Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

thick, piercing both horses and riders; and Major Denham saw one man drop, who had five sticking in his head alone. At length the horse of Boo-Khaloom, and then himself, received wounds destined soon to be mortal. As the Arabs began to give way, the Felatah horse dashed in upon them ; while all the chivalry of Bornou and Mandara were seen spurring their steeds to the most rapid flight. The Major's attention, however, was now necessarily engrossed by his per-. sonal situation.

"I now for the first time, as I saw Barca Gana on a fresh horse, lamented my own folly in so exposing myself, badly prepared as I was for accidents. If either of my horse's wounds were from poisoned arrows, I felt that nothing could save me: however there was not much time for reflection; we instantly became a flying mass, and plunged, in the greatest disorder, into that wood we had but a few hours before moved through with order, and very different feelings. I had got a little to the westward of Barca Gana, in the confusion which took place on our passing the ravine which had been left just in our rear, and where upwards of one hundred of the Bornowy were speared by the Feletahs, and was following at a round gallop the steps of one of the Mandara eunuchs, who, I observed, kept a good look out, his head being constantly turned over his left shoulder, with a face expressive of the greatest dismay-when the cries behind, of the Felatah horse pursuing, made us both quicken our paces. The spur, however, had the effect of incapacitating my beast altogether, as the arrow, I found afterwards, had reached the shoulderbone, and in passing over some rough ground, he stumbled and fell. Almost before I was on my legs, the Felatahs were upon me; I had, however, kept hold of the bridle, and seizing a pistol from the hol. sters, I presented it at two of these ferocious savages, who were pressing me with their spears : they instantly went off ; but another who came on me more boldly, just as I was endeavouring to mount, received the contents somewhere in his left shoulder, and again I was enabled to place my foot in the stirrup. Remounted, I again pushed my retreat ; I had not, however, proceeded many hundred yards, when my horse again came down, with such violence as to throw me against a tree at a considerable distance; and, alarmed at the horses behind him, he quickly got up and escaped, leaving me on foot and unarmed.

The eunuch and his four followers were here butchered, after a very slight resistance, and stripped within a few yards of me: their cries were dreadful ; and even now the feelings of that moment are fresh in my memory. My hopes of life were too faint to deserve the name. I was almost instantly surrounded; and incapable of making the least resistance, as I was unarmed-was as speedily stripped ; and whilst attempting first to save my shirt and then my trowsers, I was thrown on the ground. My pursuers made several thrusts at me with their spears, that badly wounded my hands in two places, and slightly my body, just under my ribs on the right side. Indeed, I saw nothing before me but the same cruel death I had seen unmercifully inflicted on the few who had fallen into the power of those who now had possession of me; and they were only prevented from murdering me, in the first instance, I am persuaded, by the fear of injuring the value of my clothes, which appeared to them a rich booty-but it was otherwise ordained.

My shirt was now absolutely torn off my back, and I was left perfectly naked. When my plunderers began to quarrel for the spoil, the idea of escape came like lightning across my mind, and without a moment's hesitation or reflection I crept under the belly of the horse nearest me, and started as fast as my legs could carry me for the thickest part of the wood. Two of the Felatahs followed, and I ran on to the eastward, knowing that our stragglers would be in that direction, but still almost as much afraid of friends as-foes. My pursuers gained on me, for the prickly underwood not only obstructed my passage, but tore my flesh miserably; and the delight with which I saw a mountain-stream gliding along at the bottom of a deep ravine, cannot be imagined. My strength had almost left me, and I seized the young branches issuing from the stump of a large tree which overhung the ravine, for the purpose of letting myself down into the water, as the sides were precipitous, when, under my hand, as the branch yielded to the weight of my body, a large liffa, the worst kind of serpent this country produces, rose from its coil, as if in the very act of striking. I was horror-struck, and deprived for a moment of all recollection—the branch slipped from my hand, and I tumbled headlong into the water beneath ; this shock, however, revived me, and with three strokes of my arms I reached the opposite bank, which, with difficulty, I crawled up; and then, for the first time, felt myself safe from my pursuers.

