First published in What Led to the Discovery of the Source of the Nile William Blackwood and Sons, 1864.
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Projects and Hobbies — life in India — lord Clyde and Sir James Outram — the Position and Physical Geography of the Somali Country — the Nogal Country, and Historical Sketches — Costume and Customs.
The Voyage — An Akil — The Somali Shore — Sultan (Gerad) Mahamed Ali — Hidden Treasure — The Warsingali — A Royal Reception — Somali Appetites — Difficulties and Impediments — Sultan Tries My Abban or Protector.
Yafir Pass — Rhut Tug — The Ruins at Kin’s City — Abban Apprehends Future Consequences — Hyenas — The Dulbahantas — Camel Drivers’ Tricks — Briny Water — Antelope-shooting — Elephant-hunting — Ostrich-hunting — Gazelles — Jealousy and Suspicions of the People — Troubles from Forty Thieves — Rapid Decline of Property.
Meditations among the Tombs — A Fracas — The Return March — The North-east Monsoon — Relief from Persecution — Interesting Animals — Gori Again — Shooting a Woman — Arrival at Aden — Fresh Projects — Arrangements.
Aden — Departure — Kurrum — A Conclave of Sages — Arangement of the Expedition — The South-west Monsoon — Medical Practice — The Camp Besieged — Wounded and Captive — A Triumphal Procession — Flight — Return to Aden and to England — Projects.
Projects and Hobbies — life in India — lord Clyde and Sir James Outram — the Position and Physical Geography of the Somali Country — the Nogal Country, and Historical Sketches — Costume and Customs.
It was in the year 1849, at the expiration of the Punjaub campaign, under Lord Gough, where I had been actively engaged as a subaltern officer in the (so-called) fighting brigade of General Sir Colin Campbell’s division of the army, adding my mite to the four successive victorious actions — Ramnugger, Sadoolapore, Chillianwallah, and Guzerat — that I first conceived the idea of exploring Central Equatorial Africa. My plan was made with a view to strike the Nile at its head, and then to sail down that river to Egypt. It was conceived, however, not for geographical interest, so much as for a view I had in my mind of collecting the fauna of those regions, to complete and fully develop a museum in my father’s house, a nucleus of which I had already formed from the rich menageries of India, the Himalaya Mountains, and Tibet. My idea in selecting the new field for my future researches was, that I should find within it various orders and species of animals hitherto unknown. Although Major Cornwallis Harris, Ruppell, and others had by this time well-nigh exhausted, by their assiduous investigations, all discoveries in animal life, both in the northern and southern extremities of Africa, in the lowlands of Kaffraria in the south, and the highlands of Ethiopia in the north, no one as yet had penetrated to the centre in the low latitudes near the equator; and by latitudinal differences I thought I should obtain new descriptions and varieties of animals. Further, I imagined the Mountains of the Moon were a vast range, stretching across Africa from east to west, which in all probability would harbour wild goats and sheep, as the Himalaya range does. There, too, I thought I should find the Nile rising in snow, as does the Ganges in the Himalayas.
The time I proposed to myself for carrying this scheme into operation was my furlough — a lease of three years’ leave of absence, which I should become entitled to at the expiration of ten years’ service in India; but I would not leave the reader to infer that I intended devoting the whole of my furlough to this one pursuit alone. Two of the three years were to be occupied in collecting animals, and descending by the valley of the Nile to Egypt and England, whilst the third year was to be spent in indulgent recreations at home after my labours should be over.
I had now served five years in the Indian army, and five years were left to serve ere I should become entitled to take my furlough. During this time I had to consider two important questions: How I should be able, out of my very limited pay as a subaltern officer, to meet the heavy expenditure which such a vast undertaking would necessarily involve? and how, before leaving India, I might best employ any local leave I could obtain, in completing my already commenced collections of the fauna of that country and its adjacent hill-ranges?1
Previous experience had taught me that, in the prosecution of my chief hobby, I would also solve the problem of the most economical mode of living. In the backwoods and jungles no ceremony or etiquette provokes unnecessary expenditure; whilst the fewer men and material I took with me on my sporting excursions the better sport I always got, and the freer and more independent I was to carry on the chase. I need now only say I acted on this conviction, and I think, I may add, I managed it successfully; for there are now but few animals to be found in either India, Tibet, or the Himalaya Mountains, specimens of which have not fallen victims to my gun. Of this the paternal hall is an existing testimony. Every year after the war I obtained leave of absence, and every year I marched across the Himalayas, and penetrated into some unknown portions of Tibet, shooting, collecting, and mapping the country wherever I went. My mess-mates wondered how it was I succeeded in getting so much leave; but the reason was simply this, and I tell it that others may profit by it:— The Commander-in-Chief, Sir William Gomm, observing to what good account I always turned my leave, instead of idling my time away, or running into debt, took great pleasure in encouraging my hobby; and his Staff were even heard to say it would be a pity if I did not get leave, as so much good resulted from it.
The 3d September 1854 completed my tenth year’s servitude in India, and on the succeeding day, the 4th, I embarked on board one of the P. and O. Company’s steamers at Calcutta, and left the Indian shore for Aden; but previously to my departure I purchased various cheap articles of barter, all as tempting and seductive as I could find, for the simple-minded negroes of Africa. These consisted principally of cheap guns, revolving pistols, swords, cheap cutlery of all sorts, beads, cotton stuffs of a variety of kinds, and sewing material, &c. &c. &c., to the amount of £390 sterling. Arrived at Aden, my first step was to visit Colonel Outram, the political resident, to open my views to him with regard to penetrating Africa, and to solicit his assistance to my doing so, by granting introductory letters to the native chiefs on the coast, and in any other manner that he could. But to my utter astonishment and discomfiture, with the frank and characteristic ardour which has marked him through life, he at once said he would not only withhold his influence, but would prohibit my going there at all, as the countries opposite to Aden were so extremely dangerous for any foreigners to travel in, that he considered it his duty as a Christian to prevent, as far as he was able, anybody from hazarding his life there. This opposition, fortunately, only lasted for a time. After repeated supplications on my part, the generous kind nature of the Colonel overcame him, and he thought of a pretext by which, should anything serious happen to me, there would not remain any onus on his conscience.
The Bombay Government at that time had been induced to order an expedition to be organised for the purpose of investigating the Somali country — a large tract of land lying due south of Aden, and separated only from the Arabian coast by the Gulf of Aden — and had appointed three officers, Lieutenant Burton to command, and Lieutenants Stroyan and Herne to assist in its conduct. To this project Colonel Outram had ever been adverse, and he had remonstrated with the Government about it, declaring, as his opinion, the scheme to be quite unfeasible. The Somali, he said, were the most savage of all African savages, and were of such a wild and inhospitable nature that no stranger could possibly live amongst them. The Government, however, relying on the ability of one who made the pilgrimage of Mecca, were bent at least on giving the Lieutenant a chance of showing what he could do in this even darker land, and he was then occupied in Aden maturing his plans of procedure.2
This, then, was the opportunity the Colonel took advantage of, advising me to ask Lieutenant Burton to incorporate me in his expedition, at the same time saying that, if it was found to be agreeable to Lieutenant Burton, he would back my application to the Indian Government, obtain a cancel of my furlough, and get me put on service-duty as a member of the expedition.
Nothing could have suited me better, as it brought me on service again, and so saved my furlough leave for a future exploration. Lieutenant Burton consented, and I was at once installed in the expedition. My travelling, mapping,3 and collecting propensities, it was thought would be of service to the ends of the expedition; and by my being incorporated in it, there would be no chance of my running counter to it, by travelling on its line of march, and possibly giving rise to disturbances with the natives.
Before proceeding further in the narrative of events as they occurred, it may be as well, perhaps, to anticipate a little, and give a general impression of the geography, ethnology, history, and other characteristics of the country under investigation — the Somali land — and the way in which it was intended that those investigations should be carried out. As will appear by the following pages, my experiences were mostly confined to the north central parts, in the highlands of the Warsingali and Dulbahanta tribes. The rest of my information is derived from conversations with the natives, or what I have read in some very interesting pages in vol. xix. of the ‘Transactions of the Royal Geographical Society,’ written by Lieutenant Cruttenden.
The Somali country is an elbow of land lying between the equator and the 11th degree of north latitude, which, from its peculiar form, might well be designated the Eastern Horn of Africa. The land is high in the north, and has a general declination, as may be seen by the river system, to the south and eastward, but with less easting as we come westward.
It is separated from the main body of Africa by the river Jub, a large and fertilising stream, which, rising in the mountains of southern Abyssinia, passes between the territories of the Gallas on the west and the Somali on the east, and debouches in the Indian Ocean at the northern extremity of the Zanzibar coast. According to Lieutenant Cruttenden’s map, there are only two other rivers besides this of any consequence in the land — the Webbe (river) Shebéli, or Haines river, which is of considerable importance, having a large flow of water, trending down a cultivable district of rich red soil, and another less important to the eastward of these two, called very unfortunately by him the Wadi4 Nogal. The proper specific name for this river has never, to my knowledge, been given; but the Jid Ali Tug is one of its head branches. It rises in some small hills close overhanging the north coast, and runs south-easterly into the Indian Ocean, dividing two large territories, called Ugahden, or Haud, on the west, and Nogal on the east, mouthing at Ras Ul Khylé. Ugahden is said to be a flat grassy country, of red soil, almost stoneless, and having water everywhere near the surface. It is considered by the pastoral Somali a famous place for keeping cattle, of which by report they possess a great abundance, such as camels, ponies, cows, and Dumba sheep — a fat-tailed animal, like the Persian breed. Game also abounds in this country, of which the gazelles and antelopes, I was assured, roamed about in vast herds like sheep.
The Nogal country is the opposite of this, containing nothing of any material value in it. The rock-formation is all lime, very pure and white like marble, which consequently makes the soil white, and, being very stony, it is almost barren. The Somali keep cattle here, but with much apparent difficulty, being, from the scarcity of springs and want of water, obliged to march about, following the last falls of rain, to obtain fresh herbage for their cattle. My first and greater journey gave me an insight into this portion of the interior of the country south of Bunder Gori. It was very interesting, though not profitable, from its never having been visited by any Europeans before. I observed here two distinct leading features in its physical geography. The first is a narrow hill-range, about 180 miles long and 20 or more broad, which is occupied by two large tribes — the Warsingali on the east, and a branch of the Habr Gerhajis on the west. It is situated at an average distance of from 200 yards to three or four miles from the sea-shore, separated from it by a sandy flat or maritime plain, and, like the line of coast, extends from east to west. Immediately due south of Bunder Gori, the sea-face, or northern slopes of this range, are very steep and irregular, being trenched down by deep ravines, which, during the rainy season, shed their water across the maritime plain into the Gulf of Aden.
The lower folds on this side of the range are composed of brown rocks and earth, having little or no vegetation upon them, and are just as uninviting in appearance as the light-brown hills which fringe the coast of Arabia, as seen by voyagers on the Red Sea. Further up the hill, in the central folds of the range, this great sterility changes for a warm rich clothing of bush-jungle and a little grass. Gum-trees, myrrh, and some varieties of the frankincense are found in great profusion, as well as a variety of the aloe plant, from which the Somali manufacture good strong cordage. The upper part of the range is very steep and precipitous, and on this face is well clad with trees and bush-jungle. The southern side of the range is exactly the opposite, in all its characteristics, of the northern. Instead of having a steep drop of from 6000 to 7000 feet, it falls by gentle slopes to successive terraces, like a giant staircase, to scarcely half that depth, where it rests at the head of the high plateau land of Nogal, and is almost barren. Nogal, as I have said before, is also very barren, only producing trees, such as the hardy acacia and jujube, in sheltered places, in the valleys or watercourses which drain that land to the south-east. I had no means of determining it, but should judge this second great geographical feature, the plateau of Nogal, by the directions its streams lie in, to have a gradual decreasing declination, like all the rest of the interior, from the north, where it averages an altitude of from 3000 to 4000 feet, down to the level of the sea on south and by east.
According to traditional histories furnished me by the natives who accompanied me on the journeys I undertook, it appears that the present Somali are of rather recent origin, not more than four and a half centuries old. About the year 1413, an Arab chieftain, Darud-bin-Ismail, who had been disputing with an elder brother for certain territorial rights at Mecca, was overpowered and driven from the Mussulman Holy Land, and marched southwards, accompanied by a large number of faithful followers — amongst whom was an Asyri damsel, of gentle blood and interesting beauty, whom he subsequently married — to Makallah, on the southern shores of Arabia. Once arrived there, this band of vanquished fugitives hired vessels, and, crossing the Gulf of Aden, came to Bunder Gori. Here they were hospitably received by the then governing people, who, for the most part, were Christians — probably Gallas and Abyssinians — who, judging from the few archaeological remains they subsequently left behind them, must have lived in a far more advanced state of civilisation than the present Somali enjoy. Those Christian people were governed by one man, Sultan Kin, who had a deputy called Wurrah, renowned alike for his ferocity of character and his ability to govern.
For some years Darud and his Arab followers led a quiet, peaceable life, gaining the confidence of his host, and inspiring Kin’s subjects with reverence for their superior talents. In process of time, by intermarriage and proselytising, these Mussulmans increased in number, and gained such strength, that they began to covet, and finally determined to take the country from the race that had preceded them. This project, by various intrigues and machinations, was easily effected; and Kin, with all his Christians, was driven back to his native highlands in Ethiopia.5 Darud now was paramount in all this land, and reigned until he died, when an only son by his Asyri wife succeeded to him. This man’s name was Kabl Ullah, who had a son called Harti. On succeeding his father, Harti had three sons, called respectively, in order of birth, Warsingali, Dulbahanta, and Mijjertaine. Amongst these three he divided his kingdom, which to this day retains the names. The Mijjertaine dispersed over the eastern portions of the land, the Warsingali held the central, and the Dulbahantas the western territories.6
Subsequently to this period, an Arab called Ishak came across from Southern Arabia and established himself forcibly at Méit, and founded the three different nations who now occupy all the coast-line from Ras Galwéni on the eastward to Zeyleh on the extreme west of the Somali country. Ishak, it appears, had three wives, who gave in issue three sons, and among these three men was divided the whole country which he subdued.
Forming themselves into tribes, the senior or Habr Gerhajis, by constant feuds and other causes, are much distributed about the country, but mostly occupy the hilly grounds to the southward of the coast-line; whilst the Habr Owel, or second in order of birth, possess all the coast of Berbera between Zeyleh and Kurrum; and the third, or Habr Teljala, hold all the rest thence eastwards to Héis.
The Somali have been chiefly known to us since the time of our taking occupation of Aden, whither many of them resort with their wives and families to carry on trade, or do the more menial services of porterage and donkey-driving. They are at once easily recognised by the overland traveller by their singular appearance and boisterous manner, as well as by their cheating and lying propensities, for which they are peculiarly notorious; indeed, success in fraud is more agreeable to them than any other mode of gaining a livelihood, and the narration of such acts is their greatest delight in conversation. They excel as donkey-boys even the Egyptians. As may be concluded from their history, they are a mixed Ham–Shemitic race, but differing considerably from both in their general appearance, though retaining certain characteristics of both these breeds. They are a tall, slender people, light and agile as deer; slightly darker than, though much the colour of Arabs, with thin lip, and noses rather Grecian when compared with those of blacks, but with woolly heads like the true negroes. Their natures are so boisterous and warlike, that at Aden it has been found necessary to disarm them. When they first arrived there, it was not an unusual sight to see the men of different tribes, on the hillsides that form the face of the “crater,” fighting battles-royal with their spears and shields; and even to this day, they, without their arms, sometimes have hot contests, by pelting one another with sticks and stones. There is scarcely a man of them who does not show some scars of wounds received in these turmoils, some apparently so deep that it is marvellous how they ever recovered from them.
Their costume is very simple. The men, who despise trousers, wear a single sheet of long-cloth, eight cubits long, thrown over the shoulder, much after the fashion of the Scotsman’s plaid. Some shave their head, leaving it bare; others wear the mane of a lion as a wig, which is supposed by them to give the character of ferocity and courage to the wearer, while those who affect the dandy allow their hair to grow, and jauntily place some sticks in it resembling the Chinaman’s joss-sticks, which, when arranging their toilette, they use as a comb, and all carry as weapons of defence a spear and shield, a shillelagh, and a long two-edged knife. The women clothe more extensively, though not much so. Fastening a cloth tightly round the body immediately under their arms, they allow it to fall evenly down to the ground, and effectually cover their legs. The married ones encase their hair in a piece of blue cloth, gathering it up at the back of the head in the fashion of English women of the present day; this is a sign of wedlock. The virgins wear theirs loose, plaited in small plaits of three, which, being parted in the centre, allows the hair to fall evenly down all round the head like a well-arranged mop. On approaching these fairs, they seductively give their heads a cant backwards, with a half side-jerk, which parts the locks in front, and discloses a pretty little smiling face, with teeth as white as pearls, and lips as red as rubies. Pretty as they are when young, this beauty fades at once after bearing children, and all their fair proportions go with it. After that marked peculiarity of female negroes, they swell about the waist, and have that large development behind, which, in polite language, is called steatopyga. Although they are Mussulmans, none wear the yashmac. Beads are not so much in request here as in other parts of Africa, though some do wear necklaces of them, with large rings of amber. This description, however, applies to the Somali in his own land. When he comes over to Aden he takes shame at his nakedness, dons the Arab’s gown and trousers, and becomes the merchant complete.7
In consequence of the poorness of their land, almost all the Somali are wandering pastorals, which of itself is enough to account for their turbulent natures. The system of government they maintain is purely patriarchal, and is succeeded to by order of birth generally in a regular and orderly manner, attributable, it would appear, to the reverence they feel for preserving their purity of blood. The head of each clan is called Gerad or Sultan, who would be powerless in himself were he not supported by the united influence of all the royal family. When any disturbances or great disputes arise, the sultan is consulted, who collects his elders in parliament to debate the matter over, and, through them, ascertain the people’s feelings. Petty disputes are settled by the elders without any further reference. In most cases war arises from blood-feuds, when a member of one clan kills the subject of another, and will not pay the recognised valuation of the party injured, or allow himself to be given up to the vengeance of the family who has sustained the loss. In such cases as these, whole tribes voluntarily march out to revenge the deed by forcibly taking as many cattle from the aggressor as the market valuation may amount to.
Thus a war, once contracted, does not subside for years, as by repeated deaths among the contending parties the balance of blood-money never can be settled. Moreover, the inflicted punishment seldom falls on the party immediately concerned; added to which, in wars of tribes, everybody helps himself to his enemy’s cattle in the best way he can, and men formerly poor now suddenly become rich, which gives a zest to the extension of the contest nothing else could produce. Indeed, the poorer orders of Somali are only too glad to have a good pretext for a fight, as a means of bettering their condition, by adding a few more head of cattle to their stock. Were this not the case, there would be no fighting whatever, as the sultan would be powerless to raise an army against the inclination of the people. War only ceases when both sides become exhausted, and withdraw as by mutual consent. The great object in these encounters is to steal away as many cattle as possible without risk of person, and such feats are boasted of with rapture by those returning home with any prize. In the administration of justice they consult the Mosaic law, as given in the Koran, taking life for life, and kind for kind.
The northern Somali have no permanent villages in the interior of the country, as the ground is not cultivated; but they scatter about, constantly moving with their flocks and herds to any place within their limited districts where water is to be found, and erect temporary huts of sticks, covered with grass mats; or, when favourable, they throw up loose stone walls like the dykes in Scotland. But on the sea-coast, wherever there are harbours for shipping, they build permanent villages on a very primitive scale. These are composed of square mat walls, supported by sticks, and all huddled together, and partitioned off for the accommodation of the various families, near which there are usually one or more square box-shaped stone buildings, the property of the chief of the place, which are designated forts, though there is nothing in their artless construction to deserve this name. They are all composed of blocks of coralline, cemented together with mortar extracted from the same material.
Like nearly all places within the tropics, beyond the equatorial rainy zone, this country is visited by regular monsoons, or seasons in which the winds prevail constantly in one direction; consequently vessels can only come into the harbours of the northern coast when the sun is in the south, or during five months of the year, from the 15th November to the 15th April, to trade with the people; and then the Somali bring the products of their country, such as sheep, cows, ghee, mats made by the women from certain grasses and the Daum palm, ostrich feathers, and hides, and settle on the coast to exchange them in barter with the outer merchants, such as Arabs and men from Cutch, who bring thither cloths, dates, rice, beads, and iron for that purpose.
Of all the trading places on the coast, the most important is Berbera; it is, in fact, the great emporium of Somali land, and we must call the reader’s particular attention to it, since it forms the chief point of interest in these pages. It is on the same meridian as Aden, and only divided from it by the gulf of that name. Although it is of such great importance, it is only inhabited during the five months of the favourable monsoon, when great caravans come up from the rich provinces which lie to its south and south-west, the principal ones being those from Ugahden and Harar.
Having now given a general sketch of the country, we shall enter upon the objects of the expedition. It was obvious, by the lay of the land, that the richest and most interesting part of the country must be that which lies between the Jub and Webbe Shebéli rivers, and it was the most accessible to inspection, as large and powerful caravans, travelling southwards through Ugahden, much frequent it. Seeing this, Lieutenant Burton conceived the idea of waiting until the breaking up of the Berbera fair, when the caravans disperse to their homes, to travel by the ordinary caravan route, through the Ugahden country to the Webbe Shebéli, and on to Gananah, and then to proceed further by any favourable opportunity to the Zanzibar coast.
It was now, however, early October, and fully five months must elapse ere we could finally enter on our march. In the mean time, Lieutenant Burton, desirous of becoming acquainted as far as possible with the habits of the people we were destined to travel amongst, as well as the nature of the country and the modes of travelling in this terra incognita, determined on making an experimental tour to Harar, a place which had never been entered by any European, and was said to be inaccessible to them. Harar, as I have said before, sends caravans annually to the Berbera fair, and therefore comes within the influence of British power. Taking advantage of this, Lieutenant Burton ordered Herne to go to Berbera whilst he was on this expedition, to keep up a diversion in his favour, arming him with instructions, that in case he was detained in Harar by the Amir of that place, Herne might detain their caravan as a ransom for the release of his party.
Further, to obtain more accurate knowledge concerning the march of the Ugahden caravans, to gain an insight into the market transactions of Berbera, and to collect cattle for our final march, it was deemed advisable he should go there. Stroyan, as soon as he could manage it, was also to go to Berbera to assist him. Thus everybody had a duty to perform during this interregnum but myself.
