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Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa Performed in the Years 1850-51, Volume 1
by James Richardson
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[Transcriber's note: This text contains characters with macrons and breve accents. For this Latin-1 version, they have been transcribed using x for characters with macrons, and x for breve accents, where x is the accented character.

Some inconsistencies in the dates have been corrected in chapters XV and XVI: September 29th has been changed to August 29th, October 1st to September 1st, and October 4th to September 4th.]



NARRATIVE OF A MISSION TO CENTRAL AFRICA PERFORMED IN THE YEARS 1850-51,

UNDER THE ORDERS AND AT THE EXPENSE OF HER MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT.

BY THE LATE JAMES RICHARDSON, AUTHOR OF "TRAVELS IN THE GREAT DESERT OF SAHARA."

IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. I.

LONDON: CHAPMAN AND HALL, 193 PICADILLY.

MDCCCLIII.

LONDON: Printed by G. Barclay, Castle St. Leicester Sq.



PREFACE.

The task of the Editor of these volumes has been principally one of arrangement and compression. The late lamented Mr. James Richardson left behind him a copious journal, comprised in eight small but closely-written volumes, besides a vast heap of despatches and scattered memoranda; and, at first sight, it seemed to me that it would be necessary to melt the whole down into a narrative in the third person. On attentively studying the materials before me, however, I perceived that Mr. Richardson had written in most places with a view to publication; and that, had he lived, he would soon have brought what, on a cursory examination, appeared a mere chaotic mass, into a shape that would have accorded with his own idea of a book of travels. Such being the case, I thought it best—in order to leave the stamp of authenticity on this singular record of enterprise—to do little more than the author would himself have done. In the form of a diary, therefore—written sometimes with Oriental naivete—the reader will here find what may be called the domestic history of one of the most successful expeditions undertaken for the exploration of Central Africa. I believe it would have been possible to get up a work of more temporary interest from the same materials; but this could only have been done by sacrificing truthfulness of detail. In the present form, Mr. Richardson's journal will always remain as an authority on the geography and present condition of a large portion of the Saharan desert, hitherto unvisited, at any rate undescribed.

As will be seen, the Mission was accompanied by two German gentlemen, Drs. Barth and Overweg—the former, of whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Egypt, after his enterprising ride along the coast of Libya. They are still in Central Africa, pushing their excursions on all sides, from Bornou into unknown tracts; and the accounts they may publish on their return will be anxiously looked for. The great traverse of the Saharan desert, however, with all its vicissitudes and dangers, the physical aspect of that wonderful region, and the manners of the various tribes that inhabit it, will, in the present volume, be found to be fully described—not, it is true, with much attempt at literary ornament, but in the vivid though simple language in which a man sets down impressions which he has just received. I have endeavoured to remove all the faults which may be supposed to have arisen from haste or carelessness, and have necessarily re-written several passages, and passed a correcting pen over the whole manuscript. But I think I may say with confidence, that there is no observation or statement in the following pages which cannot be justified by a reference to the original journals and scattered memoranda.

To me this simple record of daily occurrences seems highly interesting. It divides itself, naturally, into a succession of parts of unequal importance. First comes an account of the journey to Mourzuk, the capital of Fezzan, containing the traverse of the frightful Hamadah or plateau which separates that province from the regency of Tripoli. Then we have a residence at Mourzuk itself, Mr. Richardson being obliged to wait the arrival from Ghat of an escort of Tuarick chieftains, with whom he had partly made acquaintance during a former trip in the desert. This escort appeared after some delay; and the Mission proceeded across the Fezzan plains to the independent state of Ghat, through a very wild and picturesque country. At this point began, if not the most arduous, at any rate the most dangerous, and at the same time the most novel, part of the journey. Mr. Richardson had undertaken, on his way to Soudan Proper (his first destination), to pass by the hitherto unexplored kingdom of Aheer or Asben, situated towards the southern limits of the Sahara. The march of the Mission across the deserts that lie between Ghat and that territory was rendered exciting by continual reports of danger from pursuing freebooters of the Haghar and Azgher tribes; but the enemy were outstripped, and no actual attack took place until the first inhabited districts of Aheer were reached. Here some lawless tribes levied black-mail, on the caravan, which was then permitted to proceed, though in doubt and alarm, until it arrived under the long-expected protection of Sheikh En-Noor, one of the great chiefs of the Kailouee tribes, at his town, or rather encampment, of Tintalous. Mr. Richardson's residence at this place was long and tedious. He suffered, besides, from the extortionate disposition of the Sheikh or Sultan, who, however, after considerable exactions, became his friend. This Saharan character is brought out by a succession of amusing touches. But our traveller was impatient to proceed, and seems to have hailed with delight the announcement that the great Salt-Caravan, which annually transports the necessary condiment from Bilma via Aheer to the south, was about to start, and that the Sheikh and the Christians were to accompany it. Some further disappointments occurred, but at length the Mission proceeded to Damerghou, whence Drs. Barth and Overweg went, one to Maradee and the other to Kanou, whilst Mr. Richardson proceeded alone to Zinder, situated in the province of Damagram. Here he was well received by the Sarkee, or Governor, and he dilates with well-founded exultation on his escape from the insolent and rapacious Tuaricks. Sad sights, however, connected with the slave-trade, checked his delight. During his stay the Sarkee went out in person to hunt down the subjects of his own sovereign, that he might pay his debts by selling them into captivity. After another considerable delay Mr. Richardson was enabled to start once more, and being obliged to change his original plan proceeded to Kuka, the capital of Bornou, by way of Minyo. Shortly after leaving Gurai, the chief town of that province, the unfortunate traveller found his strength to be gradually giving way. He had already previously complained of the heat and fatigue, but did not seem to have felt any great alarm. Now, however, the climate seems to have told upon him with sudden and fatal violence. His last moments are described in a letter from his fellow-traveller, Dr. Barth, who hastened to the spot with laudable energy as soon as he heard of the melancholy catastrophe that had taken place. Mr. Richardson died at Ungurutua, about six days' journey from Kuka, the capital of Bornou, on the 4th of March, 1851, eleven months after his departure from Tripoli.

I have observed that the Mission, the first transactions of which are described in these volumes, is entitled to be called successful. Although the original promoter and director died just as he was on the point of reaching the termination of his journey, his enterprising companions, Drs. Barth and Overweg, seem to have carried on and developed admirably the plan at first laid down. If they be spared to return to Europe they will bring home, no doubt, geographical information so valuable that all Mr. Richardson's predictions will be found to be amply fulfilled. As it is, however, the object of our practical fellow-countryman may be said to have been accomplished. He did not lay so much stress on the accurate determination of latitude and longitude, of the heights of mountains and the courses of valleys, as on matters that come more nearly home to human sympathies. The abolition of the system of slavery—many affecting illustrations of which will be found in these volumes—seems to have engaged the chief of his attention. It was with this benevolent object that he originally turned his attention to Africa; and he had become convinced that the best means of effecting it was to encourage legitimate traffic between Europe and the great nurseries of slaves. Among other things, he wished to show the possibility of entering into treaties of amity and commerce with the most important states of Central Africa; and although these treaties may not turn out to be of great immediate utility, it is always worth while that future explorers should know, that on the borders of Lake Tchad there is a power which professes to be united with England in formal ties of friendship, and that the Sultan of Bornou has never shown any disposition to break his promises or secede from his engagements. As to the question, whether legitimate commerce can advantageously be carried on across the Sahara, and substituted for the frightful traffic in human beings, I do not consider that it is as yet decided; but Mr. Richardson's researches will throw great light on this interesting subject.

I do not intend here to attempt an account of the services rendered by Mr. Richardson to the sciences of geography and ethnography during his useful career. At some future period, no doubt, this task will be performed; and it will not fail to be added, that he was always impelled by a higher motive than the mere satisfaction of curiosity or ambition. A profound conviction that something might be done towards ameliorating the condition of the African nations, if we were only better acquainted with them, seems to have early possessed him. This it was that sustained and guided his footsteps; and all who knew him unite in testifying that he concealed beneath a pleasant, cheerful exterior, the character of a Christian gentleman, and an ardent crusader against the worst form of oppression which has ever been put in practice. The hope that the public will unite in this opinion must certainly assist in consoling his widow for the loss which she has sustained. Mrs. Richardson is alluded to in the narrative throughout. It is necessary, therefore, to say, that that lady remained in Tripoli until the news of her bereavement reached her, and that she then returned to England to promote the erection of this best monument to her husband's memory.

I have now only to add an account written by Dr. Barth (dated April 3, 1851) of the death of Mr. Richardson, in a letter addressed to Mr. Crowe, Her Britannic Majesty's Consul-General at Tripoli. The German traveller, as will be seen in the second volume of this work, had separated from his English companions on the plains of Damerghou, and proceeded to prosecute other researches, the results of which will be looked for with great interest:—

"It was on the 25th of March," he says, "that I heard accidentally from a Shereef, whom I met on the road, the sad news that my companion had died, about twenty days before, in a place called Ungurutua, six days' journey before reaching Kuka, when I hurried on as fast as my horse would allow in order to secure his papers and effects from being lost or destroyed.

