it.  If successful in
his thrust, he remounts his horse and escapes, or takes to flight on
foot, pursued by the elephant, until the attention of the latter is drawn
to his first assailant, who in his turn rides up, and inflicts a wound.
Sometimes the first wound proves fatal; sometimes the process is repeated
twice or thrice before the animal succumbs; and sometimes the elephant
overtakes his enemy, in which case the latter must expect no mercy.

On the 2nd of May, 1863, leaving five men in charge of his camp and
baggage, Sir Samuel started for Obbo, crossing the Kanisti river, and
travelling through a bold and romantic highland country.  He found the
vegetation of Obbo rich and various; the soil produced nine kinds of
yams, and many capital kinds of fruit.  Tobacco flourishes, and ground
nuts are plentiful.  As for the people, they attire themselves in the
skin of an antelope or goat, wearing it mantle-wise across their
shoulders; but when on the warpath, they paint their body with red and
yellow stripes.  Sir Samuel was received with all the honours by
Katchiba, the chief of Obbo, and entertained with a grand dance, in which
more vigour was displayed than elegance.  About a hundred men formed a
ring; each holding in his hand a small cup-shaped drum, formed of
hollowed wood, over the perforated end of which was lightly stretched the
skin of an elephant’s ear.  In the centre was placed the chief dancer,
wearing, suspended from his shoulders, an immense drum, also covered with
elephant’s ear.  The dance commenced with a wild but agreeable chorus,
the time being kept by the big drum, and the small _tympana_ striking in
at certain periods, with so much precision as to give the effect of a
single instrument.  The figures varied continually, and the whole
terminated with a “grand galop” in double circles, at a tremendous pace,
the inner ring revolving in a contrary direction to the outer.

Sir Samuel returned to Latooka, and collecting his baggage and escort,
started again for Obbo on the 13th of June.  Here he and his wife
remained for several months, waiting for a favourable opportunity to
resume their southward march.  Their quinine was exhausted, and
consequently they suffered much from fever.  Sir Samuel, in lieu of
horses, purchased and trained for their contemplated journey three robust
oxen, named respectively, “Beef,” “Steaks,” and “Suet.”  He also obtained
a supply of porters to carry his luggage, and arranged with Ibrahim, the
friendly trader, that he should accompany him to Unyoro with a guard of
one hundred men.  It was the 5th of January, 1864, before the expedition
started.  On the very first day, however, one of the oxen bolted; and Sir
Samuel was compelled to purchase another of one of the Turks at the price
of a double-barrelled gun.  Three days’ march through a beautiful country
brought them to the Asua river, in lat. 3° 12′ N.  Its bed was almost
dry.  On the 13th they arrived at Shooa.  This is characterized as a
lovely place.  A noble mountain of granite ascended in a sheer precipice
for about eight hundred feet from its base; perfectly abrupt on the
eastern side, the other parts were of gradual inclination, covered with
fine forest trees, and picturesquely studded with villages.  The
surrounding country, with its trees and rivulets and greensward, might
have been taken for an English park, but for the granite rocks that rose
at intervals like the gray ruins of ancient castles.

Shooa is a land of milk and honey.  The travellers found fowls, butter,
and goats abundant and ridiculously cheap; and as beads were highly
valued, they effected some good bargains.  The women flocked to see the
white lady, bringing her gifts of milk and flowers, and receiving beads
and bracelets in return.  They were gentle in manner, and evidently
anxious to establish friendly relations.  Sir Samuel was struck by the
superior cultivation of the country.  Large quantities of sesamum were
grown and carefully harvested, the crop being collected in oblong frames
about twenty feet long and twelve feet high.  These were inclined at an
angle of about 60°; the pods of the sesamum plants hanging on one facet,
so that the frames resembled enormous brushes.  When fully dried, the
crop was removed to the granaries, of which there were two kinds: the
wicker-work plastered over with cow-dung, supported on four posts, with a
thatched roof; and a simpler contrivance, which may be thus described:—A
stout pole, twenty feet long, was fixed upright in the earth, and, at
about four foot from the ground, a bundle of strong and long reeds was
tied tightly round it.  Round these reeds, at intervals, were fastened
hoop of wicker-work, until the structure assumed the shape of an inverted
umbrella half expanded.  When this is filled with grain, fresh reeds are
added, until the work has extended to within a few feet of the top of the
pole.  The whole is then crowned with a covering of reeds, securely
strapped, and resembles nothing in the world so much as one of those
cigars which slightly bulge in the middle.

At Shooa all Sir Samuel’s Obbo porters absconded, being afraid to enter
Kamrasi’s country, and he found so much difficulty in supplying their
places, that he resolved on leaving behind him every article that was not
absolutely indispensable.  How different an appearance his expedition
presented to that which it had worn on leaving Khartûm!  It was shorn of
all its “pride and circumstance;” but its leader remained as resolute and
as hopeful as ever, and started from Shooa on the 18th of January,
determined to press forward to the Luta N’zige.  After passing Fatiko, a
village perched like an eagle’s eyrie on a rocky table-land, he entered
upon a sea of prairies, an immense undulating expanse of verdure, dotted
with a few palms.  As his guide lost the road, Sir Samuel proposed to
clear the country to the south by firing the prairies, and a strangely
picturesque spectacle was the result.  In a few minutes the flames roared
before them, and waves upon waves of fire, and clouds upon clouds of
smoke, rolled away to the far horizon.  Flocks of buzzards and swarms of
beautiful fly-catchers thronged to the spot, to prey upon the innumerable
insects that endeavoured to escape from the approaching conflagration,
which continued to extend until arrested by a reedy swamp.