Dreading the monotony of a station life, I now volunteered to travel in any direction my commandant might think proper to direct, and to any length of time he might consider it advisable for me to be away. This proposition had its effect, as affording an extra opportunity of obtaining the knowledge desired, and instructions were drawn up for my guidance. I was to proceed to Bunder Gori, on the Warsingali frontier, to penetrate the country southwards as far as possible, passing over the maritime hill-range, and, turning thence westwards, was to inspect the Wadi Nogal, and march direct on Berbera, to meet Stroyan and Herne, at a date not later than the 15th January 1855. Whilst travelling I was to remark upon the watershed of the country, plot the route I travelled, keep copious notes on everything I saw, and collect specimens of natural history in all its branches, as well as observe and register all meteorological phenomena, and buy camels and ponies for the great future expedition.
Funds for the expenses of this undertaking were not available at that time from the public purse, as the Indian Government had stipulated that the whole sum they would advance for this great expedition should not exceed £1000, and, for security’s sake, had decided on paying it by instalments of £250 at a time. I therefore, desirous to render as much assistance as lay within my power to further the cause I had embarked upon, volunteered to advance the necessary sum from my own private resources, trusting to Lieutenant Burton’s promises in the future for being repaid.
This project settled, I at once set to work, and commenced laying in such stores as were necessary for an outfit, whilst Lieutenant Burton, who had been long resident in Aden, engaged two men to assist me on the journey. The first was a man named Sumunter, who ranked highly in his country, who was to be my Abban or protector. The duty of abbanship is of the greatest importance, for it rests entirely on the Abban’s honesty whether his client can succeed in doing anything in the country he takes him through. Arabs, when travelling under their protection, have to ask his permission for anything they may wish to do, and cannot even make a march, or purchase anything, without his sanction being first obtained. The Abban introduces the person under his protection to the chief of his clan, is answerable for all outrages committed on the way, and is the recognised go-between in all questions of dispute or barter, and in every other fashion. The second man was also a Warsingali,8 by name Ahmed, who knew a slight smattering of Hindustani, and acted as interpreter between us. I then engaged two other men, a Hindustani butler named Imam, and a Seedi called Farhan. This latter man was a perfect Hercules in stature, with huge arms and limbs, knit together with largely developed ropy-looking muscles. He had a large head, with small eyes, flabby squat nose, and prominent muzzle filled with sharp-pointed teeth, as if in imitation of a crocodile. Farhan told me that when very young he was kidnapped on the Zanzibar coast by the captain of a small Arab vessel. This captain one day seeing him engaged with many other little children playing on the sandy seashore, offered him a handful of fine fruity-looking dates, which proved so tempting to his juvenile taste that he could not resist the proffered bait, and he made a grab at them. The captain’s powerful fingers then fell like a mighty trap on his little closed hand, and he was hurried off to the vessel, where he was employed in the capacity of “powder-monkey.” In this position he remained serving until full grown, when, finding an opportunity, he ran away from his master, and has ever since lived the life of a “free-man.”
As a soldier, he had been tried in warfare, and was proved valorous and cunning in the art, and promised to be a very efficient guard for me. The next thing of most importance to be considered was the dress I should wear. I first consulted the Colonel (Outram), who said he was averse to our going in disguise, thinking that lowering ourselves in this manner would operate against me in the estimation of the natives. But this did not suit Lieutenant Burton’s plans, who, not wishing to be conspicuous whilst travelling to Harar, determined on going there disguised as an Arab merchant, and thought it better we should appear as his disciples, in accordance with which Herne had already purchased his dress, and now I bought mine. It was anything but pleasant to the feel. I had a huge hot turban, a long close-fitting gown, baggy loose drawers, drawn in at the ankles, sandals on my naked feet, and a silk girdle decorated with pistol and dirk. As an outfit for this especial journey, I bought at Aden £120 worth of miscellaneous articles, consisting chiefly of English and American sheeting, some coarse fabrics of indigo-dyed Indian manufacture, several sacks of dates and rice, and a large quantity of salt, with a few coloured stuffs of greater value than the other cloths, to give away as presents to the native chiefs. As defensible and other useful implements for the scientific portion of the expedition, I took rifles, guns, muskets, pistols, sabres, ammunition in great quantity, large commodious camel-boxes for carrying specimens of natural history, one sextant and artificial horizon, three boiling-point and common atmospheric thermometers, and one primitive kind of camera obscure, which I had made at Aden under the ingenious supervision of Herne.
1 Without exception, and after having now shot over three quarters of the globe, I can safely say, there does not exist any place in the whole wide world which affords such a diversity of sport, such interesting animals, or such enchanting scenery, as well as pleasant climate and temperature, as these various countries of my first experiences; but the more especially interesting was Tibet to me, from the fact that I was the first man who penetrated into many of its remotest parts, and discovered many of its numerous animals.
2 Lieutenant Burton received £100 from the Royal Geographical Society to cross Africa from west to east, and whilst attempting that journey he got drifted off with the flood of pilgrims to Mecca. See his book.
3 I had then mapped Tibet, and had laid down several new districts which even to this day have not been trodden by any European but myself.
4 Wadi, river or nullah.
5 It is questionable whether or not these Christians were driven south, fought at Mombas, were repulsed, and since have crossed the Nile to where we now find them, under the name of Wahuma. People may argue against the possibility of this, as the Wahuma do not keep horses; but the only reason, I believe, why they do not, is simply because horses won’t live in those rich regions.
6 Lieutenant Cruttenden, in his geographical treatise, describes the Darud family as being divided into four tribes, and, in addition to the three of which I heard, places the fourth or Murreyhan in his map to the southward of the country of Ugahden, lying between his Wadi Nogal and the Webbe Shebéli river.
7 The Somali, in their own country, consider the Arab’s gown and trousers effeminate; so on return to Africa they throw off the Arab costume again.
8 This proved a great mistake. By having both men of the same tribe for my entire dependence, they invariably acted in concert against me like two brothers.
The Voyage — An Akil — The Somali Shore — Sultan (Gerad) Mahamed Ali — Hidden Treasure — The Warsingali — A Royal Reception — Somali Appetites — Difficulties and Impediments — Sultan Tries My Abban or Protector.
On the 18th October 1854, having got all my preparations completed, I embarked in an Arab vessel, attired in my Oriental costume, with my retinue and kit complete, and set sail that same evening at 6 P.M.
The voyage, owing to light and varying breezes, was very slow and tedious. Instead of performing the whole voyage in three days, the ordinary time, it took us nine. According to the method of Arab navigation, instead of going from port to port direct, we first tracked eastward along the Arabian shore three successive days, setting sail at sunrise, and anchoring regularly at sundown. By this time we were supposed to be opposite Bunder Héis, on the Somali coast, and the Nahkoda (captain) thought it time for crossing over the Gulf. We therefore put out to sea at sunrise on the morning of the 21st, and arrived the same evening, by mistake, assisted with a stiffish easterly breeze, at a small place called Rakodah, which, by report, contained a small fort, three mat huts, and many burnt ones, a little to the westward of Bunder Héis. My Abban accounted for the destruction of this place by saying it had been occupied surreptitiously for a long period by a people called Rheer Dud, who sprang from a man called Sambur-bin-Ishak; but about four years ago, the Musa Abokr — a sub-tribe of the Habr Teljala, who were the former and rightful owners of the place — suddenly returned, took the usurpers by surprise, and drove them off by setting fire to the village. The next day, by hard work, tacking up the wind, which still continued easterly, we succeeded in reaching Bunder Héis, which, like the last place, was occupied by the Musa Abokr. There were four small craft lying here, waiting for cargoes, under lee of a spur of low hills which constituted the harbour; in which, fortunately, there was very good fishing to be obtained. We were detained here by adverse and light winds two days, during which time I went on shore and paid my respects to the Akil (chief) of the place, who lived in a small box-shaped stone fort, on the west flank of the village of Héis, which was very small, composed, as usual, of square mat huts, all built together, and occupied only by a few women, who made mats, collected gums, and stored the produce of the interior, as sheep, cows, and ghee, which their men constantly brought down to them, for shipping off to Arabia.9 The Akil’s reception was very warm and polite. He offered me everything at his disposal, and gave as an honorary present a Dumba sheep and a bowl of sour camel’s milk, which I thought at the time the most delicious thing I ever drank. It is sharp and rough, like labourers’ cider, and, drunk in the heat of the day, is most refreshing. When first taken, and until the stomach becomes accustomed to it, it operates like medicine, and I on this occasion was fairly taken in. The fish we caught were not very good, but comical in appearance, and of a great variety of the most beautiful prismatic colours, changing in tint as different lights and shades struck upon them.
We left Héis on the 25th, with very light and unfavourable winds, and tracked along shore to the eastward, making very little way. The weather continuing the same, on the 26th I forced the Nahkoda, much against his will, on at night, as during the darker hours the winds were much stronger, and by this means we arrived at our destination, Bunder Gori on the Warsingali frontier, at sundown on the 27th of October. I had now seen the Somali shore, and must confess I was much disappointed. All that was visible, besides the village mentioned, was a sandy tract of ground, the maritime plain, which extended in breadth from the sea-shore to some brown-looking hills in the background, from a few hundred yards to one or two miles distant; and hills and plains — for I could, by my close approximation to them, only see the brown folds of the hills near the base — were alike almost destitute of any vegetation; whilst not one animal or any other living creature could be seen.
28th October. — The Abban would not allow anybody to go on shore until certain parties came off to welcome us and invite us to land, such being the etiquette of the country when any big-wigs arrive. After the sun rose we were duly honoured by the arrival of many half-naked dignitaries, who tenderly inquired after the state of our health, the prosperity or otherwise of our voyage, the purpose of our coming there, and a variety of other such interesting matters. Then again they were questioned by our people as to the state of the country, whether in peace or war; how and where the Sultan Gerad Mahamed Ali was residing; if rain had lately fallen, and where; if the cattle were well in milk; — to which it was responded that everything was in the most promising order; the cattle were flourishing in the hills, where rain had lately fallen, about twenty miles distant from that place; and the sultan, with all the royal family,10 were there, revelling on milk, under the shade of favouring trees, or reposedly basking in the warm morning sun — the height of Somali bliss. The order was now given to go ashore, and we all moved off to a fort which the Abban said was his own property, in Goriat (little Bunder Gori), three miles to the westward of Bunder Gori. There were two of these little forts near, and a small collection of mat huts, like those already described, and of the same material as all Somali forts and huts. The kit was now brought across and placed within the fort I occupied, all except the salt, which afterwards proved a bone of contention between me and the Abban, and the sultan was at once sent for. No one could move a yard inland, or purchase anything, without his sanction being first obtained.
Although Gerad Mahamed Ali was living only twenty miles distant from Goriat, it was not until repeated messages had been sent to him, and eleven days had elapsed, that he answered the summons by his presence. In the meanwhile, having nothing better to do during this tedious interval, as no people would bring cattle or anything for sale, I took walks about the plain, shooting, and killed a new variety of gazelle, called Déra11 by the Somali, and Salt’s antelopes, here called Sagaro, which fortunately were very abundant, though rather wild; catching fish, drawing with the camera, bathing in the sea, luxuriating on milk, dates, and rice, or talking and gossiping with the natives.
On one occasion my interpreter came to me with a mysterious air, and whispered in my ear that he knew of some hidden treasures of vast amount, which had been buried not far off, under rocky ground, in such a way that nobody had been able to dig them up, and he wished that I, being an Englishman, and consequently knowing secret arts, as well as hikmat (scientific dodges), would direct how to search for these treasures. By inquiring farther into the matter, it appeared that an old man, a miser, who had been hoarding all his life, was suddenly taken ill about forty years ago, and feared he would die. Seeing this, his relatives assembled round him to ask his blessing; and the old man, then fearing all his worldly exertions would end to no good purpose, asked them to draw near that he might tell them where his riches were hidden; but even then he would not disclose the secret, until he was in the last dying gasp, when he said, “Go to a pathway lying between two trees, and stretch out a walking-stick to the full length of your arm, and the place where the end of your wand touches is that in which my treasures are hidden.” The wretched man then gave up the ghost, and his family commenced the search; but though they toiled hard for many days and weeks, turning up the stones in every direction, they never succeeded in finding the treasure, and had now given up the search in despair. The fact was, they omitted to ask their parent on which side of the path it was concealed, and hence their discomfiture. At my request the said family came to me, corroborated the statements of the interpreter, and begged imploringly I would direct them how to search for the money; saying at the same time they would work again, if I thought it of any use; and, moreover, they would give me half if the search proved successful. I lent them some English pick-axes, and went to see the place, which certainly showed traces of very severe exertions; but the strong nature of the soil was too much for them, even when armed with tools, unless they were fortunate enough to hit upon the exact spot, which they did not, and therefore toiled in vain again.
The Warsingali complained to me sadly of their decline in power since the English had interfered in their fights with the Habr Teljala, which took place near Aden about seven years ago, and had deprived them of their vessels for creating a disturbance, which interfered with the ordinary routine of traffic. They said that on that occasion they had not only beaten the Habr Teljala, but had seized one of their vessels; and that prior to this rupture they had enjoyed paramount superiority over all the tribes of the Somali; but now that they were forbidden to transport soldiers or make reprisals on the sea, every tribe was on an equality with them.
They further spoke of the decline of their tribe’s morals since the time when the English took possession of Aden and brought in civilisation with them. This they in most part attributed to our weak manner in prosecuting crime, by requiring too accurate evidence before inflicting punishment; saying that many a dishonest person escaped the vengeance of law from the simple fact of there being no eyewitnesses to his crime, although there existed such strong presumptive evidence as to render the accusation proved. When speaking against our laws, and about their insufficiency to carry out all governmental points with a strong and spirited hand, they never forget to laud their own sultan’s despotic powers and equity in justice.
Of course no mortal man was like their Gerad Mahamed Ali. In leading them to war he was like the English French,12 and in settling disputes he required no writing office, but, sitting on the woolsack, he listened to the narration of prosecution and defence with his head buried in his hands, and never uttering a word until the trial was over, when he gave his final decision in one word only, ay or nay, without comment of any sort. In confirmation of their statements, they gave the description of a recent trial, when a boy was accused of having attempted to steal some rice from a granary; the lad had put his hand through a chink in the door of it, and had succeeded in getting one finger, up to the second joint, in the grain; this, during the trial, he frankly acknowledged having done, and the sultan appointed that much of his finger exactly to be cut off, and no more — punishing the deed exactly according to its deserts. This, to Somali notions, seemed a punctiliousness in strict equity of judicial administration which nothing could excel, and they bragged of it accordingly.
Becoming dreadfully impatient at so much loss of precious time whilst waiting here, unable to prepare in any way for the journey, I sent repeated messages to the sultan, demanding his immediate attendance; but it was not until the 6th of November that I heard definitely of his approach, and then it was that he was coming down the hill.
On the 7th he came with a host of Akils to Bunder Gori, and put up in a Nahkoda’s hut. This indignity he was obliged to submit to, as he had not cautioned the merchants who occupied his forts of his intended approach, and now no one would turn out for him. Finding him so near me, I longed to walk over to him and settle matters personally at once; but dignity forbade it; and as he had come with such cautious trepidation, I feared any over-hastiness might frighten him away again. He seemed to observe the same punctiliousness towards me, so I split the difference by sending an embassy by my Abban, assisted by other powerful Akils, early the following morning, when they held durbar, and my intentions of travelling were fully discussed in open court. For a long time the elders on the sultan’s side were highly adverse to my seeing their country, considering no good could possibly arise from it, and much harm might follow; I might covet their country, and eventually take it from them, whereas they could gain nothing. Hearing this, the Abban waxed very wroth, and indignantly retorted he would never allow such a slur to be cast upon his honour, or the office which he held. He argued he had come there as my adviser and Abban; his parentage was of such high order, his patriotism could not be doubted. Had he not fought battles by their side, of which his scars bore living testimony? and now they wished to stigmatise him as a traitor to his country! The sultan must decide it. How could jungle-folk like them know anything of the English and their intentions?
The sultan listened silently during this discourse, which, though written in a few lines, took many hours of hot debating, by their turning and turning every little particular over and over again; and finally decided it in his usual curt and conclusive manner, by saying, “The Warsingali were on the most friendly and amicable relations with the English; and as he was desirous of maintaining it, he would give me leave to travel anywhere I liked within his dominions, and to see and examine anything I chose. But out of fear for the consequences, as the English would hold him answerable should any disasters befall me, he could not sanction my crossing over his frontier in any direction, and more especially into the Dulbahanta country, where wars were raging, and the country so unsafe that even Warsingali dare not venture there.” This announcement was brought back in high exultation by Sumunter, who thought his success complete, and at the same time announced to me the sultan’s intention of honouring me with a visit in the evening, which was duly done.
He came a little before sunset, with his bare head shaven, a dirty coloured tobe thrown over his shoulders, and hanging loosely down to his sandaled feet.13 He looked for all the world like a patriarch of the olden times, and passed me, marching in martial order in the centre of a double line of men sloping their spears in bristling array over their shoulders, all keeping step in slow marching order, a scene evidently got up in imitation of our soldiers. Not a word was spoken, and the deepest solemnity prevailed. On his arrival in front of the fort, I drew up my men, and fired a salute to give him welcome. This was done in right good earnest, by every man cramming his gun with powder, to excel his neighbour in a loud report, to show the superiority of his weapon; for such is the black man’s notions of excellence in a fowling-piece. The march concluded, the sultan with his followers all huddled together and squatted on the ground outside the second fort, deeply agitated, and not knowing what to do, as they evidently dreaded what might follow. To dissipate their fears, I approached his royalty, salaamed, and tried to beguile the time by engaging them in conversation.
Finding that this had rather the opposite effect, I then retired, and soon found them all intently wrapped up in prayer, prostrating and rising by turns, with uplifted hands, and muttering for hours together without cessation. I then ordered a regal repast to be served them of rice swimming in ghee, and dates ad libitum. This, notwithstanding their alarm, was despatched with the most marvellous rapacity, to such an alarming extent, that I required to know how many men were engaged in eating it. The Abban replied that there were only a few: he would not allow many to come over here out of a spirit of economy, knowing I had not much property to spare, though all the rest had wished to come, and were greatly disappointed. But these men, as is usual amongst Somali, had prepared themselves for a feast by several days’ previous fasting, and each man would, if I allowed it, swallow at one meal as much as a sheep’s skin could contain. As a gun is known by the loudness of its report, and ability to stand a large discharge of powder, to be of good quality, so is a man’s power gauged by his capacity of devouring food; it is considered a feat of superiority to surpass another in eating.
I have seen a Somali myself, when half-starved by long fasting, and his stomach drawn in, sit down to a large skinful of milk, and drink away without drawing breath until it was quite empty, and it was easy to observe his stomach swelling out in exact proportion as the skin of liquor decreased. They are perfect dogs in this fashion. I may here add, that although the Abban in this speech seemed to show so much consideration for my property, by several recent tricks of his I entertained much suspicion of his honesty; and this little address, though uttered plausibly, was too common and transparent a trick in the East to beguile me. All Orientals have a proverbial habit of saving their master’s property to leave greater pickings for themselves, and such I considered was Sumunter’s dodge now.
8th November. — This morning the sultan, having now recovered, came to return my salaam of the previous evening, when I opened to him the purport of my expedition in minute detail: how I wished to visit the Southern Dulbahantas, cross and inspect the Wadi Nogal, and thence proceed west to meet my friends, Stroyan and Herne, at Berbera. He listened very attentively and politely, but at the conclusion repeated the words I had already heard; adding that the Dulbahantas had intestine wars; they had been fighting many years, and were now in hot strife, dividing the government of their country. Not many days since a report had arrived that the southern portion of them, who occupied the countries about one hundred miles due south of Bunder Héis, had had a fight with the northern ones, who were living on the same meridian, immediately to their northward, and had succeeded in capturing 2000 horses, 400 camels, a great number of sheep and goats, and had wounded one man severely: it was therefore impossible I could go from the northern division to the southern, for I should be treated as an enemy; and that was the only line on which water could be found during this, the dry season. Had I come here during the monsoon, I might have travelled directly in a diagonal line, from the south of the mountain-range to the rear of this place, into their, the southerners’, country, who were the older branch, and were now governed by the hereditary and rightful chief, Gerad Mahamed Ali, who was on the most friendly terms with the Warsingali, and who, being an old chief, and well respected by his adherent subjects, might have granted me a hospitable reception.
On the other hand, the northern Dulbahantas, who were also friendly with the Warsingali, were under no control: the Gerad, by name Mahamed Ali also, was recently installed in government, and was consequently very little respected. He (the Warsingali chief) could not, therefore, give his sanction to my going amongst them, by which my life would be endangered, and he, for permitting it, would be held responsible by the English. No arguments of mine would alter the decision of the inflexible chief; I therefore changed the subject by asking him to assist me in procuring camels, by which I might go into the interior, and feel my way thereafter. This he readily agreed to, and begged permission to return to Bunder Gori to give the necessary orders to his subjects. His escort then demanded a cloth apiece from me, to be given them for their trouble in coming over here; arguing that, had I not required the sultan’s attendance, they would not have had to come; — a plausible, but truly Somali notion of justice; they knew their proper master would give them nothing for coming to support his dignity, but thought I might be softer.
10th. — The sultan, not able to do business hurriedly with his rabble subjects, did not appear again until this morning, and then, instead of proceeding at once to work, hinted he should like to have the presents I had brought from Aden for him, as the best method of showing our feelings to one another. This was not so easily concluded. I portioned out the things that were intended for him, and wished he would take them at once away and clear the room, thinking, in my inexperience of savages, I had only to give, and it would be received with a hearty Bism-illah; but I was soon undeceived: the things were taken with a grunt of discontentment; all looked over one by one. If a cloth was soiled, it must be changed; and then the measurements began by cubits = 18 inches, or from the point of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, just as Noah must have done when he built the ark. But as all forearms are not of equal length, much delay was occasioned by the sultan trying the length of his forearm against everybody’s in the room, and then by measuring every cloth by turn, and remeasuring them again for fear of mistake; then they were divided into lots, to be disposed of to his wives, and children and Akils and servants, and, of course, found insufficient to meet everybody’s expectations, and I must give more.
