DESCRIPTION OF KASSALA

We arrived at Kassala at 8 p.m., and found the camp pitched about a
quarter of a mile, or less, from it, close to a garden full of fine trees
of various kinds; in fact, between this garden and a very wide river bed.
This river is here called the Gash, but nearer to Abyssinia it is called
the Mareb. Jules’ exhaustion and pulseless condition was most alarming. I
succeeded in obtaining some eggs and milk; these I mixed with brandy, and
had this mixture administered to him every half-hour.

Whilst we were dining, at 9 p.m., we heard the peculiar cry of hyænas,
which literally swarm round the camp at night and make an awful row. I
daresay there would be 150 or 200 come round every night after dark, and
when we retired to our tents, and the lights were put out, they would
not only come close to, but actually into the camp; I can assure the
reader that I am not, as it is called, drawing the long bow when I say
that I have seen one poke his head in at my tent door more than once. We
remained here many days, and sometimes the hyænas would be so troublesome
and noisy that it was a by no means uncommon thing for one of us to
get up in the night, go to the edge of the camp in our night-shirt and
discharge the contents of one or two barrels into the noisy crowd. This
had a quieting effect, and we often found one or two dead hyænas in the
morning, the rest having scampered off.

We found Kassala a very warm place, for in the middle of January the
thermometer registered 90° in the shade. It is situated about 1,900 feet
above the level of the sea, is surrounded by a wall made of mud bricks
baked in the sun, and plastered over with mud and the refuse of cows.
The wall is loop-holed for musketry, and surrounded by a deep fosse. The
exports of the Soudan are ivory, hides, gum arabic, senna, bees’ wax, and
honey—the latter obtained chiefly from the Abyssinian border.

The Kassala Mountain, which is just outside Kassala, is an enormous,
almost perpendicular, mass of granite, several thousand feet in height,
rising straight out of the plain, and can be seen for many miles in all
directions. The population was in 1882, something like 25,000, without
reckoning the garrison, which consisted of about 1,000 Nubian troops.

There are large numbers of cows, goats, sheep, and camels in the
neighbourhood, and a great deal of camel-breeding is carried on here.

When I left England, the thought occurred to me that it would be a good
idea to take out some knives, razors, beads, and so forth, both as
presents and for barter. I, therefore, provided myself with some common
knives, about a dozen of a better class, and half-dozen hunting-knives
from Mr. T. B. Hague, of Sheffield; a couple of dozen of Mappin and
Webb’s, and Heiffer’s shilling razors, which were much prized by the
Arabs. These I found very useful at Kassala, as I bartered some of them
for a dozen beautiful long ostrich feathers, and a handful of shorter
ones. The natives were well pleased, and so was I.

January 8th.—We were now comfortably encamped, but, alas! too late for
Jules, who was fearfully emaciated and prostrate. I visited his tent
twice in the night, at one and four o’clock, but could do very little
more for him, and I fear he will soon go. All the camels that we hired
at Souâkin will have to return there with their drivers. One reason our
friends preceded us to Kassala was to let it be known that we wanted
to buy or hire camels. The result was not exactly what we anticipated,
for they kept them back awhile. When at last they were brought for
inspection, the most extravagant prices were demanded, whilst many
of them were absolute screws. We also required a few little horses
for hunting purposes; the dealers were as knowing as horse-dealers in
England, and that is saying a great deal.

January 9th.—Jules is evidently sinking fast. I visited his tent five
times in the night, but could do little for him beyond giving him drink
twice. Mr. W. James and Mr. Aylmer had taken lessons in photography
before leaving England, and were each provided with a good apparatus.
With these they took many interesting views in different parts of the
country. This day the Mudir (Governor) of Kassala sent his two little
boys and ponies to be photographed. Whilst we were at breakfast to-day
an Arab brought two playful little leopards, which he had stolen from
their nest. I could have bought them for a couple of dollars each, and
probably should have done so had I been on my way home. The Mudir paid
us a visit at noon, inviting us all to dine with him; but Mr. Phillipps
and I could not go on account of Jules’s illness, which now will be of
short duration. I understood afterwards from those who did go that the
dinner consisted of 15 or 18 courses. About 5 p.m. I visited Jules, and
found him asleep, but evidently sinking. Mahoom, who was my servant
during the whole campaign—and a very good boy he was, too—attended well
to him, and frequently sat up at nights with him. At 10 p.m. poor Jules
breathed his last. The particulars of his illness, together with other
curious and interesting medical notes, can be found in an article of mine
in the _British Medical Journal_, September 23rd and 30th, 1882. As soon
as he was dead I washed and laid him out. M. Demetrius Mosconas, a Greek
living in Kassala, was good enough to at once see about some kind of
coffin, covered with black cloth, shaped thus—[Illustration] This was to
be sent early in the morning.

