HELIOPOLIS

My next visit was to Heliopolis on donkey-back. I was told that it would
be a nice ride, but nothing to see except an obelisk when I got there.
Notwithstanding this, I felt very desirous of visiting this ancient seat
of learning, where Moses had lived and “become learned in all the wisdom
of the Egyptians.” Accordingly Ibrahim and I started off. Leaving the
citadel and tombs of the Caliphs on my right, I had a pleasant ride of
about two hours or so from Cairo through avenues of acacias and tamarisk
trees, a large plain covered with a luxuriant growth of sugar-cane,
citrons, lemons, oranges, ricinus, cactuses, olive trees and palms.
Before reaching the mounds of Heliopolis is a well of fine water on
the border of a grove of citrons and palms, and in the midst of these
is a venerable old sycamore enclosed by palisades and regarded with
veneration by the Copts, as the place where Joseph, Mary and the infant
Saviour rested on their flight into Egypt. Although a very aged tree,
it cannot be, of course, as old as the legend affirms. It is, however,
a very pretty spot, sheltered from the busy hum of life, embowered in
citron thickets, which resound with the music of birds, and with tall,
waving palm trees, on the trembling branches of which large vultures
rock to and fro. I approach the site of Heliopolis on a dead level, and
find that it stood formerly on an artificial elevation, overlooking
lakes which were fed by canals communicating with the Nile. With what
history does this place teem! Here, or in the vicinity, Jeremiah wrote
his Lamentations. Thales, Solon, Pythagoras and Plato studied here. From
the learned priests of Heliopolis, Plato—who studied here for several
years—is believed to have derived the doctrine of the immortality of the
soul and of a future state of rewards and punishments. This neighbourhood
was probably the scene of the Exodus of the Israelites, and here was
the most celebrated university in the world for philosophy and science.
It was here that Potipherah, the priest or Prince of On, resided. Here
Joseph married his daughter Asenath, who became the mother of Ephraim
and Manasseh. Now what do I see? This once famous city of the sun, the
Heliopolis of Herodotus and Strabo, the On of Joseph, the Bethshemesh of
Jeremiah, the university of the world at that time, with its collection
of colleges and temples, avenues of sphinxes and extensive dwellings of
the learned priests, dazzling palaces, obelisks and splendid edifices
has been almost blotted out, and as I stood there absorbed in thought,
and feebly endeavouring to picture to myself this place as it once
stood, teeming with life, wealth and power, those beautiful words of
Shakespeare, our immortal bard, came floating through my mind as very
descriptive of what I now saw—

The cloud-capt towers,
The gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples,
The great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit,
Shall dissolve,
And like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Leave not a wreck behind.

All was now desolation, if I except the massive foundations of the Temple
of the Sun, which are still visible in a few places. The one solitary
object that serves to mark this once celebrated city is an obelisk of
solid granite, 62 feet high, the last monument of a temple that once
vied in magnificence with those of Karnak or Baalbeck, and which has
been pointing to the sky from the time of the old monarchy for more than
4,000 years. It bears the name of Osirtesen I. (Joseph’s contemporary),
the first great name in Theban history, builder of the older and smaller
part of the great temple of Karnak and King of Upper and Lower Egypt,
and probably where I then stood looking at, but unable to decipher the
hieroglyphics on this obelisk, Joseph and Moses (who had both been
admitted to the priest cast) had stood before me. _Sic transit gloria
mundi._

I had now seen all there was to see, and was pleased that I had made this
visit, so I mounted my donkey and got back to Cairo. It happened to be
Friday, the Mahomedan Sunday. On this day all the rank and fashion can be
seen between four and six driving up and down the Shoubra Road. This is
lined by a splendid avenue of trees, which meet over-head, thus forming
a delightful shade. It was now about 4 p.m.; I performed a hasty toilet
and set off for a carriage drive down this road. I found it thronged with
visitors and a goodly sprinkling of officers, amongst whom I saw the now
famous Arabi Pacha. Mounted sentries also were posted at intervals each
side of the road as the Khedive usually takes a drive there every Friday
about 4 or 5 p.m. I had not been there long ere he came sweeping down
with his escort.

Next day I devoted to exploring the ancient (probably the most ancient
city in the world), Memphis, the Noph of the Bible, and its necropolis,
Sakhara. According to Herodotus its foundation was ascribed to Menes, the
first King of Egypt. If this was so it would be about 6,000 years old,
and it is said that the art of building was known centuries before his
time.

It is quite a good day’s work to perform this journey in the blazing sun.
I get an early breakfast and leave at 7.30 on my donkey, accompanied by
Ibrahim on another donkey, in possession of my luncheon. The distance
to the railway station is about two miles. Here I procure tickets for
ourselves and the two donkeys, proceed to Bedrashyn, a distance of about
ten miles, then remount and pass through the village of Mitrahenny, then
a very fine palm-grove, on to the site of ancient Memphis, once a large,
rich, and splendid city, remarkable for its temples and palaces. As late
as 524 B.C., at the time of the conquest of Cambyses it was the chief
commercial centre of the country, and was connected by canals with the
Lakes Mœris and Mareotis. Some distance from the village of Mitrahenny I
saw near the pathway a colossal statue of Rameses the Great in excellent
preservation. It is composed of a single block of red granite, polished.
It was originally 50 feet in length, but has been mutilated, and now
does not measure more than 48 feet. It lies on its side in a pit by the
wayside, which, during the inundation of the Nile, is filled with water.
On its subsidence the alluvial deposit is scraped off sufficiently to
show the statue to travellers. Vast mounds of broken pottery and statuary
are to be seen about here and Sakhara, probably burying the ancient city.
Sakhara is about two miles or so from Memphis, and the greater part of
the ride lies through sandy desert. It lies, in fact, on the edge of the
Lybian Desert. It is remarkable for its ancient monuments, among which
are 30 pyramids. The great step pyramid is said to be even older than the
pyramids of Gizeh. Besides these 30 there are the ruins of a great many
others, and numberless grottoes, sarcophagi, the Ibis catacombs, and Apis
Mausoleum, which was discovered by Mariette Bey. He observed the head of
a sphinx protruding from the sand, and remembering that Strabo described
the Serapeum of Memphis as approached by an avenue of sphinxes, he at
once commenced his explorations in search of the temple in which Apis was
worshipped when alive and the tomb in which it was buried when dead. The
sand-drift, after immense exertions, was cleared away, and the avenue was
laid bare from a superincumbent mass, which was in some places 70 feet
deep. Conceive, if you can, the splendour of this imposing approach; no
less than 141 sphinxes were discovered _in situ_, besides the pedestals
of others. The temple to which they led has disappeared, but the tomb
remains.

I go down hill, nearly up to my knees in sand, with my guide. A great
door is unlocked and thrown open, we then light our candles and explore.
We proceed a considerable distance through a passage or tunnel, and
then find ourselves in a large vault or tunnel some 200 or 300 yards in
length. Chambers lead out of it on either side as large as an ordinary
sitting-room, and about 12 feet high, in each of which is a ponderous
granite sarcophagus, polished. Placed on the sarcophagus like a lid was a
granite slab of great size and weight, the whole weighing about 20 tons.
Near the subterranean cemetery of the bulls are the groves or pits of the
sacred Ibis also formerly worshipped. These are enclosed in earthenware
vases; the bones and broken urns now lie scattered all around. These huge
blocks of granite were actually transported from the quarries near Syene
to Memphis, a distance of nearly 600 miles! I carefully examined one
sarcophagus containing the embalmed dead deity. It was carved all over
with sacred hieroglyphics, sharp and clear in their outlines, and the
polish on the marble bright as it was 3,000 years ago. I saw between 30
and 40 of these sarcophagi here.

The worship of the bull Apis was celebrated with great pomp and
splendour, and he was regarded as the representative of Osiris.