Tedious hours passed in this way; as a final petition, the sultan said I must give him for himself a gun and my silk turban, as I had given up wearing anything on my head, and did not require it: these were, after a certain amount of haggling, surrendered, on condition that the sultan would exert himself a little more energetically on my account. The way he handled the musket was very amusing: he had never had one in his hands before, and could not get it to sit against his shoulder; and when his people placed it for him, he persisted in always cocking the wrong eye, which tickled Farhan’s fancy so much, that he burst into loud roars of laughter. Nevertheless, the sultan took things quietly, and would not allow himself to be discomposed, but coolly said the gun would be of no use unless I gave him some powder to feed it with. This last straw broke the camel’s back; all things must have an end, and I promised I would give him some after he procured enough camels for my wants, but not before. This settled the matter, and he walked off, with all the things I had given him, as sulkily as if he had been injured.
Camels were then brought for sale, and purchasing commenced. When the sultan was present, he had to determine if the prices asked by the sellers were reasonable or not, and took for his office as mediator a tithe on all purchases; but in his absence, Akils were appointed to officiate on the same conditions. This system of robbing, I was assured, was the custom of the country, and if I wanted to buy at all I must abide by it. Cloth was at a great discount on the coast, for the men there had, by their dealings with Aden, become accustomed to handle dollars, and were in consequence inspired with that superior innate love for the precious metal over all other materials, with which all men, and especially those newly acquainted with it, become unaccountably possessed. No one would believe that my boxes could be made for any other purpose than for locking up money; and I was obliged to leave them open to inspection before they would sell anything for cloth.14
The sultan now lived at Bunder Gori, and seldom showed himself, promising to come to me every day, without the least intention of doing so; and only at last, after three days’ absence, when I threatened to invade his dwelling, did he appear, bringing several camels with him: of these I purchased some good ones, and sent the rest away: this was the 15th November. He then returned home again, and promised faithfully he would bring on the morrow a sufficient number of camels to carry all my kit.
16th. — For the first time the sultan kept his promise by returning, but the animals he brought were weak and useless, and I could plainly see I was being trifled with, and detained here for the mere purpose of being robbed in an indirect manner, so that no accusation could be laid against any one. Nothing, I may say, in all my experiences, vexes the mind so much as feeling one’s self injured in a way that cannot be prevented or avenged. Some might take such matters quietly, but I confess I could not. Indeed, I stormed and expostulated with the sultan until he agreed to assist me in a move. I had now eleven camels, and wanted some five more, but thought it better not to wait; for as long as I remained in a comfortable dwelling, I knew my men would not exert themselves. That day, then, packing up what I most required, I started for Bunder Gori, and unloaded, after a three miles’ march, at an old well in rear of the village, selecting as a camping-ground the least comfortable place I could find, and not allowing the tent to be pitched, though the sun-heat was 112 degrees, and the sand was blowing in perfect clouds. Some days previous to my leaving Goriat, Sumunter induced me to give him twenty rupees to hire donkeys for conveying the heavier things over the hills, and repeatedly assured me he had got them, but they never came; and now I asked him to return the money, as I had brought it with me as a reserve fund, to provide against any possible difficulty, and not to be parted with for any ordinary purpose. This commenced a series of rows between Sumunter and myself: he had made away with the money, and could not produce it. The salt also was never forthcoming.
17th. — I could not succeed in making up my complement of camels. The sultan said he and his men must be fed before they could do work, and sat upon the date-bags so resolutely I was fain to open them that some business might be done. After feasting they all dispersed, under pretence of bringing other camels, and I went into the town to inspect the place. There were five small forts, occupied by merchants, of whom one was a Hindi from Cutch, and a large collection of mat huts, mostly occupied by women. Instead of finding a harbour (Bunder), as the name of the village implied, the shore was a gradual shelving open roadstead, in which two buggaloes were lying at anchor, waiting for cargoes, and four small sailing-boats were preparing, with harpoon and tackle, to go porpoise-hunting for oil.
18th. — Having made everybody as uncomfortable as I could wish, sitting in the sandy open plain, all the men were equally desirous with myself for a move on the journey; but still I was five camels short, and saw no hopes of getting them. The plan then settled was to move southwards half-way up the hill, leaving the few things still in the fort as they were, until I arrived at the camping-place, and could send the animals I was taking with me back to fetch them. Having now desired the sultan, Sumunter, and Farhan to return to Goriat, and leave the rear property in safe custody with the fort-keeper, I commenced the march across the maritime plain with Ahmed, Imam, a number of Somali camel-tenders armed with spear and bow, and the sultan’s youngest son, Abdullah, to direct the way until his father and the other two should arrive, which they promised they would do by the evening. The track first led us across the maritime plain, here about two miles broad, and composed of sand overlying limestone, with boulders in the dry shallow watercourses, and with no vegetable life save a few scrub acacias and certain salsola. This traversed, we next wound along a deep ravine called Tug (river) Tura,15 lying between the lower spurs of the mountain-range, and commenced a slight ascent up its cracked, uneven passage, until we reached a halting-place called Iskodubuk. The distance we had made was only about five miles from Bunder Gori, but the camels were so fatigued by travelling over boulders, that we were obliged to unload and stop there for the day. The sultan and Abban now overtook us to say that the rear things were in safe custody in the fort; and, leaving instructions with the young Prince Abdullah about the road we should follow on the morrow, returned nolens volens back to Bunder Gori, saying, as they went away, we might expect them at the next camping-ground as soon even as we could get there with the camels. A little after sunset, some interesting rock-pigeons — very similar to the Indian painted bird, which I found there frequenting ground much of the same nature — lit at some pools in the bed of the ravine, and enabled me to shoot and stuff several of them.
19th. — We got under way in the early morning, and commenced ascending the same ravine, when a messenger from the sultan arrived, and desired we would stop until he came. We had scarcely accomplished two miles, and the morning was yet young and cool, and I strove with every effort in my power to induce the men to go a little further forward, but without the slightest effect; they were as obstinate as mules, and just as unruly. This was a fair specimen of Somali travelling; any pretext to save the trouble of moving is accounted too precious to be lost. The ground here was a little more wooded; tall slender trees, with thick green foliage, grew in the bed of the ravine, in which there were some occasional pools of stagnant rain-water, and the brown rocky hill-sides were decorated with budding bush acacias, which afforded a good repast for the weary camels, whose journey over the boulders must have been very fatiguing to them.
20th. — As the sultan did not arrive, and the young prince would not allow my men to load, I ordered the interpreter and Imam to remain where they were, whilst I returned to Bunder Gori to see what was the matter, and on no account were they to issue any food until I came back again. As soon as I had gone two or three miles, I found the young prince and all the camel-men hastening after me, and entreating me to return; they said the sultan was on his way, and would arrive in camp in the evening. I complied, conditionally that they bound themselves to march in the morning whether he came or not. Once again in camp, I had my food prepared, and sat savagely watching the effect its odour had upon my starving men, who, fearing they would get none, formed in a body, and came petitioning me to forgive them, as they consented to do my bidding for ever after. They were then fed.
21st. — After loading in the morning, with a great deal of beating and thumping, all the camels, save two or three weakly ones, were whipped up a winding steep ridge, one of the buttresses of the mountain, to a camping-ground, six miles farther on, called Adhai. Here we were at the station originally assigned for the first day’s march, and, for the first and last time during the whole journey, I pitched the tent. The higher we ascended the hill the more abundant became the wooding, and green grass for the first time was visible amongst the stones. This freshness was attributed to a recent fall of rain. Altitude, by boiling thermometer, 4577 feet.
22d. — I sent all the freshest camels off to Goriat for the remaining property, with orders that everybody should return on the following day. At this height the temperature of the air was very delightful, the range at noon being only 79°. I spent the whole day specimen-hunting, and found the rocks were full of fossil shells. I killed a new snake or variety of Psammophis sibilans, and shot an interesting little antelope, Oreotragus saltatrix, the “klip-springer” of the Cape Colonist, as well as hyraxes and various small birds, which we duly preserved. My collections in this country were sent by Lieutenant Burton to the Asiatic Society’s Museum, Calcutta, and have been described in their journals by Mr E. Blyth, the Curator.
23d and 24th. — Passed without anybody appearing, and I was becoming much alarmed at repeated stories I heard of the Abban’s dishonesty. It then transpired that Sumunter was heavily in debt, and one of his principal creditors was at Bunder Gori detaining him there. A pony had been hired for my riding, and on this animal I wished to send Imam back, to find out the truth of everything, and to return to me the following day; but the wicked young prince, Abdullah, got wind of my intention, and had the pony driven away, so that the unfortunate Imam had to walk.
25th. — Still nobody came. I now despatched the interpreter on the same mission, and was left alone with the young prince and two or three camel-drivers. After a little while had elapsed, a number of savage hungry-looking men came up the hill and settled themselves in my encampment, squatting on the date-bags and clamouring for food. The prince and camel-drivers joined them, and became so importunate, I was obliged to rebuke them with angry demonstration. No sooner did they see me vexed than they began hovering tauntingly around me, jeering and vociferating in savage delight at the impunity they enjoyed in irritating me when all alone and helpless. However, I stood by the date and rice bags with my gun, and prevented anybody coming near me. The prince and camel-men now seeing me determined, and no farther discomposed by their manoeuvres, came supplicating for their daily rations. I gave it them at once, but could not satisfy them; they must have some more for all their brothers (meaning the blackguards who had just arrived), or they would strike work. This stirred my blood; I took back what I had given, and resolutely declined to be passively cajoled out of anything, let happen what may. They saw I was determined not to submit to them; and suddenly, as if the same thought struck every one of them at the same instant, they dashed down the hill, flying over the bushes and stones in their way, with yells and shouts, and, seizing a goat from a neighbouring flock, killed and quartered it without a moment’s hesitation. At this juncture, just as the robbed shepherd came crying to me for the price of his goat, Imam arrived from Goriat, and tried to reason with him that it was no business of mine, and I could not be expected to pay it. The injured man then swore he would have justice done him at the sultan’s hands, and all yelled again for dates and rice. As they could not get it, the young prince, ever full of boyish tricks, now seized up a mussack (water-skin), and said I should have no more water until I complied with their demands. The others, following his example, picked up as many more as they could find, and left but one mussack remaining. This one I immediately captured, and requested Imam to fill from a spring farther down the hill; but the men, thus far outdone, rather than allow it, said they would kill him if he dared attempt to go now. As Imam showed alarm at their wild threats, I took the water-skin myself and walked off to fill it, upon which the savages threw themselves out in line, flourishing their spears and bows, and declared they would kill me if I persisted in going. On I went, however, and had just passed through their line, when the sultan’s eldest son, Mohamed Aul, fortunately arrived, and rebuked them, together with his brother, for allowing me to be ill-treated. Finding Mohamed Aul very reasonable and obliging, I begged him to send Abdullah away as a nuisance, for I could never permit him to eat any more salt of mine.
Imam now disclosed to me the results of his investigations at Goriat and Bunder Gori. The Abban, as I had heard before, was detained there by a creditor to whom he had contracted debts in Aden, and now, in part liquidation of them, he had given away all my salt, the twenty rupees he took for hiring donkeys, several pieces of cloth, and he had changed my good rice for bad; and, knowing Farhan to be cognisant of all his villanies, had tried by bribes to induce him to desert. The sultan now arrived, and excused his long absence, saying that he had lost the time in fruitless endeavours to induce Sumunter to come with him. He said he had been remonstrating with Sumunter, and thought him very culpable in not obeying me. Hoping the sultan was in earnest in what he said, I now told him of all I had seen and heard about Sumunter, and begged he would assist me in sending him back to Aden, for no reliance could possibly be placed on a man who had proved himself so dishonest and unprincipled as he was. The interpreter also thought this would be a good plan, and advised my employing the sultan’s brother Hasan as abban or protector in his stead. However, the sultan said he could not undo what the English had done in Aden, but said if I wished he would send for Sumunter and rebuke him in my presence. I replied that I thought he could not get Sumunter to leave Bunder Gori, or he should have done so ere this. This touched his pride, and he raised his body indignantly, and said, “If I command, he must obey.” “Then, for goodness’ sake,” said I, “order him with all — all my things at once, and lose no more time.”
The following day they all arrived, and Sumunter with them, riding on a pony. I felt much incensed as the Abban came cringing up to me, and proclaimed him in presence of the sultan and all my men a traitor and robber, mentioning all his villanies in detail, and begging he would leave my camp at once, for I could not travel with him. He appeared very humble, and denied flatly all the accusations I brought against him. Upon this I begged the sultan, flattering him with his great renown for administering justice, that he would do me justice as his guest. He said he was willing to do anything for me if I would direct the way in which I wished him to proceed; he did not understand the English law, and I must submit to Somali methods. This was agreed to, and we all assembled in my tent, and arranged the court as follows:— I sat at the gable end of the tent with Imam, Ahmed, and Farhan, with Sumunter facing us. The sultan mounted on the bales of cloth, and all his retainers and princes, and my camel-drivers, sat in a group on the ground at his feet.
In opening the proceedings of the prosecution, I first said to Sumunter —
P. Speke. —“Where is the salt which you confess came with us to Goriat, and which you have told me daily you would give; but as yet, though everything, you say, is in the camp, it has not arrived?”
D. Sumunter. —“I did not bring it because it was so heavy, and thought you would not want it.”
P.—“Then why did you not land it at Goriat, and give it me there, or why did you even buy it at all at Aden if it was of no use?”
D.—“Because the Nahkoda took it to Bunder Gori.”
After a few more questions and answers, and the subject was exhausted, the sultan (judge), who had been sitting in silence with his head buried in his hands, now gave a grunt and motioned us to continue.
P.—“Where are the bales of cloth which by my account and Imam’s are missing?”
D.—“I did not take them; somebody else must have.”
P.—” They were in your charge, and you are answerable for them; besides which, Farhan here knows you gave them away.”
Judge. —“Ahem!” and the prosecution continued.
P.—“Where are the twenty rupees I gave you for hiring donkeys, and which I particularly ordered should not be expended for any other purpose?”
Sumunter, putting his hand fixedly in his breast, said, “I’ve got them; they are all right. I will give them to you presently.”
Speke. —“No! give them to me now; I want them this instant.”
Sumunter, confused, and fumbling at his pocket, much to the delight of all the court, who burst with laughter, said, “No! I’ve left them at home in Bunder Gori, and will give them by-and-by.”
Judge. —“Ahem!” and the prosecution continued.
P.—“Why did you change my good rice for bad?” (opening and showing the contents of the nearest sack).
D.—“I thought it would not signify: bad rice is good enough for the camel-drivers, and I have left enough good for your consumption. An old friend asked me for it, and I did it to oblige him.”
Judge. —“Ahem!” and the prosecution continued.
P.—“Why did you attempt to bribe Farhan to leave my service, and say nothing to me about it?”
D.—“Farhan is a bad man; and I was afraid he would steal your things.”
Thus ended the prosecution and defence. The sultan raised his head, and in answer to my appeal as to what judgment he would give, calmly said, he could see no harm in what had been done — Sumunter was my Abban, and, in virtue of the ship he commanded, was at liberty to do whatever he pleased either with or to my property. Words, in fact, equivalent to saying I had come into a land of robbers, and therefore must submit to being robbed; and this I plainly told him. Further, I even threatened the sultan with a pretended determination to return to Aden, where I said the matter would be settled at our police court without bias or favour. I then desired the interpreter to look out for any vessel that would give me a passage to Aden, as it was obvious to me Sumunter had more power in the land than the sultan. This took them all by surprise, abashed the old sultan and his family — for they were proud of their strength — and induced them to say I need not fear anything on that score; — was the sultan of the Warsingali, indeed, not the greatest chief in the land, and, moreover, a great ally of the English? This, of course, was only a feint on my part to bring them to a proper sense of their duty towards me; for I had brought letters of recommendation from the Government at Aden to their chief, and knew they would rather do anything than let me go back in a huff.
29th. — I had been now nine days waiting here, and had taken many walks about the hill-sides, investigating the place, and making sundry collections. The most interesting amongst these was a small lizard, a new species, afterwards named by Mr E. Blyth, the Curator of the Asiatic Society, Tiloqua Burtoni, after my commandant. The Somali brought a leopard into camp, which they said they had destroyed in a cave by beating it to death with sticks and stones. They have a mortal antipathy to these animals, as they sometimes kill defenceless men, and are very destructive to their flocks. Besides the little antelope described, I only saw the Saltiana antelope, and the tracks of two other species which were said to be very scarce. Rhinoceroses were formerly very abundant here, but have been nearly all killed down with spear and bow (they do not use firearms) by the Somali hunters, in consequence of the great demand for their skins for making shields. Amongst the bush and trees there were several gum-producing ones, of which the frankincense, I think, ranked first. These gums are usually plucked by the women and transported to Aden. The barks of various other trees are also very useful; for instance, they strip down the bark of the acacia in long slips, and chew it until only fibres remain, which, when twisted in the hand, make strong cordage. The acacia bark also makes a good tan for preserving leather; but of far greater account than this is the bark of a squat stunted tree, like the “elephant’s foot,” called by the Somali mohur, which has a smooth skin, with knotty-looking warts upon it like a huge turnip, reddish inside, with a yellowish-green exterior. It has a highly aromatic flavour, and is a powerful astringent. When making mussacks, the Somali pull a sheep or goat out of his skin; tie its legs and tail, where incisions had been made, to make it a waterproof bag, and then fill it with bits of this bark, chopped up and mixed with water. They then suspend it in a tree to dry, and afterwards render it soft and pliable by a severe course of manipulation. The taste of the bark is considered very wholesome, and a corrective to bad and fetid water. Besides possessing this quality, the mohur is useful as a poultice-when mashed and mixed with water; and the Somali always have recourse to it when badly wounded.
During my peregrinations at this place, I often dropped bits of paper about the jungle, little suspecting what would become of them; and, to my surprise, one day the interpreter came to me in some alarm, to say that several Dulbahantas had arrived at Bunder Gori, and were sharply canvassing amongst themselves the probable objects of my visit. I could not be travelling without a purpose, at so much expense; and they thought these bits of paper, which they had carefully picked up, conclusive evidence I was marking out some spots for future purposes. They abused the Warsingali for being such fools as to let me travel in their country, and said I should never cross over to them. This little incident of dropping paper, though fully explained to them, was ever afterwards brought up in accusation against me, and proved very perplexing.
30th. — Camp Habal Ishawalé. Altitude 5052 feet. — We were now all together, and I thought ready to march; but the men had first to be paid their hire in advance — a monthly stipend of five tobes each. When that was settled, many other men, and amongst them the sultan’s second brother Hassan, coveting my clothes, wished to be engaged. Some tedious hours were wasted on this subject. The sultan, at the instigation of these advocates for service, would have it, if I wished to travel according to the custom of the country, I must take more men with me as a guard. I, on the other hand, neither wanted them nor could afford to pay them, as I had been so extensively plundered — but wished to exchange Sumunter for his brother, and promised high rewards if he would take me through the journey. To put an end to the discussion, I struck my tent, never to be pitched again, and waited patiently until the camels came. It was not until near sundown that the camels were ready and the march commenced. The sultan then ordered Hassan and the naughty boy Abdullah, against my wish, to accompany me on the journey; and we set off, leaving two or three loads behind to be brought up on the morrow. The march was a short one, made to relieve the one beyond; for the spring of water we were now drinking from was the last on this side the range. It led us up a gradual but tortuous ascent, very thickly clad with strong bushes, to a kraal or ring-fence of prickly acacias, which was evidently made to protect the Somali’s sheep from lions, leopards, hyenas, and freebooters suddenly pouncing on them.
We remained here three days, sending the things I had brought in relays across the mountain, and fetching up the rear ones. The sultan could not lose the opportunity afforded by my detention to come again and beg for presents, and I gave him a razor to shave his head with and make a clean Mussulman of him. On finding he could get nothing further from me gratis, he demanded that a cloth should be paid to the man whom my camel-drivers had robbed of the goat at Adhai, and, before retiring, wished me urgently to take a letter for him to Aden, petitioning the English to allow him to form an expedition by sea, and take retribution on the Musa Abokr at Héis, who had recently killed one of his subjects.
9 Akil, plural Okál— chief or elder.
10 The sultan has four sons.
11 This gazelle is slightly different from the Dorcas, and, I believe, has never been obtained before.
12 In talking of white men or Europeans, the Somali always say English French, those two branches of the European community being all they are acquainted with.
13 Tobe, properly thobe, the dress used by Somali of both sexes. It consists of a white cloth, eight cubits long, frequently adorned with gaily-coloured edges; by the men it is worn loosely round the body with the end thrown over the shoulder, very much like the Roman toga. The women gather it in folds round the waist, where it is confined by a string, and both ends are fastened in a knot across the breast.
14 It may appear strange that these men would not accept anything from me in payment except such things as they were accustomed to; and many of the pretty baubles which I brought from Calcutta, and considered would allure them by their beauty, proved of no use here as a medium of exchange.
15 Tug, in the Somali language, signifies a periodical river, or water-course, the same as Wadi in Arabic, and Nullah in Hindustani.
Yafir Pass — Rhut Tug — The Ruins at Kin’s City — Abban Apprehends Future Consequences — Hyenas — The Dulbahantas — Camel Drivers’ Tricks — Briny Water — Antelope-shooting — Elephant-hunting — Ostrich-hunting — Gazelles — Jealousy and Suspicions of the People — Troubles from Forty Thieves — Rapid Decline of Property.
4th December 1854. — At dawn of day the last of the camels was loaded, and we set out to clamber up to the top of the mountain-range and descend on the other side to the first watering-place in the interior of the country. It was a double march, and a very stiff one for the camels. Directly in our front lay an easy, flattish ground, with moderate undulations, densely wooded with such trees as I had already seen; but beyond it, about three miles from camp, the face of the mountain-top, towering to a great height, stood frowning over us like a huge bluff wall, which at first sight it appeared quite impossible any camel could surmount. At 9 A.M. we reached this steep, and commenced the stiffest and last ascent up a winding, narrow goat-path, having sharp turns at the extremity of every zigzag, and with huge projecting stones, which seemed to bid defiance to the passage of the camels’ bodies. Indeed, it was very marvellous, with their long spindle-shanks and great splay feet, and the awkward boxes on their backs striking constantly against every little projection in the hill, that they did not tumble headlong over the pathway; for many times, at the corners, they fell upon their chests, with their hind-legs dangling over the side, and were only pulled into the path again by the combined exertions of all the men. Like Tibet ponies, when they felt their bodies slipping helplessly over the precipices — down which, had they fallen, they would have met instantaneous and certain death — they invariably seized hold of anything and everything with their teeth to save their equilibrium. The ascent was at length completed after an infinity of trouble, and our view from the top of the mountain repaid me fully for everything of the past. It was a glorious place! In one glance round I had a complete survey of all the country I was now destined to travel over, and what I had already gone over.