"I now shall send you a short account of Mr. Richardson's death, as far as I was able to make out the circumstances from his servant. Mr. Richardson is said to have left Zinder in the best health, though it is probable that he felt already very weak while he was there: for, according to the man whom he hired in Zinder as his dragoman, he had, while there, a dream that a bird came down from the sky, and when sitting on the branch of a tree, the branch broke off and the bird fell down to the earth. Mr. Richardson being very much affected by this dream, went to a man who from a huge book explains to the people their dreams. On the man's telling him that his dream meant death, he seems really to have anticipated that he would not reach the principal object of his journey. But, nevertheless, he seemed to be quite well, mounting even the horse which the Governor of Zinder had made him a present of, as far as Minyo, when he begged the Governor to give him a camel, which he mounted thenceforward. He felt notoriously ill in Kadalebria, eleven or twelve days' journey from here (Kuka); and he is said by his servant to have taken different kinds of medicines, one after the other: from which you may conclude that he did not know himself what was his illness. Mr. Richardson never could bear the sun, and the sun being very powerful at this time of the year, it must have affected him very much. I think this to be the chief reason of his death; at least, he seems not to have had a regular fever. He was happy to reach the large town of Rangarvia after a journey of three short days, and had the intention of returning from here directly to Tripoli, without touching at Kuka and the low, hot plain of Bornou, which he was affrightened of very much. He offered two hundred mahboubs for a guide to conduct him directly to the road to Bilma; but there being no road from here, and no guide having been found, it was necessary first to go to Kuka.

"Mr. Richardson, therefore, seems to have taken strong medicines; in consequence of which, in the evening of the third day of their halt at Rangarvia, after having taken a walk through the town, he felt well enough to fix his outset for the next morning. But this day being rather a long one, and the sun being very powerful, he became very tired and unwell; and the more so as, notwithstanding his illness, he had not left off drinking milk, even on his camel, mixing some brandy with it. Having recovered a little during the night, he moved on the next morning, but ordered a halt about noon, on account of his weakness. Having started again at sunset, they encamped at midnight. The next day, after a short journey, they reached the Wady Mettaka. Mr. Richardson seemed to feel much better, and drank milk and a little jura, besides rice. From this place, on the last day of Kebia-el-awel, the caravan, after but a two-hours' march, reached the village called Ungurutua, when Mr. Richardson soon felt so weak that he anticipated his death; and leaving the hut (where he was established) for his tent, told his dragoman, Mahommed Bu Saad, that he would die. Being consoled by him that his illness was of no consequence, he assured him several times that he had no strength at all; and indeed his pulse ceased almost to beat. He began, then, to rub his feet with vinegar, and applied the same several times to his head and shoulders. After which, in the absence of his servants, he poured water also over himself; so that, when they returned after a few moments, they found him quite wet. To counteract the bad effect of this proceeding, they began to rub him with a little oil. In the evening he took a little food, and tried to sleep; but notwithstanding that he seems to have taken something to bring on sleep, he threw himself restless from one side to the other, calling his wife several times by her name. After having walked out of his tent with the assistance of his servant, he ordered tea, and remained restless on his bed. When it was past midnight, his old dragoman, Yusuf Moknee, who watched in his tent, made some coffee, in order to keep himself awake; upon which Mr. Richardson demanded a cup of coffee for himself; but his hand being so weak that he could scarcely raise the cup, he said to Moknee: 'Tergamento Ufa,'—'Your office as dragoman is finished;' and repeated several times, with a broken voice, 'Forza mafishe, forza mafishe le-koul,'—'I have no strength, I have no strength, I tell you,' at the same time laying Mahommed's hand on his shoulder. Feeling death approaching, he got up in a sitting posture, being supported by Mahommed, and soon expired, after three times deep breathing. He was entirely worn out, and died quietly, about two after midnight, Tuesday, 4th March (Jumed-el-awel), without the least struggle. His servant then called into the tent the other people and the Kashalla, or officer of the Sheikh, who had come along with them from Zinder, in order to be witness, and while wrapping the body of the deceased in three shirts which they had cut up, ordered the people of the village to dig a grave for him. They then shut up whatever of the luggage of Mr. Richardson was not locked up, and prepared everything for their journey to Kuka. Early in the morning they lifted the body, wrapped up as it was, upon Mr. Richardson's carpet, and carried him to his grave, which had been dug in the shade of a large gaw, close to the village, to the depth of four feet. Having then covered his head and breast with a very large tabah, so as to protect it from every side, they covered the body with earth, and had the grave well secured. I have spoken several times with Haj Beshir that it might be well taken care of, and I am sure the grave of the traveller, who sacrificed his life for his great object, will be respected. I send you with this first kafila all Mr. Richardson's papers and his journal, which is kept till the 21st February, consisting of six reams, and his vocabularies, not finished, four reams, with Yusuf's journal, as well as all his other papers or letters. I have taken out only the letters of recommendation of the Mission and the papers concerning the treaty to be made, as well as a letter from Lousou, one of the Tuaricks, and another from Ibrahim, the Governor of Zinder, to the Queen, which I shall enclose in my report to Government. I send you, besides, an authentic list of all the objects found in Mr. Richardson's possession, as it has been made up on the things being deposited with Haj Beshir.

"I beg you to assure Mrs. Richardson of my most sincere sympathy, and that I hope she will find a good deal of consolation in the rich journal of the deceased."

I have given the above narrative in the words of Dr. Barth; but must direct the reader's attention to vol. ii. p. 261, where he will find that the whole account of the prophetic dream is distorted by the very unauthentic medium of Oriental report. There is no reason to suppose that Mr. Richardson was unusually affected by this circumstance, although any dismal suggestion is likely to disturb a person of sensibility placed in a dangerous position. The remaining facts, as they seem confirmed by concurrent testimony, may be taken as a sufficiently accurate account of the death of this lamented traveller.

From the statements which have from time to time appeared in the press, the public are already aware, that the presents and the treaty intended for the Sheikh of Bornou were duly presented and accepted, and that the boat which caused Mr. Richardson so much anxiety on the road was ultimately launched, as he desired, on lake Tchad, and employed in the survey of that celebrated piece of water. It is unnecessary here to notice the results of this survey, or of the explorations subsequently undertaken by Messrs. Barth and Overweg. These gentlemen, it is to be hoped, will be more fortunate than their colleague, and return to give in person an account of their exertions and discoveries.

I shall conclude by expressing my hope that Mr. Richardson's reputation will not suffer from the way in which I have superintended the publication of his remains, and my regret that I am not able to do justice to the great services which he has rendered to philology by his copious collections of vocabularies of the languages, both of the Sahara and of the various kingdoms of Central Africa.

BAYLE ST. JOHN,

London, January 1853.

P.S. It may be as well to mention that the extensive collections of vocabularies made by Mr. Richardson are now preserved at the Foreign Office, together with specimens of translations from the Scriptures. All these collections are extremely valuable, but especially those of the Bornou language, which were much wanted.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I.

Origin of the Missions—Its Objects and Plan—Preparations—Arrival at Tripoli—Prussian Colleagues—Necessary Delay—The Boat for Lake Tchad—Wind-bound—Anxieties at Tripoli—Correspondence with Mourzuk and Ghat—Circular Letter of Izhet Pasha—Composition of the Caravan—An aristocratic Interpreter—A Mohammedan Toper—The Chaouches—Free Blacks returning to their Countries—Marabout—Camel-drivers—Rate of Desert travelling—Trade of Tripoli with the Interior—Slavery—Caravans from Central Africa—Details on Commerce—Promotion of legitimate Traffic—Spread of Civilisation.

CHAPTER II.

Start from the Masheeah—Painful Parting—Chaouch's Tent—A Family Quarrel—Wady Majeeneen—A Rainy Day—Moknee's Wives—Two mad Fellows—Great Ascent of Gharian—Tedious Day's Work—The Castle—View over the Country—Garrison—Troglodytes—Turkish Tax-gathering—Quarrelsome Servants—Proceed over the lofty Plain—Underground Villages—Kaleebah—The Batoum—Geology—A Slave Caravan—Cheerful Blacks—Rows—Oasis of Mizdah—Double Village—Intestine Discords—Interview with the Sheikh Omer—A Pocket Province—A Dream of Good Omen—Quarrels on Quarrels—Character of Fezzanees—A Leopard abroad.

CHAPTER III.

Leave Mizdah—Gloomy Country—Matrimonial Squabbles in the Caravan—"Playing at Powder"—Desert Geology—A Roman Mausoleum—Sport—A Bully tamed—Fatiguing March—Wady Taghijah—Our old Friend the Ethel-Tree—The Waled Bou Seif—Independent Arabs—A splendid Mausoleum—One of the Nagahs foals—Division of a Goat—March over a monotonous Country—Valley of Amjam—Two new Trees—Saluting the New Moon—Sight the Plateau of the Hamadah—Wady Tubooneeah—Travelling Flies—The Desert Hour—A secluded Oasis—Buying Barley—Ghareeah—Roman Remains—Oasian Cultivation—Taxation—Sand-Pillar—Arrangements for crossing the Hamadah—An Emeute in the Caravan—Are compelled to discharge the quarrelsome Ali.

CHAPTER IV.

Commence crossing the Hamadah—Last Pillar of the Romans—Travelling in the Desert—Rapid March—Merry Blacks—Dawn—Temperature—Ali returns—Day-travelling—Night-feelings—Animals—Graves of Children—Mirage—Extent of the Plateau—It breaks up—Valley of El-Hasee—Farewell to the Hamadah—Arduous Journey—The Camel-drivers—New Country—Moral and religious Disquisitions—The Chaouches—Reach Edree—Abd-el-Galeel—Description of Edree—Subterranean Dwellings—Playing at Powder—The Kaid—Arabic Literature—Desertion of the Zintanah—Leave Edree—Sandy Desert—Bou Keta the Camel-driver—Wady El-Makmak—The Lizard—Reach Wady Takadafah—Sand—Another Embroglio.