His interment would cost as much as that of any king or conqueror. It
was necessary that he should be black with a triangle of white on the
forehead, a white spot in the form of a crescent on the right side,
and a sort of knot like a beetle under his tongue. When a bull of this
description was found he was fed four months, in a building facing the
east. At the new moon he was led to a splendid ship with great solemnity
and conveyed to Heliopolis, where he was fed 40 days more by priests and
women, who performed before him various indecent ceremonies. After this
no one was suffered to approach him. From Heliopolis the priests carried
him to Memphis, where he had a temple, two chapels to dwell in, and a
large court for exercise. He had a prophetic power which he imparted to
the children about him. The omen was good or bad according as he went
into one stable or the other. His birthday was celebrated every year
when the Nile began to rise; the festival continued seven days. A golden
patera was thrown into the Nile, and it was said that the crocodile was
tame as long as the feast continued. He was only suffered to live 25
years, and at his death he was embalmed and buried in these sarcophagi
amidst universal mourning till the priest had found a successor.

When I emerged once more from this mausoleum and struggled up through
the sand I paid a visit to the tomb of King Phty or Phta, said to be
5,400 years old. His sarcophagus is similar to those I had just visited,
and is contained in a nice lofty room, the walls of which, as are the
walls of the chapel outside, plentifully and excellently sculptured,
and quite fresh in appearance, though so ancient. I do not remember
all I saw represented on the walls and tombs, but amongst other things
there were lions, giraffes, ostriches, sacred Ibis, owls, crocodiles,
elephants, buffaloes, a boat floating on the water with a man in it,
and in the water fish of different kinds, Egyptians fishing, harpooning
the hippopotamus, agricultural pursuits, ploughing and sowing, treading
out the corn just as they do now, the butcher sharpening his knife, the
butcher killing the animal whilst another holds him down, hunting,
battle scenes, &c., &c. Some figures on the wall had been painted red;
the paint is still good and not at all frayed. In another excavation,
after leaving this tomb, I saw a mummy; but I must not expend too much
time over this place, although I feel quite disposed to keep on talking
of it. We cannot leave the plain of Memphis without recurring to the most
memorable event in all its eventful history. It was probably here that
Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh and demanded that he should let the
people go. This was the spot where “Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and
all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in
Egypt, for there was not a house in which there was not one dead.”

Ruminating on the mutability of human affairs, I mounted my donkey, had
a long ride through beautiful palm groves, and finally emerged from
the village of Gizeh on to the main road from the pyramids and over
a handsome bridge across the Nile to my hotel. When half-way across
the Nile, I observed the Khedive and his escort coming along, so I
got off my donkey to watch him pass. I took off my hat to him, and he
acknowledged my salutation with a gracious bow. As I returned homewards,
in imagination I saw these glorious cities of old Egypt peopled. I tried
to picture to myself—feebly, I dare say—the splendour and wealth of
those people, the magnificence of the designs carried out, the result of
which was that neither before nor since has the sun shone on anything
like such superb, massive, and imposing temples, palaces, and tombs in
the world. Thebes, with its hundred gates, was perhaps the most splendid
city in the world for many centuries. Then there were Luxor, Karnak,
Philæ, Elephantine, Baalbeck, Dendera, Aba-Simbal, Abydos, Esneh,
Edfau, Silsilis, and other places, all decorated with palaces, temples,
pyramids, tombs, and sphinxes, &c., on the same magnificent scale; but
all have shared the same fate, and their stupendous ruins are all that
remain to strike the stranger with awe and wonder.

About two days after our arrival in Cairo, our party was augmented by the
arrival of Mr. W. D. James, Mr. A. James, and Mr. Percy Aylmer, Mahoom,
a black boy; who had been rescued from the Soudan some years beforehand;
Jules, George, and Anselmia, the three latter European servants. Here we
engaged Suleiman as a sort of general manager for the caravan; he had
travelled through the Soudan with Sir Samuel Baker; Ali, a very good
cook, and Cheriffe, who made a very good butler, and had been accustomed
to travel as a kind of steward on the Nile boats.

Our next move was on to Suez by rail, a day’s journey through another
very interesting portion of Egypt, the land of Goshen, the home of the
Israelites for 430 years. A good deal of country near the line of railway
is now under good cultivation, supplied by the Sweet Water Canal. The
earliest attempt that we are acquainted with to construct a canal was by
Rameses the Great. It was between 50 and 60 miles in length, and left
the Nile at Bubastis, reaching into the neighbourhood of Lake Timsah.
Upon it Rameses built his two treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses near
Ismailia, mentioned in the 1st chapter of Exodus, and there is little
doubt that the Israelites, who were then in bondage, laboured at these
cities, and the canal 3,000 years ago. It is probable also that the
canal dated far back beyond this time, for the Egyptians had been great
in canal making 1,000 years or more before then. One of the greatest
marks of Rameses was the covering the whole of Egypt with a net-work of
waterways in connection with the river. They served a double purpose—they
greatly extended the supply of water and the area of cultivation, and
were invaluable for defensive purposes. Many centuries after this Pharaoh
Necho took this canal in hand 500 or 600 years B.C. He undertook to adapt
it for navigation and prolong it to the head of the Arabian Gulf. He is
the only Egyptian monarch whose name appears connected with maritime
enterprise, and he was so zealous as to perfect the formation of a ship
canal connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. He carried the great work as
far as the Bitter Lakes, and then abandoned it, warned by an oracle to
desist, after expending the lives of 120,000 fellahs. Herodotus actually
_saw_ the docks, which as a part of the plan, he had constructed on the
Red Sea. One conqueror succeeded another, and the works got neglected
and the canal choked up. The Romans again carried on extensive repairs
and alterations, but on the downfall of the Roman Empire anarchy and
confusion prevailed, and all public works were allowed to fall into
dilapidation. The canals were choked up, and remained unnavigable till
the Arab conquest of Egypt. Under the vigorous administration of Amrou
they were re-opened, and corn and other provisions were conveyed along
them for the use of Mecca, Medina, and other Arabian towns. A very great
deal could be said about their ancient canals, but I have only time to
glance _en passant_ at a little of the ancient history of the places I
passed by. In the evening we arrived at Suez, 76 miles east of Cairo.
There is very little to interest or amuse at Suez, but here we were
obliged to remain for nearly a week by reason of stoppages in the canal,
which are frequent. The day after our arrival we took donkey rides down
the Mole, which is 850 yards long, to see after our provisions, tents,
&c., which Mr. James and his friends had got together for our campaigning
in the Soudan. We found them, and there sure enough was a stambouk (a
native boat something like a fishing smack) not only full but piled
up with everything that we could possibly require, and the collecting
of which must have necessitated a great deal of forethought. Two days
after our arrival, Mr. J. B. Colvin, of Monkham’s Hall, Waltham Abbey,
arrived by steamer from Australia, to join us, thus completing the party.
During our stay here there happened to be an eclipse of the moon. This
appeared to have a very disturbing influence on the native element, as I
should think that every tom-tom in Suez was called into requisition and
incessantly beaten all over the town during the eclipse to drive away
the evil spirits. If it did not succeed I have no hesitation in saying
that all the good spirits (ourselves) would very soon have vanished if
we could. We had ample time to explore the town both by day and night,
and amuse ourselves as well as we could by donkey rides down the Mole,
boating, fishing and bathing, but whilst bathing we were careful not
to go far from shore for a header or remain in long, as sharks are so
plentiful in the Red Sea. One evening, two or three of us were wandering
about at night and heard strange noises issuing from a small building.
We were sufficiently inquisitive to go up a narrow passage to ascertain
the cause. There we found about a dozen very dirty howling dervishes in
the odour of sanctity (a decidedly strong odour we thought) performing
their senseless and absurd mode of worship with great energy. They were
in a dirty room, having a damp, uneven, earthen floor, the dimensions of
which were about 7 feet high, 7 feet wide, and perhaps 10 feet long.
Very little light or air could find its way in. The weather was very hot,
and the sudoriferous glands of these unsavoury gentry were in an abnormal
state of activity. Need I say that we remained here a very short time?
We were all thoroughly tired of Suez, and anxious to get on to Souâkin,
but unfortunately, amongst all the steamers blocked in the Suez Canal, we
could not hear of a single one bound for Souâkin. The _Agra_, a British
India steamer, was bound for Jeddah, on the opposite coast, so Mr. James
telegraphed to London, asking the Company to let us be taken to Souâkin.
They acceded to the request. Accordingly, on the 8th December, we got on
board, unloaded the stambouk, and started off for Souâkin, _the_ port
of Nubia, and indeed of Central Africa, since made historical by our
slaughter of thousands of Arabs in that neighbourhood. The places of
interest pointed out to us on the Red Sea coast were Moses’ Well, Mount
Sinai, and the spot where the Israelites crossed. Here the arm of the sea
is 12 miles wide, and just here Pi-hahiroth before Baal-zephon is the one
and only opening in the mountains. Here one million and a half of the
Israelites—men, women, and children—passed through in the night, whilst
the army of Egypt pursued them. After a most agreeable but very warm
voyage (90° F. in the shade) of 3½ days we reached Souâkin. During our
last day at sea Captain Smith was very careful in his navigation, as the
Red Sea, particularly in that last day’s voyage, abounds in coral-reefs.