The pass was called Yafir, and, by the boiling thermometer, showed an altitude of 6704 feet. It was almost the highest point on this range. From a cedar tree I cooked my breakfast under, on facing to the north I saw at once the vast waters of the Gulf, all smooth and glassy as a mill-pond, the village of Bunder Gori, and the two buggaloes lying in its anchorage-ground, like little dots of nut-shells, immediately below the steep face of the mountain. So deep and perpendicular was it, that it had almost the effect of looking down a vast precipice. But how different was the view on turning to the south! Instead of this enormous grandeur — a deep rugged hill, green and fresh in verdure, with the sea like a large lake below — it was tame in the extreme; the land dropped gently to scarcely more than half its depth, with barely a tree visible on its surface; and at the foot of the hill, stretched out as far as the eye could reach, was a howling, blank-looking desert, all hot and arid, and very wretched to look upon. It was the more disappointing, as the Somali had pictured this to me as a land of promise, literally flowing with milk and honey, where, they said, I should see boundless prairies of grass, large roomy trees, beautiful valleys with deep brooks running down them, and cattle, wild animals, and bees in abundance. Perhaps this was true to them, who had seen nothing finer in creation; who thought ponies fine horses, a few weeds grass, and a puny little brook a fine large stream. At noon we reloaded, and proceeded to join the camels and men sent forward on the previous day. The track first led us a mile or two across the hill-top, where I remarked several heaps of stones piled up, much after the fashion of those monuments the Tibet Tartars erect in commemoration of their Lahma saints. These, the Somali said, were left here by their predecessors, and, they thought, were Christian tombs. Once over the brow of the hill, we descended the slopes on the south, which fell gently in terraces, and travelled until dark, when we reached a deep nullah, here called Mukur, in which we found our vanguard safely encamped in a strong ring-fence of thorn bushes.
The distance accomplished was seventeen miles; the altitude 3660 feet. The two following days (5th and 6th) we halted to rest the cattle, whilst I went shooting and collecting. There were a great number of gazelles and antelopes, some bustard, many florikan and partridges, as well as other very interesting birds and reptiles. These were mostly found in ravines at the foot of the hills, or amongst acacia and jujube trees, with patches of heather in places. We now held durbar,16 to consult on the plan of proceeding. It was obviously impossible to march across the plateau directly upon the southern Dulbahantas, as there was not a blade of grass to be seen nor any water on the way beyond the first ten miles from the foot of the hills. To go to Berbera, then, I must perforce pass through the territories of the northern Dulbahantas; and this was fixed upon. But hearing of some “ancient Christian ruins” (left by Sultan Kin) only a day’s march to the south-eastward, I resolved to see them first, and on the 7th made a move five miles in that direction to a kraal, called Karrah, where we found a deep pool of stagnant water.
8th. — My kit was now so much diminished that we all marched together down a broad shallow valley south-eastward, in which meandered a nullah, called Rhut Tug, the first wadi I came upon in Nogal. The distance accomplished was eight miles when we put up in the Kraal of Rhut; for, as I have said before, there were no villages or permanent habitations in the interior of the Nogal country. All the little wooding there is, is found in depressions like this, near the base of hill-ranges, where water is moderately near the surface, and the trees are sheltered from the winds that blow over the higher grounds of the general plateau. Rhut is the most favoured spot in the Warsingali dominions, and had been loudly lauded by my followers; but all I could find were a few trees larger than the ordinary acacias, a symptom of grass having grown there in more favoured times when rain had fallen, a few puddles of water in the bed of the nullah, and one flock of sheep to keep the place alive. Gazelles were numerous, and many small birds in gaudy plumage flitted about the trees, amongst which the most beautiful was the Lamprotornis superba, a kind of Maina, called by the Somali Lhimber-load (the cowbird), because it follows after cows to feed.
9th. — Halt. Kin’s City, or rather the ruins of it, I was told, lay to the northward of my camp, in the direction of the hills, at a distance of about two miles; so I proceeded at once to see it, hoping by this means I should be able to advance westward on the following day. After an hour’s walk I came upon those remains of which I had heard so much at first on landing in the country, as indicative of the great advancement in architectural art of Kin’s Christian legion over the present Somali inhabitants; but I was as much disappointed in this matter as in all others of Somali fabrication. There were five objects of attraction here:— 1. The ruins of a (said to be) Christian church; 2. The site and remains of a village; 3. A hole in the ground, denoting a lime-kiln; 4. A cemetery; and, 5. The ground-lines of a fort. This certainly showed a degree of advancement beyond what the Somali now enjoy, inasmuch as they have no buildings in the interior, though that does not say much for the ancients. The plan of the church is an oblong square, 48 by 27 feet, its length lying N.E. and S.W., whilst its breadth was directed N.W. and S.E., which latter may be considered its front and rear. In the centre of the N.W. wall there was a niche, which evidently, if built by Christians, was intended to point to Jerusalem; and this might have been conclusive evidence of its having been a Christian house of worship, and consequently of great antiquity, did it not unfortunately point likewise in the direction of Mecca, to which place all Mohammedans turn when saying their prayers. Again, I entertained some suspicion that the walls, which were in some parts ten feet high, had not sufficient decay to warrant their being four and a half or more centuries old. But one thing was remarkable at this present time — there were no springs or any water nearer than my camping place, which could not have been the case when this place was occupied; but it denoted a certain amount of antiquity, without any doubt. The walls of the church were composed of limestone rocks, cemented together with a very pure white lime.
The entrance fronted the niche, and was led up to by a street of round pebbles, protected on each side by semicircular loosely-thrown-up stone walls. There was nothing left of the village but its foundation outlines, which at once showed simplicity of construction, as well as economy of labour in building. It lay about 50 yards to the east of the church. One straight wall ran down the centre, from which, as supports, ran out a number of lateral chambers lying at right angles to it.
To the northward of the church was the cemetery, in which, strange to say, if the Somali believe their own story, they even at the present time bury their dead, and erect crosses at the head of the tombs, in the same manner as we Christians do. The kiln was an artless hole in the ground, in which there was a large collection of cinders, and other debris not worth mentioning. Lastly, the fort, or rather remains of what the Somali said had been one, was situated on an eminence overlooking the village, and about 70 yards to the S.W. of the church. Now, having completed my investigations of the ruins, I returned to camp, where I was met by the Abban, looking as sulky as a bear with a sore head, and frowning diabolically. He had been brooding over my late censures, and reflecting on the consequences his bad conduct would finally have upon him, if he could not obtain a pardon from me. And should he not be able to elicit it by fair means, he thought at any rate he would extract it by foul, then and there, without condition or any clause whatever. This was preposterous. I frankly told him exactly what I thought of him, saying I could not forget what had happened; that he had abused the trust reposed in him by the English, and I was bound in duty to report the whole matter in every detail to the Government; but should he discontinue his evil ways, and take me safely to my journey’s end, I would promise him a full pardon as soon as I arrived at Berbera. This would not answer his purpose — bygones must be bygones without any condition whatever, and he went to his bed as wrathful as he rose.
10th. — I rose early and ordered the men to load, but not a soul would stir. The Abban had ordered otherwise, and they all preferred to stick, like brother villains, to him. And then began a battle-royal; as obstinately as I insisted, so obstinately did he persist; then, to show his superior authority, and thinking to touch me on a tender point, forbade my shooting any more. This was too much for my now heated blood to stand, so I immediately killed a partridge running on the ground before his face. Seeing this, he wheeled about, prepared his pony, and, mounting it, with his arms agitated and ready for action, said to the people standing by that he would kill me if I dared shoot again. I was all this while standing prepared to shoot, without understanding a word of what was said, when the interpreter rushed towards me pale and trembling, and implored me not to shoot, but to arrange matters quietly. He would not tell me, however, what had occasioned the great anxiety his excited manner showed. I of course was ready at any time to do anything I could to help me on the journey, and again stated the terms on which I would grant the man a pardon. At this juncture, Hassan, the sultan’s brother, who had been absent a few days, came and interceded between us. I told him everything that had happened, how the Abban had even superseded the sultan’s order, by forbidding me to do what I wished in his country, and again begged him to be my Abban in Sumunter’s stead. This he said he could not do, but gave Sumunter a wigging, and desired me to go and shoot anywhere I liked. Thus ended this valuable day.
11th. — Last night I shot a female spotted crocuta hyena (here called Durwa) in the act of robbing. These tiresome brutes prowl about at night, and pick up anything they can find. Their approach is always indicated by a whining sound, which had prepared me on this occasion. She was caught in the act of stealing away some leather thongs. The specimen was a fine one, but until dissected I could not, from the hermaphrodital form of these animals, determine which sex it was that I had killed. We now prepared for the march westward, when Hassan said he would go back to near the Mijjertaine frontier, where rain had lately fallen, and all the Warsingalis had migrated with their cattle, to fetch some ponies, which he would bring to me in a few days, even before I could arrive at the Dulbahanta frontier, and begged a gun at parting as Judge’s fee for his settlement of the Abban question, and as an earnest that he would bring the five ponies which I wanted. We then got under way, and travelled westward, bidding Rhut Tug adieu, but every one was stiff and formal. Sumunter had not confessed contrition, and I had not committed myself to saying that I would hush the matter up, assuring him that in duty as a public officer I could not, that I was bound to report every circumstance, though privately I promised a pardon as before. After travelling a little way, we emerged from the low land of the valley, and ascended a higher track to the normal level of the plateau, which, as I have said before, was all bleak and barren, with scarcely a tree growing on it, and very stony. Here I saw a large troop of ostriches and numberless gazelles stalking away out of the line of the caravan’s march. My men were all highly anxious I should shoot them, but I would not, to try what effect it would have on the Abban, saying, sport was of secondary importance to me, and I now only wished to finish the journey quickly.
By his detentions I had lost so much time, I despaired of reaching Berbera agreeably with my instructions, and, moreover, he had not begged my pardon, from which I doubted his intention to serve me faithfully. This caused a halt. Sumunter and all the men alike said, “Of what good is your coming here, if you do not enjoy yourself? We all came on this journey to reap advantages from serving you, and now if you don’t shoot, what may we expect?” I said, Prove to me that I shall not be thwarted again, and I will shoot or do anything to create good-will. Then appointing three men as Sumunter’s advisers to hold him in restraint in case any wrong-headedness on his part should get the mastery of him, I begged they would proceed. This proved successful for the time. Sumunter wrote me a letter, stating his intention of abject servitude, and ratified it by presenting his spear and shield, through the hands of the interpreter, for me to return to him as an acknowledgment that I would henceforth forgive him; and we again proceeded on the journey.
After travelling ten miles without seeing a single habitation or human being of any sort, we arrived at a nullah, in which there were several pools of bitter spring-water, and some Egyptian geese swimming on them. This place was called Barham. On the right or northern side of the line of our march was the hill-range, about ten miles distant, at the foot of which, in the beds of small ravines, grew some belts of the jujube-tree and hardy acacias; but to the south the land was all sterile, and stretched away in a succession of little flat plains, circumscribed by bosses or hillocks of pure white limestone rock, which appeared standing unaffected by the weathering which had worn down the plains that were lying between them. Again these little enclosed plains sank in gentle gradation to their centres, where nullahs, like the one I was encamped upon, drained the land and refuse debris to the south and eastward, possibly to join eventually the Rhut Tug.
12th. — At 9 A.M. we were again in motion on our westward course, rising by a gentle incline to about half-way between Rhut Tug and a second Wadi Nogal farther on, called Yubbé Tug. Here, at the water-parting between these two large watercourses, was the tomb of the great founder of these mighty nations, Darud bin Ismail, and an excavated tumulus. There were also several bitter springs in the neighbourhood, with stone enclosures and numerous flocks of sheep tended by Somali. On passing the tomb I scarcely remarked it, so insignificant did it appear, whilst the Somali paid no homage to it whatever. But the tumulus excited more attention, and I was requested to examine it. Six years ago, the interpreter said, a Somali who wished to bury his wife in it, broke through its exterior, and found a hollow compartment propped up by beams of timber, at the bottom of which, buried in the ground, were several earthenware pots, some leaden coins, a ring of gold such as the Indian Mussulman women wear in their noses, and various other miscellaneous property.
I was very much struck with the sleekness of the sheep, considering there appeared nothing for them to live upon; but I was shown amongst the stony ground here and there a little green pulpy-looking weed, an ice plant called Buskàlé, succulent, and by repute highly nutritious. It was on this they fed and throve. These Dumba sheep — the fat-tailed breed — appear to thrive on much less food, and can abstain longer from eating, than any others. This is probably occasioned by the nourishment they derive from the fat of their tails, which acts as a reservoir, regularly supplying, as it necessarily would do, any sudden or excessive drainage from any other part of their systems.
After crossing over this high land we began descending to the westward, and at the completion of the twelfth mile dropped into a nullah tributary to the Yubbé Tug, made a kraal for protection against hyenas close to a pool of water, and spent the night. This plain was called Libbahdilé (the haunt of lions).17
13th. — The air was so cold, the men could not bestir themselves until after sunrise, when, to my great surprise and delight, without one angry word or attempted impediment from the Abban, we were on the move at 8 A.M. I now fondly hoped the Abban had really turned over a new leaf, but was soon undeceived, and also disappointed. He was married to a Dulbahanta woman, and this wife, for he had two others, with her family, was residing in that country. I was therefore, unawares to myself, travelling directly on his home. Hence these three consecutive marches. Gradually we descended into a broad valley, down the centre of which meandered the Yubbé Tug, or the second Wadi Nogal of my acquaintance. This formed a natural boundary-line, separating the Warsingali from the northern Dulbahanta frontiers. Where we first came upon the nullah it was deep and broad, with such steep perpendicular sides that camels could not cross it. We therefore turned suddenly northward, and followed up its left bank till we turned its head, which begins abruptly, and marched five miles to the Yubbé Kraals. Had this valley been blessed with a moderate quantity of rain, there is no doubt it would have been available for agricultural purposes; and as it was, there were more trees growing in the hollow here than in any other place I had seen, and several flocks and herds were congregated in it. Whilst travelling to-day the interpreter narrated the circumstances of a fight which the Warsingali had with the Dulbahantas about ten years ago in this valley, in which it appeared the Dulbahantas were the aggressing party, having sent a foraging-party over their frontier to lift some cattle. The Warsingali, seeing this, mustered their forces and repelled the enemy; but would not follow them up, preferring rather to tease them into submission than to engender a bloody contest. This they effected by exposing all their flocks and herds to the view of the Dulbahantas on the bank of the impassable nullah, whilst they guarded its head and protected their flank by stationing a strong party of warriors there. The Dulbahantas, tantalised at this tempting yet aggravating sight, for they had not strength enough to cope with the Warsingali in full force, waited covetously gazing across the nullah for some time, and then retired in such great disgust, they have never attempted to steal again.
When once ensconced in the new camp, the Abban came to me with an air of high importance, to announce that we were now on the Dulbahanta frontier, and that, if I wished to see their land, I must allow him to precede me, and pave the way, taking the young prince Abdullah with him to magnify the purport of his mission, as the Dulbahantas were a terrible and savage nation, governed, not like the Warsingalis, by an old and revered chief, but by a young sultan whom nobody listened to. Moreover, the Dulbahantas had sent word to say they had heard of my marking the Warsingali country out with paper, and would not admit me on any consideration. Besides which, it was a custom in the country that strangers should ask permission to enter through the medium of an abban, and as I had acted on that custom in the Warsingali country, so also must I do it here.
I was kept at this station eight days, sometimes hearing ominous announcements of the terrible Dulbahantas, sent to frighten me by the Abban, and sometimes amusing myself in other and various ways. The Dulbahantas could not conceive my motive for wishing to travel in their land; no peddling Arab, even, had ever ventured there, so why should I desire to go? Fortunately I had a good deal of employment with my gun; for, besides gazelles, antelopes, a lynx, florikans, and partridges, I shot many very beautiful little honey-birds, as well as other small birds. Of these former the most beautiful was the Nectarinia Habessinica. It has an exceedingly gaudy plumage, that glistens in metallic lustre as the rays of light strike upon its various-coloured feathers. This is the more remarkable on a warm sunshiny day, when the tiny bird, like a busy humble-bee, bowing the slender plant with its weight, inserts his sharp curved bill into the flower-bells to drink their honey-dew, keeping its wings the whole time in such rapid motion as to be scarcely distinguishable.
Without animal flesh I do not know what I should have done here. The water was so nitrous I could not drink it. To quench my thirst, I threw it in gulps down my throat; and rice, when boiled in it, resembled salts and senna. After returning from sport one day, the interpreter brought up one of the camel-drivers, to be punished for having stolen some deer flesh when sent to clean it. He was a Midgar, or low-caste fellow, who does not object to indulge in cannibalism when hard pressed by hunger. I would not decide the case myself, but handed him over, much against his wish, to the tender mercies of the interpreter and two other men whom the sultan, at parting, appointed judges on any sudden occasion. It was everybody’s interest to make him guilty, and therefore he was condemned to find two sheep, to be killed and eaten in the camp. Another case of theft, much more vexatious than this, occurred when I first arrived here, and turned off some spare camel-drivers, who took away all the packing-ropes with them, and I have been obliged to employ the remaining men ever since in chewing acacia bark into fibres to make new ones.
I was now becoming so much alarmed at the Abban’s delay and tricks, that I wrote a letter to Lieutenant Playfair, Assistant Political Resident at Aden, complaining of what he had done, saying I felt very uncertain of being able to reach Berbera by the time appointed, and requesting him to send a letter of remonstrance to the sultan. This I forwarded by a man called Abdie, viâ Bunder Gori. Prudence would have suggested my returning with the letter, for I had now received intelligence that the Abban was in his home, and after experience gained by the tragedies on the coast, I could have expected no good from him. But as long as life and time lasted, I was resolved to go ahead.
It was very remarkable to see the great length of time animals in this country can exist, even under hard work, without drinking water. In an ordinary way, the Somali water camels only twice a-month, donkeys four times, sheep every fourth day, and ponies only once in two days, and even object to doing it oftener, when the water is plentiful, lest the animals should lose their hardihood. I do not think antelopes could possibly get at water for several months together, as every drop of water in the country is guarded by the Somali. We were now in “the land of honey,” and the Somali nomads constantly came to me to borrow my English pickaxe for digging it out of the ground; for the bees of this country, instead of settling in the boughs of trees, as they do in England, work holes in the ground like wasps, or take advantage more generally of chinks or fissures in the rocks to build their combs and deposit their wax. It was a great treat to get a little of this sweet nutriment, to counteract the salts which prevail in all the spring waters of the interior. When out shooting specimens, I often saw the Somali chasing down the Salt’s antelopes on foot.
I killed many of them myself right and left, when running like hares, with common shot, much to the astonishment of the Somali, for they are too small a mark for their bow-and-arrow shooting. The little creatures cannot stand travelling in the mid-day sun, and usually lie about under favouring trees which line the watercourses. Knowing this weakness, the cunning Somali hunter watches him down from feeding to his favourite haunts, and, after the sun shines strong enough, quietly disturbs him; then, as he trots away to search for another shady bush, they follow gently after to prevent his resting. In the course of an hour or so, the terrified animal, utterly exhausted, rushes from bush to bush, throwing itself down under each in succession, until at length it gets captured.
Somali, from their roving habits of life, are as keen and cunning sportsmen as any in the world. They told me of many dodges they adopted for killing elephants, ostriches, and gazelles, which they do as follows:— If an elephant is ever seen upon the plains, a large body of men assemble on foot, armed with spears, bows, and sharp double-edged knives, with one man mounted on a white horse, to act as teaser. This man commences by riding in front of the animal, to irritate and absorb his entire attention by riding in repeated circles just in front of him. When the huge beast shows signs of distress by fruitlessly charging on his nimble adversary, the footmen rush in upon him from behind, and hamstring him with their knives, and then with great facility soon despatch him with their arrows and spears.
Ostriches, again, are killed in two ways; the more simple one is by finding out what places they usually resort to in search of food, and then throwing down some tempting herb of strong poisonous properties, which they eagerly eat and die from. The other method adopted in catching them is not so easy, but is managed with great effect. The ostrich is, as is generally known, a remarkably shy bird, and is so blind at night it cannot feed. Again, the Somali pony, though wonderfully hardy and enduring, is not swift; therefore, to accommodate existing power to knowledge of these various weaknesses, the Somali provides himself with a pony, and provisions for two or three days, and begins his hunt by showing himself at such a considerable distance from the birds he has formed his design upon, that they quietly stalk off, and he, at the same rate, follows after, but never draws near enough to scare them out of sight of him. At night, the birds stop in consequence of the darkness, but cannot feed. He, on the other hand, dismounts to rest and feed with his pony, and resumes the chase the following day. After the second or third day, when he and the pony are as fresh as ever, the ostriches, from constant fasting, become so weak, he is able to ride in amongst them, and knock down one by one as many as may be in the flock. The flesh is eaten, and the feathers are taken to the sea-coast for transportation to the Aden market. I once saw a donkey-load of feathers carried to market that had been taken in this way.
There are two methods, also, of killing gazelles; the more usual one is effected by two men walking into a bushy ground to search for them, and when discovered, walking in such large circles around them as will not scare them; gradually they draw their circles in, until a favoured bush, down wind, is found, which the herd is most likely, when once moved, to pass by, and behind this one of the men stops, with his bow and arrows, whilst the second one, without ever stopping to create alarm, continues drawing in the circles of circumvention until he induces the gazelles to walk up to the bush his friend is concealed in, when one or more may be easily shot. The other plan for killing them is extremely artful, and is done on horseback, and therefore on the open plain. Fleet animals, like antelopes and gazelles, always endeavour to head across their pursuers, no matter in which direction they go. The Somali, therefore, taking advantage of this habit, when they wish to catch them on ponies, which are not half so swift as the gazelles in fair open chase, economise their strength by directing their animals’ heads towards the leading gazelle, and thus inducing the herd, as they continue heading on, to describe double the circumference of ground their ponies have to traverse. In process of time, the gazelles, by their extra exertions, begin to flag and drop, and the hunters rush in upon them, and cut them up in detail.
