Sufferings In Africa

by James Riley

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Chapter XI

Journeying on the Desart—they are hospitably entertained by Arabs , and come to a well of fresh water.

On the morning of the 30th we started very early; three of us rode, while the other two walked; taking our turns every three hours, or thereabouts. They let the camels walk all this day, but their long legs, and the refreshment they had enjoyed at the spring, enabled them to step along so fast and briskly, that those of us who were on foot, were obliged to be on a continual small trot in order to keep up with them: the wind at the same time blowing very strong directly against us, and our course being nearly N. E.

About two o’clock P. M. Sidi Hamet said to me, “ Riley, shift Gemel(I see a camel;) he was very much rejoiced at it, and so were his companions; but neither I nor my companions could perceive any thing of the kind above the horizon for two hours after this. Our masters had altered their course to about East, and at length we all saw a camel, appearing like a speck in the horizon, but we did not reach the travellers, who were with a large drove of camels, until sunset. Having come up with the men, they invited our masters to go home with them; the invitation was accepted, and we drove our camels along, following them as they went towards their tents:—it was dark and quite late before we reached them, which were four in number.

We stopped at a small distance from the tents, and were obliged to pluck up a few scattered shrubs, not thicker than straw, to make a fire with. Our masters had given us neither meat nor drink this day. I begged for some water, and they gave us each a very scanty drink. We had travelled full fourteen hours this day, and at the rate of about three miles an hour, making a distance of about forty miles.

We were now in a most piteous situation, extremely chafed and worn down with our various and complicated sufferings, and we were now to lie on the hard ground without the smallest screen; not even a spot of sand on which to rest our wearied limbs—we had been promised, however, something to eat by our host, and about 11 o’clock at night Sidi Hamet called me, and gave me a bowl containing some boiled meat, which K divided into five heaps, and we cast lots for them. This meat was very tender, and there was just enough of it to fill our stomachs: after eating this, we had scarcely lain down when they brought us a large bowl filled with milk and water. This was indeed sumptuous living, notwithstanding our pains and the severely cold night wind.

On the morning of the 1st of October we were roused up early to pursue our journey. Sidi Hamet now called me aside,* and gave me to understand that this man had got my spy glass, and wanted to kno,w what it was worth. I requested him to show it to me, which he did; it was a new one I had bought in Gibraltar, and it had not been injured. The Arab, though he did not know the use of it, yet as the brass on it glittered, he thought it was worth a vast sum of money. Sidi Hamet had only seven dollars in money, having invested the rest of his property in the purchasing of us, was not able to buy the glass;—his fancy was as much taken with it, however, as was that of the owner. They had also several articles of clothing in their possession, which gave me reason to infer that we could not be a great distance from the place wnere our vessel was wrecked; but there was no method of calculating to any degree of certainty, as they all move with such rapidity in their excursions, that they seem not to know whither, or what distances they go, nor could 1 find out any thing from this man concerning the wreck. Taking our leave from this truly hospitable man, we pursued our course N. E. on the level desart.

Our masters had been very uneasy all the preceding day, on account of meeting with no land marks to direct their course; they were in the same dilemma this day, directing their camels by the winds and bearing of the sun; frequently stopping and smelling the sand, whenever they came to a small sandy spot, which now and then occurred, but we did not come across any loose drifting sand. We took turns in riding and walking, or rather trotting, as we had done the day before, until the afternoon, when our masters walked, (or ratfier ran) and permitted us to ride. \

About four o’clock P. M. we saw, and soon fell in with a drove of camels, that had been to the northward for water, and were then going in a S. W. direction, with skins full of water, and buckets for drawing and watering the camels; their owners very civilly invited our masters to take up tjieir lodgings with them that night, and we went in company with them about two hours, to the South, where falling in with a very extensive but shallow valley, we saw about fifty tents pitched, and going into the largest clear place, unloaded and fettered our camels to let them browse, on the leaves and twigs of the small shrubs that grew there, or on the little low moss, with which the ground was, in many places, covered. As we went along near the tents, the men and women called me el Rais , and soon gathered around with their children to look at us, and to wonder. Some inquired about my country, my vessel, my family, &c. Having satisfied their curiosity, they left us to gather sticks to kindle our masters’ fire; this done, we found, after considerable search, a soft spot of sand to lie down upon, where we slept soundly until about midnight, when we were aroused, and each of us presented with a good drink of milk: this refreshed us, and we slept the remainder of the night, forgetting our sores and. our pains. I reckon we had travelled this last day about forty miles on a course of about E. N. E.

On the 2d of October we set out, in company with all these families, and went North fifteen or twenty miles, when they pitched their tents, and made up a kind of a shelter for our masters with two pieces of tent cloth joined together by thorns and supported by some sticks. Our masters gave us a good drink of water about noon, and at midnight milk was brought from all quarters, and each of us had as much as he could swallow, and actually swallowed more than our poor stomachs could retain.

The tribe did not move, as is customary, on the 2d of October, waiting, as Sidi Hamet said, for the purpose of feasting us. They gave us as much milk as we could drink on the night of the second. Here our masters bought a sheep, of which animals this tribe had about fifty, and they were the first we had seen; but they were so poor, that they could with difficulty stand and feed upon the brown moss, which covered part of the face of the valleys hereabouts, and which moss was not more than one inch high. This tribe, not unlike all the others we had seen, took no nourishment, except one good drink of milk at midnight, and a drink of sour milk and water at mid-day, when they could get it.

On the morning of the 3d of October, our masters took leave of this hospitable tribe of Arabs, who not only fed them , but seemed desirous that we, their slaves, should have sufficient nourishment also, and gave us liberally of the best they had. Our masters had made a trade with them, and exchanged our youngest camel for an old one that was lame in his right fore foot, and one that was not more than half grown. The old one they called Coho, (or the lame) and the young one Goyette, (or the little child.) The sheep our masters purchased was tied about the neck with a rope, and I was obliged to lead it until about noon, when we came to a low valley, with some small bushes in it—in the midst there was a well of tolerable good water—here we watered the camels, and as the sheep could go no farther, -they killed it, and put its lean carcass on a camel, after placing its entrails (which they would not allow me time to cleanse) into the carcass. This well was about forty feet deep, and dug out among the big surrounding roots.


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