We were now just about to land in the Soudan, and as that word is, as I
am writing, in everyone’s mouth, it would be as well to say something
about it before I go any further.

The Soudan, or Beled-es-Sudan, Land of the Blacks, has since the Middle
Ages been the common name of the vast extent of country in Central
Africa, which stretches southward from the Desert of Sahara to the
Equator. The name was originally applied by the Arabs, but with great
latitude of signification, different authors giving it to the different
parts of the territory with which the varying routes across the desert
made them acquainted. Later geographers divide it into High and Low
Soudan. Many include Senegambia in it. High Soudan stretches from the
sources of the Niger, Senegal and Gambia, to the Upper Nile, or, at all
events, to the south of Lake Chad, and embraces the mountains of Kong
and of Upper Senegambia, the kingdoms of Ashantee, Dahomey, Mandingo,
Houssah, and Feelah. All this country is richly watered and wooded,
distinguished by a luxuriant tropical vegetation and by deposits of gold.
Low Soudan stretches on the north of High Soudan, eastward to Kordofan,
and northward to the desert. This district is partly level, partly
undulating, and partly broken by chains of lofty hills rising within
its own limits. Its situation between the desert on the north and the
mountains which border it on the south, with a climate destructive to
foreigners, and a lawless and predatory population, make it one of the
most inaccessible regions in the world. In the south, where it is watered
by the Niger, Lake Tchad, and their tributaries, it assumes a fertile
and cultivated appearance. The inhabitants contain numerous nations of
different races, chiefly of the Negro, Fulde, or Fellatah stems, together
with many Arab colonists.

This is what Sir Samuel Baker says about the Soudan in the _Contemporary
Review_: “Before the White Nile annexation the Soudan was accepted as
a vague and unsatisfactory definition as representing everything south
of the first cataract at Assouan, without any actual limitation; but
the extension of Egyptian territory to the Equator has increased the
value of the term, and the word Soudan now embraces the whole of that
vast region which comprises the Deserts of Libya, the ancient Merve,
Dongola, Kordofan, Darfur, Senaar, and the entire Nile Basin, bordered
on the east by Abyssinia, and elsewhere by doubtful frontiers. The Red
Sea alone confines the Egyptian limit to an unquestionable line. Wherever
the rainfall is regular the country is immensely fertile; therefore the
Soudan may be divided into two portions—the great deserts which are
beyond the rainy zone, and consequently arid, and the southern provinces
within that zone, which are capable of great agricultural development.
Including the levels of the mighty Nile, a distance is traversed of about
3,300 miles from the Victoria N’yanza to the Mediterranean; the whole of
this region throughout its passage is now included in the name ‘Soudan.’”

We had on board Captain Gascoigne and Dr. Melidew, of the Royal Horse
Guards. They were also bent on a shooting expedition in the Soudan,
but did not accompany us farther than Souâkin. There were several other
passengers on board bound for India.

We landed at Souâkin on the quay, in a large open square. One side is
occupied by what is absurdly called the palace, a large building in which
the Governor transacts his official duties, the opposite side by the
custom-house, the other by a guard-house, whilst the opposite side was
not occupied by any building, but was open to and contiguous to the Red
Sea; it was, in fact, the quay.

Here I saw nine tons of elephants’ tusks ready for shipment. The average
weight of each pair of tusks would be somewhere about 36lbs. I computed
that about 560 elephants would have been slaughtered to make up nine
tons of ivory; and if elephants are killed at that rate, people may well
exclaim about the scarcity of ivory. What next attracted my attention was
about 60 Bedouin Arabs in heavy chains, wandering about in this large
open square. These poor fellows had to pay their gaolers 100 dollars
a month. The Maria Theresa dollar which is in use in the Soudan, and
preferred to any other coin, is worth 4s. of our money. They had to
find their own food, or rather their tribe did so. I was told that at
one time they were a strong tribe, and had come over from Arabia. They
had at one time 8,000 camels, but they had dwindled down to 2,000, as
whenever they failed to pay the taxes some of their camels were seized.
I cannot speak with any certainty of their offence, but somehow or other
they had incurred the anger of the then Governor of the Soudan, Ali Riza
Pacha, about a year beforehand. He clapped them into irons, and there
they seemed likely to remain, unless some more kindly-disposed Governor
superseded him. This fortunately happened not long before our return to
Souâkin in the following April, when Ali Dheen Pacha was appointed, who
soon liberated them.

The inhabitants of Souâkin are principally Arabs, a few Greek and Italian
merchants, and two Englishmen. The Government usually have a garrison
of about 300 Nubian troops stationed in an undefended barrack on the
mainland, about a mile from the town.

Blind to their own interest, the Egyptian Government obstructs traffic by
the heavy duties which it levies. Cattle and sheep, which can be obtained
from the tribes in the neighbourhood, are sent by hundreds annually to
Suez by sea. Were it not for the heavy duties imposed, I should say that
a large trade ought to be done with Suez, which is but three and a half
days from Souâkin. There is a telegraph line to Kassala. They have large
numbers of camels for sale or hire, but no horses, mules, or donkeys. The
water is collected during the wet season in a large reservoir about a
mile from the town; there are also two or three wells at the same place.

We soon introduced ourselves to Mr. Brewster, an Englishman, and head
of the custom-house; and he in turn sent for Achmet Effendi, the Civil
Governor of Souâkin, to whom he introduced us. Of course, there followed
the inevitable salaaming, coffee and cigarettes, so customary in the
East. Our business was very soon explained; we wanted about 80 camels
provided without delay to transport ourselves and our baggage across
the desert to Kassala. The camel sheik, Moussa, was sent for, and soon
appeared—a really picturesque, handsome-featured man, almost black,
possessed of gleaming, regular teeth, wearing a snow-white turban and
loose white robe, precisely like the ancient Roman toga. _En passant_, I
cannot help thinking that the slang word “togs” is derived from the word
toga.

The Sheik Moussa promised to provide us with the camels within three
days; and, strange to say, he did so, a singular instance of a man
keeping his word to one in the East. I know that my experience amongst
the officials in Turkey was very different—there everything was put off
until to-morrow. A day would be fixed for me to call at the Seraskierat,
or War Office, and when I went I was usually met with the reply, “Yarrin
sabbah, effendi” (to-morrow, sir), or “Ywash, ywash” (by and bye), not
once or twice, but I daresay five or six times. Another inconvenient
phrase which is always on their lips if one wants any money from them,
and which is spoken trippingly on the tongue, is “Para yok” (no paras),
in English, “I haven’t a farthing.”

It soon became known that there was a “Hakeem Ingelese,” as they called
me, in our party, and I very soon had many patients, amongst whom was a
child of one of the Bedouin Arabs.

In the afternoon I improved my acquaintance with Mr. Brewster, who had
officially resided here four years, and, of course, knew most of the
people and the customs of the place. There are a great many good and
curiously-built houses with flat roofs, built of blocks of white coral,
and a great many tent-like structures constructed with reeds, stalks of
palm leaves, and matting, which is very cheap and abundant, made by the
natives out of palm leaves. Mr. Brewster was good enough to escort me
over Souâkin, and give me all the information he could about the place
and people. As we strolled on he pointed out the home of a slave-dealer,
who then had several slaves—children and young girls. These could easily
be transferred as ivory, dhurra, or something of the kind, as old Achmet
Effendi connived at slave-dealing, and would shut his eyes to the
transaction provided his palm was crossed with a couple of dollars per
head. The little children realize from 30 to 40 dollars a head, and young
girls 70, 80, or 100 dollars.