20th. — To-day the young prince, Abdullah, returned to say the Dulbahantas had been conferred with, and had shown the strongest objections to my seeing their country, enumerating at the same time all their reasonings, such as I had already heard; but added, as a great concession on their part, as a particular favour they wished to show to my Abban, that I might be permitted to advance a little way to the next valley; but then only on condition that I would surrender to them the whole of my remaining property.
I now heard more particulars of the Dulbahantas’ fights, and the manner in which they first originated. For full thirteen years they had been disputing amongst themselves, and many cabals had sprung out of it. Whilst these intrigues were gaining ground, a minor chief, named Ali Haram, with a powerful support in connections, about five years ago determined on alienating himself from the yoke of the government, which was headed by an old Gerad, called Mahamed Ali, the rightful and hereditary chief. Since then the original kingdom has been divided into two portions, called the Northern and Southern Dulbahantas; but although the northerners declare themselves independent, the chief of the south still fights for his lawful rights, and at this present time had driven the northerners, with all their cattle and stock, to Jid Ali Tug, the next valley beyond this, which I was now desirous of visiting. Ali Haram was an old man, and consequently incapacitated from taking an active part in these tumultuous filibusterings; he had therefore, since his first accession to power, deputed a son called Mahamed Ali Gerad to act as Regent in his stead, and this was the man of whom the Warsingali spoke to me at Bunder Gori so disparagingly.
21st. — I was now preparing to start again westward, when an order came from the Abban to my men, that no property should accompany me, excepting what little I felt disposed to part with in presents to the Dulbahantas; as an Akil, by name Husayn Hadji, the senior man present at Jid Ali, had decided, as a final measure, on seizing everything I brought with me immediately I set foot in Jid Ali. Though I had had experience enough of the Abban’s tricks to see that this was merely a farce, though a very useless and inconvenient one, I permitted the arrangement rather than make a row and retard my progress, and set out with the young prince, Hamed, Farhan, and two camels and drivers, leaving Imam and the other nine camels, with their drivers, behind, to follow as soon as I should send back.
At the western extremity of the valley we came upon a small mound of earth, all white and glistening, covered with nitre in an efflorescent form, which shone so conspicuously in the sun, it could be seen at many miles’ distance; from the base of it a clear spring of water trickled, so disagreeable in taste that no one, save Somali, could possibly drink it. Now, emerging from the low land, we again left the trees behind us, and rose by a well-beaten foot-track to the primary level of the country, where stone and bare ground prevailed. Each of these elevations and depressions was a mere reflection of the other, only varying more or less according to their size; and as my line was directed due west, I always had the mountain-range at even distance on the north, whilst every feature on the south remained the same. It was monotonous in the extreme. At the fifth mile we came upon some springs of bitter water, sunk in deep cavities in the earth, from which we filled our water-skins, and travelled on till night; when, dark overtaking us, we slipped into a hollow in the ground, called Ali, cooked a little rice with the water we had brought, and slept it out till morning. Distance, thirteen miles.
22d. — As soon as the morning was well aired with the sun, and the black men had recovered from the torpor which the cold seemed to produce on them as it does on lizards and snakes, I struck out for Jid Ali, hoping to surprise the Abban, and thereby counteract, if possible, his various machinations. But this was not to be done. At the thirteenth mile, as we were descending in full view of Jid Ali, at a place called Birhamir, I was met by the Akil Husayn Hadji himself, who, instead of showing any disposition to hinder my approach, was very affable and kind in manner. He politely begged me to remain where I was and rest the day, and on the morrow he would take me to the Tug (river) below. He had never felt indisposed towards me; but one Galed Ali, an Akil superior to himself, was averse to my proceeding further. Unfortunately for the Somali, their lies are very transparent, and they were too fond of uttering falsehoods ever to be trusted. I neither believed in the existence of Galed Ali, nor in his own kind intentions towards me, and therefore begged him to prove it by allowing me to pass. This began a long discussion. The wars were raging. The Dulbahantas would not let me see their country, as they could not see why an Englishman should wish to travel where even beggars were afraid to go; and then followed a hundred other excuses, all of which I rejected as freely as he advanced them.
Then at length, Somali fashion, the true meaning of his unwelcome visit transpired. He then said —“Well, if you have no fear of anything, and will join us in our fight, to represent your nation’s disposition in our favour, I will give you as many horses as you may wish to have, and a free passage to Berbera, as soon as it is concluded.” This was certainly a tempting offer, as I told him; but I said, Although, as far as I was individually concerned, there was nothing which would please me better, still, being a servant of the Government, I could not represent anything they had not sanctioned; and, moreover, I was bound to be at Berbera by a certain date, which I could not if I went southwards with them. They argued, There would be no delay in finishing the battles, if I merely showed myself as a representative of the English, for the enemy would retire before a shot was fired, concluding that the opinion of the world was against them. They all declared the war had lasted so long, and had been so harassing, they wished ardently to put an end to it. I told them, in my opinion, it was all their own fault; that they ought never to have commenced the war, for the chief they now recognised was a mere usurper — a traitor, in fact, who ought to be punished.
The Abban’s mother, Mrs Awado, of whom I knew nothing until now, and who was living at Birhamir, in a hut close by, then hastened towards us, joined our party, and interrupted the conversation by clapping her hands and beating her knees, exclaiming, in wild dismay and terrifying words, “Oh! why have you come to this land, where there are no laws, or any respect for life? You don’t know what these people are you’ve come amongst! Come with me now to my place; rest the night, and refresh yourself: tomorrow morning your Abban will come and conduct you safely on your way.” This was a climax to the day’s journey; the men smelt grub in an instant, and hurried off with the old lady to some empty stone enclosures (sheepfolds), and at once unburdened and “lay-to” for the night. As before, I had many conferences about the THE WADI NOGAL, which Lieutenant Burton had desired me to investigate, but could obtain no satisfactory information. They said there were many wadis in Nogal, but the largest one was in the Mijjertaine country, where its waters were deep and large, with extensive forest around it, frequented by numerous herds of elephants. Those in advance of my line of march, on the road to Berbera, were all mere nullahs, like Yubbé Tug, or Jid Ali Tug, and were not used for agricultural purposes. However, in the southern Dulbahanta country, south by west of this, at a distance of five or six marches, there was a nullah, with many springs in it, which united in certain places, and became a running stream. This I now, from subsequent inquiries and inspection of Lieut. Cruttenden’s map,18 suspect is the watercourse set down in my instructions as the Wadi Nogal. This watercourse, I was assured, bounded the Nogal or white stony country on the west, and divided it from the Haud or red stoneless country, which is occupied in most part by the southern Dulbahantas, who have “the finest grazing-grounds in the world, and possess incalculable numbers of camels and horses (meaning ponies), and cows, sheep, and goats; whilst the game which roamed about there covered the ground like flocks of sheep.” Of these the largest were giraffes, rhinoceroses, and lions, elephants being confined to the Mijjertaine country, the Koolies hills to the south of Berbera, and the Webbé Shebéli, or Haines River.19
23d. — Early in the morning, accompanied by Husayn Ali, who opposed me no longer, we commenced our descent to the valley of Jid Ali, an expansive flat several miles in breadth, fuller and better wooded in the north than any place I had yet seen, but tapering away to the south and eastwards, until it became lost to sight in the barren plateau. After marching a mile or so, we found the Abban hastening to meet us, in high dudgeon with my men for having advanced contrary to his mandates, before he had time to arrive and smooth the way; for now the great impressive spell, his influence, which I was to understand could alone save me from the terrors of the unruly Dulbahantas, was proved to me of secondary importance, and he, consequently, insignificant. This occasioned a little delay; but at last, the Abban becoming reconciled to this defeat of his projected plans, we were permitted to resume the march, and, soon arriving in the bed of the valley, encamped near the watercourse of Jid Ali Tug, on the meridian of Mai. The water in the nullah extended upwards of half a mile, when it became absorbed in the thirsty soil. It consisted of a chain of pools, connected by little runners, the produce of some bitter springs, and made the country green in consequence. Attracted by my dates and rice — for I had brought no other property save my specimen-boxes and ammunition — many of the Dulbahantas forgot their occupations in war, and flocked around my camp all day and night, bothering my servants incessantly whilst cooking, and begging presents from me every moment. I remained here three days, trying to negotiate with the head men for permission to advance, but obtained no practical result. They insisted, for even coming thus far, that I should give them as many cloths and material as I had given to the Warsingali, for they would take no less. When told all my worldly goods did not admit of such a payment, they quietly said, I had come there against their will; they did not believe me; and if I did not open my boxes to their inspection, they would smash them up and help themselves. This was an everyday occurrence, which became only insignificant, as it was repeated without being carried into execution. Most of the time the Abban was away, stopping at his home, and no business could be done. I therefore took short excursions about the valley shooting, and inspecting the various habitations.
Animals were more abundant, in consequence of the greater extent of water; and I shot gazelles, little saltiana antelopes, hares, Egyptian geese, rock-pigeons, ducks and teal, and snipe and partridge, besides a choice collection of small birds. In one place I found a small stone hut, occupied by an old man who had once been on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and had seen the art of cultivating ground. He was now turning his experience to account by growing jowari (a species of millet), and effected it with some success; for he had two small enclosures, which he irrigated by cuts from the nullah, that produced grain, which grew from eight to nine feet high. He was loud in praise of the advantages which he derived from his farm, saying it saved his flocks, and assisted him in the means of food when his ewes were pregnant, or giving lamb. I patronised this farmer, and offered to lend him some tools for digging with, when he said he did not want that so much as some hints about sowing, and wished I would send a man to instruct him. Farhan, who was with me, delighted at the prospect of showing his skill in any manner — for he styled himself professor of all things — at once took the hint, and bargained to do a day’s work, and furnish him with some wrinkles for his future guidance, for the payment of a goat, which was readily agreed to.
The people here were highly superstitious, and, like all ignorant races, very punctilious in their ceremonies of worship. As true Mussulmans, they were constant in their time of prayer, and abused my interpreter for never saying his. When I made him cut the deer’s throats a little lower down the throat than their canons permit, to save the specimen, they spat on the ground to show their contempt, and abused him heartily. If I threw date-stones in the fire (the seed of paradisiacal food), they looked upon it as a sacrilege. They were also very suspicious. If I walked up and down the same place to stretch my legs, they formed councils of war on my motives, considering I must have some secret designs upon their country, or I would not do it, as no man in his senses could be guilty of working his legs unnecessarily.
Considering all the northerners were said to have been driven up here by the war, I was much surprised to see so few habitations or flocks in the valley; all there were consisted in a few kraals scattered over the plain, which were constantly moved as soon as each plot of ground in turn was eaten up by the cattle. In changing ground, these nomads pack up everything on their camels, mat and stick, hut and all, and placing the wife, with perhaps a baby also, on a donkey, march to any unoccupied watering-place they can find. Their food is very limited, except in the rainy season, when milk prevails: in consequence of this, it being now the dry season, my servants accounted for their increasing appetite for my dates. Some of the poorer men are said to pass their whole lives without tasting any flesh or grain, but to live entirely on sour milk, wild honey, or gums, as they may chance to come across them, and they are almost naked; but notwithstanding this, disease is scarcely known, and excepting in a few cases of endemic ophthalmia, which appears to attack the country periodically, at intervals of two or three years, I never heard of any. The climate was very delightful at this season, and the nights so cold I had to wrap myself well up in flannels. But perhaps that which best illustrates the healthiness of the country and pleasantness of its atmosphere, is the fact that I, although I had no bedstead, but always slept on the ground, never pitched my tent a single day in the interior, and neither wore a hat or shoe throughout the journey, save on one or two occasions, when, severely stabbed with thorns, I put on a sandal. I never knew a moment’s illness.
25th. — This evening, Husayn Hadji, who I now found out was brother-in-law to Sumunter, approached me as I came in from shooting, and said, “We are surprised to see you return alive; did you not meet some armed men when you were shooting?” I replied, “No, not one.” “Then,” said he, “there are many men come here, who from the first have forbid your coming into this country; they are under no control, but, in open defiance of the Gerad, do and act just as they like: indeed, every head man is a Gerad here, and those who are strongest carry the day.” This was the prelude to another farce; presently the men came of whom Husayn Hadji spoke, and, surrounding my camp, boisterously demanded to know what I was doing in their country against their orders. A violent altercation then ensued. They must have all my property given up at once, or they would take it by force; and remained trying to bully me into compliance, until I said I would sooner die than give them anything. Seeing me determined, they then walked off, saying I had not one night left to live, for they would return and kill me after dark. The place was now getting too hot to be pleasant, for the fact was, we were so near the watering-place, that my camp offered a convenient and tempting lounge for all the idle blackguards of the country to assemble at.
26th. — I sent orders back for the rear traps to come on as quick as possible, and at the suggestion of my servants, who were just as tired as myself of these incessant provocations, changed camp to a place three miles farther up the valley, much more remote from water, but nearer to the Abban’s home, by which I hoped I should be able to get at him easier; for the aggravating wretch, whenever I sent messages to recall him, invariably returned plausible excuses, showing the necessity of his having stopped away, and as repeatedly said he would not fail in coming immediately; but at the same time, as the sequence showed, never intending to do so.
It would be useless, as well as painful, to narrate in detail all the daily and hourly incidents which occurred in the next few days whilst I was detained here by the artful and dishonest machinations of this vile-conditioned man, from whom I could never get one true word, and whose absence, although I was striving to induce his coming to me, really seemed a relief. A wicked feeling was almost coming over me, which made me shudder again when I reflected more calmly on what my mind was now dilating. He seemed to me only as an animal in satanical disguise; to have shot him would have given me great relief, for I fairly despaired of ever producing any good effect upon his mind. Again I tried the old scheme of forcing him to leave me, and even begged an Akil of the Dulbahantas, offering him large rewards, to be my guide to Berbera. This, as might be imagined, provoked a severe row. The man I was endeavouring to seduce to favour me was one of the gang of forty thieves, and as birds of a feather all Dulbahantas flocked together to assist the victim of my displeasure; for Sumunter was, by his intermarriage with these northerners, naturalised amongst them. However, I had my wicked will, by relating, in presence of all his now rapidly congregating friends (a row always brings a crowd), the whole of his misdemeanours since he first came with me to this country, and threatened him with the lasting displeasure of our Government, and ruin to his trade at Aden, if he still persisted in his tricks. This brought matters home much closer than anybody liked to hear, and set all parties cogitating on what course had best be followed. I now retired to cool myself by shooting, and on returning again was met by the Abban, interpreter, and many Dulbahanta Akils, who, now trying the conciliating dodge, came to report the good news that a victory had been gained by the northerners, and the southerners were in full retreat to their provinces, by which the road to Berbera would be open to my proceeding onwards. Moreover, the rear traps had arrived at Abi, by which accident everything seemed to harmonise. This sounded very cheering for the moment, but I soon was damped again.
I wanted to move at once, and lose no time in taking full benefit of the opportunity thus offered; but this, like every other proposal that I made, was immediately checked by a cruel device, as unforeseen as it was objectionable. Hassan had not come with the ponies he went after from Rhut Tug; I must therefore, before advancing, send back to the farther frontier of the Warsingali to purchase, by bills on Aden, five ponies at thirty dollars a-head, to be afterwards given away in presents to chiefs on the road for allowing me to pass through their territories, and this, at a minimum calculation, would occupy a fortnight’s time, and even then I should have to go single-handed, without a servant, instrument, or article of any bulk with me. Of course this, as the Abban knew, I never would consent to. On no account would I suffer my being separated from my men and property when the time for my return to Berbera was so close at hand; and, moreover, without the instruments the journey would be of no avail. Row succeeded row when I pushed matters closely; the Abban sometimes affected repentance, but more often became defiant, and forbade anybody’s assisting me without his entire consent. Such, in fact, were the effects of these angry ebullitions of temper on the minds of my people, that the young Prince Abdullah, fearing to be witness to them any more, took his leave and departed home.
31st. — At length the rear traps arrived, but one camel, having been taken ill on the march this morning whilst coming from Abi, was slaughtered to “save” his flesh, and devoured by my hungry men. As soon as everything had arrived, and the men were made aware of my intention to push forward, they requested their discharge, affecting fear to enter on a strange land, but in reality seeing I had no cloths left to pay them, as afterwards transpired. This deficiency I visited on the Abban, who, in trying to excuse himself for inefficiency in his protectorship, meekly said he had been grieved to see the very rapid decline of my property, but he could not help it, as I had so many thieves in my employment!!! Mrs Awado now came over from Birhamir, bringing a sheep and some ghee as a present for me; but I refused taking anything from the relative of the Abban, and this appeared to grieve her much. She said she had heard of all my disputes with Sumunter, her son, and had remonstrated with him about them; he was a proud man, and easily led away by vanity. She could see his being at variance with me would not end to his advantage on his return to Aden, and tried coaxing him to journey with me; but at the same time told me he would have to be well upon his guard, as in former years he had married clandestinely with a damsel of the Rheer Hamaturwa, a sub-tribe of the Habr Gerhajis, who occupy the hill-range overlooking Bunder Héis; and her loss to those people would be avenged at once, if he ever came within their power. The Rheer Hamaturwa had heard of my intention to journey westwards, and would be in readiness to descend upon and intercept our march, kill Sumunter, and destroy the whole of us; indeed, they had sent messages to that effect.
16 Durbar— Eastern Court.
17 Lions, as well as other large animals, are said to come into the Nogal during the rainy season, when water and grass are abundant.
18 Unfortunately, when sent on this mission, I was not furnished with a chart, and had never seen any works written on the subject.
19 For the advancement of future investigations, I would here notice the reported existence of a large reptile like the armadillo — probably a Manis — which the Somali think a very remarkable animal. It is said by them to be common in Haud, is very slow in motion, has a hard scaly exterior coating, invulnerable to their spears, and capable of supporting the weight of a man without any apparent inconvenience to the creature who bears it.
Meditations among the Tombs — A Fracas — The Return March — The North-east Monsoon — Relief from Persecution — Interesting Animals — Gori Again — Shooting a Woman — Arrival at Aden — Fresh Projects — Arrangements.
3d January 1855. — During these three days I visited a ruined musjid and a cemetery, which, though much resembling the one at Rhut in every respect, was said to be of more recent origin, and built by Mohammedans. On my walking amongst the tombs, and inspecting the crosses20 at their heads, the interpreter rebuked me for sacrilegious motives, and desired me to come away, lest the Dulbahantas should find it out, and be angry with me. Besides this, I daily tried to draw Sumunter, like a badger, from his hut, which was four miles distant from my tent, but without effect. He and his wife, two dwarf sisters (little bits of things, who, the interpreter said, were too small to be of any use), and some children, all lived together in a small beehive hut, so low that they had to crawl in on all-fours, and so small that it was marvellous how they could turn round in it. At length to-day he arrived in a sullen angry mood, and said, haughtily, he was displeased at my trying to force him into compliance, as if I had the power to make him move unless he chose. It was impossible to keep one’s temper under such constant provocation; so I abused him vehemently, and warned him off the camp, again repeating he had abused his commission, as well as the Government authorities who engaged him — and entreated he would “get away,” and let me take my chance of proceeding how I could, for his presence simply made my position one of purgatory. He laughed in scorn, wishing to know if I thought I could do anything without him — and said he had only to turn his back an instant, and the Dulbahantas were ready to devour me. I still persisted; and then he said, “If you say go once more, I take you at your word; and see you to the consequences.”
My resolution was fixed; for I plainly saw I could not by any possibility be worse off. He now tried frightening me by assembling the Dulbahantas to confirm his words, making them say they only permitted my residence there out of the love they bore to their brother Sumunter, and that they certainly would kill me if he once left the place. They did not fear guns. The English could not reach them; besides, their fathers had driven Christians from these lands; and if an army was to attack them, they would assemble so many cavalry, and ride in such rapidity around them, that their gunners could not take aim in consequence of the clouds of dust which this feat would occasion. In addition to this, they thought the English only efficacious behind walls; else, why did they not take revenge upon the Arabs at Lahej, two years ago, for the murder of an officer? They had often heard of the English threatening and preparing to do it, but somehow they never carried their intention into execution. I treated these vain bombastic words with the contempt which they deserved — but said, I only wanted Sumunter to take me on, or otherwise to leave me to my fate. They then tried weakening my party by bribing Farhan to side with them and leave; but the noble-hearted Seedi disclosed their treachery, and gallantly said he would share misfortunes with me, and fight, if necessary, to the last extremity.
Imam, tame-hearted Indian, got in a dreadful fright, and implored I would compromise the matter; for by this time all the camels had been driven away; and the Warsingali moved off with Sumunter, saying I brought the rupture by my obstinacy on my own head, and that as soon as they were out of sight, the Dulbahantas would walk in and kill us all in a heap. I then loaded all the guns, and, giving one to each of the servants, sat on the boxes waiting to see the up-shot. I was clearly outmanoeuvred — unable to move or get anything — but still was, to use their own expression, “obstinate.” After proceeding a certain distance, the retiring band, with Sumunter at their head, sitting fully equipped with spear and shield on his war-steed, came to a halt, and invited the interpreter to meet them, presuming, they said, there might be some mistake, and therefore they wished to open negotiations afresh. Sumunter then gave me back my own words, saying, “If the Sahib would only say he wished me to take him to Berbera, I will give some small presents to the Akils of the Dulbahantas as a passport for him, and proceed at once;” for they were only endeavouring to feel my disposition towards them, and did not intend desertion, if I was not irredeemably incensed against them. They then came back, and work began afresh, by the distribution of presents, which, as is usual when no man can bear to see the smallest trifle slip from his grasp to be given to another, was a matter of no small difficulty in adjusting. If the Dulbahantas did not succeed in skinning me of all my effects, they naturally thought the next tribe would; and a whole day was consumed in wrangling and disputing how much they should get. This ended by my giving one musket, thirteen tobes, and my reserve silk turban; and now I was at liberty to quit Jid Ali.
11th. — At 10 A.M. we were loaded, and commenced the journey westward; whilst the Abban said he would bid his friends adieu at home, and bring five horses with him to Biyn Hablé, where he would meet us on the following day. The track led us across a flat alluvial plain, still in the valley, which was well covered with a thick growth of acacias, and dry short grass, nipped short by cattle. After walking five miles, we arrived at our destination, not far from a well, and made a ring-fence of prickly boughs.