CHAPTER V.

More sandy Desert—Fatiguing March—Water and Herbage—Water-drinking—Sight the Plateau over the Mourzuk—Hot Wind—Arrival in El-Wady—Tuaricks—Laghareefah—Fezzanees—The Chaouches astray—The Sheikh Abd-el-Hady—Description of the Oasis—Tempest—Native Huts—Official Visits—Desert News—Camel-drivers—Ruins of Azerna—Move on—The Kaid—Modest Requests—Ladies of the Wady—Leave the Oasis—Vast Plain—Instinct of the Camel—Reach Agar—Reception—Precede the Caravan—Reach Mourzuk—Mr. Gagliuffi—Honours paid to the Mission—Acting Pasha—Climate—Route from Tripoli—Its Division into Zones—Rain in the Desert.

CHAPTER VI.

The Oasis of Fezzan—Population—Ten Districts—Their Denomination and Condition—Sockna—Honn—Worm of the Natron Lakes—Zoueelah—Mixed Race—Improvements in Mourzuk—Heavy Ottoman Yoke—Results of the Census—Amount of Revenue—Military Force—Arab Cavaliers—Barracks—Method of Recruiting—Turkish System superior to French—Razzias—Population of Mourzuk—Annual Market—Articles of Traffic—Acting-Governor and his Coadjutors—Story of a faithless Woman—Transit Duties in Fezzan—Slave Trade—Sulphur in the Syrtis—Proposed Colony from Malta.

CHAPTER VII.

DIARY OF A RESIDENCE AT MOURZUK.

Sickness of Gagliuffi—Baggage left at Mizdah—Runthar Aga—The Hospital—Various Visits—Arrival of the New Governor—Animated Scene—Correspondence—Visit Mustapha Agha—Bragging Sheikh Boro—Tibboos of Tibesty—Curious Country—Presents to Turkish Functionaries—A Woman divorced—Haj Lameen—Presents expected—Brilliant Atmosphere—Water-Melons—The Gardens—Winnowing Grain—Houses of Salt Mud—Nymphs of the Gardens—Wells—Presents to Functionaries—Phrenology—Queen's Birthday—Walks in the Orchards and Gardens—Corn-threshing—Kingdom of Aheer—Ass's Head—A Wedding—A Funeral—Great Dinner—Tibboos—Prepare to depart—The Pilgrim Caravan; its Privileges—Tuat and the French—Departure of Germans—Wife of Es-Sfaxee—An Arab Saying—Letters—Disease—Arrival of Escort—Eastern Consulates—Business—Hateetah—The Son of Shafou—Poor Sheikhs—Hard Bargain.

CHAPTER VIII.

Wars in the Interior—Anticipated Disputes—Mr. Boro of Aghadez—Our Treatment at Mourzuk—Mustapha Bey—Start for Ghat—Row with the Escort—Fine Weather—Leave Tesaoua—Sharaba—Travelling in the Heat—Hateetah and the Germans—The Camels—Snakes—Journey continued—Nature of the Country—Complete Desert—Rain—Overtake the Caravan—Interview with Boro—Pool of Ailouah—The Tanelkums—Halt—Birds—Bir Engleez—Wind in the Desert—Begging Escort—Brilliant Heavens—News from Ghat—The Pilgrims again—Bas-relief of Talazaghe—Moved over the Desert—Mountains—Extraordinary Pass—Central Table-land of Fezzan.

CHAPTER IX.

Plain of Taeeta—Fezzan Boundary—Fossils—Tuarick Behaviour—Valley of Tabea—Observations—Fasting—Tuarick Habits—Scorpions and Locusts—Visitors—Heat—Roads—Hot Wind—Pass of Abulaghlagh—The Palace of Demons—Wheat hid in the Desert—Land of Demons—Kasar Janoon—A dear Camel—Visit to the Kasar—Perilous Adventure of Dr. Barth.

CHAPTER X.

Approach Ghat—Description of the Town—The Oasis—Reminiscences of a former Visit—Azgher Tuaricks—The Governor—Political Authority—The Sheikhs—Protection of Strangers—The Litham—Business—Reception—Meetings of Sheikhs—Disputes—Tax on liberated Slaves—Extortion practised on us—Discussion on the Treaty—Scramble for Presents—Haj Ahmed disinterested—Hateetah plays double—More Presents and further Annoyances—Mahommed Kafa—Escort of Kailouees—A Visit from Ouweek and the Bandit of Ghadamez—Observations on the Treaty—Collection of Dialogues—The Great Exhibition.

CHAPTER XI.

Start from Ghat—Reflections—Beautiful Valley of Berket—Last Date-palms—The Kailouees—Dr. Barth lost again—Meet our Guides—The Akourou Water—Ghadeer—Soudan Influence on the Tuaricks—Wataitee leaves us—Oasis of Janet—Kailouee Character—A sick Slave—Rocky Desert—Gloomy Scene—Servants—Egheree Water—Ajunjer—A threatened Foray from Janet—Sidi Jafel Waled Sakertaf—We have no Money—Region of Granite—Dr. Barth's Comparisons—A Slave Caravan—Granite Rocks—Beating Women—The Bird of the Desert—Desolate Region—Our Relations with the Kailouees.

CHAPTER XII.

Reach Falezlez—Dates left in the Desert—Road-marks—Disputes with the Kailouees—News from Tidek—Scarcity of Food in Aheer—Similitudes and Signs of the Tuaricks—Fine Climate—Arrival of Wataitee—His Boasting—Saharan travelling—My Umbrella—Grasping Son of Shafou—Geology of the Desert—The "Person who gives"—Another Caravan—Tuarick Sportsmen—Wady Aroukeen—Fine Scene—New Trees—Kailouee Camels—Fine Nights—Well—New Moon—Passing a Caravan in the Desert—Origin of the Kailouee Tuaricks—Arrive at Tajetterat—No Robbers—An Alarm—Well of Esalan—Senna—Birds—Graves of Slave Children—Our Grievances against the Tuaricks.

CHAPTER XIII.

News of Sidi Jafel—Disputes with Wataitee—His violent Conduct and strange Language—The Desert—Scarcity of Money—Proceed through a rocky Country—Soudan Weather—Approach the Frontiers of Aheer—Storm—Hard Day's Travelling—The Seven Wells of Aisou—"The Haghar are coming"—Suspicious Characters—Alarm—The Three Strangers—Our Hospitality—Heat of the Weather—Hard Travelling—Account of the Kailouee Guides—Women of the Caravan—Their Treatment—Youthful Concubines—Another long Day—A Rock-Altar—Demonstrations of the Haghar—Wells of Jeenanee—Marks of Rain—Sprightly Blacks—New Climate—Change in the Vegetation and the Atmosphere.

CHAPTER XIV.

Enter the inhabited Districts of Aheer—Hostile Tuaricks—An impudent Demand—The Merchant Waldee—Prepare for Defence—Threatening Appearances—Making Friends with Presents—March—Leave Waldee—Doubtful Visitors—The Camels stolen—The Troop of Assailants draws nigh—Parley—Their Proposition—We are compelled to a Compromise—Character of our Enemies—Sinister Rumours again—Proceed toward Tidek—Wady of Kaltadak—Picturesque Scenery—A Friend from Seloufeeat—Fresh Mob collects to attack us—Conferences—We are to be let go scot-free if we become Muslims—We repose—Another Compromise for Money—Incidents during the Night—Quarrel over the Booty—Enter the Valley of Seloufeeat—Its Soudan Appearance—Nephew of Sultan En-Noor—Haj Bashaw of Seloufeeat—We are still uneasy.

CHAPTER XV.

Leave Seloufeeat—"City of Marabouts"—Fair Promises—People of Aheer—Aspect of the Country—Extraordinary Reports—A Flying Saint—Prophecies—A Present—Expense of our forced Passage—Hopes—Fears—The Marabouts—Geology—The coming down of the Wady—Inundation—Restoration of our Camels—Maharees from En-Noor—El-Fadeea—Arab Tuaricks—Maghata—Picturesque Wady—Rainy Season—Another Flood—Dangerous Position—Kailouees and Blacks—The Escort arrives—The Marabout Population—Reported Brigands—The Walad Suleiman—Pleasant Valley—Escort leave us—Difficulty of satisfying them—Robbery—Proceed to Tintalous—Encampment—The Sultan—A Speech—We wait in vain for Supper—Want of Food.

CHAPTER XVI.

Promises of the Sultan—Yellow-painted Women—Presents—Anecdotes—Prepare to visit En-Noor—Our Reception—Dialogue—Seeming Liberality of the Sultan—Greediness of his People—No Provisions to be got—Fat Women—Nephew of the Sultan—Tanelkum Beggars—Weather—A Divorced Lady—Aheer Money—Our Camels again stolen—Account of the Tanelkums—Huckster Women—Aheer Landscape—Various Causes of Annoyance—No News of the Camels—Anecdote of my Servants—Storms—Revolution in the Desert—Name of the Country—Dr. Overweg—Money and Tin—Saharan Signs—Habits of the Rain—Burial of a Woman—Demands of Es-Sfaxee—Salt-cakes of Bilma—People of Tintalous—Wild Animals—List of Towns and Villages—Population of Aheer and Ghat.

CHAPTER XVII.