On the 22nd, the expedition reached the Victoria White Nile, or, as it is
sometimes called, the Somerset river, and proceeded through the
magnificent forest that crowned its bank to the Karuma Falls.  The river
here was about a hundred and fifty yards wide, and flowed between lofty
cliffs, which were green with vines, bananas, and palms.  The falls,
however, are very insignificant, not exceeding five feet in height.  Just
above them is a ferry, and Sir Samuel and Lady Baker crossing by it,
found themselves in Unyoro, King Kamrasi’s country, and in his town or
village of Atado.  Speke and Grant had left behind them pleasant
memories, so that Baker, as their friend and countryman, received a
hearty welcome.  A large hut was placed at the disposal of his wife and
himself, and in exchange for fresh beef—Sir Samuel ordering an ox to be
killed for the purpose—the natives furnished liberal quantities of flour,
beans, and sweet potatoes.  A brisk market was quickly set going, and
whole rows of girls and women arrived, bringing baskets filled with the
desired provisions.  The women, we are told, were neatly dressed in short
double-skirted petticoats: many had the bosom bare: others wore a piece
of bark-cloth, plaid-wise, across chest and shoulders.  Bark-cloth, which
is exclusively used throughout Equatorial Africa, is the produce of a
kind of fig tree.  The bark is stripped off in large pieces, soaked in
water, and beaten with a mallet.  In appearance it much resembles
corduroy, in colour tanned leather; the finer qualities are peculiarly
soft to the touch, like woven cotton.

The travellers were struck by the difference between the Unyoro people
and the tribes they had previously seen.  On the north side of the Nile
the natives were either wholly naked, or wore only a piece of skin across
their shoulders.  The river seemed to mark the limit or _ne plus ultra_
of savagedom, for the inhabitants of Unyoro shrank like Europeans from
the indecency and shame of nakedness.  Their higher civilization was
shown also by their manufactures: their smiths were very skilful, and
used iron hammers instead of stone; they converted into fine wire the
thick brass and copper wire which they received from Zanzibar; and their
pottery showed a certain degree of taste in conception.

“The natives,” writes Sir Samuel, “are particularly neat in all they do;
they never bring anything to sell unless carefully packed in the neatest
parcels, generally formed of the bark of the plantain, and sometimes of
the inner portions of reeds stripped into snow-white stalks, which are
bound round the parcels with the utmost care.  Should the plantain cider,
‘marossa,’ be brought in a jar, the mouth is neatly covered with a
finger-like mat of these clean white rushes split into shreds.  Not even
tobacco is brought for sale unless most carefully packed.  During a
journey, a pretty, bottle-shaped, long-necked gourd is carried, with a
store of plantain cider; the mouth of the bottle is stopped with a bundle
of the white rush shreds, through which a reed is inserted that reaches
to the bottom; thus the drink can be sucked up during the march without
the necessity of halting; nor is it possible to spill it by the movement
of walking.

“The natives,” he adds, “prepare the skins of goats very beautifully,
making them as soft as chamois leather; these they cut into squares, and
sew them together as neatly as would be effected by a European tailor,
converting them into mantles, which are prized far more highly than
bark-cloth, on account of their durability.  They manufacture their own
needles, not by boring the eye, but by sharpening the end into a fine
point, and turning it over, the extremity being hammered into a small cut
in the body of the needle to prevent it from catching.”

The arrival of Sir Samuel Baker being made known to Kamrasi, he requested
him to pay a visit to his capital, and sent a legion of porters to carry
his baggage.  Lady Baker suffered much from illness on the journey, which
she performed in a litter; and Sir Samuel was also attacked by a
debilitating fever.  His first interview with “the king” took place on
the 10th of February.  He describes him as a fine-looking man, whose
extremely prominent eyes gave a peculiar expression to his countenance;
about six feet high; and dressed in a long robe of bark-cloth, draped in
graceful folds.  The nails of his hands and feet were carefully tended,
and his complexion was about as dark a brown as that of an Abyssinian.
He sat upon a copper stool, with a leopard-skin carpet spread around him,
and was attended by about ten of his principal chiefs.  Of his character
as a man Sir Samuel Baker speaks in the most unflattering terms; he was
grasping, mean, mendacious, and a coward.  After some delay, and by dint
of repeated bribes, Sir Samuel obtained from him a supply of natives to
carry the baggage to the lake, where canoes were to be provided for the
voyage to Magango, a village situated at the junction of the Somerset
river.  He went to take leave of the royal savage, and was astonished by
the insolent demand that Lady Baker should be left with him!  Sir Samuel
drew his revolver; Lady Baker broke out into invectives in Arabic, which
the woman, Bachuta, translated as nearly as she could, and with indignant
emphasis, into the language of Unyoro; in short, “a scene” ensued!
Kamrasi was completely cowed, and faltered out, “Don’t be angry!  I had
no intention of offending you by asking for your wife; I will give you a
wife, if you want one, and I thought you might have no objection to give
me yours; it is my custom to give my visitors pretty wives, and I thought
you might exchange.  Don’t make it fuss about it: if you don’t like it,
there’s an end of it; I will never mention it again.”  Sir Samuel
received the apology very sternly, and insisted upon starting.  Kamrasi
did not feel in a position to interpose any further delay, and the march
to the lake began.