"I now saw horsemen through the trees, still farther to the east, and determined on reaching them, if possible, whether friends or enemies; and the feelings of gratitude and joy with which I recog. nised Barca Gana and Boo-Khaloom, with about six Arabs, although they also were pressed closely by a party of the Felatahs, was beyond description. The guns and pistols of the Arab sheikhs kept the Felatahs in check, and assisted in some measure the retreat of the footmen. I hailed them with all my might; but the noise and confu. sion which prevailed, from the cries of those who were falling under the Felatah spears, the cheers of the Arabs rallying and their enemies pursuing, would have drowned all attempts to make myself heard, had not Maramy, the sheikh's negro, seen and known me at a distance. To this man I was indebted for my second escape; riding up to me, he assisted me to mount behind him, while the arrows whistled over our heads, and we then galloped off to the rear as fast as his wounded horse could carry us. After we had gone a mile or two, and the pursuit had something cooled, in consequence of all the VOL. XLIV, NO. 87.

N

baggage having been abandoned to the enemy, Boo-Khaloom rode up to me, and desired one of the Arabs to cover me with a bornouse. This was a most welcome relief, for the burning sun had already begun to blister my neck and back, and gave me the greatest pain. Shortly after, the effects of the poisoned wound in his foot caused our excellent friend to breathe his last. Maramy exclaimed, “ Look, look! Boo-Khaloom is dead !” I turned my head, almost as great an exertion as I was capable of, and saw him drop from the horse into the arms of his favourite Arab-he never spoke after. They said he had only swooned; there was no water, however, to revive him; and about an hour after, when we came to Makkeray, he was past the reach of restoratives.

• About the time Boo-Khaloom dropped, Barca Gana ordered a slave to bring me a horse, from which he had just dismounted, being the third that had been wounded under him in the course of the day; his wound was in the chest. Maramy cried, “ Sidi rais ! do not mount him ; he will die!” In a moment, for only a moment was given me, I decided on remaining with Maramy. Two Arabs, panting with fatigue, then seized the bridle, mounted, and pressed their retreat: in less than half an hour he fell to rise no more, and both the Arabs were butchered before they could recover themselves. Had we not now arrived at the water as we did, I do not think it possible that I could have supported the thirst by which I was consuming. I tried several times to speak in reply to Maramy's directions to hold tight, when we came to breaks or inequalities in the ground; but it was impossible; and a painful straining at the stomach and throat was the only effect produced by the effort.

« On coming to the stream, the horses, with blood gushing from their nostrils, rushed into the shallow water, and, letting myself down from behind Maramy, I knelt down amongst them, and seemed to imbibe new life by the copious draughts of the muddy beverage which I swallowed. Of what followed I have no recollection : Maramy told me afterwards that I staggered across the stream, which was not above my hips, and fell down at the foot of a tree on the other side. About a quarter of an hour's halt took place here for the benefit of stragglers, and to tie poor Boo-Khaloom's body on a horse's back, at the end of which Maramy awoke me from a deep sleep, and I found my strength wonderfully increased : not so, however, our horse, for he had become stiff, and could scarcely move. As I learnt afterwards, a conversation had taken place about me while I slept, which rendered my obligations to Maramy still greater : he had reported to Barca Gana the state of his horse, and the impos. sibility of carrying me on, when the chief, irritated by his losses and defeat, as well as at my having refused his horse, by which means, he said, it had come by its death, replied, " Then leave him behind. By the head of the Prophet! believers enough have breathed their last to-day. What is there extraordinary in a Christian's death?" My old antagonist Malem Chadily replied, “ No, God has preserved

him ; let us not forsake him!” Maramy returned to the tree, and said “ his heart told him what to do.” He awoke me, assisted me to mount, and we moved on as before.' pp. 134-138. .

