Sufferings In Africa

by James Riley

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Chapter XXI

They come near the ruins of a city where two battering machines are standing—description of them—story of its destruction—they cross a river and a fruitful valley—lodge in a city , and are afterwards stopped by Sheick Ali and the prince of another city.

We travelled on in a south-east direction through a very sandy country, with however here and there a small rising, and a few cultivated spots, for about live hours, at the rate of five miles an hour, when we came opposite the shattered walls of a desolate town or city that stood not far from our path on the right. These walls appeared to enclose a square spot of about three hundred yards in extent on each side, and they seemed to be at least fifteen feet in height. They were built of rough stones, laid in clay or mud, and partly daubed over with the same material. On the north side, there was a gateway handsomely arched over with stone, and furnished with a strong heavy-looking wooden gate that was now shut. Over the gate there appeared to be a platform for the purpose of defending the gate, for the wall was not quite so high in that part as elsewhere. Two battering machines were standing against, the western angle of the wall, opposite to which a large practicable breach had been made by means of one of those machines. They were- both very simple in their structure, but calculated to be very powerful in their effects. I could distinctly see and examine with my eyes the one nearest to us. It was formed, as it appeared to me, in the first place, by laying down two large logs of wood at right angles with the wall, and about fifteen feet apart, the endsof the logs butting against the wall. (See plate, figure 4.) Into the upper side of each of these logs a nitch or mortise was cut to receive the thick ends of two uprights, consisting of two rough trunks of trees, of about twelve inches in diameter at their base, of equal lengths, and rising to the height of about twenty-five or thirty feet. Each upright had a crotch in its upper end, formed by the natural branching of the two principal limbs of the tree, ‘ like a common country well-post in America. These crotches being rounded out by art, a stout piece of knotty timber of about from twelve to eighteen inches in thickness was placed horizontally in them. To the centre of the cross-piece a pole of ten or twelve inches in circumference was lashed with a strong rope, and to the lower end of this pole, a huge rough rock was fastened, weighing from appearances several tons. The rock was slung and fastened to the pole by means of thick ropes, formed by braiding many thongs of camels’ skins together. After the machine had been fitted together on the ground, it had been raised all in a body by the. help of long shores or sticks of timber, not so thick as the uprights, but nearly twice as long: these shores were tied fast to the uprights, near their crotches by ropes, and served to raise and lower the machine at pleasure, and also acted as braces to support it when in action. Two short props or braces were fixed between the uprights and the wall, with one end resting against its base, and the other in a notch cut on the inner side of the uprights to help to keep them steady, and prevent them from falling against the walls. The rock hung within two or three feet of the ground, like a huge pendulum; and having a long rope fastened to its slings, stretching off from the wall at least one hundred and fifty feet. The manner of applying it, was by the assailants laying hold of this rope in great numbers, and then hauling off the rock to its ' greatest extent; all let go at the same instant, and the rock swung back with such impetuosity against those ill-constructed walls, that its repeated strokes soon opened a breach, through which the besiegers entered, sword in hand. The other machine was made of four rough sticks of timber, of nearly equal lengths, lashed together at their smallest ends, am} raised in form of a common triangle, or rather a quadrangle; from the point of juncture, a large ock was suspended by a rope of camels’ skin, braided to the thickness of a man’s leg, and slung in sue a manner as to be struck against the wall in the s me way as the one first described. My companion, Rais bel Cossim , gave me all the information I desired relative to these machines. The ground about the breach and near the gate was strewed oyer with dry human bones; and my curiosity being much excited to know the history of this melancholy scene of carnage and desolation, I requested Rais to communicate to me the particulars; but not being, it seems, acquainted with them himself, he applied to Sidi Mohammed on the subject, who thereupon gave the following relation, while Rais translated into Spanish for me such parts as I did not perfectly understand in Arabic, by which means I was enabled thoroughly to comprehend the whole narrative.