On the road a very painful incident occurred.  The expedition had reached
Uafour river, which ran through the centre of a marsh, and, although
deep, was so thickly covered with matted and tangled water grass and
other aquatic plants, that a natural floating bridge, some two feet in
thickness, was available for crossing.  The men passed it quickly,
sinking merely to the ankles, though beneath the tough vegetation was
deep water.  It was equally impossible to ride or be carried over this
fickle surface; Sir Samuel therefore led the way, and begged his wife to
follow on foot as quickly as possible, keeping exactly in his track.  The
river was about eighty yards wide, and Sir Samuel had scarcely
accomplished a fourth of the distance, when, looking back, he was
horrified to see her standing in one spot, and sinking gradually through
the weeds, while her face was distorted and perfectly purple.  She fell,
as if stricken dead.  Her husband was immediately by her side, and, with
the help of some of his men, dragged her through the yielding vegetation,
across to the other side.  There she was tenderly laid beneath a tree,
and her husband bathed her head and face with water, thinking she had
fainted.  But he soon perceived that she was suffering from a sunstroke;
and, removing her to a miserable hut close at hand, he watched anxiously
for some sign of returning consciousness.  We shall quote his own words
in all their pathetic simplicity:

“There was nothing to eat in this spot.  My wife had never stirred since
she fell by the _coup de soleil_, and merely respired about five times a
minute.  It was impossible to remain; the people would have starved.  She
was laid gently upon her litter, and we started forward on our funeral
course.  I was ill and broken-hearted, and I followed by her side through
the long day’s march over wild park lands and streams, with thick forest
and deep marshy bottoms; over undulating hills, and through valleys of
tall papyrus rushes, which, as we brushed through them on our melancholy
way, waved over the litter like the black plumes of a hearse.  We halted
at a village, and again the night was passed in watching.  I was wet, and
coated with mud from the swampy marsh, and shivered with ague; but the
cold within was greater than all.  No change had taken place; she had
never moved.  I had plenty of fat, and I made four balls of about half a
pound, each of which would burn for three hours.  A piece of a broken
water-jar formed a lamp, several pieces of rag serving for wicks.  So in
solitude the still calm night passed away as I sat by her side and
watched.  In the drawn and distorted features that lay before me I could
hardly trace the same form that for years had been my comfort through all
the difficulties and dangers of my path.  Was she to die?  Was so
terrible a sacrifice to be the result of my selfish exile?

“Again the night passed away.  Once more the march.  Though weak and ill,
and for two nights without a moment’s sleep, I felt no fatigue, but
mechanically followed by the side of the litter as though in a dream.
The same wild country diversified with marsh and forest.  Again we
halted.  The night came, and I sat by her side in a miserable hut, with
the feeble lamp flickering while she lay, as in death.  She had never
moved a muscle since she fell.  My people slept.  I was alone, and no
sound broke the stillness of the night.  The ears ached at the utter
silence, till the sudden wild cry of a hyæna made me shudder as the
horrible thought rushed through my brain, that, should she be buried in
this lonely spot, the hyæna would . . . disturb her rest.

“The morning was not far distant; it was past four o’clock.  I had passed
the night in replacing wet cloths upon her head, and moistening her lips,
as she lay apparently lifeless on her litter.  I could do nothing more;
in solitude and abject misery in that dark hour, in a country of savage
heathens, thousands of miles away from a Christian land, I beseeched an
aid above all human, trusting alone to Him.

“The morning broke; my lamp had just burnt out, and, cramped with the
night’s watching, I rose from my seat, and seeing that she lay in the
same unaltered state, I went to the door of the hut to breathe one gasp
of the fresh morning air.  I was watching the first red streak that
heralded the rising sun, when I was startled by the words, ‘Thank God,’
faintly uttered behind me.  Suddenly she had awoke from her torpor, and
with a heart overflowing I went to her bedside.  Her eyes were full of
madness!  She spoke, but the brain was gone!”



II.


Happily, after suffering for some days from brain fever, Lady Baker
recovered consciousness, and thenceforward her progress, though slow, was
sure.  After a brief rest, the march to the lake was resumed by the
undaunted travellers; for the devoted wife would not allow any
consideration of her comfort or safety to come between her husband and
the accomplishment of the work he had undertaken.  At a village called
Parkani, the guides informed them that they were only a day’s journey
from the lake.  In the west rose a lofty range of mountains, and Sir
Samuel Baker had conjectured that the N’zige lay on the other side of it,
but he was told that it actually formed its western or further boundary.
Only a day’s journey!  That night Sir Samuel could hardly sleep; his
brain was fired with the thought that he was within so short a distance
of the Source of the Nile—that in a few hours he might drink of the
waters of its mysterious fountain.  He was up before sunrise on the 14th
of March, and crossing a deep cool valley between the hills, ascended the
slope, gained the summit, and there, before him, flashing in the light of
morning like a sea of quick-silver or a huge mirror of polished steel,
lay the long-sought lake!  The height on which he stood was about fifteen
hundred feet above its level, so that he could survey the entire expanse
of those welcome waters which had created fertility in the heart of the
desert, and made the fame and wealth and glory of Egypt.  He resolved
that thenceforth they should bear a great name, and as the eastern
reservoir of the Nile had been named after the Queen of England, he
determined that the western should commemorate her lost and lamented
consort, Prince Albert.  It is therefore now known as the Albert Lake.