Here for the last time I boiled the thermometer, to ascertain the altitude of the plateau along my line of march, and found its average height was 3913 feet: the minimum, at Rhut Tug, being 3077 feet — and the maximum, at Yubbé Tug, 4498 feet.
The following day two Dulbahantas paid us a visit, and demanded to know by whose authority we had come upon their grounds; we were trespassers, and must pay our footing. The ground was theirs, and they recognised no authority over them. What I had given at the last place was no concern of theirs, but I must give them also a quantity of cloth equivalent to it. This being refused as a preposterous imposition, they turned hastily away, and, tossing their heads, said, I might soon expect to see them again in larger numbers, when they would help themselves. Moreover, for my satisfaction, they could assure me that a number of men, who had learned which road I was bent on travelling, were fast gathering on ahead, to oppose my advance. In the evening the Abban arrived, bringing only two ponies with him.
17th. — It would be needless to recount all the varied incidents of the next five days which were wasted here, by the thousand and one stories which the Abban produced to fritter away my time near his home, and swindle me out of my property. The time had now arrived when by appointment I should have been at Berbera; and as I was not then aware at what time the fair usually broke up, I felt much afraid of being too late to join my companions. Sometimes Sumunter raised my hopes by saying he would certainly proceed on a certain date; and when that day arrived, the journey was deferred again, but not without severe rows, so exactly like the past ones as to be unworthy of description. One day we were ready, and I was to pass through any people that might fall in the way by giving large credits on Aden under his security, when the tide was turned again in another moment by the arrival of some accomplices, who dropped in like unexpected evils, to say the southern Dulbahantas had gained a great victory, slaughtering men and cattle, and the road to Berbera would be thronged with people, so that advance would be impossible for the present. This was a settler to my westward march; and now I thought of escaping from this land of robbers by turning northwards, and marching over the hills to Bunder Héis, where I could either ship off, or march along the coast to Berbera.
Negotiations were then set on foot with the Rheer Hamaturwa, and several of their Akils came at my bidding, but were as implacable about obliging a stranger as any of their neighbours. The whole distance was not three days’ travel; still they said I should not see their country, and acknowledged themselves a lawless band, who would take everything from me if I ventured there: adding, if the Warsingali and Dulbahantas, who were stronger than themselves, would only withdraw from me one day, they would come down at once, and demolish my whole camp. They then demanded cloths for the trouble I had given them, but, not receiving any, retired in huge disgust.
18th. — In final despair I faced about, and marched north-easterly, by a new route, to reach Bunder Gori again, to ship for Aden, as there only could I be certain of finding a vessel to convey me over the Gulf. After six miles’ march across the head of the valley, we arrived at Mirhiddo Kraal, on elevated ground, and found a large party assembled there. Some of them were the Rheer Hamaturwa, with whom I tried again for permission to cross their hills, but this time by the gap at the head of the valley in front of Bunder Jedid. This they were ready to permit, and give security of passage to my people, if I gave them all my remaining cloths; but they thought I should not find a vessel there, which settled the question. I had no time to lose, and, moreover, should save my cloths by continuing on the line I was travelling. For though I should have to cross the hills where they were occupied by the Habr Gerhajis, in the new way my track would pass so near to the Warsingali frontier, that that tribe would not have strength enough to demand anything from me, and passport fees are only given in such places to the extent to which they can be enforced.
The other people I met here were some Dulbahantas arming for the fight. They said they were 4000 strong in cavalry, and were slaughtering sheep wholesale for provision on the road. Each man carried a junk of flesh, a skin of water, and a little hay, and was then ready for a long campaign, for they were not soft like the English (their general boast), who must have their daily food; they were hardy enough to work without eating ten days in succession, if the emergency required it. Here a second camel was on the point of dying, when his flesh was saved from becoming carrion by a knife being passed across his throat.
21st. — The Abban slipped away on the 19th, when I was out specimen-hunting, and would not come again till to-day, and then even returned to give his wife a last salute, permitting me to advance to a watercourse called Hanfallal, whilst he would join me on the following day. This day we accomplished ten miles, and made a kraal about four miles north of our old line of march.
22d. — As the Abban did not keep his promise, and none of us knew the road, I now tried to prevail on his mother Awado, who was tending her flocks close by, to be my guide, which she readily consented to do, as she was anxious herself to go to Bunder Gori. The water found here was in a circular cleft of limestone, sixty feet below the surface, which was so small, only one person at a time could descend to it; and the supply was so limited, I was obliged to keep my men down there all night, to be the first for drawing in the morning. Gazelles were very abundant, and in the evening we were visited by a very singular-looking canine animal, which unfortunately I could not get a shot at. It was a little less in size than the Crocuta hyena, but inclined rather more, in its general shape, to a wolf than a hyena. The body was a pure black, like the black Tibet wolf, but the tail was tipped with white. I am not aware that this animal has ever been described.
23d. — At the usual starting-hour the Abban arrived, with two ponies belonging to his brother-in-law, Husayn Ali, but which he tried to pass off as his own, being ever very anxious to make me believe he was a large stock proprietor, to magnify his importance. But, unfortunately for him, the interpreter, who was as treacherous a man as any of the breed, although he often confounded me by his innate deceit, also peached at times upon his brother Sumunter. The Abban, on seeing his mother equipped and ready on her donkey to go with me, scolded her heartily for presuming to undertake the journey without his leave, and sent her home faster than she came. We now commenced the march, and travelled five miles diagonally across some low spurs of hills, and encamped in the evening in a broad, deep, dry nullah, at a place called Dalmallé. We brought water with us, and fortunate it was so, for none could be found anywhere near the camp.
24th. — We started early in the morning, ascending the hill-range by a steep winding footpath up one of its ridges, which, in respect to its barrenness and soil, resembled the descent I had from Yafir. After completing eleven miles’ march, the caravan crested the hill opposite Ras21 Galwéni, travelled a short way on the flat of the summit, and encamped in the evening amongst some thick jungle on its north or seaward side, at a kraal called Gobamiré.
Immediately on arriving, as we commenced to unload the camels, a number of men who were occupying that district — the Urus Sagé section of the Habr Gerhajis tribe — seized the camels by their heads, and demanded their customary fees, at the same time boisterously gesticulating that they would help themselves if their request was not complied with. Farhan enjoyed the row in the boisterous characteristic manner of a Seedi — began dancing frantically the negro war-dance, cocking his gun, and pointing it at everybody by turns; whilst Sumunter and the other Warsingali began thumping them with their clubs, and swearing a fearful vengeance would be wrought upon them by their tribe, who were living within an hour or two’s call, should they not desist. The fact was, my men knew their power here, and, guided only by animal passions, enjoyed showing it. The poor discomfited Urus Sagé now slunk off like defeated dogs, or schoolboys returning from a fight, just wishing to know if they were only to be considered in the light of women, who could not maintain their own right, and, snarling and snapping, threatened they would return again in stronger force before the morning.
We then unloaded, and lay-to for the night. Immediately on reaching the top of this range, a most interesting and novel sight was presented to our view. We stepped in one instant from constant sunshine into constant clouds, and saw what accounted for the dense verdure of the north, as well as the extreme barrenness of the south side of the hills. For two months we had not seen the vestige of a cloud, or felt a drop of rain, and now we were at once launched into the middle of the “Dairti” or north-east monsoon, which had been pouring for some time previously against the north face of the mountain, and was arrested there by it. It reminded me at once of that marked phenomenon with which all travellers in the Himalaya Mountains, who spend their “hot-weather” season at Chini, on the banks of the Sutlege river, to escape rain, must be acquainted, when the clouds of the great Indian monsoon envelop all the mountain-range for months together on the weather or south-west side, and hang suspended on the top of a high hill in sight of that place, but never pass over, looking as if the mountain was too high to be surmounted by them, when trying to reach the dry plateaux of Tibet. The clouds were rolling in thick successive volumes at our feet, and obscured the view below us.
25th. — We were detained until noon in consequence of the Abban’s ponies, which had gone astray, and until then could not be found. In the meanwhile the Urus Sagé came again, and tried to prevent us loading, on the same plea as yesterday, but without effect; but when we were starting, a compromise was effected on condition they would escort us down the hill and guide the way. The road was steep and very slippery, so that the camels could hardly get along, and this was further increased by the thick strong green jungle-bushes, as well as rocks and other difficulties incidental to mountain travelling with such large and ungainly animals as laden camels. At the fourth mile we found a large roomy cave under a rock, and put up for the night. Sheep had been kept here, and the place was so full of fleas that the ground was literally browned with them. I never saw such an astonishing quantity congregated in one place; but we soon disposed of them by burning certain boughs, which the Somali justly said was a specific remedy against them.
26th and 27th. — During these two days we descended by a tortuous winding footpath under no mean difficulties, and finally arrived, after twelve miles’ marching, at a place called Hundurgal, situated in the hollow of a watercourse which divides the Warsingali from the Habr Gerhajis frontiers, and transmits its waters to the Gulf at Ras Galwéni. During the journey the Somali pointed out some of their richest gum-trees, of which the finest in order is a species of frankincense, called by them Falafala, or Luban Maiti. The gum of this tree is especially valued by the Somali women for fumigating purposes, which they apply to their bodies by sitting over it, when ignited, in the same manner as Cashmeres sit over their little charcoal-pots to keep themselves warm when resting on their travels. They enshroud themselves in a large wrapper, place a pot with the burning gum between their legs, and allow the perfume to rise to every portion of their body simultaneously. We gave our guides five cloths for escort, and sent them away.
I was informed by my men that under lee of Ras Galwéni there is a better harbour than any on the whole coast-line, having deep water close in to the shore, but, being neutral ground, the Warsingali will not allow anybody to occupy it. They do not allow the Habr Gerhajis to do so, as they would monopolise the trade; and they will not take it themselves, as their sultan sagely remarks it would draw all their force to one side of their possessions, and thus leave the other exposed to attack from the Mijjertaines. Now the Dulbahantas are obliged to come to Bunder Gori if they want to traffic with outer nations, but were the Habr Gerhajis at Galwéni, this custom would be drawn from them.
28th. — The inexpressible delight I felt at snuffing the fresh sea-air, and being comparatively free from the tyranny of my persecutor Sumunter, was truly indescribable; and I felt so impatient to end this useless journey, and join my friends for the larger and more promising one, I could hardly restrain my spirits. I stepped out before the caravan was ready, and began the journey alone, when presently a rapid fire, the discharge of a six-barrel revolver, attracted my attention. This was done by the Abban, who said that whilst travelling there his life was in jeopardy from the Habr Gerhajis, in consequence of an old feud he had contracted with them, on account of which they had forbidden this road to him. He thought to frighten them by the report of firearms, but it seemed to have the opposite effect, for many men at once gathered around the caravan, and for the time prevented its onward course. As usual, they wanted me not only to pay for travelling in their country, but to liquidate their claim on the Abban, as I had brought him there, and only out of consideration for the respect they felt towards me, they permitted his passage in safety.
They might as well have tried to skin a flint as obtain anything from me, and I told them so, for Sumunter had fleeced me of all my effects. This parley concluded, we travelled on without any further molestation, and, crossing over the foot of some low spurs, arrived at noon in a broad watercourse on the maritime plain to eat some breakfast.
Here I shot and stuffed a very interesting rat, with a bushy tail, very much resembling the little gilléri squirrel of the Indian plains, but plumper in face and body, like a recently born rabbit. I had seen many of them in rocks about the hill’s side, but until now had not secured a good specimen.22 Again at this place I saw those large black canine animals with white-tipped tail, but could not get a shot: there were three hunting together, like jungle dogs in India. After refreshing ourselves we resumed the march, and travelled along the sandy shore eastward to a halting-place called Farjeh, completing a march of twelve miles.
29th. — This day we completed our journey by marching into Gori, when I again took occupation of the old fort. An answer from the Government at Aden to my appeal against the sultan and Abban had now arrived, and affected Sumunter severely. He was ready to sink into the earth, and said to me, “Oh, why did you not whip me when I was in fault? I could have borne that well, but writing to the English at Aden is more than I can bear. What will be the consequences now if I return to Aden?” I said I could not answer for it, as it was now beyond my control, and if he went over there he must take his chance; but I strongly advised his not going at all. “Indeed,” I said, “I wish you would depart from me at once. From the first, I told you I was obliged, by order, to write accurate accounts of everything as it happened, and the English, as you have often said yourself, are remarkable for not telling lies.” The sultan, into whose hands the letter first went, would not show himself, but remained in the distant jungles, although I sent repeatedly for him to converse concerning Sumunter.
The buggalow in which I came from Aden was now anchored in Bunder Gori. It had made a voyage somewhere in the meanwhile, but the captain had been afraid to go to Aden in consequence of the salt question, in which Sumunter had made him confederate, fearing lest I might have since written to the authorities there about it. However, I now wanted to hire it again, and made sundry overtures to the captain, who at first showed a disposition to treat, hoping thereby I should forgive him; but he was finally hindered from doing so by the insidious machinations of Sumunter, who doubtless was afraid by this means of collecting at Aden more witnesses against himself. Sumunter now saw his position clearly, and must have felt equally with myself it was a great pity the letter of reproof from the Brigadier of Aden23 did not arrive sooner, and keep him on a course of rectitude, for he was obliged to return to Aden and take his chance, as there he had not only a wife and family, but it was the headquarters of all his mercantile transactions. During this time, whilst I was in the old fort, an odd accident occurred to an Akil’s wife. She was playing with my interpreter, who, for a frolic, snatched up one of my six-barrelled revolver pistols and gave her chase. Suddenly she darted into the room I was sitting in, bounced on a bench and poked her tail in my man’s face. He, not knowing the pistol was loaded, pulled at the trigger, and discharged the contents of two barrels at once into her fleshy projection. In an instant their fun came to an end, and great consternation ensued. She thought she must die from it, and bolted off home to give up the ghost. Her husband now came and clamoured for revenge — her value was so-and-so, and my man must pay it. The interpreter, hearing this, came crying to me, and wished to know if I thought she would die; for should she do so, he, by the laws of the land, would have to pay her price. I said I could not tell without seeing her wounds, but, under any circumstances, the bullets ought to be extracted. This appeared to them still more alarming than ever. They did not wish me to inspect the wounds, and the woman herself was very bashful. However, the Sahib was the only surgeon present, and votes gave me the practice. It was certainly very amusing to witness the struggle between virtue and necessity, and the operation was so far satisfactory that I succeeded in extracting one of the balls. The other ball, however, was so deeply imbedded I could not find a probe that would reach it. Fortunately it was not fired in a dangerous direction, and the ball being small, I thought it would not occasion her any serious inconvenience. In short, I set their minds easy on that score, though it did not keep their tongues quiet from importunate begging. I was now dreadfully impatient to get away, but day by day I had to suffer disappointment. I was assured by Sumunter he was doing everything in his power to facilitate it, and as often told by the interpreter, when he had gone away, that he was doing nothing of the sort, but, on the contrary, had sent to the interior to get three ponies, which would make five with what he had, the complement required by Lieutenant Burton, to make a present to him on arrival, as a bribe to overlook his faults. I besought he would desist from this hopeless speculation, as time was now more precious than any other matter. Still he persisted, and in a fortnight’s time the animals arrived, and then, without further trouble, we chartered a vessel for thirty-five dollars, twelve times the fare I paid for coming over, with the whole vessel to myself; and embarked with eight camels and five ponies on the 15th February 1855. After five days’ sailing we anchored in Aden harbour, and no sooner did the “let go the anchor” sound, than, Somali fashion, overjoyed at my release from three and a half months’ persecution, I took a header into the sea, and hastily swam ashore to hurry off and meet old friends.
After the first greetings were over, and I had delivered for report all my sketch-notes24 of the journey, as well as maps and collections, which latter were sent to the public museum in Calcutta, a discussion took place as to the disposal of the Abban, who, I now found out, was not singular in the way of treating his clients, for Herne had been writing over complaints constantly about his man. I was averse to punishing him, from the simple fact of having brought him over; but my commandant thought otherwise, and that he had better be punished, if for no other reason than to set a good moral example to the others.25
Against my inclination I was appointed to be Sumunter’s prosecutor, and with my servants as witnesses, a verdict of guilty was speedily effected against him in the Aden Police Court. He was then sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, and to pay the sum of 200 rupees, or, failing to do that within the given time, he would be further subjected to imprisonment, with hard labour, for six months more, and was to be banished with his family for ever after the present punishment should cease.
I now advised Lieutenant Burton, after my late defeat in travelling, that it would be highly essential to the success of the great expedition that we should be escorted by some Somali picked from the Aden police force, as by this means alone should we have men on whom we could depend. He also was aware of this fact, from having been successfully taken himself into Harar by one of that corps; but, unfortunately for us, there were none to spare.
Though the Somali are rare blackguards in most respects, there are some traits in their character which have always won me to them. They love freedom and liberty, and enjoy a jolly row, added to which they are always in good spirits. In my humble opinion, they would make first-rate guerilla soldiers for Aden, if armed and trained to shoot with good rifles, and not restrained to wearing any particular clothes, or confined to steady-marching drills. They have a national antipathy to the Arabs, their elder brothers, and would glory in having scrimmages with them.
This was the climax of my first proceedings with Africa.
Stroyan and Herne were now both employed at Berbera or in its vicinity. The former had been making slight excursions inland, shooting, and had killed three elephants; whilst the latter was purchasing baggage-cattle for the expedition transport. After enjoying a short repose in civilised life, I again felt restless, and proposed a move to proceed thither in order to assist Herne in completing the desired complement of animals. This at once met the views of our commandant, who, doubting whether Berbera could supply a sufficient number of beasts of burden of itself, asked me to cross over the Gulf and see what I could do at Kurrum, to keep in communication with Herne, and as soon as I had got enough, to march with them along the sea-shore to Berbera.
Nothing could have suited me better. I saw before me, by this measure, active employment until the breaking-up of the Berbera fair.
A kind friend (Lieutenant Dansey of the Bombay army, late Assistant Political Agent of Aden, who knew the characters of all the Somali well) offered to procure me a man as guide and interpreter who had formerly performed, during the time of his appointment, some political service in the Somali country, with great credit both to his mission and himself. In consequence of this he was nicknamed El Balyuz, or the Ambassador.
Balyuz was a clever Hindostani scholar, and, as I ultimately found, possessed such honesty of purpose and straightforwardness of character, as rendered him a perfect rara avis amongst all Somali. He was of the Mijjertaine tribe. Travelling in his company, after my experiences with Sumunter and Ahmed, was verily a luxury. I parted with him at the termination of the expedition with pure feelings of affection.
Lieutenant Burton now conceived the idea of suppressing the system of Abbanship, thinking that, as the Somali had access to Aden without any impost, Englishmen ought to enjoy a corresponding freedom to travel in Somali Land. This perhaps was scarcely the right time to dictate a policy which would be distasteful as well as injurious (in a monetary sense) to the people among whom we were about to travel, and with whom it was highly essential to our interest to be on the most friendly terms.26
I now applied to the Government for some Somali policemen, but unfortunately there were then too few hands present to carry on the duties of the office, and I could not have them. I therefore engaged, by the orders of Lieutenant Burton, a dozen men of various races (Egyptians, Nubians, Arabs, and Seedis), to form an escort, and armed them with my sabres and muskets. They were all raw recruits, and unaccustomed to warfare. Still we could get no others. With a little practice they learned to shoot at a mark with tolerable accuracy.
Seven of these men, together with the eight camels I brought across from Bunder Gori, were despatched direct to Berbera, whilst the remaining five, and some ponies I purchased in Aden, remained with me. I then took a bag of dollars for purchasing camels; some dates and rice for the consumption of the party; and with the Balyuz and the old servants, Imam the butler and Farhan the gamekeeper, all was ready for my second adventure on the 20th March 1855.
20 From the presence of these crosses, it would appear as though in ignorance they had adopted the emblem of their Christian predecessors.
21 Ras means point or headland.
22 This interesting little animal has since been compared by Mr Blyth, curator of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, and determined to be a new genus, and was named by him Pectinator Spekei.
23 Then changed to Colonel Coghlan.
24 These notes were reported in an Appendix in the ‘First Footsteps in East Africa,’ by Lieutenant Burton, with his other reports of this expedition.
25 To say the least of it, this was a very dangerous policy to play with a people who consider might right, and revenge to death.
26 Since this was written I have asked Lieutenant–Colonel Playfair his opinion on this matter, and the subjoined is the reply:—“In this Lieutenant Burton erred; and this was the termina causa of all the mishaps which befell the expedition. The institution of Abbanage is of great antiquity, and is the representative amongst a barbarous people of our customs laws, inasmuch as every trader or traveller pays to his Abban a certain percentage on the merchandise he buys or sells, and even on the food he purchases for his own use.
Aden — Departure — Kurrum — A Conclave of Sages — Arangement of the Expedition — The South-west Monsoon — Medical Practice — The Camp Besieged — Wounded and Captive — A Triumphal Procession — Flight — Return to Aden and to England — Projects.
21st March 1855. — Having engaged a buggalow and stowed away all the traps, I embarked in the evening, weighed anchor, and set sail. Even before we could sail out of the harbour, the first row commenced. The Nakhoda (captain), as is often the case in these primitive countries, kept no regular sailors, but trusted to finding men desirous of going to their country, who would work his vessel for him — all Somali being by nature sailors.