Notwithstanding this hard apprenticeship to African warfare, no sooner was Major Denham recruited by a little rest, than he determined to accompany an expedition which the Sheikh was leading against the Mungars, a numerous and ill-subdued people to the west, who had broken into open rebellion. The route was interesting, as it would lead him to ascend the Yeou, which had as yet every appearance of being the long sought for Niger. The journey presented striking objects. The banks of the river, which had lately been the main theatre of the power and populousness of Bornou, presented a dreadful picture of the ravages of African warfare. After passing over the sites of thirty large towns, which the Felatahs had razed to the ground, carrying all the inhabitants into slavery, they found Old Birnie itself, the former capital, in the same condition. It had covered a space of five or six square miles; but we are surprised the author could listen to such a palpable exaggeration as that of its having contained two hundred thousand inhabitants. It was now entirely desolate, as well as Gambarou, a favourite residence of the former Sultan; and whose ruined edifices displayed a degree of elegance, not observable in any of the present royal residences. The banks of the river round these capitals, which had formerly been in a state of the highest cultivation, were now covered with labyrinths of thickets and brambles, and the meadows overgrown with wild plants. We know not why no effort should now be made to restore these spots to their natural fertility. One obstacle, unless vigorously checked, must arise from the constant predatory inroads of the Tuarick, on whose country all the tract borders. The inhabitants of the villages employ a singular mode of fortification. They dig a number of holes in the earth, so broad and deep, as to be sufficient to swallow up both a Tuarick and the camel on which he rides, receiving them at the bottom with a number of sharp pointed stakes, by which both are frequently killed on the spot. The top is so artfully overlaid with sods and grass, that the most watchful eye can scarcely discover it. Unfortunately, these African men-traps, like those of our English proprietary, 'may be equally fatal to the innocuous traveller. Our author was petrified with horror to find that he had several times been within a step or two of one of these living graves. His servant actually fell into one, but saved himself by an almost miraculous spring, and his mule only suffered. At a large town called Kabshary, Major Denham joined the army, He was much edified with the view of the Kanemboo spearmen, who, to the number of nine thousand, formed the main fighting body. They fight almost naked, with only a skin round the middle. With a long shield they keep off the arrows of the enemy, and, slowly pressing forward in a mass, charge him with their spears. They keep a regular chain of picquets in front, and the sentinels pass the watch-cry every half hour along the line. Their shrill war-cry, and the dashing of their spears against their shields, exceeded any thing of sound that the mission had ever heard. They marched by tribes, and, as they passed in review before the Sheikh, crowded enthusiastically round him, kissing his feet, and even the stirrups of his saddle. From them and the Felatah archers, the Major draws the confirmation of an old maxim, that infantry is the body by which the fate of conquest is always determined. This conclusion seems hasty; it does not agree with the example of the Turks, Persians, and Tartars; and the plains of Soudan seem to afford full scope for the action of cavalry. The facts already stated respecting the Bornou cavalry, seem quite sufficient to decide, on special grounds, why they should not exercise any very powerful influence on the destinies of Africa. As the Mungowy fight, according to the Felatah system, with poisoned arrows, Major Denham felt a military desire to see the conflict between two bodies, both brave, and so differently equipped. He was disappointed, however, by the literary talents of The Sheikh, who fairly wrote down the enemy. He spent three successive nights in composing saphies and charms; the result of which was, that the enemy's spears were blunted, their arrows broken, their stoutest warriors seized with debility, or at least with fear. At length the opinion became prevalent, that to oppose a Sheikh of the Koran, who could perform such miracles, was altogether vain, and was morever a sin. Chief after chief repaired to the camp, and gave in his submission. At length Malem Fanamy himself, the arch rebel, appeared. He entered the tent in miserable attire, threw himself on the ground, and was about to pour sand upon his head, in evident dread of immediate death. Instead of this, however, he was raised from the ground, covered with eight successive robes of the finest blue cloth, and his head wrapped in turbans from Egypt, till it was swelled to six times its natural size. By this able policy, the Sheikh conciliated a powerful and warlike tribe, whom ill treatment might have rooted in habits of turbulence and disaffection.

The mission had heard much of a great river, the Shary, falling from the south into the Tchad ; and, after some difficul

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »