Sufferings In Africa

by James Riley

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Chapter XIV

They travel along the sea-coast under the high banks - fall in with, and join a company of Arabs - travel in the night for fear of robbers - Mr. Savage faints - is near being massacred, and is rescued by the author.

They travel along the sea-coast under high hanks—-fall in with and join a company of Arabs—travel in the night for fear of robbers — J\Ir. Savage faints—if near being massacred, and rescued by the author.

Discerning the tracks of our camels, which we had lost sight of for a time, as they had crossed over rocks, where they had descended through a sent or chasm, partly covered with high drifts of loose sand towards the sea-shore, we followed them down immensely steep sand hills, to a tolerably inclined plane, between the first and second banks of the sea; which, from appearances, had once washed the upper bank, but had long, since retired:—the inclined plane had also been a beach for ages, where the stones, that now covered its surface, had been tossed and rounded, by striking against one another.

From this beach the ocean had also retired, and wow washed other perpendicular cliffs of one hundred feet or more in height, at a distance of six or eight miles to the northward of the former ones, which appeared to rise in abrupt, and in many places, overhanging cliffs of rocks to the height of three hundred feet. We had made our way through these cliffs, by means of a hollow, seemingly formed on purpose for a passage, as it was the only one in view; and as I did not know which way our masters W’ent, I had stopped to view the surrounding prospect, and now give what was then my impression. I was at a loss which way to steer my course, but our masters, who were concealed behind a small hillock on our left, discovering my embarrassment, now called to me, where I soon joined them. It was now nearly dark, and there were three or four families of Arabs near, sitting under a shelter made of skins extended by poles: here our camels were turned up to browse, and we were ordered to collect brush, which grew on the steep side of the banks, to make a fire, and to keep off the wind during the night. Mr. Savage was entirely exhausted, and I requested him to lie down on the ground, whilst the rest of us gathered the bushes required; but when I came in with my handful, Seid was beating him with a stick to make him assist. I begged he would permit Mr. Savage to remain where he was; told him he was sick, and that I would perform his share of the labour. Sidi Harnet now returned and killed one of the goats, of which they gave us the entrails; a seasonable relief indeed, and we were allowed to drink a little of the soup they were boiled in, and a small piece of meat was divided between us; and each received a drink of water:—I had before stolen a drink for Mr. Savage, whose bloody vomit continued. In the course of the night they gave us a small quantity of the same kind of pudding we had before tasted, but as Mr. Savage was sick, they refused to give him any, saying, “ he had already eaten too much of something, but they did not know what.” Sidi Hamet, however, saved a little of the pudding in a bowl for him, and as he seemed unwilling to die with hunger, I gave him part of the pudding I had, and saved my share of meat for him until the morning. Our hunger and thirst being somewhat appeased, we slept this night pretty soundly. We had travelled this day about thirty miles.

October the 11th, early in the morning, we took leave of these Arabs, but while wc were busied in getting off, Abdallah seized on Mr. Savage’s pudding in the bowl as a good prize, and swallowed it in an instant; so that nothing but my care of Mr. Savage saved him from fainting and consequent death on this day. Our masters had purchased two more goats from those Arabs, which increased our number to five: these we were forced to drive, and we kept along the sea-shore the whole of this day. On our right the original sea-shore (or bank) rose nearly three hundred feet perpendicularly, and in many places, in overhanging cliffs. The inclined plane on which we travelled was from three to six or eight miles wide, and very regular; covered with pebbles and many round stones; among which grew here and there a few dwarf bushes of different kinds from what I had seen before in various parts of the world. A little to our left the plane broke off abruptly, and the ocean appeared. The bank was from one hundred and fifty to two hundred feel high above the level of the sea, and mostly perpep- dicular, against which the heavy surges dashed with great fury, sounding like loud peals of distant thunder. Our course and that of the shore was about east, and near dark we fell in with four families of Arabs who were about pitching their tents near the sea-shore. Our masters went and introduced themselves to th* one who appeared to be their chief or the principal character among them, and whose name was Hassar. They soon became acquainted, and it w r as ascertained that Hassar and his wife, together with four men that were with him, and their families, were going the same route that we were, upon which our masters agreed to join company.

Hassar’s wife, whose name was Tamar, and appeared to be an uncommonly intelligent woman, addressed me in broken Spanish and Arabic mixed:— she said she had saved the lives of some Spaniards who had been wrecked on that coast a great many years ago; that a vessel came for them, and that she went to Lanzarote (one of the Canary Islands) to get some goods which the Spanish captain promised to deliver her father, who kept three of the men until the Spaniard should have fulfilled his contract, and brought her back. She represented to me the manner in Which the houses in Lanzarote were built, and described the forts and batteries with their cannon, &c. so very clearly and accurately, that I had no doubt but that she must have seen them, and I gave her to understand I had been there also. She said Lanzarote was a bad country, and told us, w’e should not die with hunger while we remained in her company.

We travelled on the 14th about twenty miles. In the night our masters killed a goat and gave us a part of the meat as well as of the entrails : Hassar’s wife also gave us a small quantity of the pudding before mentioned, which the Arabs call Lhash, and here we had a good night’s sleep. October the 15th, early in the morning, Hassar and his company , struck their tents, and all these families proceeded on with us until near night, when we came to a very deep gully, which we could not pass in any other “way than by going down the bank on to the sea beach; and as it was low tide, there was a kind of pathway where camels had gone down before us. We descended, and there found a tent with an Arab family in it just below the high bank; so pending on the camels, Sidi Hamet made us stop here a few moments. The owner of the tent pretended to speak Spanish, but in fact knew only a few detached words of that language: he mentioned to me that he knew I had promised Sidi Hamet that nay friend in Swearah would pay him the amount I had bargained for, stating the sum: now, said this Arab—“ Have you a friend in Swearah?” I answered I had:—“ do not lie, (said he) for if you do, you will have your throat cut; but if you have told him so merely that you might get off of the desart, so as to procure something to eat, he will pardon that pretext and deception so far as only to sell you and your comrades to the highest bidder, the first opportunity, provided, however, that you confess the deceit now. In a few days (added he) you will find houses and a river of running water, and-shtmld you persist in deceiving him, you will certainly lose your life.” I made him understand that I was incapable of lying to Sidi Hamet; that all I told him was true; that he was the man who had saved my life, and he should be well rewarded fbr his goodness by my friend, and by our Almighty Father. This seemed to satisfy Sidi Hamet, who was present, and understood me better than the other did, and he told me I should see Swearah in a few days. We now went forward, accompanied by the Arab, who piloted us across a small arm of the sea that entered the beforementioned gully. We here found a pair of kerseymere pataloons that had belonged to Mr. Savage, in the possession of one of this man’s lit Ie eons;—I pomted them out to my masters and begged them to buy them, which after a long barter with the boy, Seid effected, by giving him in exchange a piece of blue cotton cloth which he had wore as a kind of shirt: they wished me to give the pantaloons to Clark or Horace, but I gave them to Mr. Savage, although they insisted he was fonte. or a bad fellow.

Having got up the steep bank again, after wading through the salt water, which was nearly up to our hips, and one hundred yards broad, we encamped for the night on high dry land, and at dark our masters, taking Horace and myself with them, went near a few tents close by the sea, where we were presented with a quantity of dried muscles, which though very salt, we found excellent: these we divided among our shipmates: I conjecture we had made twentydive miles this day. Here our masters killed their remaining goats, boiled and ate then- entrails and most of their meat, as all present were hungry, and would have some in spite of every opposition; so that our share was seized and swallowed by others.

October the 16th, we made ready and started very early, but went on slowly, keeping near the sea-shore, and mostly in the broken grounds, caused by its former washings. Our masters seemed very fearful all this day, and told me there were many robbers and bad men hereabouts, who would endeavour to seize and carry us off, and that they could throw large stones with great force and precision. We had not travelled more than fifteen miles before sunset, and night coming on, our masters, who had mounted Mr. Savage, Clark, and Burns on the camels, drove them on at a great rate, while ray- gelf and Horace were obliged to keep up with them by running on foot. All this time they had their guns in their hands unsheathed, and when Horace and myself were obliged occasionally to.stop, one of them always stayed with us, and then hurried us on as fast as possible. In this manner we proceeded on until about midnight, when coming to a deep gully, Mr. Savage and Clark were dismounted, and Horace and myself placed on the camels. Descending the valley, we found it full of high sand drifts, and proceeded without making the least noise: the valley was wide, and the sand lying in it, had no doubt been driven from the sea beach by the wind. All the women and children at this time were running on foot. After reaching with much labour the other side of the valley, and the summit beyond it, we found the whole surface of the ground making an even inclined plane, covered with deep drifts of loose sand. I had been riding, I think, about two hours, when Clark, who was a considerable distance behind, called to me, and said, “ Mr. Savage has fainted away, and they are flogging him with sticks.” I instantly slipped off my camel, and ran to relieve him as fast as my legs would carry me. Seid was striking his apparent lifeless body, which lay stretched on the ground, with a heavy stick: Hassar had seized him by the beard with one hand, and with the other held a sharp scimitar, with which he was in the act of cutting his throat. I laid hold of Hassar, jerked him away, and clasping the body of Mr. Savage in my arms, raised him up, and called for water. Hassar would have run me through with his scimitar, but Sidi Hamet arrested and prevented him. I expected to lose my life, but had determined to save Mr. Savage’s at all hazards. Our masters and the whole company of men, women, and children, were around me: they were possessed with the belief that he was perverse and obstinate, and that he would not exert himself to proceed at a time when they were in haste to go on,iest they should fall into the hands of robBers; for which reason they had determined to kill him. I made Sidi Hamet, however, and the others understand, that he had fainted through hunger and excessive fatigue, and that he was not perverse in this instance. This surprised them exceedingly: they had never before heard of such a thing as fainting. Sidi Hamet ordered a camel to be brought, and a drink of water to be given him, and when he revived, this Arab shed tears; then putting him and Clark on a camel, one to steady the other, they proceeded. Sidi Hamet desired me to get on with Horace and ride, saying, with a sneer—■“ the English are good for nothing—you see even our women and children can walk and run.” I told him I could walk, that I was not a bad fellow; and began to run about and drive up the camels; this pleased him excessively, and he bade me come and walk with him, leaving the camels to the care of others, calling me “ good Riley—-you shall again see your children, if God please.”

We continued our journey eastward along the south side of a high string of sand hills, when hearing a dog bark before us, we turned the camels suddenly off to the north, setting them off on a full trot, hut passing over the sand hills without noise: we kept this course for about an hour, until having got near the sea-bank, and north of the sand hills, we resumed our former course. Near daylight we lost our way, and fearing to go amiss, as it was very dark, they made the camels lie down in a circle, placing us within it—when they kept guard over us with their muskets in their hands, while we took a nap. I should guess we travelled fifty miles this last day and night.

October the 17th, early in the morning, we set forward again, still on the same inclined plane, between the first and second banks of the sea. The high banks on our right, whose pointed rocks, where they had been washed by the ocean, were still visible all the way, began to be overtopped with high hills rising far into the country, and presenting to our view a new aspect, so that I was convinced we had left the level desart.

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