With some difficulty, but with a grateful heart, he and his wife
descended the steep to the shore of the silent, shining lake, and took up
their quarters in a fishing village called Vacovia.  It was a wretched
place, and the soil was strongly impregnated with salt; but discomforts
were forgotten in the joy of a great discovery.  Sir Samuel proceeded to
collect all the information he could relative to its position.  The chief
of the village told him that its breadth was immense, but that large
canoes had been known to cross from the other side after four days and
nights of hard rowing.  That other side, the west, was included in the
great kingdom of Malegga, governed by King Kajoro, who traded with
Kamrasi from a point opposite to Magango, where the lake contracted to
the width of one day’s voyage.  South of Malegga was a country named
Tori, and the lake extended into the kingdom of Karagwé, with whose
sovereign, Rumanika, Speke and Grant had maintained a friendly
intercourse.  Karagwé partly bounded the lake on the eastern side, and
next to it, towards the north, came Utumbi; then, in succession, came
Uganda, Unyoro, Chopé.

The Albert Nyanza formed a vast basin of water, lying far below the
general level of the country, and receiving all its drainage.  It was
surrounded by precipitous cliffs, which left but a narrow strip of sand
between them and the swelling waves, and bounded on the west and
south-west by huge mountain-ranges, from five to seven thousand feet in
altitude.  Sir Samuel Baker, after a careful survey, concluded that it
was the one great reservoir which received everything, from the passing
shower to the roaring mountain torrent that drained from Central Africa
towards the north.  Speke’s Victoria Nyanza was a reservoir situated at a
considerable elevation, receiving the waters from the west of the
Kitangulé river, its principal feeder; but as the Albert Lake extended
much farther north than the Victoria, it took up the river from the
latter, and monopolized the entire head-waters of the Nile.  In Sir
Samuel’s opinion the Albert was the great reservoir, while the Nile was
the eastern source; the parent streams that created these lakes were from
the same origin, and the Kitangulé poured its waters into the Victoria,
to be eventually received by the Albert.  The discoveries of Mr. Stanley,
however, impose on geographers the necessity of considerably modifying
Sir Samuel Baker’s hypothesis, without detracting from the importance of
his discovery.  The Albert Lake really holds an inferior position to the
Victoria, which unquestionably receives the parent waters of the Nile;
but it is not the less one of its great reservoirs.

Having obtained a canoe at Vacovia, Sir Samuel explored the north-eastern
coast of the Albert, and after a voyage of thirteen days arrived at
Magango, where the Nile, or Somerset river, after a winding course from
the Victoria Nyanza, flows calmly into its basin, to quit it again a few
miles further north, and make its way towards Egypt and the
Mediterranean.  At Magango the lake is about seventeen miles wide, but to
the north it ends in a long strip or neck which a growth of tall green
rushes almost conceals.  After leaving the lake, the Nile smoothly
descends its green valley, and is navigable for boats until it reaches
Agunddo, where it dashes headlong over a precipice of thirty or forty
feet.

Having completed his survey of the Albert, as far as his means admitted,
Sir Samuel determined, instead of retracing his steps to Kamrasi’s
residence at ’Mroolli, to trace the course of the Somerset or Nile river
up to Karuma Falls, to which point Speke and Grant had followed it
downwards.  The canoes having been got ready, Baker and his wife began
their river voyage.  About two miles from Magango the width contracted
from 500 to 250 yards.  As they proceeded, the river gradually narrowed
to about 180 yards, and when the men ceased paddling, they could
distinctly hear the roar of water.  Arriving at a point where the river
made a slight turn, they saw the sandbanks covered with crocodiles; like
logs of timber, they lay together.  The cliffs on either side were steep
and rugged, and the whole picture was rich in various colouring.  Foliage
of the intensest green clothed each rocky projection, and through a
narrow cleft or gap in the precipices the river plunged down before them
in one vast leap of about 120 feet.  The fall of waters was white as
snow, and contrasted magnificently with the dark walls that held it in,
while the graceful palms of the tropics and wild plantains increased the
beauty of the view.  This noble cataract, the grandest on the Nile, Sir
Samuel named the Murchison Falls, in honour of the famous geologist and
geographer.

It was impossible, of course, to pass the cataract, and the voyagers made
haste to land and collect their oxen and attendants in order to resume
their journey.  The route they took was parallel to the river, which
continued to flow in a deep and picturesque ravine.  From an island
called Palooan, a succession of islets broke its course until near the
Karuma Falls.  These islets belonged to two chiefs, Rionza and Fowooka,
who were bitter enemies of the King of Unyoro, Kamrasi.  On arriving at
this point, Sir Samuel found that they were at that very time engaged in
hostilities, and that it would be impossible for him to continue along
the bank of the river.  Obstacles of every kind were thrown by the
natives in the onward path of the travellers, but in spite of ill health,
weakness, and weariness, they slowly pushed forward.  Not the least of
their troubles was the scarcity of suitable provisions, and they grew so
feeble that at last even their brave hearts gave way, and they began to
despair of reaching Gondokoro—to resign themselves to the thought of
being buried in that inhospitable land.  “I wrote instructions in my
journal,” says Sir Samuel, “in case of death, and told my headman to be
sure to deliver my maps, observations, and papers to the English consul
at Khartûm; this was my only care, as I feared that all my labour might
be lost should I die.  I had no fear for my wife, as she was quite as bad
as I, and if one should die, the other would certainly follow;—in fact,
this had been agreed upon lest she should fall into the hands of Kamrasi
at my death.  We had struggled to win, and I thanked God that we had won;
if death were to be the price, at all events we were at the goal, and we
both looked upon death rather as a pleasure, as affording rest; there
would be no more suffering; no fever, no long journey before us, that in
our weak state was an infliction; the only wish was to lay down the
burthen.”