“Why,” said I, “in England it is supposed that the slave trade has been
abolished in Egypt long ago. When in Cairo I saw the slave-market, but
was told no slaves have been sold there for the past three or four year.”

“Ah,” said he, “you will find, when you get further into Africa, that it
is still carried on, and more openly than it is here. When they have been
captured they are driven across the desert just like cattle to some quiet
place on the Red Sea coast, where there is a stambouk waiting; there
shipped and taken across to Jeddah in a day or so, and sold by public
auction.” The only other Englishman resident at Souâkin was Mr. Bewlay;
he had at once lived in Jeddah for a time, and he assured me that he had
often seen slaves sold there. _Apropos_ of my profession, Mr. Brewster
related a very interesting, and, to me, a very instructive anecdote,
which served to enlighten me considerably as to the peculiar line of
thought which sometimes permeates the native brain, and to the still more
peculiar line of action which it leads to. He told me that about three
years or so before our arrival a German doctor, who had settled there,
whilst attending a native, had occasion to perform some trivial operation
which was not attended with the success which he desired or anticipated,
as unfortunately for the native, and subsequently for the doctor, the
former was so inconsiderate as to expire a day or two afterwards. The
doctor could truly say after this, “A doctor’s lot is not a happy one,”
inasmuch as the friends of the defunct Arab paid him a visit, and in a
marked but highly objectionable manner, showed what they thought of the
doctor’s services in a way that did not commend itself to me, and which,
for want of a better illustration, we will call “a new way of paying
old debts.” The worthy leech was requested, in so pressing a manner
that refusal was out of the question, to accompany these friends of the
deceased, and _nolens volens_, they escorted him to a large open space
just outside the town, where dhurra and other things were sold, and there
they remunerated him, not in dhurra, not in sheep, not in goats, not
even in money, but in a most cutting manner, for they fell upon him with
their knives and literally chopped him to pieces. Reader, “would you be
surprised to hear,” that on learning this I was extremely careful not to
perform any rash operations, and that my ministrations to the lame, the
halt, the sick, and the blind, should be successful. At all events, it is
a source of great gratification to me that they were not so unsuccessful
as to necessitate the sudden and unlooked-for departure of any of my
patients to their happy hunting-grounds.

The Hadendowah Arabs are the most numerous tribe in the neighbourhood
of Souâkin, and are, for the most part, good-looking men; they are very
dark, approaching to blackness, have good, well-formed features, large
dark eyes, arched black eyebrows, and face, on which as a rule there is
little or no hair, and nearly every Arab, here and elsewhere, that I met
with, is possessed of the most beautifully white, regular, and sound
teeth possible. There is little doubt but that this is due to the simple
manner in which they live; their chief food is dhurra (sorghum vulgare).
This contains 11½ per cent. of gluten, our wheat only ten per cent.
This is the wheat of Egypt, and is the food of camels, horses, and men.
Camels, however, get very little of it, as a rule, unless on a forced
march, or are owned by a man who can afford it. It grows to the height of
nine or ten feet, and is very prolific. I never counted the seeds in a
head of this sorghum, but Sir Samuel Baker did, and he says that in one
single head he found 4,840 grains. The Arabs, speaking generally, are not
big-boned men, but are lithe, active, and sinewy. Their hair is bushy,
frizzly, long, and black, which they wear very curiously; they often take
as much trouble with it as any West-end dandy would do. A parting is made
around the crown from one temple to the other; the hair on the top is
combed up and kept short—perhaps an inch long—the rest is combed down,
and stands out in a bush all round the head to a distance of three or
four inches; a thin piece of stick, like a skewer slightly bent towards
the sharp point, is stuck through the hair at the top, and is often used
to stir up the population, which is no doubt very numerous. I have often
seen their hair white with fat, which they plaster on most abundantly
when they can get it, and as few wear any covering over their shoulders
when they are exposed to the heat of the blazing sun, this drips down on
to them. They wear a bundle of charms secured just above the elbow, a
tope, or loin-cloth round the waist, which reaches down to their knees,
and very many a ring in one nostril. Nearly all of them carry a shield
and a long spear weighted at one end. The Hadendowhas are much given to
lying and laziness.

During the time that we remained here we were fully occupied in
preparing for our journey across the desert from Souâkin to Kassala,
a distance of about 280 miles; we cut up old boxes, made new ones,
and sorted out what provisions, &c., we should require. I arranged my
medicine-chest and surgical instruments so that I could get at what I
might want easily. We got a little shooting, sand-grouse, flamingoes,
pelicans, and herons; wandered about the town and frightened all the
children in the place, who thought we were slave-dealers come to steal
them. The principal slave supply is obtained from the White Nile and
Darfour; Khartoum, I believe, is the principal slave mart.

At nights we stretched ourselves out on the divan that ran round the room
in the palace, and slept head to feet all round. This room adjoined and
looked out on the square in which the Bedouin prisoners were confined;
frequently in the early morning they woke us up with their clanking
chains, or by indulging in their peculiar mode of devotion. The day
before we started on our journey, Mr. Brewster said—

“Well, Doctor, I hope you will all return alive and well, and not be so
unfortunate as a party that Dr. Felkin accompanied a year or two ago.”

“I am sure I quite indulge in the hope of returning to England in a sound
state,” I replied. “But tell me about the misfortunes of the party you
speak of.”

“That is done in a very few words,” said he. “Six missionaries went from
Souâkin and six from Zanzibar, meeting eventually in the wilds of Africa,
sent out by the English Church Mission Society, to reclaim lost sheep.
They were not happy in the selection of a suitable spot for evangelising,
as only three of them and Dr. Felkin returned to Souâkin, looking
considerably the worse for wear; the others had succumbed to fever,
dysentery, and spears. Indeed, I am not quite sure that some of them were
not eaten.”

Three days after our arrival at Souâkin there were some very heavy
showers of rain. Mr. Brewster informed me that it was eighteen months
since it last rained there.

On the fourth day after our arrival about 80 hired camels were brought
into the large open square to be laden with the tents and baggage of
every description. I wish I could adequately describe the scene that
ensued—the camels groan and bellow without any provocation, as if
they were the most ill-used animals in existence; the Arabs shout and
wrangle with each other as they adjust the loads on the haweias (a kind
of pack-saddle), clutch one another by the hair of the head, after the
manner of women when quarrelling, and shake the offending head about most
vigorously. Our head-man, Suleiman, walks round and distributes his
favours very impartially—a tug of the hair for one, a box on the ears
for another, and a flick of the coorbatch (a whip made of hippopotamus
hide) for another. This scene lasted for about three hours, and when at
last they did start, they formed a very long hamlah, or caravan. The
head of one camel is tied to the tail of the one in front, a long piece
of rope intervening to allow for the long stride of the camel. We posted
our letters—the last for some time to come—for England, to say that we
were just starting on our Arab life across the Nubian desert. The caravan
having started, each of us sees to his riding camel being got ready. We
are some time in starting, getting our makloufas (camel saddles) properly
and securely adjusted, and our little belongings, such as rifles,
revolvers, saddle-bags, travelling satchels, &c., fixed on them. Each one
has a zanzimeer hung on to a strap by the side of the camel. The word
zanzimeer requires explanation; it is a large leathern bottle, capable
of holding three or four quarts of water. As, in our journey across
the desert, we should perhaps be sometimes two or three days before we
came to any well, we had to provide a water-camel, whose business was
to carry two large barrels full of water for domestic purposes. Each of
these had a padlock on them, so that the Arabs could not get at them
just whenever they felt inclined—a very necessary precaution, as they
are so very careless, would take the spigot out of the barrel, quench
their thirst, and as likely as not insecurely replace the plug, and let
the water waste, which would be a very serious calamity. The mode of
mounting and sitting on a camel is peculiar; my legs don’t hang down each
side of him in stirrups, but hang down in front of the saddle each side
of his neck or crossed over the neck. No stirrups are used. The camel,
of course, is on the ground, with his legs tucked under him; I approach
his side and give a sudden vault or spring on to the makloufa. This must
be done with great dexterity and quickness, unless the attendant has one
foot placed on his fore-leg, as the camel gets up _instantly_ as soon as
I leave the ground, so of course, unless I am quick and dexterous, the
result is disasterous; in other words, the camel gets on to his legs,
and I go off mine on to my back. I watched the process of mounting very
carefully, as it was my first experience of camel riding. I attempted
and succeeded in doing the same as my pattern, and when my camel got up
(which he did pretty quickly, and not without considerable danger and
inconvenience to me), I felt that I occupied a very high and somewhat
precarious position. However, I soon got accustomed to the peculiar
motion of a camel. A hygeen, dromedary, or riding camel, can go on a
shuffling kind of trot (which is infinitely preferable to a fast trot or
walk) at the rate of about five miles an hour, and I am sure that anyone
who rides 25 or 28 miles a day, under the burning rays of an African sun,
will think he has done quite enough, although on some occasions we have
made forced marches and travelled 30 or 33 miles in one day. There were
no hygeens at Souâkin; we therefore rode our caravan camels. A hamlah,
or caravan camel, is capable of carrying considerably over 3 cwt. for
very long distances, travels at the rate of 2½ miles per hour, and will
go steadily on for 12, 14, or 16 hours without stopping to eat or drink.
He only requires water every fourth day, and can go without (on a pinch)
5 or 6 days, but when he does drink it is as well to let out his girths
a few inches, or he will burst them. The twigs and leaves of the mimosa
and kittar bushes, the scanty herbage of the desert, is all he requires,
except whilst making forced marches, when he requires a certain amount
of dhurra, because he has no time for grazing. This useful animal may
well be called the ship of the desert, for if it were not for him, the
enormous extent of burning sand which separates the fertile portion of
the Soudan from Lower Egypt would be like an ocean devoid of vessels,
and the deserts would be a barrier absolutely impassable by man. During
the season when fresh pasture is abundant camels can go for weeks without
water, provided they are not loaded or required to make extraordinary
exertions; the juices of the plants which form their food are then
sufficient to quench their thirst. The flesh of the young animal is one
of the greatest luxuries; of the skins tents are made; the various sorts
of hair or wool shed by the camel are wrought into different fabrics;
and its dried dung constitutes excellent fuel, the only kind, indeed,
to be obtained throughout vast extents of country. In order to qualify
camels for great exertions and the endurance of fatigue, the Arabs begin
to educate them at an early age. They are first taught to bear burdens
by having their limbs secured under their belly, and then a weight
proportioned to their strength is put on; this is not changed for a
heavier load till the animal is thought to have gained sufficient power
to sustain it. Food and drink are not allowed at will, but given in small
quantity, at long intervals. They are then gradually accustomed to long
journeys and an accelerated pace until their qualities of fleetness and
strength are fully brought into action. They are taught to kneel, for
the purpose of receiving or removing their load. When too heavily laden
they refuse to rise, and by loud cries complain of the injustice. Those
which are used for speed alone are capable of travelling from 60 to 90
miles a day: Instead of employing blows or ill-treatment to increase
their speed, the camel-drivers sing cheerful songs, and thus urge the
animals to their best efforts. When a caravan of camels arrives at a
resting or halting-place, they kneel, and the cords sustaining the loads
being untied, the bales slip down on each side. They generally sleep on
their bellies: In an abundant pasture they generally browse as much in
an hour as serves them for ruminating all night, and for their support
during the next day. But it is uncommon to find such pasturage, and they
are contented with the coarsest fare, and even prefer it to more delicate
plants. Breeding and milk-giving camels are exempted from service, and
fed as well as possible, the value of their milk being greater than
that of their labour. The milk is very thick, abundant, and rich, but
of rather a strong taste. Mingled with water it forms a very nutritive
article of diet. The young camel usually sucks for twelve months, but
such as are intended for speed are allowed to suck and exempted from
restraint for two or three years. The camel attains the full exercise of
its functions within four or five years, and the duration of its life is
from forty to fifty years. The hump or humps on the back of a camel are
mere accumulations of cellular substance and fat, covered by skin and a
longer hair than that on the general surface. During long journeys, in
which the animals suffer severely from want of food, and become greatly
emaciated, these protuberances become gradually absorbed, and no trace
of them left, except that the skin is loose and flabby where they were
situated. In preparing for a journey, it is necessary to guard the humps
from pressure or friction by appropriate saddles, as the slightest
ulceration of these parts is followed by the worst consequences: insects
deposit their larvæ in the sores, and sometimes extensive and destructive
mortification ensues. I have often seen crows pecking away at sores on
a camel’s side, and was surprised to see how little notice it takes of
them. After all, I must say of the camel, that he not only groans and
roars when he is too heavily laden, but at all times without the least
occasion, and although it may appear mild, docile, and patient, it is
frequently perverse and stupid. The males especially are at certain
times dangerous. It is sure-footed, too, as I have often experienced in
travelling over mountains so precipitous that no animal but a camel could
have carried such heavy loads as I have seen it do without accident. All
breeds of camels could not do so, but those belonging to the Hadendowah
Arabs, between the Red Sea and Taka, are very sure-footed. The camels
most highly thought of in the Soudan are the Bishareen; they are very
strong and enduring, but not so large as many others. There is quite
as much difference in the breeds of camels as of horses, and as much
difference in riding a hygeen and baggage camel as there would be in
riding a nice springy cob and a cart horse. Amongst the Arabs a good
“hygeen,” or riding dromedary, is worth from 50 to 150 dollars; the
average value of a baggage camel is about 15 dollars, but I believe our
average ran up to 30 or 35 dollars.

After this digression and short dissertation on the camel, I will return
to the subject of our journey. We now formed a tolerably numerous
company, ourselves seven, three European servants, Suleiman, Mahoom,
Cheriff, and Ali, the cook, with an assistant, four or five native
servants, and nearly thirty camel-drivers. George, one of our servants,
and I had some trouble in getting our makloufas properly adjusted on our
camels; consequently, we were behind the others in starting. I also
made a call on Mr. Bewlay, who pressed me to remain to luncheon. As I
knew that this was to be a short march of about three hours, I did so.
I then bade adieu to Mr. Bewlay (one of the nicest and most gentlemanly
fellows to be met with), and commenced my journey, thinking I should
soon overtake my comrades, but in this I was greatly mistaken. I had
reached the middle of the town, amongst the bazaars, when the eccentric
conduct of my camel was quite alarming, exciting grave apprehensions
respecting the safety of my limbs, I being quite a novice in the art of
camel-riding. Down he flopped without the least preliminary warning,
whilst I held on to the makloufa as if I had been in a hurricane. I
plied my coorbatch on his tough hide; the only effect it produced was
to make him open his mouth (to such a width that it could easily have
accommodated a human head) and groan away with most stentorian voice. At
last an Arab succeeded in getting him on his legs, and away he went at
such a jolting pace that I experienced the greatest difficulty in keeping
my seat. Down he flopped again in the same unceremonious manner as before
just in front of a projecting part of the Police Station.

“Well,” I mentally ejaculated, “this is, indeed, too much. I will not be
placed in such jeopardy as this any longer.”

I lost no time in dismounting; Sheik Moussa was sent for, and at once
promised to find me a tractable beast. George remained with me. We had
no sooner unburdened the camel, and got under the projecting roof of the
Police Station, than down came the rain in torrents; then I felt thankful
that my camel had proved so awkward and disobedient. Two hours and a half
elapsed ere a respectable camel was brought. By that time the rain had
ceased, and George and I resumed our journey in comfort.

When we arrived at camp at 6 p.m., we found the tents pitched and
everyone changing their clothes, except Jules; they had all been
drenched to the skin. This was a favourable opportunity for me to
deliver a lecture on sanitary precautions. I therefore did so, warning
all Europeans to remember that we were not now in England, but in the
tropics, where the days were excessively hot and the nights not only
cool, but often very cold at this time of the year; always to change wet
clothing as soon as we got to camp; never to expose themselves to the
burning rays of a tropical sun without helmets; and last, but not by any
means least, to be extremely careful as to the quality of water they
drank, and always to see that the zanzimeers were well washed out before
they were replenished. Well, I know that in England, whilst practising
my profession, I have met with extremely clever people who not only know
their own business, but that of everyone else, and are most ready with
their unasked-for advice. They are quite encyclopedias of knowledge, or,
at least, they would have one think so. They apparently listen, with
folded arms and the head a little bit on one side, in the most attentive
manner, literally drinking in all the doctor is telling them when he
forbids this and orders that, and yet will use their own judgment or
sense—presuming, of course, that they have any—and the moment his back is
turned they exclaim—

“Pooh! what an old fidget that doctor is. I know that when poor Mrs.
Smith was ill her doctor didn’t do ought like that, but let her have a
glass of stout for dinner, and ordered her a glass of hot whisky and
water at bed-time, poor thing, and that was what kep her up.”

“When the doctor very impressively says, “Now, Mrs. Thompson, your friend
is very ill—I wish you to be careful to give her so-and-so and avoid
so-and-so,” Mrs. Thompson says, “Yes, doctor—I quite understand;” and
Mrs. T., being a very garrulous, and also a very knowing personage, will
begin a long rigmarole about her first husband’s case some 20 years
before, and how beautifully she nursed him through an illness of “seven
week,” as she calls it, and brought him round, she, of course, not having
had her clothes off for four weeks, nor a wink of sleep for ten nights,
till she was a perfect “shada,” but still able to articulate, poor thing.
Unless the poor doctor now bolts off, she will then confidentially
commence a history of three or four other cases in which she was, of
course, eminently successful. These very clever people, so wise in their
own conceit, are really very dangerous people, and I always look after
them well. Of course, Mrs. Thompson may think the medicine “strong enough
for a horse,” as she expresses herself, and will administer it if _she_
thinks it suits the case, and exercise her very discriminating faculties
in the way of diet, and matters of that kind; but at the end of a week
Mrs. Thompson—who has, of course, seen many similar cases—expresses to
her neighbours and confidants (who look upon her utterances as oracular)
her dissatisfaction with that ere doctor, and is determined on his next
visit to favour him with what she is pleased to call a bit of her mind.
She does as promised—

“Well now, doctor, what do you think _is_ the matter with poor Mrs.
Smith? She don’t seem to get on at all. I remember when poor Mrs.
Rodgers, my second husband’s first wife’s cousin, was laid up with—”

But, reader, you may imagine the rest; I can very well. I have used the
preceding imaginary conversation “to point a moral and adorn my tale.”

In our camp I had a very headstrong Mr. “Cleverity,” if I may say so,
to deal with. Jules, before we started, was working away, sorting the
baggage, &c., in his shirt sleeves after passing through the rain,
getting thirsty, and drinking bad claret and beer, such as he could
obtain in the place. Indeed, his absorbing powers were remarkable—he
resembled a huge dry sponge, which, when dipped into a basinful of water,
absorbs it _all_. I ascertained, from one who knew him well, that this
absorbing tendency was not altogether induced by the heat of the climate,
but that it was his normal condition which he always suffered from in
England, where he lived a life of comparative ease and indulgence. I only
knew Jules absorb water when he could not get anything stronger. I had
warned him at Souâkin not to get wet, as the evenings were so cold, and
now, on arriving at camp, here he was again wet to the skin, helping to
pitch tents and put things ship-shape; but, with a thirst unquenchable,
he was continually drinking water which was the colour of pea-soup, but
not _quite_ so thick.

“Now, Jules,” said I, “remember what I told you at Souâkin. You are going
the right way to get dysentery.”

He replied—

“Oh, I am all right, doctor. I am not an old woman, or a piece of
barley-sugar. I shall take no harm.”

The sequel will show how disastrous was his disregard of my repeated
warnings, and very much grieved I was for two reasons: one was the
loss of a really good-hearted fellow, who had proved a faithful and
affectionate servant to his master, who thought very much of him, for
many years; the other was, that although I used every effort to save him,
and many a time was unable to sleep on account of the anxiety the case
caused me, so much so that I frequently visited his tent in the night,
yet all was of no avail. Added to this, I was excessively and incessantly
annoyed by the fussy interference of two amateur doctors in camp, who,
as educated men, ought to have known better than to worry me seven or
eight times a day with useless suggestions of a shadowy character as to
the treatment of a complaint of which they knew absolutely nothing. They
were great examples of an old adage, “A _little_ knowledge is a dangerous
thing.”

In the evening of our first day’s camping out, just after dinner (we
dined at 7 p.m.), down came the rain again, causing us all to scamper
off to our respective tents; spades were out, and trenches dug round,
and there we remained until morning. At 6 a.m. we were up, and saw no
more rain for several months; indeed, not until I reached Venice in the
following May.

It was about 10 a.m. next day ere our caravan started. The sun blazed
out with a scorching heat, causing us to feel as if we were in a Turkish
bath from the evaporation which took place, and our solid leather
portmanteaus, which were thoroughly saturated the day before, to curl
up like match-boxes. Before we started on our second day’s march across
the desert our camel men were told they were to go on until 6 p.m., and
Suleiman was commissioned to see this order carried out. We often went on
in front of them in the morning, on the look out for a shot at a desert
gazelle; but it was singularly noticeable that about 1.30 p.m. we were
all somewhere in the neighbourhood of Cheriff, our butler, who was in
the charge of the canteen on a camel. Unless we made a forced march,
we usually breakfasted about 7 a.m., luncheon at 1.30, dined at 7, and
retired to rest at 9 or 9.30 p.m. After luncheon we frequently lay down
on our rugs, smoking cigarettes and reading some book, long after the
caravan had passed us. This day we did so, but judge of our astonishment
when, at four o’clock, we came upon some of our camels browsing; others
had not been unburdened, and nearly all the camel-drivers were in a
circle, with uplifted spears.

We soon ascertained the cause of this; there was poor Suleiman, our
head boss, the centre of attraction for these Hadendowab Arabs, with
their uplifted spears, who were angrily jabbering away. To the question,
“What’s the meaning of this, Suleiman? they were to have gone on until
six o’clock,” he replied, “Yes, I know, gentlemen, that I tell them they
no stop till I say, and I catch hold of one mans to stop him take the
load off the camel, and now they say they spear me if I don’t leave them
alone.”

[Illustration: HADENDOWAH ARAB CAMEL-MEN.]