January 10th.—At 10 a.m. the coffin was brought. Jules was put in it. On
the corpse were laid sprays of green shrubs all round. At 11.30 he was
carried to his last resting-place by natives, all of us following; the
Union Jack being placed on the coffin. The weather was fearfully hot,
and the roads very dusty. He was buried in a garden where three other
Christians had been buried. Mr. F. L. James read the burial service, and
we remained by the grave until it was filled up, which was very quickly
done in the following manner: The earth had been thrown up each side of
the grave, eight Arabs stood each side with their backs to the grave, and
as soon as the word was given they, with their hands, pushed the earth
between their legs, filling the grave within about ten minutes. A cross
was afterwards made of ebony by Mr. Phillipps, and placed at the head of
the grave. This concluded our last duty to poor Jules.

When we returned to camp, four horses and four camels were bought; after
lunch Messrs. Colvin and A. James, with Suleiman and a few servants,
started off for the Atbara in quest of camels, as these people were
holding theirs back in the hopes of making a good thing by so doing.
Korasi, on the Atbara, is considered one of the cheapest and best places
to buy camels.

January 11th.—Soon after my arrival at Kassala it became known that there
was a “Hakeem Ingelese,” as they called me, and I very soon found that
my patients daily increased in number. Every morning after breakfast
there was I, wearing my pith helmet, in the broiling sun, with Mahoom
as interpreter, for two hours or more attending to a large number of
Arabs—men, women, and children—who squatted round my tent on their
haunches in a semicircle. I frequently saw 60, 70, or 80 patients a day.
I did not charge them anything; probably, had I done so I should have
materially thinned out the applicants for medical and surgical relief. It
is a strange thing, but human nature is (in some respects) pretty much
the same in Central Africa as it is in England.

Ali Mahoom’s history, poor boy, was not, in early life, a very bright
one, as he was stolen by the slave-dealers. He said—

“I remember very well, sir, when dey took me. My mother was out when a
lot of mens come down and took all de little childrens dey see. Dey took
me with dem to Khartoum, and dere my mother found me. Dey let her stop
with me for a long time. She begged dem to let her have her little boy
back, but dey say, ‘No, unless you steal two little children; den you
shall have him back.’ Den I was sold to somebody else; after dat Gordon
Pasha find me, and he take me and give me to Mr. Felkin, and he has
been good to me ever since.” He gave me the name of the country he came
from, but I forget it, adding, “It is the next country but one to the
Niam-Niams.”

I had heard they were cannibals, so I said to Mahoom—

“What do they eat, Mahoom?”

“Dey eat de flesh of beobles,” he replied.

“But,” I said, “why don’t they eat antelopes and other animals?”

“Dey say de flesh of beobles is much nicer,” he replied.

He, of course, was disgusted with them. I found also that if a relation
dies they bury that relation in close relation to them, that is, at the
entrance to the hut; and if a baby, they send it to the relatives they
have most respect for, and these relatives, to show their respect for
their friends, eat the baby—cooked, I presume, but that I am not sure of.

About noon M. Demetrius Mosconas (who spoke English fairly well, and
is, in a certain sense, a brother) asked me to go and see his son, who
was very ill. I did so, and found him suffering from acute rheumatism.
Mosconas, it seems, was engaged by the Government in sinking wells in
some outlying districts, and his son, who partly superintended this work,
must have contracted this disease by sleeping out, as, although the days
were very hot, the nights were often excessively cold, and I have often
known the thermometer sink from 90° at 1.30 p.m. to 45° or lower by 11
p.m.

I had a talk with Mosconas about slavery, and learnt very conclusively
that it exists pretty openly in this part of the Soudan. He informed
me that the woman (his servant) who had just brought us two small cups
of coffee was a slave, one of a dozen owned by an Arab woman, and she
realized a living by letting them out on hire. He paid three dollars
per month for the hire of this slave. He also told me that Georgie Bey,
an Arab Army doctor, who left Kassala for Khartoum the day before our
arrival, sold two of his slaves before he went. This Georgie Bey was
since killed with Hicks Pasha’s army near Souâkin.

Another bit of information which Mosconas gave me was that some Arabs and
Greeks breed from slave-women, who are kept for profit just as cattle are
in England. The children born under these circumstances are sold by their
fathers.

Having had a long chat with Mosconas, I next paid a visit to Herr
Schumann’s collection of wild animals. I found a large building and yard
occupied by them. Schumann himself was away some distance from Kassala,
amongst the Beni-Amir tribe, where he had a zareeba. He collected animals
there, and sent them on to his manager at Kassala. Just before the rainy
season commenced, about May, he would go on himself, with quite an army
of attendants, across the Nubian Desert to Souâkin with his collection;
then take them to London, Liverpool, Hamburg, Vienna, and America, where
they would be sold. Here he had four giraffes, four gazelles, three fine
antelopes, as tame as lambs, a nice, amiable little baby elephant, five
young lions, chained to rickety old posts, which rattled up, as they
darted at a passer-by, in a very alarming manner, nine infant leopards,
two or three young hyænas, eight ostriches, some wild hogs, baboons,
tiger-cats, and other animals.