From this wretched position Sir Samuel delivered himself, by undertaking
to assist Kamrasi in his war against Fowooka.  Whether this was a
legitimate proceeding on the part of a scientific explorer, who had no
interest in the quarrel of either party, may well be doubted, but the
alliance led to his obtaining an immediate supply of provisions.  Natives
were sent to assist him and his wife in their journey to Kamrasi’s camp
at Kisoona.  But what was their surprise to find that the Kamrasi whom
they had interviewed at ’Mrooli was not, after all, the real Kamrasi, the
King of Unyoro, but his brother, M’Gami, whom Kamrasi had ordered to
personate him, in an access of alarm as to the traveller’s possible
designs.  Sir Samuel was indignant at the deception, and it was with some
difficulty that M’Gami could prevail upon him to forgive it.  At last he
consented to visit the king, and something like an amicable understanding
was established between them.  He was well supplied with provisions of
all kinds, and both his wife and himself slowly recovered their health
and spirits.  By a dexterous use of the British flag he repelled an
attempted invasion of Fowooka’s warriors; and he rendered various
services to Kamrasi, which met, we need hardly say, with no adequate
reward.  It was the middle of November before, in company with a caravan
of ivory-traders under his old friend Ibrahim, Sir Samuel was able to
resume his return journey to Gondokoro.  The caravan consisted of about
seven hundred porters and eighty armed men, with women and children; in
all, about one thousand people.  To provision such a body was necessarily
difficult, and there was no meat, although flour was abundant.  Sir
Samuel’s skill as a hunter was put into requisition to supply a little
variety to the bill of fare; and his bringing down a fine hartebeest was
an event which gave very general satisfaction.

Five days after leaving the Victoria Nile, the caravan arrived at Shooa,
where Sir Samuel and his wife received a hearty welcome.  Some months
were spent in this pleasant locality, the Turks profiting by the
opportunity to make razzias upon the neighbouring tribes, so that, for
many miles around, the blackened ruins of villages and the desolated
fields bore witness to their reckless cruelty; cattle were carried off in
thousands, and a fair and fertile region was converted into a dreary
wilderness.  The captives made were detained to be sold as slaves.  On
one occasion, among the victims brought in to the Turkish camp was a
pretty young girl of about fifteen.  She had been sold by auction, as
usual, the day after the return from the razzia, and had fallen to the
lot of one of the men.  A few days later, there appeared in the camp a
native from the plundered village, intent upon ransoming the girl with a
quantity of ivory.  He had scarcely entered the gateway, when the girl,
who was sitting at the door of her owner’s hut, descried him, and
springing to her feet, ran with all the speed her chained ankles
permitted, and flung herself into his arms, with the cry of “My father!”
Yes; it was her father who, to rescue his child from degradation, had
nobly risked his life in his brutal enemy’s camp.

The Turks who witnessed this particular incident, far from being touched
by any emotion of pity, rushed on to the unfortunate native, tore him
from his daughter, and bound him tightly with cords.  At this time Sir
Samuel was in his tent, assisting some of his men to clean his rifles.
Suddenly, at a distance of less than a hundred paces, he heard three
shots fired.  The men exclaimed, “They have shot the abid (native)!”
“What native?” inquired Sir Samuel; and his men replied by narrating the
story we have just recorded.  Sir Samuel at first refused to believe it,
but it proved to be true in every detail, even in the last; for, bound to
a tree, lay the wretched father, shot dead with three balls.

In the month of February the caravan started for Gondokoro.  The route
lay at first through a fertile and pleasant country, crossing twice the
Un-y-Ami river, and touching at its point of junction with the Nile, in
lat. 3° 32′ N.  On the north bank of the Un-y-Ami, about three miles from
its mouth, Sir Samuel saw the tamarind tree—the “Shadder-el-Sowar” (or
“Traveller’s Tree”), as the trading parties called it—which indicated the
limit of Signor Miani’s explorations from Gondokoro, and the furthest
point reached by any traveller from the north prior to Sir Samuel Baker’s
enterprise.  The journey was continued through a fine park-like extent of
verdant grass, covered with stately tamarind trees, which sheltered among
their branches great numbers of the brilliant yellow-breasted pigeon.
Ascending a rocky eminence by a laborious pass, Sir Samuel, from the
summit, which was eight hundred feet high, saw before him the old
historic river.  “Hurrah for the old Nile!” he said, and contemplated
with eager gaze the noble scene before him.  Flowing from the westward,
with many a curve and bend, was the broad sheet of unbroken water, four
hundred yards wide, exclusive of the thick belt of reeds on either
margin.  Its source could be clearly traced for some scores of miles, and
the range of mountains on the west bank was distantly visible that the
travellers had previously sighted, when on the route from Karuma to
Shooa, at a distance of sixty miles.  This chain begins at Magango, and
forms the Koshi frontier of the Nile.  The country opposite to Sir
Samuel’s position was Koshi, which extends along the _west_ bank of the
river to the Albert Lake.  The country which he was traversing extends,
under the name of Madi, along the _east_ bank to the confluence of the
Somerset Nile, opposite Magango.