Zinder Caravan—Negress playing "Boree"—Curious Scene—Objects of Barter—Fresh Annoyances—Remarks on our Reception in Aheer—En-Noor—Asoudee—Better News—Fresh Extortions—En-Noor disappoints us—Europeans taken for Spies—Things in demand at Aheer—Exercise—Overweg's Patients—Wild Animals in Aheer—Kailouees in dry Weather—Robbing a Prince—Ghaseb and Ghafouley—Aheer Cheese—Mokhlah Bou Yeldee—Our Wealth noised abroad—Alarm at Night—A fresh Attack—Said's Gallantry—Disorderly Protectors—Thirteen Robbers—Amankee—Loss of my Tea—Country of Thieves.

CHAPTER XVIII.

We shift our Encampment—En-Noor's Circular—The Kadi's Decision—No Progress in the Sahara—Aghadez Gumruk—Scorpions—Election of Sultans in Aheer—Present of Salutation—Paying for finding lost Property—Courier from the new Sultan—No Presents sent us—Notes on Denham—A Bornouese Measure—Intended Razzia—Firing off Gunpowder—Hypotheses of Danger—Dress and Women—Enroute to Bilma—Soudan Caravan—Visit from Tintaghoda—Aheer Honey—Modes of Measurement—Power of En-Noor—Visits to him from great People—Stations on the Bilma Road—Salt-Trade—Account of our Pursuers at Tajetterat—Costume of the Kailouees—Their Weapons—Poisoned Arrows—Charms—Female Dress—Names of Articles of Costume—Character of Kailouees.

CHAPTER XIX.

Rainstorm—Overtures from En-Noor—Another Interview—Aheer Fashions—A great Lady—Hoisting the British Flag—A devoted Slave—Sultan of Asoudee—Attack on a Caravan—Purposed Razzia—Desert News—Buying Wives—A peculiar Salutation—Oasis of Janet—New Razzias—Costume of the Sultan—The Milky Way—Noise at a Wedding—Unquiet Nights—Sickness in the Encampment—A captive Scorpion—Nuptial Festivities—An insolent Haghar—Prejudice about Christians—Movements in Aheer—Bullocks.



NARRATIVE OF A MISSION TO CENTRAL AFRICA.



CHAPTER I.

Origin of the Missions—Its Objects and Plan—Preparations—Arrival at Tripoli—Prussian Colleagues—Necessary Delay—The Boat for Lake Tchad—Wind-bound—Anxieties at Tripoli—Correspondence with Mourzuk and Ghat—Circular Letter of Izhet Pasha—Composition of the Caravan—An aristocratic Interpreter—A Mohammedan Toper—The Chaouches—Free Blacks returning to their Countries—Marabout—Camel-drivers—Rate of Desert travelling—Trade of Tripoli with the Interior—Slavery—Caravans from Central Africa—Details on Commerce—Promotion of legitimate Traffic—Spread of Civilisation.

Since my return from a first tour of exploration in the Great Sahara I had carefully revolved in my mind the possibility of a much greater undertaking, namely, a political and commercial expedition to some of the most important kingdoms of Central Africa. The plan appeared to me feasible; and when I laid it in all its details before her Majesty's Government, they determined, after mature consideration, to empower me to carry it out. Two objects, one principal, necessarily kept somewhat in the background—the abolition of the slave-trade; one subsidiary, and yet important in itself—the promotion of commerce by way of the Great Desert; appeared to me, and to the distinguished persons who promoted the undertaking, of sufficient magnitude to justify considerable sacrifices. Much preliminary discussion took place; but the impediments and difficulties that naturally start up at the commencement of any enterprise possessing the character of novelty were gradually overcome, and in the summer of 1849 it was generally known that I was about to proceed, by way of Tripoli and the Sahara, and the hitherto unexplored kingdom of Aheer, to endeavour to open commercial relations and conclude treaties with any native power so disposed, but especially with the Sultan of Bornou. It was not thought necessary, however, to surround my Mission with any circumstances of diplomatic splendour; and it was still in the character of Yakōb—a name already known throughout the greater portion of the route intended to be traversed—that I proposed to resume my intercourse with the Moors, the Fezzanees, the Tibboos, the Tuaricks, and other tribes and peoples of the desert and the countries beyond.

The various preparations for the expedition occupied a considerable time before I could leave Europe; but I shall pass over all account of these, and enter as soon as possible on the plain narrative of my journey. We reached Tripoli on January the 31st, 1850, having come circuitously by way of Algeria and Tunis. Divers reasons, on which it is unnecessary to enlarge, had prevented us from adopting a more direct route. However, there had, properly speaking, been no time lost, and we had still to look forward to inevitable delays. An expedition of the kind we were about to undertake cannot be performed in a hurry, especially in Africa. In that continent everything is carried on in a deliberate manner. The climate is in itself suggestive of procrastination; and no one who has there had to do with officials, even of our own country, until he has himself felt the enervating influence of the atmosphere, can fail to have been held in ludicrous suspense between indignation and surprise.

It must here be mentioned that, associated with me in this expedition, were two Prussian gentlemen, Drs. Barth and Overweg, who had volunteered to accompany me in my expedition in the character of scientific observers.

The political and commercial nature of my Mission by no means excluded such auxiliaries. It was desirable that every advantage should be taken of this opportunity to explore Central Africa in every point of view; and when the proposition came to me under the sanction of Chevalier Bunsen, and received the approval of her Majesty's Government, I could not but be delighted. It was arranged that these gentlemen should travel at the expense and under the protection of Great Britain, and that their reports should be duly forwarded to the Foreign Office.

Drs. Barth and Overweg, with European impetuosity, eager at once to grapple with adventure and research, had pushed on whilst I waited for final instructions from Lord Palmerston. They had arrived at Tripoli about twelve days before me, and, as I afterwards learned, had usefully and pleasantly occupied their time in excursions to the neighbouring mountains, which I had previously visited and examined on my way to Ghadamez.

We learned on landing, that a good deal of the anxiety I had felt on account of my slow progress from England had been thrown away. Our arms, instruments, and stores, had not yet arrived from Malta. However, they were promised for an early date, and the hospitable reception afforded us by Mr. Consul-general Crowe, as well as the knowledge that a vast number of small details of preparation could be immediately commenced, contributed to console us.

Among the things expected, and which arrived in due time, was a boat built by order of the Government in Malta dockyard. It was sent in two sides, and I wished to carry it in that state. But this proved impossible, and just before starting we were compelled to saw each side into two pieces, which were to be carried slung in nets upon a couple of powerful camels. This boat was expressly intended for the navigation of Lake Tchad.[1]

[1] It has since been launched under the British flag, and has proved useful in the examination of the shores of the great lake of Central Africa.—EDITOR.

It was universally admired at Tripoli; and, as it will be useless to bring it back, will form a most acceptable present for the Sultan of Bornou. I cannot omit to notice, in passing, the courtesy and attention of the authorities of Malta with whom I have been in communication; they have all done their best to forward the objects of the Mission.

A good deal of the delay that took place at Tripoli arose from causes over which it was impossible to exert any control, and principally from the bad weather, which cut off all communication with Malta. We used to go about relating the anecdote of Charles V. illustrative of the inhospitable seasons of this coast. "Which are the best ports of Barbary?" inquired the Emperor of the famous Admiral Dorea. "The months of June, July, and August," was the reply.

Whilst waiting for the winds to waft us so many desirable things, we actively engaged in hiring camels, procuring servants, and otherwise making ready for a start. The details of all these preparations, which cost me prodigious anxiety, as I was obliged to study at the same time efficiency and economy, are described in a voluminous mass of correspondence; but I should not think of presenting them to the general public, which will be satisfied probably to know that at length everything was found to be in due order, and our long-expected departure was fixed for the 30th of March.

I had taken care, immediately on my arrival at Tripoli, to write to Mr. Gagliuffi, the British Consul at Mourzuk, announcing my approach and enclosing a despatch from the Foreign Office. Moreover I had requested this gentleman at once to send to Ghat for an escort of Tuaricks, so that we might not be unnecessarily detained in Fezzan; and to suggest that the Sheikhs should be assembled by the time we arrived, that the treaty I had to propose to them might be discussed. My former visit to this place will in some respects pave the way. Throughout the Turkish provinces of Tripoli and Fezzan a circular letter given to us by Izhet Pasha, and the letters of the Bey of Tunis in other quarters, will no doubt prove of some assistance, although such documents must lose much of their influence in the very secluded districts through which we shall be compelled to pass. After all, we must trust principally to our own tact, to the good will of the natives, and to that vague respect of English power which is beginning to spread in the Sahara.

The composition of our caravan will of course fluctuate throughout the whole line of route; but I may as well mention the most important personages who were to start with me from Tripoli. Setting aside my colleagues, Barth and Overweg, there was, in the first place, the interpreter, Yusuf Moknee, a man really of some importance among his people, but considering himself with far too extravagant a degree of respect. He is the son of the famous Moknee, who was Governor of the province of Fezzan during the period of the Karamanly Bashaws. He has squandered his father's estate in intemperate drinking. Nevertheless I have been recommended to take him as a dragoman, and give him a fair trial, as his only vice really seems to be attachment to the bottle. I suspect he will not find many opportunities of indulging his propensity in the Sahara; so that, as long as he is en route, he may prove to be that phenomenon, a man without a fault! At any rate I must be content with him, especially as he is willing to sign a contract promising to be a pattern of sobriety! There is no one else in Tripoli so suitable for my purpose. He is a handsome, dark-featured fellow, and when in his bright-blue gown, white burnoose, and elegant fez, makes a really respectable figure. I must dress him up well for state occasions. Even in the desert one is often judged by the livery of one's servants.

The individuals next in importance to Moknee are, perhaps, the Chaouches, as they are called here—Arab cavaliers, who are to act as janissaries. There is one big fellow for me, and one little fellow for the Germans. How they will behave remains to be seen; but I suspect they will give us some trouble. Then there are a number of free blacks from Tunis, some married, others not, who are to return to their homes in Soudan, Bornou, and Mandara, under our protection. Some of these have agreed to travel partly on their own account, or nearly so, whilst others will be paid and act as servants. One of them, named Ali, is a fine, dashing young fellow. They are very unimportant people here, but as we advance on our route will no doubt prove of some service, especially when we fairly enter upon the Black Countries. A marabout of Fezzan also accompanies us, and our camel-drivers are from the same country. They arrived with a caravan from Mourzuk, and we were some time detained by the necessity of allowing them and their beasts to rest before recommencing their march over the very arduous country that lies between this and the confines of Fezzan.

Our progress will necessarily be slow, as all travelling is in the desert. Camels can rarely exceed three miles an hour, and often make but two. We may calculate their average progress at two miles and a half, so that the reader will be pleased to bear in mind, that when I speak of a laborious day of twelve hours, he must not imagine us to have advanced more than thirty miles.

Before commencing the narrative of my journey, it may be as well to introduce a few observations on the commerce at present carried on with the interior by way of Tripoli. In addition to the mere acquisition of geographical, statistical, and other information, I look upon the great object of our mission to be the promotion, by all prudent means, of legitimate trade. This will be the most effectual way of putting a stop to that frightful system by which all the Central Provinces of Africa are depopulated, and all the littoral regions demoralized. When the negro races begin to make great profits by exporting the natural products of their country, they will then, and perhaps then only, cease to export their brethren as slaves. On this account, therefore, I take great interest in whatever has reference to caravan trade.

There are now four general routes followed by the trading caravans from the Barbary coast, leading to four different points of that great belt of populous country that stretches across Central Africa,—viz. to Wadai, Bornou, Soudan, and Timbuctoo.

Wadai sends to the coast at Bengazi a biennial caravan, accompanied by a large number of slaves. The chief articles of legitimate traffic are elephants' teeth and ostrich feathers. This route is a modern ramification of interior trade, and was opened only during the last century. It is calculated that the exports of Bengazi form one-third of the whole of those of Tripoli.

Bornou sends to the coast by way of Fezzan, I am sorry to say, chiefly slaves; but a quantity of ivory is now likewise forwarded by this route.

Soudan exports slaves, senna, ivory, wax, indigo, skins, &c. &c. Nearly half of the commerce with this important country consists of legitimate articles of trade and barter. This is very encouraging, and the brief history of some of these objects of legal commerce is exceedingly interesting. Wax, for example, began to be sent seventeen years ago; elephants' teeth, fifteen; and indigo, only four years ago.

Timbuctoo now scarcely forwards anything but gold to the coast of Tripoli, together with wax and ivory, but no slaves. The gold is brought by the merchants in diminutive roughly-made rings, which they often carry in dirty little bags, concealed in the breasts of their gowns.

I am exceedingly glad to learn that the Ghadamsee merchants, who formerly embarked two-thirds of their capital in the slave-trade, have now only one-fourth engaged in that manner. This is progress. It has been partly brought about by the closing of the Tunisian slave-mart, partly by the increase of objects of legitimate commerce in the markets of Soudan. The merchants of Fezzan have still to learn that money may be invested to more advantage in things than in persons; but their education has been undertaken, and however slow the light may be in forcing its way to their eyes, it will reach them at last, there can be no doubt.

The trade in senna is always considerable. Last year a thousand cantars were brought, from the country of the Tibboos and from Aheer. The latter place supplies the best. New objects of exportation may no doubt be discovered. Already gum-dragon and cassia have been added to the list of articles brought from Soudan; and when once treaties of commerce have been entered into, and merchants begin to find security in the desert and protection from the native princes, there is no doubt that a very large intercourse may be established with the interior countries of Africa—an intercourse that will at once prove of immense benefit to us as a manufacturing nation, and advance materially that great object of all honest men, the abolition of the accursed traffic in human beings. It is the latter object that chiefly occupies my mind, but I shall not attempt to bring it before the native princes in too abrupt a manner. In some cases, indeed, to allude to it at all would be disastrous. The promotion of legitimate traffic must, after all, be our great lever.

I do not profess in this place to do more than give a few hints on the present state of trade in Tripoli, and the vast tract of half-desert country on which it leans. What I have said is perhaps sufficient to impart some idea of the nature of the relations between the Barbary coast and the interior, and to suggest the importance of the enterprise on which I am engaged. Briefly, the exportation of slaves to Tripoli and beyond, in spite of certain changes of route, is as rife as ever, and in this respect everything remains to be done. But, on the other hand, the trade which, I trust, is providentially intended to supersede this inhuman traffic, is on the increase, though slightly. If we can pave the way for the civilising steps of European commerce, either by treaties or by personal influence, we shall have accomplished a great work. Let us hope and pray that the necessary health, strength, and power of persuasion be granted to us!



CHAPTER II.

Start from the Masheeah—Painful Parting—Chaouch's Tent—A Family Quarrel—Wady Majeeneen—A Rainy Day—Moknee's Wives—Two mad Fellows—Great Ascent of Gharian—Tedious Day's Work—The Castle—View over the Country—Garrison—Troglodytes—Turkish Tax-gathering—Quarrelsome Servants—Proceed over the lofty Plain—Underground Villages—Kaleebah—The Batoum—Geology—A Slave Caravan—Cheerful Blacks—Rows—Oasis of Mizdah—Double Village—Intestine Discords—Interview with the Sheikh Omer—A Pocket Province—A Dream of Good Omen—Quarrels on Quarrels—Character of Fezzanees—A Leopard abroad.

The preliminary miseries of a great journey being at length over, I rose early on the morning of the 30th of March and started from the Masheeah, a kind of suburb of Tripoli, distant in the country, at six. Hope and the spirit of adventure sustained my courage; but it is always sad to part with those we love, even at the call of duty. However, I at length mustered strength to bid adieu to my wife—the almost silent adieu of affection. How many things that were thought were left unsaid on either side! It will be pleasant to fill up all blanks when we talk of these days after a safe return from this arduous undertaking.

It was a fresh, cheerful morning, succeeding several days of sultry weather—an auspicious commencement of the journey. My chaouch, Mohammed Souweea, preceded me on his great horse, murmuring some Arab ditty, and I followed hard on my little donkey. The desert assails the walls of Tripoli, and in half an hour we were in the Sahara sands, which here and there rise in great mounds. I should have liked to have pushed on to some considerable distance at once; but the habits of the country are dilatory, and one must conform to them. In a couple of hours we came to the chaouch's tent, where he had a wife, five children, and seven brothers, one of whom was blind. He, too, was to go through the sad ceremony of parting with his family; and he burst into tears when they surrounded and embraced him. I am sorry to say, however, that before this affecting scene was concluded, a quarrel had began between the blind man and the chaouch's wife, about two Tunisian piastres which were missing, she accusing him of theft and he indignantly repelling the charge. These Easterns seem to have minds constructed on different patterns from ours, and are apt to introduce such petty discussions at the most solemn moments; but we must not, therefore, be hasty in concluding that there is any sham in their sorrow, or affectation in their pathetic bewailings.

They brought in a bowl of milk, and as the chaouch still continued to caress his children, I left him to pass the night in his tent, and pushed on to Wady Majeeneen, where my portion of the caravan had already encamped. Mr. F. Warrington, with my German colleagues, were a little in advance. The horses of the Pasha's cavalry were feeding around; for when the first belt of sand is past, the country becomes an undulating plain—a prairie, as they would call it in America—covered with patches of corn herbage. Here and there are fields of barley; and a few Arab tents, with flocks and herds near at hand, give a kind of animation to the scene.

Next day (21st) it rained hard; but we went on a little to overtake Drs. Barth and Overweg, whom we found in company with Mr. F. Warrington, Mr. Vice-consul Reade, and Mr. Gaines the American consul. One of Mr. Interpreter Moknee's wives had also come out here, to have some settlement with her husband about support before she let him go. The gentleman has two wives, both negresses; and had already made an arrangement for the other, who has several children, of six mahboubs per month. First come, first served. The second wife, who has two children, only got three mahboubs a month. However, when matters were arranged, the pair became rather more loving. These settlements are always hard matters to manage, all the world over, and it is pleasant to get rid of them. By the way, a son of the worthy Moknee, by a white woman now dead—a lad of about twelve years of age—accompanies us, at least as far as Mourzuk.

The most remarkable persons, however, whom I found at the encampment were a couple of insane fellows, determined to follow us—perhaps to show "by one satiric touch" what kind of madcap enterprise was ours. The first was a Neapolitan, who had dogged me all the while I was at Tripoli, pestering me to make a contract with him as servant. To humour his madness, I never said I would not; and the poor fellow, taking my silence for consent, had come out asking for his master. They tried to send him away, but he would take orders from none but me. I gave him two loaves of bread and a Tunisian piastre, and also made him a profound bow, politely requesting him to go about his business. He did so in a very dejected manner. During the time he was with the caravan he worked as hard as any one else in his tattered clothes, and, perhaps, he would have been of more use than many a sane person.