January 15th.—Messrs. Colvin and A. James, with their attendants,
returned this afternoon from the Atbara, having purchased thirty-four
camels. This rather astonished the natives here, who had no idea that
we could do without theirs, and quite thought we should be obliged
eventually to buy their camels, and of course give them a good price.
Whilst our friends were gone to the Atbara, we bought sixteen camels,
eight ponies, a number of sheep, and some milk-giving goats, so that we
could have milk with our porridge every morning for breakfast. It was
decided to-day that we must hire a few more camels for our march from
here to the Beni-Amirs, and leave Kassala on the 17th.

January 16th.—Mosconas dined with us to-night; he says that a year ago
King John’s nephew, of Abyssinia, whilst fighting with some of the Arab
tribes, was killed, and that a Shukeryiah Arab took out his heart and ate
it on the spot. He said that these Hadendowahs, Beni-Amirs, Shukeriyahs,
Hamrans, and others, are always fighting, either with the Abyssinians or
amongst themselves, and that in consequence of the frequent raids made by
the Egyptian governors on the Arabs for taxes, the latter frequently hide
their money in the ground, putting oil on it to prevent discolouration.
He also informed me that the present Mudir of Kassala was a very sharp
fellow, and extremely successful in squeezing money out of the poor
Arabs, but that Gordon Pasha, when he was Governor of the Soudan, was
very kind and lenient, frequently remitting taxes when he thought they
were unduly pressed.

Now my own opinion of Gordon Pasha is that he was a just, honest, and
honourable man, whose sole aim was, not to extort all he could from these
poor Arabs, and so make himself popular at head-quarters, but to do that
which was simply right between man and man, just to those who employed
him, and to those whom he ruled. I believe I should not be far wrong
in saying that all Egyptian governors who preceded and succeeded him
were _extortionists_. What a charm his name had in the Soudan, amongst
different tribes in different parts! I have noticed that when Gordon’s
name was mentioned the Arab’s countenance would become radiant with
pleasure, as if calling up recollections of a good friend in bygone days,
and with a significant, “Ah! Gordon Pasha,” they would begin to expatiate
on his good qualities in such a way that I could not help thinking that
he had more influence amongst them than any man living. The fact is, that
these poor down-trodden Arabs had, unknowingly, adopted one of our own
texts, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” Gordon Pasha
was kind to them, and when he passed his word he would keep it, whether
it clashed with the interests of the Khedive or not. He was the only man
as a governor whom they trusted as children would their father, and who
never forfeited their confidence. All his actions were summed up in the
words justice, truth, and duty.

A wit’s a feather,
A chief’s a rod,
An honest man’s the noblest work of God.

As I am writing this (March 30th, 1884), I cannot help thinking that, had
Gordon Pasha been sent out to the Soudan nine months ago, before the wave
of rebellion had increased to raging billows, sweeping over the land, we
should have been spared the painful events which have taken place there
quite lately, and by this time the Mahdi would have been little heard
of. Then Gordon Pasha would have come on them like the noon-day sun, and
all the tribes would have flocked round him as a deliverer, whilst the
Mahdi would have been powerless, and relegated to the obscurity from
which he had sprung. What a country Egypt and the Soudan might become
under British rule! In Lower Egypt we should form a net-work of canals in
communication with the Nile, as in the days of Pharaoh; then thousands
upon thousands of acres, which to-day look sterile deserts, would be
made to yield enormous quantities of sugar-cane, cotton, flax, dhurra,
&c., and at least two crops in the year could be obtained. Politics I
have nothing to do with. I am simply giving an expression to an opinion
which I formed when in the Soudan and Egypt. This opinion I expressed
in January, 1882, when in the Soudan, and subsequently very many times
since in England. It is a source of great satisfaction to me that so
eminent an authority as Sir Samuel Baker, F.R.G.S., entertains the same
ideas. As things now are, extensive cultivation in the Soudan would be
almost useless, the only means of exporting their products being by
the very slow method of camels to the nearest sea-port; taxes would
increase, and the only people who would derive any benefit would be the
Egyptians, not the Arabs. If we ruled there we would appoint an English
governor, who would let the Arabs live on their own industry, if they had
any, and, if not, bring the fallaheen there, and take only a reasonable
share of taxation. We should put down a railway from Souâkin to Kassala,
from there to Massawah and elsewhere. We should sink wells, and erect
engines which would pump up sufficient water to irrigate thousands of
acres of the most fertile land. These lands require no manuring, nothing
but clearing, scratching the rich alluvial deposit, and putting in the
seeds. The crops when gathered could then be transported by rail to
Souâkin, which would soon become a flourishing port, could, in fact,
be transferred direct from central Africa to any English port within
three weeks or so. Senna, coffee, tobacco, cotton, sugar, flax, dhurra,
wheat, oats, oranges, lemons, and I don’t know what, could be grown
there without the least trouble, besides which, hides, honey, beeswax,
and other things would be abundant. I was so struck, soon after we left
Kassala, with the immensely fertile appearance of the soil, and the vast
extent of country capable of cultivation, and of producing two crops a
year at least, that I mentioned this to Mr. Colvin, as we rode side by
side on our camels, afterwards making a note of the same in my diary.