The Nile here enters a rocky valley between Gebel Kookoo and the western
mountains, and foams and frets around and against rock and island, until,
suddenly contracting, it breaks into a roaring torrent, and dashes
furiously onward in the shadow of perpendicular cliffs.  Waterfall
succeeds to waterfall, and it is difficult to identify the swollen,
thunderous, angry river with the calm clear stream that brightens the
fertile pastures of Shooa.  In this part of its course it receives the
Asua.  Through dense thickets of bamboos, and deep ravines which, in the
season of rains, pour their turbid tribute into the great river, the
caravan made its way; but in passing through a gorge between two rocky
hills it was attacked by a body of the Bari natives, who were lying in
ambush.  Their bows and arrows, however, proved ineffectual against the
musketry of the Turks, and they retired discomfited.  This was the last
important incident of the journey to Gondokoro, where, after an absence
of upwards of two years, Sir Samuel and Lady Baker arrived in safety.

But what was their disappointment to find there neither letters nor
supplies!  Their friends and agents had long since given them up as dead;
never believing that travellers could penetrate into that far and savage
south, and return alive.  There was no news from home; no money; no
conveyance provided to take them back to Khartûm.  With characteristic
energy Sir Samuel confronted his disappointment, and instead of wringing
his hands and waiting for the help that would not come, he set actively
to work, engaged a dahabeeyah for the sum of four thousand piastres
(£40), removed his baggage on board, collected provisions, took friendly
leave of Ibrahim and the traders, and, with the flag of Old England
flying at his masthead, set sail from Gondokoro.  There is very little to
be said about the voyage to Khartûm.  Sir Samuel shot some antelopes, and
the progress of the dahabeeyah beyond the junction of the Bahr-el-Ghazal
was considerably impeded by that natural dam of floating vegetation,
intermingled with reeds, sunburnt wood, and mud that here forms so signal
an obstruction to the navigation of the Upper Nile.  To allow of the
passage of boats a canal has been cut, about ten feet wide, but it
requires constant clearance, and its transit is not accomplished without
considerable difficulty.  Two days’ hard work from morning till night
carried the voyagers through it, and with feelings of relief and
exultation they found themselves once more on the open Nile and beyond
the dam.  But as they floated past the Sobat junction, the terrible
plague broke out on board their vessel, carrying off two of the crew, and
the boy Saat, who had served them so long and so faithfully.  It was a
sad conclusion to an expedition which, though fraught with sufferings,
trials, and dangers, had, on the whole, been crowned with complete
success.

It was the evening of the 5th of May, 1865, when Sir Samuel and Lady
Baker entered Khartûm, to be welcomed by the whole European population as
if they had risen from the dead.  On the 1st of July they left it for
Berber.  In making the passage of the Cataracts they narrowly escaped
shipwreck; their boat, as it sped along under full sail before a high
gale of wind, struck broadside upon a sandbank.  About sixty yards below
rose a ridge of rocks on which it seemed certain that the vessel would be
driven, if it cleared the bank; so that to avoid Scylla was to rush into
Charybdis.  Sir Samuel, however, proved equal to the occasion.  An anchor
was laid up stream; the crew hauled on the cable, and the great force of
the current pressing against the vessels’ broadside, she wore gradually
round.  All hands then laboured to clear away the sand, which, when
loosened by their hands and feet, the swift full current rapidly carried
away.  For five hours they remained in this position, with the boat
cracking, and half filled with water; however, a channel was opened at
last, and slipping the cable, Sir Samuel hoisted sail, and with the
velocity of an arrow, the head of the vessel swung round, and away she
went, plunging through the swirling, boiling water, and clearing the
rocks by a few inches.

They arrived at Berber, and procuring camels, started east for Souakim on
the Red Sea, a distance of two hundred and seventy-five miles.  There
they obtained passage on board an Egyptian Government steamer, and in
five days landed at Suez.  Here ends the record of their heroic
enterprise. {404}



INDEX.


                                    A

A’damáwa, 116; capital of 119

Africa, exploration in, 365, 366

Agadez, 97; customs of inhabitants of, 98

Alatou Mountains, the, 222, 225, 227

Albert Nyanza, the, 391–393

Aliyú, the Emir, 135

Altai, lakes of the, 193

Altin-Kool, Lake, 195

Alty-Kuduk, camp of, 277

American camp at Valverde, 70

American trapper, an, 71

Amu-Daria, the, 278, 350, 351

Ara, river, the, 226

Aral, Lake or Sea of, 343

Arkansas valley, 80

Asben, Mount, 96

Asua, river, 384

Atado, town of, 386

Atkinson, Thomas Witlam, travels in Siberia and Central Asia, 157–228

Australia, sketch of discovery in, 293–295

                                    B

Bacsi, the, enchantments of, 29

Badakshan, the river, 14

Badámuni, 130

Bielouka Mountains, the, 206

Bagara Arabs, the, 382

Bagirmi, 121

Bagma, 116

Baikal Lake, 228

Baker, Sir Samuel and Lady, discover the Albert Nyanza, 238

Baker, Lady, illness of, 390–392

Baker, Sir Samuel, travels in Africa, 365–404

Barnaoul, mines of, 186

Barth, Dr., African travels of, 90–156

Bear, adventure with a, 189

Beaver-trapping, 79

Bénuwé, the river, 118

Berber, 403

Boiling Spring River, legend of, 84

Bokhara, 323

Bornú, 105; capital of, 106

Bronze-wing pigeon, the, 305, 306

Búdduma, or African Lake pirates, 110

Bull-tailing, Mexican sport of, described, 57

Burnaby, Major, travels in Khiva, 325–364

                                    C

Caldwell, Bishop, quoted, 45

Cambaluc, visited by Marco Polo, 32

Camels in Australia, 308–310, 315; in Turkistan, 341, 342

Cameron, Lieutenant, 366

Chandu, city of, described, 25

Chihuahua, 67

Chinese, curious superstition of the, 43

Coleridge, quoted, 31

Comanche Indians, the, story of, 56, 59

Cossack officer, a, adventure of, 191

                                    D

D’Ablaing, Baron, 247

Darma Tsyren, Mr. Atkinson’s visit to, 215

Demons’ Mountain, the, 92

“Devil-dancing,” 45

Diamond-sparrow, the, 300, 301

Doré, African town of, 142

Durango, Mexican town of, 59

                                    E

Ekaterineburg, 164

Elephant-hunting, 381, 382

El Gallo, sport of, described, 66

Eremil, river, 223

Errington, Port, 239

Escamilla, story of, 60–63

                                    F

Flinders, Lieutenant, 293

Fogha, valley of, 138

Frost-bitten, 338–340

Fulbi, the, 101

                                    G

Ghat, oasis of, 95

Ghûls, the, 19

Glenelg, 322

Gobi, the Great Desert of, 17, 18, 212–214

Golden Lake, the, 195

Gondokoro, 247, 374, 375

Grant, Captain, 241, 368, 377

                                    H

Heiligenkreuz, missionary settlement of, 246

Heughlin, Dr., 249

Hommaire de Hell, Madame, quoted, 19

                                    I

Ivory-dealers, the African, 255

                                    J

Jana-Daria, desert of, 349

Jornada del Muerto, the, 69

                                    K

Kaiping-fu, described, 25

Kalenderhana, 349

Kalmucks, the, manners and customs of, 198, 199

Kamrasi, the chief of Unyoro, 388, 389, 398

Kanó, town of, 100

Kara-Kalpaks, the, 263

Karakorum Mountains, the, 197

Karuma Falls, the, 386

Kasala, 260, 335, 336, 343, 364

Katchiba, African chief, 383

Katounaia, the, 200

Katséna, town of, 100

Kauffmann, General, 280

Khala-Ata, fortress of, 274

Khan of Khiva, palace of, 283; description of, 285, 357–359

Khartûm, town of, 234, 370, 402

Khiva, described, 282, 283, 285, 287, 355, 356, 360

Khivans, the, account of, 281

Kibitka, a, described, 179, 180, 264, 344, 346

Kirghiz chief, a, description of, 182, 183

Kirghiz tribes, the, habits of, 178–182, 264–267

Kolyvan Lake, 169

Kongo, the, 367

Kublai Khan, Marco Polo’s visit to the court of, 25

Kúkáwa, in Bornú, 106

Kyzil-Kum, desert of, 261, 263

                                    L

Latookas, tribe of the, 379–381

Lepson, river, 225

Lindsay, Hon. Robert, quoted, 41

Livingstone, Dr., 364, 365

Lop, or Lob, city of, 17

Luta N’zige, the, 377

                                    M

MacGahan, Mr. J. A., with the Russian army in Khiva, 260–292

Maduwári, 111

Magango, 395

Mal Pais, the, description of, 55

Mapimi, 67

Marco Polo, travels of, in Central Asia, 1–48

Másená, 124

Mexicans, the, character of, 49; sports of, 59

Mexico, geographical characteristics of, 50, 51

Mongols, the, habits of, 20–22

Morzouk, 91

Muna Aim, story of, 267, 268

Múniyo, 129

Murchison Falls, the, 396

                                    N

Nicholas, the Grand-Duke, 280

Niger, the, description of, 139; basin of, 367

Nile, the, scenery of, 235, 236, 371, 400, 401; basin of, 367

Nô, Lake, 243, 244

Nor-Zaisan, Lake, 176

Nuehr tribe, the, 372

                                    O

Oakover, river, 315, 320

Obbo, 383

Oogentel, 353

Orenburg, 335

Overweg, Mr., joins Dr. Barth, 112; death of, 128

                                    P

Pamir, table-land of, described, 16

Pardalote, the, 300, 301

Peking (anc. Cambaluc), 32

Perovsky, Fort, 261

Petro-Alexandrovsky, 361, 362

Phayre, Sir A., quoted, 54

Pike’s Peak, 88

Porcupine-grass, 299

Palque, Mexican drink of, described, 51

                                    Q

Queretaro, 51

                                    R

Ramusio, quoted, 9

Rancho, a Mexican, described, 66

Reg, Lake, 249

Richardson, Mr. James, African traveller, death of, 106

Rio Colorado, the, 78

Rocky Mountains, in the, 74, 75

Ruxton, Mr. George F., travels in Mexico, 49–89

                                    S

Sagárti, the, 111

Samara, Russian town of, 331

Santa Fé, 73

Say, town of, 139

Sesamum, the, cultivation of, 385

Shamo, country of, 114

Shillooks, the, character of, 242–244, 371

Shir, the, African tribe of, 373

Shooa, described, 384, 385, 399

Snake Indians, the, 85

Snow-storm in Arkansas, 81

Sobat, the, 371

Somerset, the, 386, 391

Sourays, the, 111

Speke, Captain, travels of, 368, 369, 377

Stanley, Mr. H. M., 368

Steudner, Dr., death of, 250

Syr-Daria, the, 260, 345

                                    T

Tartars, the, described by Marco Polo, 20–25

Tasáwa, 100

Tchad, Lake, 110, 120

Terekli, 340

Thian-Shan, the, 325

Tibet, description of, 40–43

Timbuktu, described, 150

Tinné, Alexina, travels of, in the Soudan, 230–259

Tiska, Mount, 96

Tollogo, 378

Towaregs, the, 92, 95

Traveller’s Tree, the, 400

Turkistan, boundaries and divisions of, 325, 326

                                    U

Uafour river, 389

Unyoro, country of, 387, 388

U’shek, 129

Uzbegs, the, customs of, 288; a house of, 289, 290; dance of, 290, 291

                                    V

Vacovia, 394

Valverde, American camp at, 70

Venice, rivalry of, with Genoa, 12

Victoria Nyanza, the, 369

Victoria White Nile, the, 386, 395

Volga, the, sleighing on, 330

                                    W

Wakkala, 379

Warburton, Colonel Egerton explores West Australia, 293–324

White Nile, the, 244

Wood, Captain John, quoted, 16

Wordsworth, quoted, 60

                                    Y

Yule, Colonel, quoted, 1, 2, 17

Yuz-Kudak, valley of, 271

                                    Z

Zacatero, 68

Zambési, the, 367

Zindu, 131



NOTES


{3}  The roc, a gigantic bird, which figures in the Eastern fable of
Sinbad the Sailor.

{12}  A rich, quaint, walled-up doorway, in semi-Monastic, semi-Byzantine
style, still extant in the Corte del Sabbrin, or Corta Sabbonicia, is
nearly all that remains of the house of Messer Marco Palo.

{17}  A summary of the Russian explorations of the Pamir, by Sievertzof,
has been published in Kettler’s “Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche
Geographie.”

{22}  _Cuir-bouilli_, leather softened by boiling, during which process
it took any form or impression required, and afterwards hardened.

{35}  Probably _malachite_, or carbonate of copper.

{41}  The Hon. Robert Lindsay writes:—“At night each man lights a fire at
his post, and furnishes himself with a dozen joints of the large bamboo,
one of which he occasionally throws into the fire, and the air it
contains being rarefied by the heat, it explodes with a report as loud as
a musket.”—“Lives of the Lindsays,” iii. 191.

{89}  G. F. Ruxton, “Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains.”
London, 1861.

{156}  Heinrich Barth, “Travels and Discoveries in North and Central
Africa.”  Second edition.  London, 1857.

{159}  The scenery of the Tchossowaia valley is warmly praised by Sir
Roderick Murchison.  “A more picturesque river-gorge,” he says, “was
certainly never examined by geologists.  Between the hamlet of Kinist and
Ust-Koiva we passed through scenes even surpassing in beauty those higher
up the stream, and to which it would require the pencil of a professed
artist to do justice.  The river runs in a limestone gorge, in which are
cliffs of every variety of form, occasionally exposing large caverns
along their vertical faces, with trees and flowers grouped about in the
clefts—rocks varying in colour from black to white.”—“Geology of the
Oural,” p. 188.

{166}  A four-wheeled waggon, made without either nail, bolt, or springs.

{211}  Mrs. Somerville, “Physical Geography,” i. 105.

{212}  Humboldt, “Ansichten der Natur,” i. 8.

{228}  T. W. Atkinson, “Oriental and Western Siberia.”  London, 1858.

{249}  It is, in reality, nothing more than a curve of the river, which
forms an island of about half a mile in length, called Meschra-el-Reg.

{259}  Augustus Petermann, _Mittheilungen_; Dr. Heughlin, “Reise in das
Gobiet, des Weissen Nil, etc.”

{302}  These consist of a few links of chain, with a swivel in the
middle, and a steel strap with a buckle at either end.  They are fastened
round the animal’s fore-legs just above the hoof, so as to confine the
feet together, and render straying difficult.

{324}  Colonel Egerton Warburton, C.M.G., “Journey across the Western
Interior of Australia,” with Introduction, etc., by C. H. Eden.  Edited
by H. W. Bates.  London, 1875.

{359}  During the viceroyalty of Lord Northbrook.

{364}  “A Ride to Khiva: Travels and Adventures in Central Asia.”  By
Fred Burnaby, Captain, Royal Horse Guards.  Second edition.  London,
1876.

{369}  Our gallant explorer was not knighted until 1866, but throughout
this chapter we shall use the title by which he is so well and so
honourably known.

{404}  Sir Samuel White Baker, “The Albert Nyanza, Great Basin of the
Nile, and Explorations of the Nile Sources.”  London, 1866.





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