The other was a madman indeed, a Muslim, with an unpleasant habit of threatening to cut everybody's throat. Hearing that we were going to Soudan, he followed us, bringing with him a quantity of old metal, principally copper, with which he proposed to trade. He gave himself out as a shereef, or descendant of the Prophet. No sooner had he arrived than he begun to quarrel on all sides, and, of course, talked very freely of cutting throats, stabbing, shooting, and other humorous things. Every one was afraid of him. He fawned, however, on us Europeans, whilst he had a large knife concealed under his clothes ready to strike. They were obliged at length to disarm him, and send him back under a guard to Tripoli. We here took leave of Mr. Reade, who gave me some last explanations about letters to the interior. It rained furiously in the afternoon.

We were kept idle a whole day by the rain; but starting on the second, turned off sharp in the afternoon towards the mountains, and encamped at length in a pretty place fronting the great ascent of Gharian. The appearance of the chain here differs in no important particular from that of any other part of the Tripoline Atlas. The formation is calcareous, but the colours vary to the eye by the admixture of minerals. Groups of sandstone are not uncommon. Rounded, rugged heads, vary the outline of the plateau; and here and there are deep, abrupt valleys, cut down through the range, with groves of fig-trees, almonds, aloes, pomegranates, and even grapes, nestling in their laps. Bright water-courses, springing up in the depths of these ravines, sustain the streaks of half-buried verdure.

We rose early to commence the ascent. It is not difficult unless the camels are very heavily laden; but we did not reach the Castle of Gharian until three in the afternoon. Our caravan dotted with groups of various outline and colour the slopes of the spur, up the side of which the track wound, in a very picturesque manner. Sometimes the foremost camels stood still and complained; and then there was a half-halt throughout the whole long line. The drivers plied the stick pretty freely on the gaunt flanks of their beasts; the cry of "Isa! Isa!" resounded in irregular chorus; pebbles and stones came leaping down at the steep parts. As we rose over the brown slopes, the thin forests of olive-trees partly covering the undulating plateau beyond, with fields of barley and wheat here and there, gladdened our eyes, and contrasted well with the hungry country we had left in the rear.

The castle, sufficiently picturesque in structure, is placed over a deep ravine, but is commanded by the mountain behind. We turned back on nearing it, and beheld the plain we had traversed appearing like the sea enveloped in mist and cloud. In fine weather the minarets of Tripoli can be seen, but now the northern horizon faded off in haze. On either hand the steep declivities of the hills presented a wall-like surface, here and there battered into breaches, from out of which burst little tufts of green, revealing the presence of springs.

There are 200 troops stationed at the castle under Colonel Saleh, to whom we paid an official visit; as also to the Kaid of Gharian. In both cases we were hospitably treated to pipes, coffee, and lemonade. In this canton are said to be the fanciful number of "one hundred and one" Arab districts, inhabited by the Troglodytes. All the villages, indeed, hereabouts, are underground: not a building is to be seen above, except at wide intervals an old miserable, crumbling, Arab fort. The people are easily kept in order by the summary Turkish method of proceeding; for they are entirely disarmed, and matchlocks, powder and ball, are contraband articles. The first word of an Oriental tax-gatherer is "Pay!" and the second is "Kill!"

The outset of a journey in the East is usually employed in finding out the vices of one's servants. Their virtues, I suppose, become manifest afterwards. We were on the point of sending our chaouch back from Gharian for dishonesty; but as we reflected that any substitute might be still worse, we passed over the robbery of our barley, and merely determined to keep a good look-out. This worthy, though useful in his sphere, often, as I had anticipated, proved a sad annoyance to us. When he seemed to refrain from cheating and stealing, he rendered our lives troublesome by constant quarrellings and rows—he and his fellow attached to my German companions—Arcades ambo!

Mr. Frederick Warrington and the American Consul took leave of us on the morning of the 5th. Starting afterwards about nine, we soon left the Castle of Gharian behind, and continued our course in a direction about south-west, amongst olive-woods and groves of fig-trees. The country was varied enough in appearance as we proceeded. Great masses of rock and cultivated slopes alternated. The vegetation seemed all fresh, and sometimes vigorous. Few birds, except wild pigeons, appeared. Many of the heights which we passed were crowned with ruined castles, mementoes of the past dominion of the Arabs. We saw some of the Troglodytes coming from underground now and then, and pausing to look at us. Their dress is a simple barracan, or blanket-mantle, thrown around them; few indulge in the luxury of a shirt; and they go armed with a great thick stick terminating in a hook. They look cleanly and healthy in spite of their burrowing life, but are fox-like in character as in manners, and bear a reputation for dishonesty.

A little after mid-day we descried afar off the village of Kaleebah, which is built above-ground, and occupies a most commanding position on a bold mountain-top. It remained in sight ahead a long time, cheating us with an appearance of nearness. The inhabitants resemble, in all respects, their mole-brethren, and occupy themselves chiefly in cultivating olives and barley. Government exacts from them two imposts—one special, of a hundred and fifty mahboubs on the olive-crops; and one general, of five hundred mahboubs. We passed the village at length, and encamped an hour beyond. Here were the last olive-groves which were to cheer our eyes for many a long month—many a long year, maybe. Their dark masses covered the swells right and left, and near at hand isolated trees formed pleasant patches of shadow.

We left our camping-ground at length next day, having overcome the obstinate sluggishness of the blacks, and marched nearly nine hours. The barren forms of the desert begin now to appear, the ground being broken up into huge hills that run mostly in circles, and groups, and broad stony valleys. The formation is limestone, often containing flints, with a little sandstone. Patches of barley here and there splashed this arid surface with green. At a great distance we saw two or three Arab tents, and one flock of sheep. Towards evening began to appear a number of beautiful bushy trees, somewhat resembling our oak in size and appearance. The Arabs call them "Batoum." They do not seem to have yet received their proper botanical classification. Desfontaines describes the tree as the Pistacia Atlanticis. It greatly resembles the Pistacia lentiscus of Linnaeus. A few solitary birds, a flight of crows, lizards and beetles on the ground; no other signs of life.

The next day the country became more barren still, and the batoum disappeared. The patches of barley likewise ceased to cheer the eye; and little pools of water no longer sparkled in the rocky bottoms, as near Kaleebah. The geological formation was nearly the same as yesterday; but pieces of crystalline gypsum covered the ground, and the limestone here and there took the form of alabaster. Some of the hills that close in the huge basin-like valleys are of considerable elevation, and have conic volcanic forms. All was dreary, and desolate, and sad, except that some ground-larks whirled about; lizards and beetles still kept crossing our path; and a single chameleon did not fade into sand-colour in time to escape notice. No animals of the chase were seen; but our blacks picked up the dung of the ostrich, and a horn of the aoudad. Here and there we observed the broken columns of Roman milestones, some of them covered with illegible inscriptions. The sockets generally remain perfect. We saluted the memory of the sublime road-makers.

About noon, as we were traversing these solitudes in our usual irregular order of march, a crowd of moving things came in sight. It proved to be a slave-caravan, entirely composed of young girls. The Gadamsee merchants who owned them recognised me, and shook me by the hand. Our old black woman was soon surrounded by a troop of the poor slave-girls; and when she related to them how she was returning free to her country under the protection of the English, and wished them all the same happiness, they fell round her weeping and kissing her feet. One poor naked girl had slung at her back a child, with a strange look of intelligence. I was about to give her a piece of money, but could not; for, the tears bursting to my eyes, I was obliged to turn away. The sight of these fragments of families stolen away to become drudges or victims of brutal passion in a foreign land, invariably produced this effect upon me. This caravan consisted of some thirty girls and twenty camel-loads of elephants' teeth. They had been seventy days on their way from Ghat, including, however, thirty-four days of rest. Most of these poor wretches had performed journeys on their way to bondage which would invest me with imperishable renown as a traveller could I accomplish them.

The caravan was soon lost to view as it wound along the track by which we had come. This day was exceedingly hot, whereas the previous days had reminded us of a cool summer in England. The nights have hitherto been clear, and the zodiacal light is always brilliant. Our blacks keep up pretty well. There are now nine of them; five men, three women, and a boy. They eat barley-meal and oil, and now and then get a cup of coffee. I also feed the Fezzanee marabout, besides those specially attached to the expedition. As to the camel-drivers, they are an ill-bred, disobliging set, and I give them nothing extra. How different are our negroes! They are most cheerful. As we proceed, they run hither and thither collecting edible herbs; and, like children, making the way more long in their sport. Sometimes their amusements are less pleasant, and they seem systematically to take refuge from ennui, in a quarrel. Two of them began to pelt each other with stones to-day; allies dropped in on either side; laughter was succeeded by execrations; and the whole caravan at length came to loggerheads.

The sidr, or lote-tree, is abundant in these parts, and it is curious to notice how in the spring season the green leaves sprout out all over the white burnt-up shrub. All vegetation in the desert that is not perfectly new seems utterly withered by time. There is scarcely any medium between the bud and the dead leaf. Infancy is scorched at once into old age.

As we advanced, the country appeared to put on sterner forms, until suddenly, in the afternoon, the rocks opened to disclose the Wady Esh-Shrab nestling amidst limestone hills, and containing the pleasant oasis of Mizdah. Its beauties consist, in reality, but of a few patches of green barley and scanty palm-groves; but, in contrast to the sultry desert, the scene appeared really enchanting.