Every night of our stay at Kassala the monotonous beating of the tom-tom
would commence about 8 p.m. and continue incessantly till about twelve,
accompanied by the most extraordinary shrill trilling note of a female
every now and then. It seems there had been a death in the family,
and on all occasions of great joy and sorrow this unpleasant musical
entertainment is at once provided. Mosconas tells me that, after a
death, the mourners go on in this kind of way every night for about a
month, and a very irritating performance it is to our untutored English
auditory nerves. We found the white ants very troublesome here. They are
very destructive little insects, and, I believe, will destroy everything
but iron and stone. If a strong, solid, leather portmanteau be left on
the ground for two or three nights, they will destroy it, but if two
stones, sufficient to raise it an inch or two from the ground, be placed
underneath, they will not touch it, and if we encamp on sand we are safe
from them. They destroyed all the matting laid down in our tents during
the few days that we were here, although it was taken up and beaten every
day. Scorpions as well as white ants were frequently found underneath the
matting. This is very cheap, indeed; we therefore secured a fresh lot.

All being ready, we started off from Kassala at 3 p.m. on the 17th
January, intending to reach Heikota within three days. We encamped at
8 p.m., and next day were off at 9 a.m., marching until 6 p.m.—temp.
90° in shade. Fine trees became more numerous; the country looked much
greener, and water was usually obtainable every day simply by digging
a few feet in the sandy river-bed. This day we passed through a large
field of dhurra. To guard this from elephants, birds, and buffaloes
several platforms were erected in different parts of the field about
10 or 12 feet high, and on these boys and men spent the whole day
unsheltered from the scorching rays of the sun—which was like a ball of
fire—cracking whips and uttering hideous noises. We came across distinct
and recent tracks of a lion, two full-grown and one young elephant. I
also saw a few monkeys, a musk cat, several young tiger-cats and hundreds
of guinea-fowl. We shot on the march one eagle, two ariels, and two
gazelles; the latter are not so hard and dry as those in the desert.

[Illustration: THE KASSALA MOUNTAIN.]

On the 19th we made the usual march, encamping at Ashberra. The general
character of the country has now become much more varied and interesting.
This day we travelled through tall grass, about 10 feet high, for a
long time—perhaps an hour. When we got out of this we found ourselves
encountering the prickly thorns of the mimosa and kittar bushes. We had
now done with caravan routes entirely, and my camel-riding capabilities
were fully tested as I go up and down hill; now over rocky hills, down
steep banks and across dry river-courses, then through a forest of dhoum
palms, dodging as I go the great projecting strong branches, which appear
strong enough almost to decapitate or sweep me off my camel. Then, by
way of variety, we pass through a mile or two of the horrid cruel thorns
of the mimosa and kittar trees, which every now and then bury themselves
in my flesh, and tear my clothes and helmet as I duck my head to avoid
having my face lacerated. The camel, of course, walks on in the most
unconcerned manner, just as if he was on open ground, taking no notice
whatever of these obstructions, but brushing past them as if they were
twigs or straws. Everything, even the smallest of the mimosa tree, is
armed with long, strong, very sharp thorns. Each thorn is as sharp as a
needle and about an inch long; indeed, the native women use them as a
cobbler does his awl, and I have often seen a woman using the thorn to
pierce a girba and shreds of the palm leaf to sew it up with. The thorns
of the kittar bushes are quite semicircular in shape, very near to each
other, not long but very strong, and each successive thorn crooks in a
different direction to its predecessor—one crooks up and the other down.
When they catch hold of anyone they stick to him as close as a brother.
If my clothes get entangled, I must stay and pick myself out, or if I
elect to go on without doing so, I must submit to having my clothes, and
perchance my flesh, effectually torn across. We saw _en route_ a great
many baboons, vultures of course always, eagles, thousands of doves,
guinea-fowl, and recent tracks of elephants, lions, and leopards. Mr.
Phillipps and I, whilst stalking some gazelles in a large palm-grove,
lost the caravan for hours, and just as we emerged from it on to the
wide river-bed of the Mareb we came upon a large number of the Beni-Amir
tribe in that semi-nude condition, which is so fashionable amongst them,
watering their goats and cattle. We dismounted and joined the sable
throng, made them understand that we should like some goat’s milk, which
they gave us, after which we showed them our pocket and hunting knives,
revolvers, and watches. We were at once surrounded by an admiring throng
of our new acquaintances, who seemed greatly pleased with what they saw,
but when I applied my watch to the ear of one his surprise and delight
was immense, for he had never in his life seen a watch before. The
ticking tickled him greatly, so much so that he pushed all his friends
forward one after the other to participate in his joy. However, as the
long bushy hair of these fellows was streaming with fat, I observed
caution.