The men he had now on board were of the Habr Gerhajis and Habr Teljala tribes, who occupy the coast-line near Kurrum, and had waited the opportunity of obtaining a passage over there in company with me. They were all dreadfully uproarious, and would not by any persuasion on my part keep quiet. On inquiring from the Balyuz the cause of their violent discussions, he informed me they were drawing lots to see who should be my Abban, and those of the seven foreign servants I had with me. The bare idea of eight Abbans was too ridiculous, and their persistency made it beyond a joke. I instantly ordered the sails to be hauled down, and had my instructions from Lieutenant Burton about Abbans proclaimed to the whole crew: that the Balyuz was my Ras Cafila, and the other foreigners my protectors. The Somali were evidently determined not to be done. If I had been allowed to have but one Abban with me, this could not have occurred. As it was, I said if they determined on wrangling any more, I should ‘bout ship and settle the difference with them in a less ceremonious manner in the harbour. This effectually stopped their tongues, and we again proceeded on the journey. After two entire days’ sailing across the Gulf with variable and gentle breezes, we arrived at our destination, Kurrum, in safety, on the third evening, the 24th March, and at once sent some Government letters to the Akils, ordering their attendance, and to proclaim publicly the nature of my business, in order that camels might be brought for sale. I found all the people extremely obliging; they tried to make my residence as comfortable as they could; showed me great deference because I was an Englishman, and brought their camels readily, though, of course, as might be expected, they were canny in their mode of dealing, trying to dispose of their worst animals first, and asking prices much above the market tariff. For poor animals they asked from four to five and a half dollars, which, though not a third of the price I paid in the Warsingali country, was full price for the finest animals at Berbera. Berbera during the fair time is undoubtedly the cheapest place to purchase camels in of all the coast-line, and the farther you leave it the more expensive animals become, increasing in price at the same ratio as the extent of distance. Whilst halting here I heard of the existence of the Victoria N’yanza. The Somali described its dimensions as equal in extent to the Gulf of Aden, and further alluded to its being navigated by white men. None of the men present had been there to see it, though it was currently known as a positive fact amongst them. I did not believe the story in the light they expressed it, supposing they confounded an inland sea with the Western or Atlantic Ocean. Colonel Rigby, H.B.M. Consul at Zanzibar, tells me he also heard of this lake when he was travelling in this country some years previously. It is strange this story was never published earlier. The white navigators alluded to are evidently the expeditionists who were sent by Mehemet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, up the White Nile as far as Gondokoro, about twelve or fourteen years ago, and the Nile and lake have been confounded as one water in the transmission of the intelligence, though both were seen.
The minds of the Kurrum people seemed greatly discomposed about various rumours which they heard. One was that the English intended to suppress the slave-trade, and they wished me to tell them if such was not a fact — saying it would be unjust for us to do so, as slaving was an acknowledged right given them in the Koran, and handed down by their Russool Mahamed.
The other bugbear which alarmed them was a report that the English intended either to take possession of Berbera, or that they would give it to Shermarky — a native chief and ally of ours who lives at Zeylah. In short, these numerous fears arose from Herne’s long residence at Berbera. It looked suspicious seeing him take notes there of everything, and they naturally put the worst interpretation on all his actions. What could be the use of his watching the trade, if our Government did not want to take the country? — of watching the slave-trade, if it did not mean stopping it? And then the suppression of Abbanships was the crowning of all.
The village of Kurrum consisted of a single fort and a large collection of mat huts, all grouped together, situated close to the shore. The maritime plain consisted of sandy-brown soil, very uninteresting, with scarcely any vegetation growing on it, and was here only about half a mile broad. The hills in the background were very insignificant, not half so high as any I had seen, and were dull and brown, like those one sees when travelling down the Red Sea. The people say that in their recesses and ravines acacias and other gum-trees grow as they do elsewhere. Gum only exudes in the dry hot season; and the confined air in the ravines is described as being so hot that people can hardly stay there, and many of the gum-pickers who do, become deaf in consequence of it.
The water which the villagers used was so brackish as to be hardly drinkable. I lived here five days, enjoying sour camel’s milk, gossiping with the natives, and roaming about the place. The difference between the life I was now living, attributable principally to the sagacity and good-heartedness of the Balyuz, was a charming contrast to my wretched existence when with the Warsingali. I bought twenty-five camels, at an average rate of five and a half dollars a-head, and then stopped purchasing, as I heard by letter from Herne he had then got nearly sufficient for our requirements — that camels were very plentiful at Berbera, and he was buying them at a cheaper rate than I could.
On the 29th March, at 4 P.M., I broke ground with all my camels and ponies, and commenced the march on Berbera. At sundown, after travelling three miles along the sea-shore, we encamped in a water-course called Goldéra. The water we found here, in a little well in its bed, was deliciously sweet — so pleasant after the brackish Kurrum wells. No one who had not been deprived for a long time of the pure element, can conceive the greed with which a man first plunges his head into clear sweet water. It is the natural fluid for man, and for no other beverage does abstinence produce so keen an appetite.
The following morning, a little after daybreak, the caravan was ready, and we soon got under way. Travelling with tedious slowness, aggravated by the dreary monotony of the road and the sandy plain, constantly crossing dry, shallow watercourses, lined on both sides by fringes of stunted acacias or other salsolacious plants, we at last arrived at a hot spring of sweet water, called Golamiro, and rested here for several hours during the great heat of the mid-day sun. When the day became cooler we resumed the march, and travelled until after dark to a grazing-ground one mile short of Ain Tarad, and there spent the night. The farther we travelled westwards, the broader became the maritime plain, and the richer its clothing of shrubs and grass. Besides the ordinary acacias, which were finer and more numerous, there were many patches of the bastard cypress and tall rank grasses growing on sandy hillocks, in the same way as they do in India. The Somali exultingly pointed this out as a paradise, replete with every necessary for life’s enjoyment, and begged to know if the English had any country pastures like it, where camels and sheep can roam about the whole year round without exhausting it.
31st. — To-day we made a short march, passing through Ain Tarad, and encamping on a grazing-ground one mile to its westward. The village, as usual, was close to the shore, for the convenience of shipping. It is not half the size of Kurrum, but boasts of a fort of recent construction, with six rusty pieces of cannon lying on the sand in front of it. An Akil, named Abdie, being chief of the place, is the lordly proprietor of these instruments of defence.
On first entering the place he advanced to receive me, and politely said, “Had you not dropped so suddenly in upon me this morning, it was my intention to have welcomed you with a royal salute, for the honour you have done, as the representative of the English, in paying me this visit.” This speech, though showing what his feelings were towards me, was obviously a matter of simple palaver; for, in the first place, the guns could not have possibly been fired without occasioning their total destruction; and it was doubtful if he possessed any powder. Whilst sitting in his village, and drinking a bowl of sour curd — the first thing always offered to a visitor — I observed a group of old men sitting, in hot discussion on some knotty point, under the lee of the fort, and desired the Balyuz to ascertain the purport of the arguments under debate, as by their gesticulations I could plainly see it had some connection with my coming here.
After joining them and listening some time, he returned to say they were discussing the possibility of our expedition ever reaching the Webbé (River) Shebéli; to go as far as Ugahden, they thought, was out of the question. Hearing this, I went up to them, and asked what reasons they had for thinking so. They replied openly that the Somali would stop us before we got half-way. The Balyuz then interposed, saying, “But the British are strong, and can do anything, they like.” Hearing this, they laughingly replied, “If the Somali came down to fight, and then ran away back into the fastnesses of their hills, what would the English do then, who cannot live a day without drinking beer and eating meat? whereas the Somali can do very well without anything, seldom requiring even water, and not more than one morsel of meat, for a whole week together.” I concluded the argument by saying, “Without any exertion on our parts, we could cripple you at once; we have the seaboard in our hands, and at any moment could stop your trade, so that neither grain nor clothing would ever be supplied you; besides, if we wished, we could take quiet occupation of your hills and watering-places, and then what would become of you?” The sages mildly shook their heads, and said the English were indeed Shaitans (devils), and that they had never looked at their position in that light before. I then repaired to the camp, and found the cattle, as usual, gone out to graze, under charge of their drivers and two soldiers. In the evening, when the animals were brought home to be picketed, one pony and one camel were found wanting.
I sent men immediately to track the missing ones down, when it was discovered by footprints that some savages had singled them out from the herd, had driven them gently into a deep ravine, and when there out of sight had hurried them off to the hills lying beyond the plain. This open plunder on the coast, where British authority seemed to prevail, was monstrous. I summoned Abdie, as chief of the place, told him the whole story, and demanded that he should produce the missing animals immediately, as it was impossible for him not to be cognisant of the transaction. He said he did not then know who had stolen them, but I might rest satisfied he would find out by the morning, and they should be returned intact. He assured me he was lord of all he surveyed, and his power was infinite within the limits of his clan. The same night he brought back the pony, and said he would produce the camel in the morning. I believed he had played this trick himself to show the effect of his power, and so did the Balyuz; but he said he had been obliged to pay ten dollars to the thief before he would give it up. I now demanded he would produce the thief for trial, suspecting that thief to be himself, but he said he could not. This reply made the Balyuz knowingly cock his eye. The next day, as the camel did not come by noon, I wrote a letter to Aden reporting the circumstance, and begging some retribution would be taken from the Akil, as it was obvious to any man who knows these savages, that Abdie could not have been ignorant of one single feature in the whole of these transactions. Though the loss was small, I did not think it of little importance, as it remained a precedent, if overlooked, for the committal of greater deeds; and the place, being a port, was open to the exaction by blockade of any fines — which, without doubt, is the true way to make Somali feel.
During that day and the succeeding one we travelled along the coast to Siyareh, a small dilapidated fort,27 standing alone without any other habitation, as if only intended for a traveller’s lodge. Near it was an old well, said to be of antique construction, sunk by the former occupants of the land. As we increased our distance westwards, the maritime plain also enlarged, and was bounded to the southwards by small irregularly-disposed hills, all brown and dreary-looking as before. To judge from the quantity of vegetation, it would appear that water is nearer the surface here than elsewhere, though there was none of any importance to be seen. These few marches, slight as they were, served to prove the stamina of the soldiers, and showed the Seedis to have twice the heart and bottom of the Egyptians, who succumbed at once to the influences of the sun and fatigue of marching.
3d April. — The caravan broke ground at 2 A.M., and, after travelling over much the same ground as yesterday, nearly the whole day long without passing a single habitation, arrived in the evening at Berbera. Here I was warmly met by my companions, Herne and Stroyan, and began again a social life of great enjoyment. Berbera was in the plenitude of its prosperity. Its market was full of life and bustle, and the harbour was full of native Oriental craft. Our camp was pitched on a little rise in the land, facing the east and overlooking the fair. Our tents, three in number, were formed in line — Stroyan’s on the right, Herne’s in the centre, and mine on the left flank nearest the sea, and each about a dozen yards apart. Herne had procured his fair share of animals, and we mustered from forty to fifty camels and six or seven ponies and mules, including those I brought. These at night-time were all tethered in front of our tents, and guarded by a sentry. During the day they were always sent out to graze under an escort of soldiers, with Somali archers to look after them. The boxes, pack-saddles, and grain were placed between the central tent and mine, whilst the dates and more precious cloths I kept underneath my tent. Including ourselves, servants, guards, and camel-tenders, we mustered in all about forty souls; amongst these were the two Abbans of Herne and Stroyan, who, now matters had gone so far, could not prudently be dispensed with; but my man, the Balyuz, was considered chief, or Ras Cafila.
During the four days succeeding my arrival I inspected the fair and shipping. The marketplace was supposed to contain upwards of 60,000 people,28 Banyans from Cutch and Aden, Arab merchants and Somali, who had been gradually flocking in from about the 15th November; and as they arrived they erected mat huts as booths for carrying on their bartering trade. According to Herne’s investigations, the Somali took coarse cloths, such as American and English sheeting, black and indigo-dyed stuffs, and cotton nets (worn by married women generally to encase their hair), small bars of iron and steel, as well as zinc and lead, beads of various sorts, and dates and rice. In exchange for these, they exported slaves, cattle, gums of all sorts, ghee, ivory, ostrich-feathers, and rhinoceros-horns.
7th. — At sunrise this morning a very interesting scene took place in the arrival of the great annual Harar caravan — a large body, composed of an aggregate of numerous small caravans, which all march together that their combined strength may give mutual support. Down the whole breadth of the plain, like a busy stream of ants, they came in single file, one camel’s nose tied to his leader’s tail. Immediately on their flanks were Somali, armed with spear and bow, the men who tended them and looked after the loading. Outside them again were occasional detachments of men riding ponies, all armed, and guarding the caravan from sudden surprise or attack. In this caravan alone there were about three thousand people, as many head of cattle, and 500 or more slaves, all driven chained together for sale in the market. A little later the same morning a second excitement enlivened our little camp in the approach of a man-of-war, which came sailing up the coast in full sail, looking like a giant swan in contrast to the little ducks of native shipping. It was the Hon. East India Company’s schooner Mahi, commanded by Lieutenant King, conveying our Captain, Lieutenant Burton, and the complement of the expedition. Arrived in the harbour, we saluted them with our small-arms, and went on board to pay respects and exchange congratulations. King then gave us a hospitable entertainment, and we all repaired on shore.
The same evening a thundering salute from the Mahi was fired, to assure the Somali we were travelling under the auspices of the British Government, and King departed with his vessel.
Lieutenant Burton now took occupation of the centre tent with Herne, and the party was complete.
We were then severally appointed to our respective duties, Lieutenant Burton commanding; Stroyan chief surveyor; Herne, photographer, geologist, and assistant-surveyor; whilst I was to be a Jack-of-all-trades, assisting everybody, looking after the interests of the men, portioning out their rations, setting the guards, and collecting specimens of natural history in all its branches. The central tent was fixed as a place of rendezvous for all to flock to in case of any sudden alarm. Here I appended my guns and sword, whilst my revolver-pistol and dirk were placed within my belt by day, or under my pillow by night. I made the whole guard sleep with their arms in rear of the camp, where it was most likely any attack might be expected. As so many men were necessarily brought on duty by watching the cattle grazing in the day-time, I only posted two sentries by night to watch the camp — one with the guard in the rear, the other over the cattle in front; whilst we Englishmen and the Balyuz occasionally patrolled the camp to see that the sentries were on the alert.
9th. — On this day the Gugi, or south-west Somali monsoon, in opposition to the Dairti, or north-east monsoon, commenced in the hills behind our camp, and warned us that we should soon have to start southwards. The fair had already begun to break. Caravan after caravan streamed out of the town, wending their way across the plain like strings of ants emerging from a hole, and, like the busy habits of those little insects, kept the whole maritime plain alive in motion. At this time we were daily expecting a vessel from Aden, which would bring us some letters and instruments that were on their way out from England, and saw the great Ugahden caravan preparing to leave, but were undecided what to do — whether to go with them without our things from England, or wait and rely upon our strength in travelling alone. The latter alternative was unfortunately decided upon, and we saw our wonted protector depart upon its journey.
15th. — Saw the shore and harbour, alike both destitute of any living thing, save a few diseased and dying cattle, and one poor forlorn girl, in whom the smallpox had begun to show its symptoms, and who was now mercilessly left by her parents, with only two or three days’ provisions, to die like a dog on the inhospitable plain. Having suffered from that disease myself, and not fearing contagion, I went to her and administered some medicine, which she took without any hesitation; and I hoped to cure her, for she was really, barring the blackness, a very pretty creature, but the disease was beyond my skill to relieve. I then took her to a room in the tomb of an Arab sheikh, gave her some rice-water, and bade her keep out of the sun, but it was no use. She took fright at the idea of living with the dead, and wandered into the desert no one knows whither, and was seen no more. So completely was Berbera cleared out now, that even the matting and sticks which formed the booths, with two or three exceptions, were packed on the camels and carried away. We were now alone, and nobody came near us; our two Abbans had begged and obtained permission to go with their families to their homes in the hills close by, in company with the retiring caravans, leaving their sons for the time being, as substitutes, until we marched past their abodes.
In this isolated position we felt no alarm for our safety, as long at least as we remained upon the sea-shore, deeming the Somali would never be so imprudent as to attack us in such a vital place to them as Berbera, where their whole interests of life were centred, and where, by the simple process of blockading, we could so easily take retribution in any way we liked.
So confident were we in this assumption, that we did not take the precaution of standing sentry ourselves at night, thinking it more prudent to nurse our strength whilst here, to be better able to hold out when it would become necessary after our leaving the sea-shore.
Though Somali are cunning as foxes, they are not wise.
On the 18th April, by a providential coincidence, a small Arab vessel came into the deserted harbour to see if anything still remained of the fair. In her there were several men and four women, Somali, desirous of going to their homes. Finding we were the only people left, and not daring to travel in that country alone, they petitioned us to take them with us. It was hard to refuse these poor creatures; but fearing our supply of dates and rice would not hold out with so many additional mouths to eat it, we reluctantly refused the men. The four women, however, on their engaging to do the minor offices of the camp, to bring water, and lead the camels, were permitted to remain with us. That evening we invited the captain and his crew to dine in the camp; and it was fortunate that we did so, as the sequel will show. Shortly after sundown, as we were all sitting in our usual way, on an extempore divan in front of the tents, drinking coffee, telling stories, and enjoying the cool sea evening breezes, a challenge was heard by the sentinel placed on the rear right of the camp, followed by a sudden and rapid discharge of musketry, which took us by surprise. I had previously given strict orders that no ammunition was to be wasted in firing to frighten, or giving false alarms; therefore, hearing this, I instantly ran to the spot to see what was the matter, and found three men walking quietly into camp, leading ponies by their reins, whilst the guard, to intimidate them, were firing bullets in the air immediately over their heads. My anger knew no bounds. All hopes of security seemed annihilated by such direct disobedience to all order, and persistence in such a false principle as trying to frighten, which all black men, by a sort of natural instinct, invariably endeavour to do. I then assembled the men, and in presence of the intruders again proclaimed through the Balyuz my intention to punish with severity any person who might create a false alarm or fire a bullet vacantly in the air; directing that, in case of any opposition to a challenge, they should fire into, and not over, their object.
I then sent the Balyuz and the three newly-arrived men round to the front of the camp, where Lieutenant Burton and the other two officers were sitting, to be interrogated as to the purpose of their visit. We all at first naturally suspected them of being spies sent to inspect our dispositions and resources; but after a long palaver with Lieutenant Burton, he concluded that their coming there was accidental, and not designed. True to their nature as Easterns, who from constant practice can forge lies with far greater facility to themselves than they can speak simple truths, bringing in with the readiest aptitude the application of immediate circumstances to harmonise appropriately in the development of their tale, these men at once made use of the circumstance of the arrival of the vessel that evening, saying they merely came down to ascertain if the ship was not full of building material, as it was currently reported amongst their clan, the Habr Owel, that their old enemy, Shermarkey, the chief of Zeylah, was lying with other vessels in the port of Siyareh, waiting an opportunity to land at Berbera and take occupation of the place by building forts, as he had done on previous occasions. This story seemed the more probable from the fact that everybody knew Shermarkey wished to have the place, and that he would at any time have taken it, had it lain within his power to do so.
The more to impose on our credulity, they further asked, with an air of indignation, “How could you suspect us of any treacherous intentions towards you, when you know us to be men of the same tribe as your Abbans?” The palaver over, these wolves in sheep’s clothing were allowed to sup on dates with our men, and depart at their pleasure.
At the usual hour we all turned in to sleep, and silence reigned throughout the camp. A little after midnight, probably at one or two A.M., there suddenly arose a furious noise, as though the world were coming to end: there was a terrible rush and hurry, then came sticks and stones, flying as thick as hail, followed by a rapid discharge of firearms, and my tent shook as if it would come down. I bounced out of bed, with pistol and dirk in hand, and ran across to the central tent to know what was the matter, and if we were to have any shooting. Lieutenant Burton, who was occupied in trying to load his revolver, replied there was:29 “Be sharp, and arm to defend the camp.” This I immediately did, stepping out in front of his tent; but though I saw many dusky forms before me, it was too dark to discern whether they were friend or foe.
Whilst standing, in hesitation how to act, stones kept whizzing over and around me, and I received a blow with one in the inside of my knee, which nearly knocked my leg from under me; it came from the left, where I had not been looking. I then ran under lee of the fly of the tent to take a better survey, and, by stooping low, could perceive the heads of some men peeping like monkeys over the boxes. Lieutenant Burton now said, “Don’t step back, or they will think we are retiring.” Chagrined by this rebuke at my management in fighting, and imagining by the remark I was expected to defend the camp, I stepped boldly to the front, and fired at close quarters into the first man before me. He was stooping to get a sight of my figure in relief against the sky; he fell back at the discharge, and I saw no more of him. Proceeding on, I saw some more men also stooping; I fired into the foremost, and he likewise fell back, but I do not know that I hit him. I then fired into a third man at close quarters, who also receded, possibly uninjured, though I cannot say. I was now close to the brink of the rising-ground, entirely surrounded by men, when I placed the muzzle of the Dean & Adams against the breast of the largest man before me, and pulled the trigger, but pulled in vain; the cylinder would not rotate; I imagine a cap had got jammed by the trigger-guard. In a fit of desperation, I was raising the revolver to hit the man in the face with it, when I suddenly found my legs powerless to support me, and I was falling, grasping for support, and gasping for breath, I did not then know why, though afterwards I discovered it was caused by the shock of a heavy blow on the lungs.
In another instant I was on the ground with a dozen Somali on the top of me. The man I had endeavoured to shoot wrenched the pistol out of my hand, and the way the scoundrel handled me sent a creeping shudder all over me. I felt as if my hair stood on end; and, not knowing who my opponents were, I feared that they belonged to a tribe called Eesa, who are notorious, not only for their ferocity in fighting, but for the unmanly mutilations they delight in. Indescribable was my relief when I found that my most dreadful fears were without foundation. The men were in reality feeling whether, after an Arab fashion, I was carrying a dagger between my legs, to rip up a foe after his victim was supposed to be powerless. Finding me naked, all but a few rags, they tied my hands behind my back, and began speaking to me in Arabic. Not knowing a word of that language, I spoke in broken Somali, and heard them say they had not killed any of the English, and would not kill me.
The man I had last endeavoured to kill was evidently the captain of the gang; he now made me rise, and, holding the other end of the rope to which my hands were attached, led me round to the rear of the camp, taking great precaution not to bring me in contact with many men at once, fearing lest they might take the law into their own hands, and despatch me against his will and authority. Arrived on the interior or rear side of the camp, men kept flocking round me, and showed a hasty anxiety to stab their spears into me; all, doubtless, were anxious for the honour of drawing the white man’s blood, but none, in my captor’s presence, dared do it.
I was now becoming very weak and faint, and almost unable to breathe; for the fact was, when I was knocked down, it was done with such violence by a shillelah on the lung breast, my whole frame was stunned by it, so that I could not feel; but now a swelling had set in, which, with the tightness of the skin drawn over the chest, by my hands being tied behind, nearly prevented respiration. I begged my captor to untie my hands and fasten them in front. He obligingly did so. I then asked for a little water and something to lie down upon; they were both supplied. Feeling myself somewhat revived, I began a rambling conversation with my captor, who sat by my side still holding the string, when several other men came and joined in the talk. They began a mocking tirade in their own language, of which I understood but little and could answer less; when an Aden donkey-boy (judging from his appearance) came with a jeering, sarcastic sneer, and asked me, in Hindustani, what business I had in their country, and where I had intended going, adding, were I a good Mohammedan like themselves, they would not touch me, but being a Christian I should be killed. This ridiculous farce excited my risible faculties, and provoked a laugh, when I replied, Our intentions were simply travelling; we wished to see the country of Ugahden, and pass on to Zanzibar. I was a Christian, and invited them, if it must be so, to despatch their work at once. On the donkey-boy’s communicating this to the bystanders, they all broke into a rude boisterous laugh, spun upon their heels, and went off to open out the property. Nothing as yet had been taken away. Several wounded men were now brought and placed in a line before me; they groaned, and rolled, and stretched their limbs, as though they were in agonies of pain, and incessantly called for water, which was readily supplied them. In the rear I heard the sound of murmuring voices, the breaking of boxes, and ripping of bales of cloth, as though a band of robbers were stealthily dividing their unlawfully-gotten spoils in silence and fear of detection.