He pointed out the ringleaders of what looked like mutiny against
authority, and as soon as he had done so, in true old English fashion,
a few well-directed blows put about five Arabs in the prone position;
all pulled out revolvers, and made them pile their spears, which were
at once secured, tied in a bundle, and given in charge to the English
servants. They were then made to re-load all the camels, and, at great
inconvenience to ourselves, we re-start at 6.30, and march until nearly
ten, just to let them see that they could not do as they liked, and that
we were masters and not they. This assertion of authority had a most
beneficial effect on the native mind. It was past eleven that night ere
we dined, and I retired to rest at half-past twelve, with a feeling of
general bruising and dislocated vertebræ easily accounted for, as I was
unaccustomed to the peculiar motion of a camel, which has a knack of
shaking up one’s liver in a most effectual manner. Referring to my diary,
I find that on our third day’s march, Dec. 17th, the temperature was
82° F. in the shade at 1.30 p.m. I generally took the temperature when
we halted for luncheon, which would usually be about one or half-past.
We could do with the dry heat very well as we were mounted, but now, in
consequence of the late heavy rains, we felt it very relaxing, and just
like a Russian vapour-bath. The Red Sea was still visible to the east
of us; to the west, a large tract of desert, backed up by impassable
rocky mountains. We now saw desert gazelles for the first time, and one
of the party brought one down, thus providing dinner for the evening.
We marched from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., came to water then, and pitched
our tents near to it. We generally had very good water, but here it had
a brackish taste; still, with the aid of four bottles of champagne, we
managed to slake our thirst tolerably well. So far the mimosa and kittar
bushes were abundant, particularly during the first two days, but on the
fourth day we saw very few indeed, and marched through absolute desert,
saw nothing but the burning sands, and huge rocks of volcanic origin. We
filled our barrels, zanzimeers and girbas with water before we started,
and again marched from ten till six; temp. 81° in the shade. A girba is
the skin of a gazelle dressed. It is dressed in the following way by the
Arabs:—They get the chopped red bark of the mimosa tree, and put in the
skin with water, it is allowed to remain there for three or four days
and then it is converted into leather. This day we encamped at a place
called Settareb. On the fifth day we again made the usual march, and shot
two gazelles. We started off at nine—and left the caravan to follow.
About 11 a.m. one of our servants caught us up with the information that
some of the camels had been lost. Messrs. A. and W. James returned to
see about them, and found that it was a dodge of the camel-drivers, who
thought they would try to sneak back to Souâkin. The camels were easily
found; the two camel-drivers were tied together, marched into camp, duly
admonished and punished. At 5 p.m. we come to water, turn out all the
brackish water, fill our barrels, &c., and march until 6 p.m.; temp. 82°
in shade. Dine at 7.30, bed at 10 p.m., but before going to bed we had
all the camel-drivers up, some of whom appeared inclined to be mutinous.
We gave them a sound lecturing, and let them distinctly understand that
we would not stand this kind of thing any more, and that the next offence
would be punished with the coorbatch. Our camping ground is called Wadi
Osier. The next day, our sixth in the desert, Mr. F. L. James and I had a
somewhat unpleasant experience. After luncheon, as usual, we all rested
awhile, allowing the caravan to go on. Mr. F. L. J. and I, who were
absorbed with our books, remained long after our comrades had proceeded
on their journey. When at last we did start, we were surprised to find
how late it was getting. Knowing that there is little or no twilight in
these parts, we hurried on, hoping to catch the caravan ere darkness
overtook us, but could not do so. Darkness comes on—a most profound
darkness, too—and we lose the track; we dismount and light matches to see
if we can find it again. We don’t, however, succeed in doing so. Nothing
now remains but to remount our camels and trust to them and Providence.
On we go, at the rate of four miles an hour. The silence of the tomb and
the darkness of Erebus surround us; not a glimmer of light could be seen
in any direction, not the sound of a wild animal, of a bird, or even
the rustling of a leaf, or the sigh of the softest zephyr. When we had
gone on thus for about an hour, neither seeing a light, nor hearing a
sound, we began to get uneasy, not knowing if we were going in the right
direction, but knowing full well that it might prove to be a serious
matter if we strayed off into the limitless waste of the desert. Every
now and again I fired a shot from my revolver, but I might as well have
used a pop-gun. Now the stars begin to make their appearance; by them we
see that we are, as we think, pursuing some track. We now dismount, and
finding that revolvers are useless, Mr. James gets his rifle and lets
off one barrel. We wait, and anxiously look for a corresponding flash;
hear we could not, as by this time a slight breeze had sprung up, and was
blowing from us towards our caravan. Another barrel is now fired, but no
reply. We were now rapidly coming to the conclusion that we should have
to tie our camels to a mimosa bush, and sleep out without food, and what
was still worse, without water, as both our zanzimeers were nearly empty.
Still we perseveringly jogged on, and after a time discharged another
barrel. In a few minutes’ time we see a slight flash, which appears to
be so far off that we cannot make out whether it is in the heavens or on
the earth. Not a sound reaches our ears. Our cartridges are also nearly
exhausted, and we have all but made up our minds to sleep out, but try
the rifle once more. This time both barrels are discharged one after
the other. We look out anxiously; not a sound reaches us, but we see a
corresponding double flash a long way off, and are convinced that this
comes from our camp. We see certain stars over the spot, and for these
we steer. When we had jogged on for another hour and a-half, we see a
glimmering light like the flicker of a lantern (it really was a huge
bonfire)—another half-hour, and we can plainly see lanterns moving about,
and to our great relief and that of our friends, we gain the camp at 9
p.m., thoroughly hungry, thirsty, and tired. The temperature this day was
86° in the shade; my ears and nose were quite scorched, and smarting from
the heat of the sun.

On arriving in camp I found Jules very ill indeed. On the fourth day he
came to me in the evening complaining of a bilious attack. I gave him
something for it. In some respects he was better by the evening of the
fifth, and on the morning of the 6th bilious vomiting had ceased, but
in the evening, judging from the symptoms, I was afraid that formidable
complaint, dysentery, was setting in. However, I kept this to myself,
at present, not wishing to alarm the camp, and hoping that treatment
might prove beneficial. We dined at 10.30, and retired to bed at 12 p.m.
When I say we retired to bed I literally mean that, not to a shake-down
sort of thing with a rug over me and a portmanteau for a pillow, but a
comfortable bed with a comfortable pillow, in a comfortable tent, and
cocoa-matting on the ground. There really was an air of comfort about
all our surroundings. We had comfortable shut-up and open-out chairs, a
comfortable folding-up table, each a nice portable india-rubber bath,
and, whenever we encamped by water we each had a bath before breakfast
and another before dinner. As for eatables and drinkables, the most
fastidious would not turn up their noses at those. We had sufficient
champagne and claret to last us during the whole campaign; a freezing
machine, so that we could have these iced in the hottest weather. We had
gozogenes and any amount of seltzer-water, and when we fell short of that
we used Eno’s fruit-salt in the gozogenes. We had Peek Frean and Co’s.
biscuits, Cross and Blackwell’s excellent Chutnee pickles and pickalili,
tomato sauce, asparagus, green peas, plum puddings, French jams, minced
collops, kidneys, tinned soups from Fortnum and Mason’s, Piccadilly, and
everything else one could think of to insure comfort in eating, drinking,
and sleeping. Some ascetics would say we were of the earth, earthy, but
I maintain that if you mean to keep a _mens sana in corpore sano_ one
may just as well—and a great deal better—build up the waste tissue from
time to time and travel with every comfort, if one can afford it, as
do the reverse. I have tried both; whilst campaigning in Turkey, when
I have been on the march with the army, I have indulged in the luxury
of a small onion and a limited piece of somewhat indifferent bread for
breakfast, washed down with a drop of water, the same again for luncheon,
and the same again for dinner, “and still I was not happy,” for I could
comfortably have disposed of breakfast, luncheon, and dinner at one
sitting without the slightest inconvenience. The ground was my bed, the
canopy of heaven was my tent, the twinkling stars my lantern, and a stone
or water-jug with a coat rolled round it was my pillow. I shall endeavour
to avoid the slightest exaggeration in this book, and will go so far as
to say that the former mode of travelling is by far the most comfortable,
and, in my humble opinion, the most conducive to health.

Again I find myself branching off, and cannot give any guarantee but what
I may still do so. All I ask is that my readers will overlook this little
failing of mine.

7th day.—We found water here, and of course replenished everything
with this valuable fluid. The mimosas were scanty and very stunted
here. During the night and all this day a great wind has been blowing,
producing a most blinding sand-storm, fortunately at our backs, or we
should not have been able to proceed. No one can form any idea of the
intense discomfort of a sand-storm, unless he has been in one. I may
close up my tent and be roasted inside. I may lock up my portmanteau,
which fits pretty closely, and have it in my tent, the lock covered with
leather, yet when I go to bed I find the sheets brown with sand, the most
secret recesses of my portmanteau and the lock filled with sand, and my
writing-case also, which is inside. I open my mouth to speak, and I can
masticate sand, if so disposed. I eat—all my food is full of sand. I
drink, not water, but water and sand. In fact, sand is everywhere; eyes,
nose, mouth, ears, hair, brains, and everything else has a mixture of
sand about it. I chance to leave a book, a pair of boots, or anything
else outside my tent, they soon become invisible, and are covered inches
deep in sand. Here we found great difficulty in pitching our tents, as
there was nothing but sand to drive the pegs into, and then we came to
rocks. Three or four days ago a lame woman and a man joined our caravan,
and two days ago two men, all bound for Kassala, all pilgrims from Mecca.
They were allowed to accompany us, and we fed them. To-day we miss the
woman, and on inquiry find that she was knocked up _en route_ yesterday,
and so her companion left her to die, and probably when we discovered
this she had been picked clean by jackals and vultures. Such is the value
put upon human life out here.

8th day.—The sand-storm still rages with unabated violence. We decide not
to go on, but encamp here to-day. We are, however, obliged to move our
tents to a place that is a little more sheltered, as at present it is
absolutely miserable. Jules still very ill. Temperature 86° in the shade.
In the day time the fierce heat of the sun rendered the interior of the
tents like ovens. Outside the sand reflected the heat. Although producing
great personal discomfort, our sufferings were nothing to what poor Jules
endured, who is now unmistakably suffering from dysentery badly. Under
any circumstances this is a grave complaint to have, but under present
circumstances, doubly so; that which he requires is impossible to obtain,
namely, absolute rest and a suitable diet. The poor fellow complains
to-day of incessant thirst, and everything he gets to eat or drink is
impregnated with sand, which it is impossible to avoid.