January 20th.—We were off at 9.30, and had not far to go ere we reached
Heikota, where the Beni-Amir tribe then lived. This was the shortest
march we ever made, for we arrived there at 11 a.m., amongst the most
luxuriant vegetation, encamping just by a huge baobob tree (_Adamsonia
digitata_), 51 feet in girth. Large as this may seem, it is not by any
means as large as they grow—they are frequently 60 to 85 feet in girth.
The trunk is not above 12 feet high ere the branches are put forth. The
flowers are in proportion to the size of the tree, and followed by a
fruit about 10 inches long. This looks like a greenish pod or capsule,
having a bloom on it such as we see on a plum; on breaking the capsule
we find a large number of granular-like substances very much resembling
pieces of white starch packed closely together, which have an agreeable
sub-acid flavour. When this white substance, which is very thin, is
dissolved, and it does so readily in the mouth, we came to a dark,
brownish little stone, very much like a tamarind stone in appearance,
but smaller. When dry, the pulp, by which the seeds are surrounded, is
powdered and brought to Europe from the Levant, under the name of _terra
sigillata lemnia_—the seeds are called _goui_.

Ere we could pitch our tents we had to cut down a number of young palm
trees, and clear away a quantity of tall grass, &c. Whilst doing so Sheik
Ahmed, of the powerful Beni-Amir tribe, who paid us a visit, gave us
a good deal more of manual labour by advising us to make a zareeba (a
fence of prickly trees), assigning as a reason, and a very substantial
one, the fact that lions came down every night, and often made such a
noise as to disturb his slumbers, but that we had nothing to fear from
his tribe. He said further that boa-constrictors and scorpions were very
common, leopards also. We found traces of the latter whilst clearing.
Sheik Ahmed, or Achmet, is said to be one of the most powerful Sheiks
in the Soudan; he certainly was far and away the best sample of a Sheik
that I have seen anywhere. His head was kept shaved; on it he wore a
tight-fitting white skull-cap. He was almost black, and of a determined
aspect, but his features were good, and his teeth white, sound and
regular; his eyes were keen, black and glittering as a hawk’s; he was
dressed in spotless white and scrupulously clean; quick in action,
thought, speech, and appearance. One might almost say really that he was
an educated man, for he could both write and read, and certainly looked a
remarkable, shrewd, and intelligent man. During the piping times of peace
he could be a merry fellow of infinite jest; and he and I cracked many
a joke together by the aid of an interpreter. He could also be a fierce
warrior when necessary, and bore marks, some deep ones, too, of many a
skirmish he had been engaged in. “Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but
being in at it, bear thyself, that thine opponent may beware of thee.”
The latter half of this proverb, I think, would be quite applicable to
our friend, Sheik Ahmed, as all his wounds were in front; the first
part, I fear, he would be rather regardless of, probably, indeed, more
of the temper of an Irishman handling a shillelagh at Donnybrook fair,
exclaiming—“Will ye jist thread on the tail of me coat, now?” And I
assure you, reader, that had you known Sheik Ahmed you would hesitate
ere you trod on his caudal appendage, if you discovered it. I have heard
that he is one of the most powerful vassals under the Khedive, and that
should occasion require he could put in the field about 10,000 horsemen
and tribesmen.

These people, over whom the Sheik seemed to possess great control and
authority, are quite pastoral in their pursuits, and own such enormous
flocks and herds as would astonish any ordinary mortal. These are every
night driven in from grazing to a large zareeba on the river-bed. I was
irresistibly reminded here of the patriarchs of old. Here was this Sheikh
with four wives and I don’t know how many children, the leader or petty
sovereign of a large and powerful tribe, over whom he possessed absolute
power, and, as I said before, owning these flocks and herds. On the
river-bed of the Mareb the tribe, or a part of it rather, lived, their
dwellings simply consisting of a few stakes driven into the sand, over
and around which is a covering of tall grass and matting made from the
palm leaves. They live in this neighbourhood as long as there is anything
for their flocks and herds to eat; when there is not, like locusts,
they move off a few miles to pastures new. Then, when the wet season
commences, they clear off to the mountains or desert, else the tetse fly
would destroy the animals. They seem a contented lot, and may truly say,
as a deceased M.P. once said, “My riches consist, not in the vastness of
my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.”

They live simply, on milk, honey, and dhurra principally, and to that
fact may be attributed the beautifully white sound teeth they possess.
I think I ought to say that the Sheik was good enough to ask me to stay
with the tribe for three or four years, and as an inducement was good
enough to say that if I would he would give me four wives, thus placing
me on a par with himself. However, I neither embraced this tempting offer
nor the sable females, and here I think the utterances of the deceased
M.P. would be peculiarly applicable. When the Sheik, who was very
friendly, left us, he accepted our invitation to dinner at 7 p.m. Quite
close to our camp was another zareeba; in this dwelt Herr Schumann and
his wild animals. He had, when we were there, three young elephants; two
females, and one rogue (the latter, being a rather fierce little fellow,
was chained by the leg), a few young lions, wild cats, leopards, and 15
young ostriches about the size of Dorking fowls.

_Apropos_ of the Mahdi, I find the following in to-day’s paper:

“April 2nd, ’84—An Austrian dealer in wild animals, writing from Kassala
to friends in Vienna, gives some information about the Mahdi, whom he
knows personally, and with whom he has frequently transacted business,
the Mahdi himself having for years past dealt in wild beasts for the
different European Zoological Gardens. He is described by the writer
as a very cunning impostor, and as an instance, it is related that a
short time ago he suddenly appeared with a number of warts on his right
cheek, these having been artificially produced by the aid of a German
called Schandorper, formerly a clown, and afterwards a hairdresser, now
in the service of the Mahdi. The reason was that the legends about the
expected Mahdi speak of him as having such marks. Like the beasts he
formerly dealt in, the Mahdi sleeps in the daytime and transacts business
during the night.” I have no doubt whatever that our old acquaintance,
who was the only animal collector I ever met with, is the author of the
preceding, and I think a very credible man.