Just then the day began to dawn, and the light increased sufficiently to disclose what had been done. The tents were down, the property was lying in order on the ground, the camels and ponies were still picketed in their places, and all the robbers were standing looking on. At this juncture my captor and protector gave his end of my string over to the care of another man of very mean aspect, ordering him to look after me, and see that nobody came to injure me, whilst he retired in the direction of the property, and, selecting two fine stalwart men of equal proportions with himself, came again in front of me; then linking arms, and sloping spears over their shoulders, they commenced a slow martial march, keeping time by singing a solemn well-regulated tune, in deep, full, stentorian voices, until they completed the full circuit of the camp, and arrived again in front of me. This, I imagine, was their “Conquering hero comes,” the song of victory. It was well sung, and had a very imposing effect, greatly increased by the dead silence which reigned in every other quarter. I felt quite sorry when this act was over, and would willingly have had it encored. From the orderly manner and regularity with which everything was done, I judge this to be a fair sample of the manner in which all plundering parties are conducted. The song and march were no sooner at an end than the whole ground became a scene of busy, active life. Every man, save the one who was holding my string, rushed in a regular scramble upon the property, and, like a legion of devils, began tearing and pulling at everything in promiscuous confusion, to see who could carry most away. Some darted at the camels and began pulling them along, others seized the ponies and began decamping; others, again, caught up the cloths, or dates, or rice, or anything they could lay hands on, and endeavoured to carry them off. But this was not so easy; there were too many men to be all satisfied, and those who had least began wrangling with their more fortunate competitors, who, on their part, not wishing to relinquish anything they had obtained, forcibly contested for their rights.
A more complete and ferocious mêlée I never witnessed. The whole ground was a scene of pull devil, pull baker, and victory to the stronger. As one man, hurrying along, was trailing his cloth behind, another rushed at it and pulled him back; clubs were unsparingly used, and destruction threatened with spears; what would not easily succumb to pulling, was separated with stabs of the spears or cuts of their knives. The camels and ponies were not more easily disposed of; by snatching from one hand and snatching from another, they were constantly in different people’s hands. It was a scene very like that of an Indian poultry-yard, when some entrails are thrown amongst the chickens, and every fowl tries to rob the other.
Whilst all were intent with deep earnestness in this scramble, an alarm was suddenly given that another party were coming down the hills to fight and rob them of their spoils. The disordered band were instantly panic-stricken; for a moment or two there was the deadest silence; and then everybody, save some forty or fifty men who were probably more experienced hands, burst across the plain, flying in long jumps, and hurrying with all their might towards the hills. I heard afterwards it was not an unusual practice in this land of robbers for one party to get up an attack upon a caravan, and then another one, getting wind of their design, to project a plan of despoiling them as soon as they shall be in such a disconcerted mêlée that they would not be able to act in concert to support one another.
Whilst they were away, three fine-looking men came, with some of our soldiers’ sabres; and one, standing over me, threatened, with ferocious determination in his countenance, to cut me in two. Twice he lifted his sword above his head, and brought it down with violence to within an inch or two of my side, and each time withdrew it, as if suddenly repenting of his purpose. I stared him earnestly in the face, but neither flinched nor uttered any noise. They then left me, and went to join the other forty thieves. I conceive this demonstration was made with a view of testing my pluck, and had I cried or implored for mercy, I should inevitably have been killed upon the spot. The last and worst scene in this tragedy was now to be performed.
My jailer, who was still holding the string, stepped up close to me, and coolly stabbed me with his spear. I then raised my body a little in defence, when he knocked me down by jobbing his spear violently on my shoulder, almost cutting the jugular arteries. I rose again as he poised his spear, and caught the next prod, which was intended for my heart, on the back of one of my shackled hands; this gouged the flesh up to the bone. The cruel villain now stepped back a pace or two, to get me off my guard, and dashed his spear down to the bone of my left thigh. I seized it violently with both my hands, and would not relinquish the gripe until he drew a shillelah from his girdle, and gave me such a violent blow on my left arm, I thought the bone was broken, and the spear fell helplessly from my hands. Finding his spear too blunt for running me through by a simple job when standing still, he now dropped the rope-end, walked back a dozen paces, and, rushing on me with savage fury, plunged his spear through the thick part of my right thigh into the ground, passing it between the thigh-bone and large sinew below.
With the action of lightning, seeing that death was inevitable if I remained lying there a moment longer, I sprang upon my legs, and gave the miscreant such a sharp back-hander in the face with my double-bound fists that he lost his presence of mind, and gave me a moment’s opportunity to run away; which, by the Lord, I lost no time in doing, taking very good care, by holding my hands on one side, not to allow the dangling rope to trip me up. I was almost naked, and quite bare upon the feet, but I ran over the shingly beach towards the sea like wildfire. The man followed me a little way, but, finding I had the foot of him, threw his spear like a javelin, but did not strike me, for I bobbed, and allowed it to pass safely over my head; he then gave up the chase. Still I had at least forty more men to pass through, who were scattered all about the place, looking for what property they could pick up, before I could get safe away. These men, seeing the chase, all tried to cut off my retreat.
However, I dodged them all by turns, running fast across them, and bobbing as they threw their spears after me, until I reached the shore, when I had the satisfaction of seeing the last man give up the pursuit and leave me to myself. I was now fast fainting from loss of blood, and sat gently on a mound of sand, picked the knots which bound my hands open with my teeth, and exposed my breast to the genial influences of the refreshing sea-breeze, which at sunrise, as this was, is indescribably pleasant. But what a gloomy prospect was now before me!! I was growing weaker every minute; my limbs were beginning to stiffen and the muscles to contract, and I thought there was no help probably nearer than Ain Tarad; what was to be done? I could not travel the distance, and I must perish miserably by slow degrees, from starvation and exhaustion, in the dreary desert; far better, thought I, had the spear done its worst, and no lingering would have followed. Whilst reflecting in this strain, my eyes, wistfully gazing on the few remaining huts of Berbera, lit upon some female figures beckoning to me, but I could not divine who they were, or what was their meaning.
I rose as a last hope, and hobbled towards them, for my right leg was nearly crooked up double, and was so weak it could not support the weight of my body but for an instant at a time. Drawing nearer, I discovered them to be the four women whom we the evening before permitted to join our camp. Just then I saw some men hurrying from the eastward along the shore, endeavouring to meet me.
These, I soon perceived, were the old Balyuz and several of our servants. As soon as they arrived, they told me all that had happened. Immediately on the outbreak, the soldiers fired their guns, and all but one or two at once departed. Stroyan, he supposed, was killed at the outset; Lieutenants Burton and Herne had run away with him immediately after I left the central tent to fight. The former had been speared in the face, the latter had been much bruised with war-clubs, and some of our men had received severe sword-cuts. After escaping from the fight, Herne took refuge in the empty huts of Berbera, and at daybreak sent a servant to detain the Ain Tarad vessel, which had so providentially come in the previous evening. My companions were then on board of her, and had sent the Balyuz with the men to search for me, and pick up anything they could find.
I was now carried to the vessel, and stretched upon the poop in safety, and felt more truly thankful for this miraculous escape than words can tell. It is only after a deliverance of this kind one fully values or can properly appreciate the gift of life. My companions seemed downcast and full of sorrow for the sad misfortune which had so disastrously terminated our long-cherished hopes, and had deprived us so prematurely of an old and valued friend, especially dear to me, as he was a thorough sportsman. For courage, daring, and enterprise, as well as good-fellowship, there never lived a man more worthy of esteem than poor Stroyan.
Lieutenant Burton had sent a boat’s crew off to near the site of our camp, a distance of three miles, to fetch away anything that might remain there, and bring it to us. They found the place deserted, with only such things left as the Somali could make no use of, and were too cumbersome to carry away; such, for instance, as grain, boxes, books, and various scientific instruments, which, after being wantonly injured, were left scattered on the ground. It appeared, by accounts brought back, that many of the men who ran off at the first false alarm never ventured back again to help themselves from the spoils. They had now destroyed about £1500 worth of property, but had enriched themselves but very little, for, whilst fighting, they had destroyed in the scramble nearly everything of any worth to themselves. When the boat’s crew returned with Stroyan’s body, it was found to be too late to sail that evening.
During the time of waiting, a poor man, with no covering on his body, crawled up to the vessel, and implored the captain, in the name of Allah — the fakir’s mode of begging — to give him a passage to Aden. His prayer was answered, and he came on board. He was a Mussulman, born in Cashmere, and had been wandering about the world in the capacity of a fakir; but was now, through hunger and starvation, reduced to a mere skeleton of skin and bones. His stomach was so completely doubled inwards, it was surprising the vital spark remained within him. On being asked to recite his history, he said, “I was born in the ‘happy valley’ of Cashmere; but reduced circumstances led me to leave my native land. When wandering alone in some woods one day, I had a visitation, which induced me to turn devotee, and wander about the world to visit all places of pilgrimage, carrying only a bottle and a bag, and ask charity in the name of God, who supplies the world with everything, and takes compassion on the destitute. At first I travelled in India, visiting its shrines and temples, and then determined on crossing the sea to see what other countries were like. Taking passage at Bombay, I first went to Muskat in Southern Arabia, and thence travelled overland to Aden, begging all the way, and receiving kind hospitality wherever I spent the night. In Aden I remained a while, and by constant begging accumulated sufficient property to purchase food for a considerable time, when I again set out, in the name of Allah, to see what the Somali Land was like. At first I went across to Kurrum, and lived there as long as my little stock held out, but I could get no assistance from the people of the place. The stock exhausted, I was spurned from every door. At last, despairing of obtaining anything on the coast, I ventured to see what the interior would produce, but I found the Somali everywhere the same; they were mere hywans (animals), with whom no human beings could live. A man might travel in Arabia or any other place in the world, but in the Somali Land no one could exist. Finding myself reduced to the last stages of life, for no one would give me food, I went to a pool of water in a ravine amongst the hills, and for the last fortnight have been living there on water and the gums of trees. Seeing I was about to die, as a forlorn hope I ventured in this direction, without knowing whither I was going, or where I should come to; but God, you see, has brought me safely out.”
20th. — This morning we weighed anchor, and in two days more arrived in Aden.
Thus then ended my first expedition — a signal failure from inexperience, and with a loss of £510 worth of my own private property, which I never recovered. I had nothing to show but eleven artificial holes in my body. Had we gone straight from Aden, without any nervous preliminary fuss, and joined the Ugahden caravan at Berbera just as it was starting, I feel convinced we should have succeeded; for that is the only way, without great force, or giving yourself up to the protection of a powerful chief, that any one could travel in Somali Land. Firearms are useful in the day, but the Somali despise them at night, and consequently always take advantage of darkness to attack. Small-shot and smooth-bore guns, on this account, would be of far greater advantage as a means of defence than rifles with balls; and nothing but shot well poured in would have saved us from this last attack. We have been often condemned for not putting on more sentries to watch; but had the whole camp been in a state of ordinary preparation for war, with such cowardly hearts as our men all had, we should have been as signally defeated. We now set sail from Berbera, all highly disgusted with our defeat; and at Lieutenant Burton’s request, we said we would go with him again if the Government would allow it.
On arriving in Aden, I was a miserable-looking cripple, dreadfully emaciated from loss of blood, and with my arms and legs contracted into indescribable positions, to say nothing of various angry-looking wounds all over my body. Dansey now gave me a room in his house, and bestowed such tender care on me as I shall never forget. Colonel Coghlan also, full of feeling and sympathy for my misfortune, came over and sat at the feet of my bed, with tears in his eyes, and tried to condole with me. Fever, however, had excited my brain, so I laughed it all off as a joke, and succeeded in making him laugh too. The doctors next took compassion on me, formed into committee, and prescribed, as the only remedy likely to set me right again, a three years’ leave to England, where, with the congenial effects of my native home, they hoped I should recover. Lieutenant Burton now sent in an estimate of all loss to the Government, and advised, as the best plan of taking an effectual revenge upon the Somali, in whose territories we were attacked (the Habr Owel), that a ship should be sent to blockade their coast, with a demand that they should produce for trial in Aden the living bodies of the two men who so cruelly killed our lamented friend, and so wantonly endeavoured to despatch me. Further, that a sum of money equivalent to all our aggregate losses should be paid in full ere the blockade would be raised. This was considered the wisest method by which, in future times, any recurrence of such disasters might probably be avoided. It is needless to observe, considering the importance of Berbera to the welfare of the Habr Owel, their subsistence and their existence as a nation depending on it, that anything might have been exacted from them that we wished to extort, or they could afford to give. The Government, unfortunately for our pockets, were of a different opinion; they would have nothing to do with money exactions when human blood had to be avenged. Moreover, they had been wishing to suppress the slave-trade, and found in this occurrence a favourable opportunity to indulge their hobby. They therefore established a blockade of all the coast-line between Siyareh and Jibal Elmas, demanding, as the only alternative by which it would be raised, the surrender of the principal instigators of the outrage on us for trial in Aden, of whom the first in consequence was Ou Ali, the murderer of Stroyan. When the season for the fair arrived, the only vessel present in the Berbera harbour was a British man-of-war, and the Habr Owel then believed we were in earnest. Until then, it appeared, they would not believe it, thinking our trade in Aden would suffer by this proceeding as much as their own. They were, however, mistaken; trade found an outlet at other places; and they, by its suppression on their grounds, were fast sinking into insignificance. Seeing this, they showed by urgent prayers a disposition to treat on any conditions we might like to impose on them, and even sent in for trial to Aden a man who showed the scar of a gun-shot wound on his back, and at the same time declared their intention of forwarding all others to us as soon as they could catch them.
To make the matter short, I shall give intact the articles of a treaty which was signed at Berbera on the 7th November 1856, between the Honourable East India Company on the one hand, and the Habr Owel tribe of Somali on the other, as it appears in an appendix (D), in a ‘History of Arabia Felix or Yemen,’ by Captain R. L. Playfair, Assistant Political Resident, Aden.30
During my residence in Aden, which lasted three weeks, or until the second mail after my arrival took its departure for Suez, my wounds healed up in such a marvellously rapid manner, I was able to walk at large before I left there. They literally closed as wounds do in an India-rubber ball after prickings with a penknife. It would be difficult to account for the rapidity with which my wounds closed, knowing, as everybody who has lived in Aden must do, that that is the worst place in the world for effecting cures, had I not, in addition to a strong constitution which I fortunately possess, been living for many months previously in a very abstemious manner, principally, as appears in the body of the journal, on dates, rice, and sour curds.
I now left Aden on “sick certificate,” and arrived in England in the early part of June 1855. The Crimean war was then at its height, and the military authorities were beating up for recruits in every corner of the land. This summons for war was irresistible. I was suffering a little from blindness, brought on probably by my late losses and impoverishment of blood.31 Still I lost no time in volunteering my services to take part in this great national object, thinking it was a duty, as a soldier, I owed my country, and delighting in the prospect of immediate and active employment, where, at any rate, I should be in Europe and enjoying the temperature I had come home to seek. The Turkish Contingent was then being incorporated, and I was, being an Indian officer, competent to serve in it. With an introduction from friends, I wrote a letter to Major Graham, an officer appointed by the Horse Guards to engage officers for General Vivian’s contingent, giving him an account of my past services, and asking for an appointment with the army. He at once closed with me, declaring “I was just the sort of man he wanted,” and, granting two weeks’ leave to prepare an outfit, told me to be off. In a fortnight more I arrived in Constantinople, and was posted to a regiment of Turks, with the commission of Captain. The Turkish Contingent was now at Buyukdere, but was soon ordered to embark in vessels and proceed to Kertch in the Crimea. I went with them, and remained serving until the close of the Crimean war. My commandant, Major Greene, being otherwise employed, I, as second in command and Kaimakan of the 16th regiment of infantry, took its headquarters back, and disbanded them at Constantinople.
Whilst I was engaged in these parts, and thinking there would be no further chance of my being able to return to Africa, I had made up my mind, at the expiration of the war, to try my hand in collecting the fauna of the very interesting regions of the Caucasian Mountains, and had even gone so far as to purchase guns and equip myself for it. Captain Smyth, of the Bengal Army, an old and notorious Himalayan sportsman, had agreed to accompany me, and we wrote home to the Royal Geographical Society to exert their influence in obtaining passports, by which we could cross over the range into the Russian frontier; but this scheme was put a stop to by Dr Shaw, the Secretary of that Society, writing out to say there would be very little hope of our being able to obtain the passports we required, and that he thought the time ill-advised for working in those regions, adding, at the same time, that an expedition to explore Africa was again being organised under the command of Captain Burton, and advising me to join it. By the same mail I received a communication from Captain Burton himself, inviting me to join him once more in exploring Africa, saying there would be no expense attached to it, as the Home and Indian Governments had each promised to contribute £1000. This settled the matter. Without a second thought I disposed of my Caucasian equipments, and, taking a passage to England by the first mail, travelled night and day until I again reached home, deeming, as I did on the first expedition, that I might just as well nurse my furlough for a future occasion — the fact being that I was more of a sportsman and traveller than a soldier, and I only liked my profession when I had the sport of fighting.
[Illustration: NOTE *********************** Gondokoro, German Mission Station: Cataracts which stopped the Expedition discover the Sources of the Nile by * Kirira River & Bari Kingdom heard of the draba south of the Equator.]
“A traveller who hopes for success in exploring a new country must accept the institutions he finds in existence; he can hardly hope, by his simple fiat, to revolutionise the time-honoured and most profitable institutions of a people, amongst whom precedent is a law as unchangeable as that of the Medes and Persians.”
27 Siyareh, a fort and small village belonging to the Makahil branch of the Habr Awel, is the watering-place of Berbera, and derives a small revenue from the boats which touch there en route to, and returning from, the Berbera fair. During this year it attained an unenviable notoriety as the rendezvous for the slaves intended for export to the Persian Gulf. Many of these were free Somali girls, sold by their relatives or kidnapped by their friends. Colonel Playfair wrote to me that one hundred and forty boys and girls were rescued here in the early part of this year by H.M.S. Lady Canning.
28 Colonel Playfair thinks 20,000 men nearer the right number.
29 I must here notice, although I have endeavoured to stick as closely as possible to the narration of my own story in these pages, that I saw Herne, who had been guarding the rear, opposed to the whole brunt of the attack, fighting gallantly with his sable antagonists; and from the resolution with which he fired at them, he must have done some damage.
30 Articles of peace and friendship concluded between the Habr Owel tribe of Somali on the one part, and Brigadier William Marcus Coghlan, Political Resident at Aden, on behalf of the Honourable East India Company, on the other.
“Whereas, on the 19th of April 1855 (corresponding with the 1st of Shaban 1271), a treacherous attack and murder were perpetrated at the port of Berbera by a party of Habr Owel tribe, upon a party of British officers, about to travel in that country with the consent and under the protection of the elders of the tribe, in consequence of which outrage certain demands were made by the Government of India, and enforced by a blockade of the Habr Owel coast; and whereas it has become apparent that the said tribe has fulfilled these conditions to the utmost of its ability, and has prayed to be relieved from the blockade; therefore it is agreed —
“1st, That the elders of the Habr Owel will use their best endeavours to deliver up Ou Ali, the murderer of Lieutenant Stroyan.
“2d, That, until this be accomplished, the sub-tribe Esa Moosa, which now shelters, and any other tribe which may hereafter shelter, harbour, or protect the said Ou Ali, shall be debarred from coming to Aden.
“3d, That all vessels sailing under the British flag shall have free permission to trade at the port of Berbera, or at any other place in the territories of the Habr Owel; and that all British subjects shall enjoy perfect safety in every part of the said territories, and shall be permitted to trade or travel there under the protection of the elders of the tribe. In like manner shall the members of the Habr Owel tribe enjoy similar privileges at Aden, or in any other part of the British possessions.
“4th, The traffic in slaves through the Habr Owel territories, including the port of Berbera, shall cease for ever; and any slave or slaves who, contrary to this engagement, shall be introduced into the said territories, shall be delivered up to the British; and the commander of any vessel of Her Majesty’s or the Honourable East India Company’s navy shall have the power of demanding the surrender of such slave or slaves, and of supporting the demand by force of arms, if necessary.
“5th, The Political Resident at Aden shall have the power to send an agent to reside at Berbera during the season of the fair, should he deem such a course necessary, to see that the provisions of this agreement are observed; and such agent will be treated with the respect and consideration due to the British Government.
“6th, That on a solemn promise being given by the elders of the Habr Owel, faithfully to abide by the articles of this agreement, and to cause the rest of the tribe to do so likewise, and to deliver up to the Political Resident at Aden any party who may violate it, the blockade of the Habr Owel coast shall be raised, and perpetual peace and friendship shall exist between the British and the Habr Owel.
“Done at Berbera this seventh day of November, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six of the Christian era (corresponding with the eighth day of Rabea-el-Owel, one thousand two hundred and seventy-two of the Hejira).
|(Signed)||AHMED ALI BOOKERI,||| Ayal Yoonus.|
|(Signed)||MAHOMMED WA’IS,||| Ayal Ahmed|
|(Signed)||ATEYAH HILDER,||| Makáhíl.|
|(Signed)||AWADTH SHERMARKIE,||Ayal Hamood.|
“Signed in my presence at Berbera, on the 7th November 1856.
(Signed) R. L. PLAYFAIR, Assistant Political Resident, Aden.
(Signed) W. M. COGHLAN, Political Resident.
“Aden, 9th November 1856.
“Ratified by the Right Honourable the Governor–General of India in Council, at Fort William, this 23d day of January 1857.
And Five Members of Council of India.”
31 I was first blinded by ophthalmia when a child, which had ever since rendered reading a very painful task; and again I suffered from snow-blindness whilst crossing over the Himalayas into Tibet.
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