We have now left the Troglodytes behind us. Mizdah (eight summer and ten winter days from Ghadamez, three short days from Gharian, and the same from Benioleed) is built above-ground, and consists of a double village, or rather two contiguous villages, inhabited by people of the Arab race. Each division is fortified after a fashion, with walls now crumbling, and with round crenulated towers. One large tower, some fifty feet high, has stood, they say, four hundred years. I asked, What was the use of these fortifications? and was naively told they were for the purposes of shamatah, "war," or rather "rows." And true enough, before the Turks extended their power so far, these two beggarly villages, fifty miles from any neighbours, were in constant hostility one with the other. Each had its great tower, a giant among all the little towers—a kind of keep, to which the defeated party retired to recruit its strength or escape utter destruction. This is likewise the case with many other double towns of the Sahara, and seems to prove that war is the native passion and trade of man. At any rate, punishment for such turbulence has not been wanting; for in this, as in so many other cases, whilst these poor wretches were engaged in cutting one another's throats, the conqueror has come and established his tyranny. They are now paying the penalty of their love of shamatah in the shape of an impost of four hundred mahboubs per annum, and in numbers are reduced to about a hundred and thirty heads of families.

We had some additional camel-drivers from Kaleebah, who, of course, endeavoured to extort more than they had agreed for. When we had squabbled with them a little, we had the honour of receiving Sheikh Omer, of Mizdah, in the tent. He came with about thirty notables of the place, the greater part of whom sat outside the doorway, whilst he stroked his beard within, indulging in a touch of eau de Cologne and a cup of coffee. We read him the circular-letter of Izhet Pasha, and received all manner of civilities. The next day, indeed, he came to us to serve as guide through the country over which he wields delegated dominion. He had not far to go. His empire is a mere pocket one. The palm-trees are about three hundred in number, and there are but half-a-dozen diminutive fields of barley ripening in the ear, fed by irrigation from several wells which supply tolerably sweet water. A few onion-beds occur in the little gardens, which are partially shaded by some small trees.

Sheikh Omer supplied us with copious bowls of milk; the most refreshing thing, after all, that can be drank in the heat of the day. We were, however, impatient to get off, but had to wait for a blacksmith to shoe the horses of our chaouch. The only knowing man in this department was away at some neighbouring village, and it was necessary to send messengers to find him. There being nothing better to do, the day, accordingly, was spent in quarrelling. We had at least a hundred tongue-skirmishes between our people and the people of Mizdah—between our chaouch and the other chaouch—between our chaouch and the sheikh of the country—between Yusuf and the Fezzanee—between every individual black and every other individual black—Between our chaouch particularly and all the people of Mizdah:—in short, there were as many rows as it were possible for a logician to find relations betwixt man and man.

I must not forget that our chaouch, in spite of all this effervescence, had got up this morning in a very pious state of mind. He told us that a marabout had appeared to him in a dream, and had said, "O man! go to Soudan with the Christians, and thou shalt return with the blessing of God upon thee!" This vision seemed to have made a deep impression upon him at the time, but he had forgotten it long before it had ceased to be the subject of my anxious thoughts—"O God, I beseech thee, indeed, to give us a prosperous journey! But thy will be done. We are entirely in thy hands!"

April 10th.—We had another glorious row this morning before starting. A man who had gone to fetch the blacksmith, and found him not, demanded payment of two Tunisian piastres. The chaouch, suspecting that he never went at all, but concealed himself in the village, would not pay him. This brought on a collision. Sheikh Omer supported us; and so all the people of the other village took part against us. Two of them were armed, and some of us thought it advisable to load our pistols. At last, however, we pushed them away from the tent by force; and, in the first moment of indignation, wrote a letter to the Pasha about them. Hearing of this, they came to beg us not to send the letter, which was accordingly torn up by the Sheikh. My chaouch was the great actor in all this affair; and it was necessary that I should support him, even if he were a little wrong, otherwise he would have had no confidence in himself or us in cases of difficulty.

The Sheikh, who, as well as ourselves, has lost some little things during these days, gives the people of Mizdah a very bad character. In the scuffle, I noticed that they called him Fezzanee, which is used as a term of insult in these parts. "All the Fezzanees are bad people, and all their women courtezans," says my chaouch.

There is a large leopard reported to be abroad near the oasis of Mizdah. He escaped from Abdel-Galeel, who brought him from Soudan, and creates great terror among the camel-drivers. They say, with unspeakable horror, "The nimr eats all the weak camels!" He has already devoured two. He drinks in the neighbouring wady, where there is water six months of the year. During the remainder he is capable, they say, of doing without drinking.



CHAPTER III.

Leave Mizdah—Gloomy Country—Matrimonial Squabbles in the Caravan—"Playing at Powder"—Desert Geology—A Roman Mausoleum—Sport—A Bully tamed—Fatiguing March—Wady Taghijah—Our old Friend the Ethel-Tree—The Waled Bou Seif—Independent Arabs—A splendid Mausoleum—One of the Nagahs foals—Division of a Goat—March over a monotonous Country—Valley of Amjam—Two new Trees—Saluting the New Moon—Sight the Plateau of the Hamadah—Wady Tubooneeah—Travelling Flies—The Desert Hour—A secluded Oasis—Buying Barley—Ghareeah—Roman Remains—Oasian Cultivation—Taxation—Sand-Pillar—Arrangements for crossing the Hamadah—An Emeute in the Caravan—Are compelled to discharge the quarrelsome Ali.

We started for Mizdah, at length, towards noon, Sheikh Omer bringing us a little on our way, and, begging to be well spoken of in high quarters; and after passing the ruins of two Arab castles that frown over the southern side of Wady Esh-Shrab, got into a gloomy country, exactly resembling that on the other side of the oasis, except that the strata of the limestone rocks, instead of being horizontal are inclined. The whole desert, however, wears a more arid appearance. Yet there were some lote-trees here and there, and a few tholukhs. The, traces of the aoudad were noticed; and the blacks, picking up its dung, smelt it as musk, saying, "It is very good." As I jogged on upon my camel, the oppressive heat caused me to sleep and dream in the saddle of things that had now become the province of memory.

More quarrels! The chaouches are boiling over again; they must fight it out between them. No doubt they are both correct in exchanging the epithet of "thief." Scarcely has the grumbling of these two terrible fellows died away, when the blacks are at it amongst themselves. He who has two wives gets hold of his blunderbuss, and threatens to blow himself to pieces. Nobody interferes; there is little public spirit in a caravan: so he consents to an explanation, saying sententiously, "My little wife is mad." The fact is, his two helpmates, one young and one old, are vastly too much for him, as they would be for most men. He moves along in a perpetual family tornado. The mother of the young one, a sort of derwish negress, is a tremendous old intriguer, and stirs up at least one feud a day. Quarrelling is meat and drink to her.

It would have been out of character had not Ali got up a little convulsion on his own account. One day, in the Targhee's absence, he took his gun to "play at powder," and using English material, succeeded in splitting the machine near the lock. When the Targhee returned, and found what damage had been done, he began first to whimper, and then working himself up into a towering passion, swore he would shoot the culprit. Scarcely with that weapon, O Targhee! When his excitement was over, I offered to make a collection among the people to indemnify him; but he shook his head, laughed, and refused. The gun was nearly all his property, and he had just bought it new at Tripoli.[2]

[2] The Orientals are prevented by superstitious fear from allowing any article destroyed by accident to be replaced in the way mentioned.—Ed.

All this part of Northern Africa may be compared to an archipelago, with seas of various breadths dividing the islands. Three days took us from Tripoli to Gharian, and three more to Mizdah. We were now advancing across the preliminary desert stretching in front of the great plateau of the Hamadah, which defends, like a wall of desolation, the approaches of Fezzan from the north. At first occur broken limestone hills, as previous to Mizdah; but when we approach the plateau the aspect of the hills changes, and they are composed chiefly of variegated marl mixed with gypsum, and with a covering of limestone. Fossil shells were picked up at intervals. Some huge, irregular masses, that appeared ahead during the first day, were mistaken by us for the edge of the plateau; but we broke through, and left them right and left as we proceeded. They are great masses of limestone and red clay, in which are scooped deep valleys, many of them supplied with abundant herbage. As yet we have never attained a level of more than 2500 feet above the level of the sea. Water must exist underground, if we may argue from the presence of the aoudad and the gazelle. Indeed, out of the line of route, amongst the hills, there are wells and Arab tents. The presence of Roman remains reminds us that the country has seen more prosperous times. We encamped on the 11th in a wady, overlooked by the ruins of a mausoleum, which had assumed colossal proportions in the distance. Some Berber letters were carved upon its walls; probably by Tuaricks, who had formerly inhabited the district.

One of our blacks this day killed a lefa, the most dangerous species of snake; and several thobs or lizards were caught. The greyhound of the Fezzanee also ran down a hare. Next day it procured us a gazelle; but with these exceptions were seen only ground-larks, and what we call in Lincolnshire water-wagtails.

It is worth mentioning that at this place our chaouch sprained his ankle, and Dr. Overweg applied spirits of camphor as lotion. This terrible fellow, this huge swaggerer, this eater-up of ordinary timid mortals, was reduced to the meekness of a lamb by his slight accident; and for the first time since the caravan was blessed with his presence did he remain tranquil, breathing out from time to time a soft complaint. In the course of the day he had contrived to make himself particularly disagreeable. First he fell out with the servant of the Germans, Mahommed of Tunis. Then he quarrelled with us all, because he picked up a blanket for somebody and was refused his modest demand of three piastres as a reward. We are heartily glad that he is tamed for awhile.