In the evening, just before dinner, we heard near our camp a great number
of women and children, accompanied by the inevitable beating of the
tom-toms, and that wild, peculiar trilling note of a woman to which I
have before alluded. Being desirous to find out as much as I could of the
habits and customs of these people, I got Mr. Colvin to accompany me to
ascertain the cause. We went and found a great number of women shouting
and chanting, whilst a number of their braves were executing a war dance
with spear and shield, others in the meantime sharpening their spears.
Of course we were at a loss to account for the extreme activity and
evident war-like preliminaries, and returned to camp not feeling certain
whether these sharpened spears would not on the morrow make unpleasant
incisions in our intercastal spaces—at least Mr. Colvin, who was a very
facetious and witty fellow, humorously suggested this. On returning
to camp we passed Herr Schumann’s zareeba, and told him what we had
witnessed, asking him the meaning of it all. He narrated the following
tale of blood: The day before our arrival at Heikota, when we were in
the immediate neighbourhood, probably about the time we were encamping,
a number of the Basé people from the village of Sarcella had come upon
the children of the Beni-Amirs driving the flocks and herds in for the
night. They then perpetrated a deed which makes one shudder to think of,
for they were not satisfied with simply slaughtering these unoffending
children, but doing so in a most horrible manner; in short, they ripped
them open with their knives, and drove off about 2,000 head of cattle. In
consequence of this the Sheik had given the word to his men to prepare
for action, and they were now doing so, intending to make an attack on
the village of Sarcella in the morning.

In the evening we had a champagne dinner; the Sheik studiously avoided
the champagne, and had the shocking bad taste to prefer raspberry vinegar
and water. Herr Schumann also joined us, but, like a Christian, partook
of champagne.

We pretended not to know anything of this slaughtering business, so asked
the Sheik what was the reason of all the commotion amongst the tribe. He
related the same story, adding that he should get his men together in
the morning and attack these Basé (that means kill all they could lay
their hands on) and get his cattle back again. How ably he carried out
his destructive intentions I will tell the reader later on. The customs
are somewhat peculiar in this part of the world. Supposing I and my
party, who are not Beni-Amirs, enter the Basé country from the Beni-Amir
tribe, and they should be at enmity with them at that time, they would
regard us as enemies. Knowing this, we told the Sheik we were very sorry
this had occurred just now, as we intended to explore that country,
and his fighting might make it a very difficult, if not impossible
matter to do so. However, with the true instincts of a gentleman sheik,
he accommodated himself to all parties, very readily acquiesced in our
views, and was good enough to postpone his bloodthirsty intentions for a
few days.

After dinner we chatted round the camp fire for awhile, smoking the
“calumet of peace,” to use a Cooperian phrase, and retired to our
different tents to rest 9.30 p.m. The Sheik, ere he left us, accepted
an invitation to breakfast next day at 7 a.m. If we are late birds in
England, we are early ones in the Soudan.

January 21st.—True to his appointment the Sheik breakfasted with us this
morning. He was not only punctual, but he literally _did_ breakfast;
there was no finiking and fiddling about with his food, for he disposed
of it in a most straightforward manner. Imagine an opening in the
pavement for the reception of coals, and you have a pretty good idea of
the rapid disappearance of food down the œsophagus of our friend. We
commenced with porridge and milk; a dish evidently highly appreciated by
the Sheik; then we had minced collops, kippered herrings, gazelle, stewed
kidneys, wild honey, French jam and coffee, to all of which Sheik Ahmed
did ample justice. After breakfast many warriors drop into camp, and,
in their fashion, squat round in a circle on their haunches. One of the
spears was covered with leather as a sign that they were at peace with
us. A great and long pow-wow ensued as to our future journey; we should
want to buy or hire camels for going through the Basé country, as those
we had hired at Kassala would have to return from Heikota.

Last night we were rather disturbed by the noise of lions, and this
morning, within about a dozen yards of my tent, I found their footprints,
fortunately outside the zareeba. I dare say I spent about an hour or
so at my tent this morning attending to a large number of natives, and
afterwards visited others in their own tents on the river-bed. In some
instances I was obliged to crawl in on my hands and knees. When I had
finished my morning’s work I took up my shot gun and strolled off in
quest of some beautifully plumaged birds which were abundant here and
brought home an eagle, paroquet, laughing-bird, falcon, and shreik, which
I skinned after luncheon.

We again invited Sheik Ahmed and Herr Schumann to join us at the festive
board at 7 p.m.; we also told the former to let his people know that at
about 8.30 p.m. there would be what they call a _fantasia_. Just before
7 p.m. the Sheik arrived and behaved himself in quite a gentlemanly
manner. He was dressed in spotless white, and was so particular as to
borrow a pen-knife from me to clean his nails with (a great instance of
the civilizing effect of Englishmen). Although we drank iced champagne
and claret, he stuck to raspberry vinegar and water, which he consumed
with great relish. He was rather clumsy with a knife and fork; indeed,
almost the only breach of manners that he perpetrated was to finish up
the repast (just before coffee was brought) by plunging the teaspoon
into the preserve, scooping out as much as it would conveniently hold,
conveying it to his mouth and replacing the spoon in the preserve; this
mode of eating has its inconveniences.

Another peculiarity of his was a singular habit that one requires to get
thoroughly accustomed to to really appreciate; he generally indulged in
it largely at meal times when conversing, and having his face directed
to the object of attack. I scarcely know how to describe it, and perhaps
ought not to do so in polite society, but that I wish to tell my readers
exactly what kind of a man this was. It was a method (not unfamiliar
even to English ears) of producing a peculiar vibration or concussion of
the atmosphere by a noise proceeding from the mouth; some polite people
would call it an eructation, but that is not sufficiently explanatory. It
is familiarly and vulgarly known as “belching,” and so frequently did it
occur at meal times that it became known amongst ourselves as “the genial
belch of the Sheik.” I suggested that probably it was a complimentary
proceeding on his part, but I must say if it was so we could readily
have forgiven this _too_ frequent formality. After dinner a great many
of his people assembled (no women, and very few children) to witness the
mysteries and wonders of the magic lantern, or _fantasia_. Would that I
had the pencil of an artist to delineate the picture which the _Graphic_
or any other illustrated paper would have been glad to have reproduced.
Here we were encamped in equatorial Africa; we had five tents pitched
amongst waving dhoum palms, tamarisk, and tamarind, nebbuck, baobob,
hegleek, ebony, and other trees, and the usual luxuriant growth of tall
grass and young palms. About three hundred of these dusky-skinned, almost
black, agile-looking fellows, wearing simply the tope or loin-cloth,
the foremost squatting on their haunches, the rest standing behind, the
Europeans in white clothing, and the picturesquely-dressed Sheik in his
white turban and robes. It was a weird, wild scene, when viewed by the
flickering light of the lanterns as they moved about the camp, but
when the moon shone out, shedding a soft, bright light on the scene, it
certainly was a most charming and interesting picture. Amidst it all
could be seen three hundred glittering spear-heads, making the picture
complete. How easily, had they been so disposed, could these wild sons of
the Soudan have made an end of us, but I am happy to say this ceremony
was not included in the evening’s programme. We placed a wet sheet across
the entrance to one of the bell-tents, and as the Queen (whom they called
the Sultana) the Prince and Princess of Wales, the elephant, lion,
rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffe, ostrich, crocodile (snapping his jaws
together), and other animals with which they were familiar, appeared on
the canvas, the delight of these grown-up children was manifested by loud
expressions of approval. When the Sheik, his retinue and people took
their departure, we further astonished them by letting off rockets and
illuminating their way with red and blue fire. If I went out there again
I should certainly take out a galvanic battery, which I am sure would
astonish and amuse immensely. We here engaged fresh camel-men, huntsmen,
horse-boys, and servants, at rather high wages, on account of the
rumoured ferocious character of the Basé, the Sheik taking a pretty good
share of the wages himself. All camels were bought, not hired; when we
wanted to hire we were cheerfully assured by the owners that we should
very likely all be killed by the Basé or Kunama people, and they would
lose their camels. The Sheik was presented with a capital bell-tent,
a rifle, and a good musical-box, which played six airs, others, with
razors, butchers’ knives in sheaths, topes, beads, knives, scissors,
small portable looking-glasses, &c., all of which were productive of
great wonder and joy. Sheik Ahmed, in return, sent us a present of ten
sheep and ten milk-giving goats, so that now we had sixteen goats, which
furnished us with plenty of milk every morning to our porridge. As we
intended resuming our journey on the morrow, we were all busy writing
letters to England, which Herr Schumann engaged to forward to Kassala.