About 12 meridie, Mr. Phillipps, who was passing across the camp, saw
the two pilgrims whom we had allowed to join the caravan, two brothers.
One was supporting the head of the other in the blazing sun. The poor
fellow’s eyes, nose, ears, and hair, &c. were full of sand. He said his
brother was ill. I was at once called to him, and found him _in articulo
mortis_. Very little could be done for him, and in twenty minutes’ time
he died. His brother borrowed a spade, dug a shallow grave near the camp
and buried him, putting a mound of little white stones on the grave.
In my journey across the desert I frequently came across these graves,
sometimes two or three together, sometimes 20, 50, or 100. Occasionally
skeletons of camels were met with. In the present instance, the poor
fellow who died looked very emaciated and weak, probably exhausted by
constant marching and a deficient supply of food. But he had accomplished
the pilgrimage to Mecca, and I suppose he died a happy man.

9th day.—Poor Jules is so ill to-day that I cannot consent to have him
removed. The camp is accordingly split up, Mr. Phillipps and I, with a
few camels and attendants, remaining behind. The sand-storm is abating,
but the heat is very great and trying to Jules. A gazelle was shot
to-day. I cannot say that gazelle is a particularly toothsome morsel
under our circumstances. We are obliged to cook it on the same day that
it has been killed. The flesh of a desert gazelle is hard, and has very
little flavour. Our comrades left us about 10 a.m., and directly they had
gone down came the vultures for pickings.

10th day.—Jules still very ill, but in some respects a trifle better.
We decide on advancing to-day, if possible, and encamp a little longer
when we get to water. Accordingly we strike our tents and help the camel
men to load, send them on, then see to our own. We do not get off until
4.30 p.m. Half-an-hour afterwards we come to a dry river course, on each
side of which are dhoum palms and other trees. We saw a couple of jackals
sneaking off here, but did not get a shot at them. We trusted to one of
our Arabs to show us the way. When we had gone on for about an hour, he
suddenly stopped in the middle of a great sandy plain, said he was not
sure of the way, and as it was getting dark, thought we had better stop
until daylight. On hearing this Mr. Phillipps retraced his steps, and
was absent about two hours. I now became anxious about him, and every
now and then fired off my revolver. Fortunately I happened to have a box
of matches with me, and kindled a fire, then Mahoom and I tore up all
the stuff that would ignite. Half-an-hour afterwards Mr. Phillipps found
us, but he had been unsuccessful in his search for the road. However, we
kept up the fire, hoping some of our camel men would see the signals of
distress, which fortunately they did after a time; at last one of them
found us. In the meantime Jules was lying on the ground exhausted, with a
rug thrown over him. Our man led us to where the other camels were. Now
we had another bother: one of the camels had thrown his load off; the old
fellow who was in charge was lying on the ground, said he had got a pain
in his stomach, and we must stop there, as he could not possibly go on.
We roused him up, gave him a good shaking, and made him come on. But he
soon stopped again, and laid down to sleep, most coolly saying he could
not go any further. The fact is that just before we started he had eaten
a large quantity of raw meat, had, in fact, thoroughly gorged himself.
However, there we left him, and went on another two or three miles.
Halted at 10 p.m. and kindled a fire, had a cup of cocoa, a bit of bread,
rolled ourselves up in rugs, and lay on the ground. Jules suffered much
from this, as the nights were so cold.

11th day.—Up early, feeling stiff, cold, and hungry. Marched until 10
a.m. (four hours), intending to rest during the excessive heat of the
day, as my poor invalid was almost too weak to set up. About 3 p.m.
Mr. F. L. James appears on the scene, and tells us that the camp is
only about four miles off, at a place called Waudy. We get there about
6.30 p.m., and find the camp pitched near a well surrounded by dhoum
palms. Temperature to-day, 88° in the shade. This being Christmas Day,
we had some excellent plum puddings, made by Crosse and Blackwell, iced
champagne, and other luxuries for dinner.

12th day.—Jules was very ill indeed to-day, thoroughly prostrated by
his complaint, which had increased in intensity—it was quite out of the
question for him to attempt to move. We held a council, and decided
that as there were a few huts and goats, and a well, that it would be
advisable to let Jules rest here awhile, for now we could get a little
milk for him twice a day. Accordingly on the 13th day the camp was split
up. Messrs. A. and W. James, Colvin, and Aylmer went on to Kassala,
whilst Jules, Messrs. Phillipps, F. L. James, and I remained behind. Here
we rested for five days, and what with treatment, diet, and rest Jules
improved daily.

On the 16th day we rigged up an augarip (a kind of litter), with an
awning of matting and palm leaves to keep off the sun, and on the 17th
day this was slung across a camel. Jules got into it, and off we started
at 7.30 a.m., marching until 7.30 p.m. Much too long a journey for Jules,
who was again thoroughly knocked up and exhausted. I suggested now that
such marches were too long, and that our best plan was for me to start
off early with Jules, say 6 a.m., and march until 10, then rest until 4
and go on until 7 or 8 p.m. This was agreed to.

18th day. January 1st, 1883.—I visited Jules at 6 a.m.; found him no
worse. We started at 8, halt at 12, rest until 2, and go on until we
catch up the caravan, at 8.30 p.m. Jules complained bitterly of these
long journeys, which were so exhausting to an invalid. Medicine was now
out of the question, as the rolling motion of the camel made him very
sick. At the mid-day halt we found some empty huts in the desert. These
we explored, and found rather interesting. In several of them I found a
hole in the floor, the use of which is rather singular. The good wife of
the house uses this. She gets certain fragrant barks and frankincense,
burns them in the hole, then stands over them, having her dress drawn
round her, to fumigate herself and make herself acceptable to her
husband. In England, of course, this is not at all necessary. We passed
through a fine palm-grove to-day by a khor, and shot three gazelles.

19th day.—March again about 12 hours. Jules worse. Again I pointed out
the bad effect of these long marches on the invalid.

20th day.—Ten hours’ march to-day; halt near a deep well and a large
palm-grove. Here I shot a fine golden-crested eagle. Jules frightfully
done up, and rapidly going the wrong way.

21st day.—On the march at 9 a.m. We marched the greater part of this day
across an awful desert, where no living thing except ourselves could be
seen. No shelter was attainable for the mid-day lunch. Temperature 92° in
what shade we could manufacture. During several hours of the day I saw
that optical illusion which so often mocks the thirsty traveller, called
the mirage—mirage, called by the Arabs, Bahr esh Sheitan, “The Devil’s
Sea.” By a strange refraction of the atmosphere, plains of arid sands
seem to be rippling lakes of water as far as the eye can reach, lapping
the base of stupendous mountains of rocks, and bathing the roots of the
stunted mimosa bushes. This day marched nearly 14 hours. Jules takes
scarcely anything, is rapidly sinking, and again complains of these long
marches.

22nd day.—Another 12 hours’ march. See mirage again for hours. Encamp at
Fillick. Here there is a military station and a telegraph office.

23rd day.—Mirage again. Shot two gazelles, four bustards, and five
guinea-fowl. Appear to be getting into a better country. Jules much
weaker, pulse scarcely perceptible. Ten hours’ march to-day.

24th day.—Eleven hours’ march to-day, and, I am thankful to say, the last
day’s march across the desert. Temperature 93° in the shade. Since 11
a.m. we have travelled through much better country, and after our late
experience it was quite refreshing to see a luxuriant vegetation once
more, such as dhoum palms, colocynth, tamarisks, nebbucks, heglecks—not
stunted mimosa bushes now, but different kinds of mimosa trees and
various trees and shrubs. The place I am speaking of was quite like a
gentleman’s park. Here also were ariels, gazelles, bustards, parroquets,
eagles, vultures, and jackals. About seven, and pitch-dark, we, for the
first time, heard the roar of a lion not far off. Our sensations were of
a creepy character, and would, perhaps, have been more so had we known
what we did when we got to Kassala—that he had lately dined, at separate
times, on four human beings.