On the 12th, shortly after we started, I happened to look behind and saw, coming from the west, some clouds that seemed to give promise of rain. Already I felt the air cooled by anticipation, but was soon undeceived. In the course of an hour a gheblee began to blow, and continued to increase in violence until it enervated the whole caravan. Our poor black women began to drop with fatigue, and we were compelled to place them on the camels. Here was a foretaste of the desert, its hardships and its terrors! The air was full of haze, through which we could scarcely see the flagging camels, with their huge burdens; and the men, as they crawled along, were apparently ready to sink on the ground in despair. We breathed the hot atmosphere with difficulty and displeasure.

Right glad were we then, at length, to reach the Wady Taghijah, where I at once recognised my old desert friend, under whose spreading and heavy boughs I once had passed a night alone in the Sahara,—the ethel-tree! It is a species of Pinus, growing chiefly in valleys of red clay on the top of mounds, which are sometimes overshadowed by a gigantic tree, with arms measuring four feet in circumference. Of its wood are made the roofs of houses, the frames of camel-saddles, and bowls for holding milk and other food. With the berries and a mixture of oil the people prepare their water-skins, as well as tan leather. The valley is strewed with huge branches, cut down for the purpose of extracting resin. The ethel and the batoum are the most interesting of desert-trees, and I shall regret to exchange them for the tholukh. I wrote down the names of fourteen shrubs found in the valley of Taghijah: two of them, the sidr and the katuf, are edible by man; the rest, with the exception of the hijatajel, afford food for the camels.

In this valley, amongst the trees, we found the flocks and horses of the Waled Bou Seif feeding. This tribe—the children of the Father of the Sword—are wandering Arabs, who have never acknowledged the authority of the Tripoli Government. They possess flocks, camels, and horses,—every element, in fact, of desert wealth. All the mountains near and round about Mizdah are claimed by them as their country, which has never, perhaps, been reduced by any power but the Roman. A young man of the tribe, who was tending some sheep in the valley, came to visit us. He was a fine, cheerful fellow, with an open countenance, well dressed, having, besides his barracan, red leather boots, trousers, and a shirt. All his tribe, according to his account, are so dressed. He boasted of the independence of his people, who number three thousand strong, and extend their influence as far south as Ghareeah. The name of the tribe is derived, he tells us, from a great warrior who once lived, and was named by the people Bou Seif, because he always carried a sword.

Our chaouch gave us an account of this young man in the following strain:—"He is in very deed a marabout! His wife never unveiled her face to any man; and his own mother kisses his hand. He is master of wealth, and never leaves this valley. He has a house and flocks of sheep, and a hundred camels, which always rest in the valley, bringing forth young, and are never allowed to go into the caravans," &c. &c.

We were detained during the whole of the 13th, because the water was at a distance and our people had to fetch it. There were marks of recent rain in the valley, but there is no well; only a few muddy puddles. Dr. Barth, in wandering about, discovered here a splendid mausoleum, of which he brought back a sketch. It was fifty feet high, of Roman-Christian architecture,—say of the fourth or fifth century. No doubt, remains of cities and forts will be discovered in these districts. Such tombs as these indicate the presence in old time of a large and opulent population.

One of the nagahs foaled this day, which partly accounts for our detention. For some time afterwards the cries of the little camel for its mother, gone to feed, distressed us, and called to our mind the life of toil and pain that was before the little delicate, ungainly thing. It is worth noticing, that the foal of the camel is frolicsome only for a few days after its birth—soon becoming sombre in aspect and solemn in gait. As if to prepare it betimes for the rough buffeting of the world, the nagah never licks or caresses its young, but spreads its legs to lower the teat to the eager lips, and stares at the horizon, or continues to browse.

Our people clubbed together and bought a goat for a mahboub. They then divided it into five lots, and an equal number of thongs was selected by the five part-owners of the meat; these were given to a stranger not concerned in the division, and he arbitrarily placed one upon each piece, from which decision there was no appeal.

On the 14th we rose before daybreak, and were soon in motion. No change was noticed in the country, limestone rocks and broad valleys running in all directions. The ground is sometimes scattered with fossil shells, some of the exogyra, others of the oyster species; all flints. There were apparent traces of the hyaena, but of no other wild animals. Some sheep were at graze; and the long stubble of last year's crop of barley, in irregular patches, told us that when there is copious rain the Arabs come to these parts for agricultural purposes. We noticed the English hedge-thorn here and there, and thought of the green lanes of our native land.

Nine hours' journey brought us to the valley of Amjam, where there was a khafilah of senna encamped among the trees. Water—rather bitter, however—may be found here in shallow excavations; and the whole place, with its patches of herbage, is highly refreshing to the eye.

There are two new trees in this wady, both interesting; the Ghurdok and the Ajdaree. The ghurdok, on which the camels browse, is a large bush with great thorns, and bears a red berry about the size of our hip, or, as the marabout says, of sheep's dung. People eat these berries and find them good, with a saltish, bitter taste, and yet a dash of sweetness. The ajdaree is also a thorny bush, and at a distance something reminds one of the English hedge-thorn. On a nearer approach the leaves are found to be oval and filbert-shaped. The berry, called thomakh, is nearly as large as haws, but flatted at the sides: it is used medicinally, being a powerful astringent in diarrhoea.

When the moon was two days old our people practised a little of the ancient Sabaeanism of the Arabs—saluting it by kissing their hands, and offering a short prayer.

On the 15th we at length sighted the edge of the plateau of the Hamadah; and pushing on still through desert hills and valleys, arrived at Wady Tabooneeah, having been en route four days from Mizdah. This valley is not so fertile as Amjam; and the water is more bitter. Common salt, the companion of gypsum, was observed to-day; and wherever this is found there are bitter salts. Swallows were skimming over the shrubs, and birds of prey hovered about, now lying-to, as it were, overhead, with beak and talons visible, now circling upwards until they became mere specks. Lizards and beetles abounded as usual; but the only plagues of the place were the flies, which had followed the camels from Gharian, and even from Tripoli. Men usually carry their "black cares" along with them in this way.

As we could not expect to commence the traject of the dreaded plateau immediately, I resolved to go upon a visit to the village of Western Ghareeah. The camel-drivers of the caravan, of course, told us that it was at the distance of one hour—Saha bas! but we found it to be three hours in a north-east direction. Time is of little consequence in the desert, and no means are possessed or desired of measuring it with exactitude. It has already been observed by a traveller, that the Bedawin will describe as near an object a hundred yards off, or a well two days' journey from you. Western Ghareeah was likewise described as grayeb, but we thought for some time that we had ventured upon an interminable desert. However, the ground at length dipped, and a green wady disclosed itself. We could scarcely, at first, find anybody to receive us. But after waiting some time, the people came unwillingly crawling out one after the other. We told them our errand—"To look at the country and buy barley." They swore they had none—not a grain; but when we swore in our turn that we would pay them for what we wanted, they admitted having a little that belonged to some people in Fezzan. I was amused with the eloquent indignation of our burly chaouch when they professed complete destitution at first. "You dogs! do you live on stones?" cried he. This was a settler; and showed them that they had knowing ones to deal with. Of course their original shyness arose from fear lest we might rob them. When a bargain was struck they became quite friendly, and brought us out some oil, barley-cakes, and boiled eggs—all the luxuries of the oasis!

Ghareeah Gharbeeah stands on the brow of a limestone rock, on the western side of a valley, which we had to cross in approaching between date plantations and a few fields of barley. It was an ancient Roman city; and there remains still an almost perfect bas-relief of a Victoria on one side of the eastern gateway, which is composed of limestone blocks a foot and a half square. We could trace also the imperfect letters of a Latin inscription, together with some Berber characters. The houses of the present inhabitants are formed of rough blocks of limestone mixed with mud, and roofed with palm-trunks and palm-trees. The water resembles that of the well of Tabooneeah, coming "from the same rock," as the people say: it is slightly bitter and saltish.

With the exception of the little valley we had crossed, nothing could be seen from Ghareeah but a dreary waste, especially to the south and east. A tower of modern date rises to the east, on a solitary rock; and we knew that Eastern Ghareeah was concealed among the hills at a distance of six hours. The inhabitants of these secluded towns are called Waringab, and promise shortly to become extinct. In this Western Ghareeah there are twenty heads of families, but very few children,—scarce sixty souls altogether; and the population of the other place, which gives itself airs of metropolitan importance, is not more than double. How they have not abandoned the place long ago to jackals and hawks is a mystery. They do not possess a single camel; only two or three asses and some flocks of sheep; and depend, in a great measure, on chance profits from caravans, for their valley often only affords provision for a couple of months or so. At intervals, it is true, when there has been much rain, they sell barley in the neighbouring valleys; but this season has been a dry one, and the crop has consequently fallen short. When they have no barley, they say, they eat dates; and when the dates are out, they fast—a long, continual fast—and famine takes them off one by one. The melancholy remnant preserve traditions of prosperity in comparatively recent times. Notwithstanding their miserable condition, however, these wretched people are drained by taxation of thirty mahboubs per annum—so many drops of blood! The eastern village pays in proportion. Possibly in a few years this cluster of wadys may be abandoned to chance Arab visitors, so that the starting-point for the traverse of the Hamadah will be removed farther back, perhaps to Mizdah. There is no life in the civilisation which claims lordship over these countries unfriended by nature. The only object of those who wield paramount authority over them seems to be to extract money in the most vexatious and expeditious manner.

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