On the 22nd January we were up in good time, as there was a good deal
to be seen to ere we continued our march. We intended to return to
Heikota after exploring the Basé country, which we thought would occupy
about four or five weeks. It would not, therefore, be necessary to
take all our baggage with us; accordingly, a considerable quantity was
left behind in Herr Schumann’s zareeba until our return—assuming that
we should do so. I was, as usual, busily occupied after breakfast in
attending to my patients, who not only came from close by, but from long
distances on camels. It had got noised abroad from Kassala that there
was a “Hakeem Ingelese” travelling with these gentlemen, and whenever
we encamped anywhere for a day or two many patients came to visit me.
They appeared inordinately fond of my pills, and would swallow them
with as much avidity as boys in our country swallow lollipops. To judge
from what was expected of me, they must have thought that I was endowed
with almost supernatural powers. One boy was brought to me whose hip
had been dislocated a year or so before; another person who had been
positively blind from ophthalmia two years, hoped I could let in a stream
of welcome light: Alas! poor fellow, I could not make the blind see, or
the lame walk, under such circumstances. However, I was often able to
effect cures in some and relief in other cases, and when we returned to
Heikota many grateful patients came to thank me; one would give me some
dhurra, another a skin of milk, an Arab knife, a spear, a sheep, and so
on. Gratitude even is pleasing to a doctor, although sometimes a scarce
commodity. We did not succeed in making a start until 4 p.m.; halted at
six. The Sheik, who came part way with us, on returning to his tribe,
said he would join us in the morning, and see us well on the way ere
he interviewed the Basé at Sarcella, whom he had an account to settle
with. During our various conversations with him he informed us that we
should find abundance of shooting of every kind in the country—elephants,
lions, leopards, porcupines, wild cats, hyænas, buffaloes, jackals,
giraffes, ostriches, rhinoceros, antelopes of different kinds, gazelles,
oterops, ariels, maarifs, mehedehét, tetél, nellut, dick-dick, baboons
and monkeys; all kinds of birds; falcons, Egyptian hawks, rollo-birds,
paroquets, eagles, vultures, doves, quail, partridges, sand-grouse,
guinea-fowl, and I don’t know what besides—all of which was quite true;
there was really enough of shooting of every description to satisfy the
most ardent sportsman. He also advised us, when we got into the Basé
country, not to have our guns, rifles, and revolvers in cases, but ready
at a moment’s notice, night and day, and this advice we strictly followed
during the whole of our journey.

On the 23rd we marched nine hours, encamping at a place called Toodlook.
Our sleep was rather disturbed in the night by the noise of lions and
hyænas, which came very near the camp. We marched to-day through varied
scenery and pretty country—now along the Mareb, then for two hours across
country, through jungle, again coming on to the Mareb, across it, and
over a plain studded with trees and shrubs, finally encamping by the side
of the Mareb. Whilst our tents were being pitched, Messrs. A. and W.
James and I reconnoitred, soon coming near to a place where there was
some water. Suddenly we discovered, about two hundred yards from us, a
fine lion lying down on a little elevated land, no doubt on the look-out
for some unsuspecting antelope coming to drink. Mr. A. James ran back
to camp for his rifle, crept up, without arousing the suspicion of the
noble beast, and fired, but not being near enough, missed him. The lion
simply got up and calmly turned off into the jungle, where it was deemed
unadvisable to follow him. On our way back to camp we saw one place where
there had evidently been a desperate struggle between a lion and his
prey; the former evidently had the best of it, as we saw a long trail, he
having dragged his supper into some long grass and young palms.

On the 25th we were up and off in good time, leaving Suleiman and the
English servants to follow in charge of the caravan. Last night a
rather curious adventure occurred to me, which might have had a curious
termination. When we arrived at a camping-ground I usually selected the
spot for my tent, quite regardless of where the others were going to be
pitched. On this occasion I had done so, and ordered it to be pitched
under some trees close to young palms and tall grass, some distance from
the others. Suleiman remonstrated with me for doing so, saying that
the Basé or lions might come down in the night. However I would have
it so. Every day whilst we dined a large camp-fire was lighted, as the
nights were very chilly, although the heat was so great in the daytime.
Around this we smoked and chatted over politics, English friends and the
events of the day, and plans for the future, skinned birds or animals,
wrote letters, or posted up diaries. At half-past nine or ten o’clock we
gradually melted away one by one to bed. On this night I was the last,
having stayed to have an extra pipe. At last I lighted my lantern, was
walking off to, and had nearly reached, my tent, when I was startled by
a low growl issuing from a thick growth of young palms, about a dozen
yards from my tent; there was no mistaking the nature of the growl, and
I rapidly executed a retrograde movement, poked my head into the nearest
tent, calling out to the semi-sleeping occupants thereof, “I say, did you
hear that salutation just as I was going to my tent?” Answer by Mr. F. L.
James and Mr. Phillipps, “No; what was it, doctor? We were just going to
sleep.” “Why, it is a lion close to my tent, and there is no mistaking
it.” They laughed immensely, and seemed to think it a good joke, but
jumped up and came with me towards my tent, I think slightly incredulous.
Their incredulity was, at all events, quickly dispelled, as the lion, by
another louder expression of opinion, gave us distinctly to understand
that he was not only in unpleasant proximity to, but had his eye on us.
Again an _extremely_ rapid retrograde movement by the trio ensued, and
a joking remark from Lort Phillipps, “Doctor, you will be dragged off
to-night, as sure as fate,” and a consoling remark from Mr. F. James that
the lion was perhaps hungry. We seized some burning brands from the fire,
and piled on a large number of dried palm leaves in front of my tent. I
then retired to rest in peace, and when I arose in the morning my friends
were, I hope, pleased to find I was not in pieces. We heard both lions
and panthers in the night pretty near to us, but so long as they did not
visit the camp we did not care. In the morning at breakfast the Sheik
was highly amused by an account of my night’s experience, and extremely
jocular over it. This day we killed two tetél on the march, and caught
fifty-seven sand-grouse in a net, but only kept sufficient for dinner and
luncheon. One of our courses at dinner was an omelette of ostrich eggs.