“ That city (said Sidi Mohammed, pointing towards it with his staff,) was built by Omar Ras- chid, about forty years ago; he Mamed it Widnah. He was a very brave and pious man : and the number of his family and friends, consisting at first of no more than five hundred souls, when the city was built, increased so rapidly, that in a few years they amounted to several thousands: they planted those fig, date, pomegranate, olive, and other trees which you now see near the walls; they cultivated the fields round about, and made gardens; had abundance of bread, beasts, and cattle of every kind, and became exceedingly rich and great, for God was with them. In all their transactions, they were respected, loved, and feared by all their neighbours, because they were wise and just. This man was called Omar el Jllilliah , (or Omar the good;) he was my-best friend when living, (said Sidi) and helped me when I was very low in the world, but the best men have enemies—so it was with Omar; he had an inveterate enemy from his youth, who lived among the mountains to the southward of his city, whose name was Sheick Sulmin. This Sheick, about twenty years ago, came down with a great host and invested the city of Omar, but Omar taking advantage of the darkness of the night, sallied out of his city at a private passage, with all his forces, and falling upon his besiegers unawares, killed a great number, and put the remainder to a shameful flight—from that time until the time of his death, (which happened two years ago) he enjoyed a profound peace on every side. After Omar’s death, his eldest son, Muley Ismael , (for he caused himself to be called a prince) took upon him the government of the city. He was a very effeminate man, entirely devote^to sensual pleasure, and had a great number of wives and concubines. The people had long enjoyed a profound peace, and confided in their strength; when about a year ago one of the brothers of Ismael, named Kesh-bah , who was very ambitious, and being fired with resentment at the conduct of Muley Ismael, in taking away from him his betrothed wife, left the city, and repaired to the mountains, where having found his father’s old enemy still living, he stirred him up to war against the city. The old Sheick soon collected a powerful army of hungry and rapacious Arabs on the borders of the desart, and came down the mountains, bringing on their camels the battering machines you now see standing there. When this host approached the city, it was in the dead of the night, and all within were asleep, for they dwelt carelessly and dreamed of no danger and felt so secure, that they did not even keep a watch. The Sheick and his host drew near the walls in perfect silence, and raised their battering machines undiscovered; it was now nearly daylight, when both machines were put in operation at the same instant, and the gate was also*, attacked by means of large stones hung from the upper extremities of long poles by ropes, which poles stood up on end, and were managed by the hands of the Arabs. The first strokH* against the walls and gate, shook them to their very foundations, and awakened the slothful inhabitants, who flew to the walls in order to make a defence; but it was too late; the enemy were thundering against them; all was confusion within; those who attacked the gate were repulsed with great slaughter by those who mounted the platform over it, but the walls were already shattered to pieces, and the assailants entered the breaches over heaps of their dead and dying enemies.

It was now daylight, and' an indiscriminate slaughter of the inhabitants ensued; all was blood and carnage ; every male was put to death, except tjvo, who escaped over the wall to carry tidings of the fate of the town to their friends and neighbours. All the women and children shared the same fate, except two hundred virgins, who were spared for the use of the conquerors. They next plundered the slain of their clothing and ornaments; gathered up all the spoil, and drove off the oxen, sheep, camels, and asses, and departed, leaving the city before mid-day a heap of ruins, covered with the mangled carcasses of its once highly favoured inhabitants: they were in such haste as to leave the battering machines standing, and made off by way of the plain southward. The inhabitants of the neighbouring towns soon collected, and pursuing them with great vigour, came up with them on the side of the mountain the next morning, while the invaders sending forward their spoil, took a statima in a steep narrow pass, and prepared for battle, it was a very long and bloody fight, but Sulmin’s men rolled down great stones from the precipices upon their pursuers, who were at last forced to retreat, leaving about half their number dead and wounded on the ground.”

Sidi J\fohammed was one of the pursuers, and now showed me a very large scar from a wound he then received on his breast by a musket ball. Sidi Ishem, a very powerful prince, had in the mean time heard the news, and assembled a very large army, and pursued the enemy by another way; but they had fled to the desart, and could not be overtaken. The dead bodies in and about the city had become so putrid before the pursuit was over, that none, could approach to bury them, and they were devoured by dogs, and wild beasts, and birds of prey.

“ They had offended the Almighty by their pride, (observed Sidi Mohammed) and none could be found to save them. Thus perished Widnah and its haughty inhabitants.”

I was at that time riding along on a mule next to Rais bel Cossim and Sidi Mohammed, whilst the latter recounted the transaction in a most solemn tone. My sensations at beholding the desolate ruins of a once populous town, whose inhabitants had all been, cut off in a few hour^by the unexpected irruption of a ferocious and unsparing foe, may easily be conceived. I was at first induced to consider the story as fictitious, but my eyes warranted the belief of it, and the sight of the battering machines, together with the breaches in the wall, and the dry human bones, afforded conclusive evidence even to the minds of my fellow-prisoners, who did not understand the narrative, that here had once stood a town, which had been sacked and destroyed.

After leaving these ruins, we continued on about an east course for three hours, when we came to the bank o£.a stream or fresh water river, which was now tftydarger than a brook, owing to the dryness of the season. It flowed from the south-east, aird bent its course through a broad valley in a crooked channel, nearly north, towards the seashore. On its left bank, which was very high land, stood two considerable walled villages, and a great number of small square-walled enclosures on the same bank southward, some in ruins and some apparently in good repair. The walls were made of rough stones laid in clay, and the houses had flat roofs. On the margin of the brook were a great number of gardens fenced in with dry thorn bushes, placed on the ground, and planted chiefly with the prickly-pear; but some with squashes, cabbages, &c. At a distance on both sides of this stream, we saw a number of square stone sanctuaries, or saint houses, with round domes:—they did not appear to be more than ten or fifteen feet square, and were all nicely whitewashed. This bank of the river bore strong marks of baving^en washed to a very great height from the place where the stream then flowed, and, on inquiring of Sidi Mohammed, I was informed that the whole of the valley between the two high banks (which from appearances must be five or six miles wide) was entirely covered with water during some part of the season, or when great rains fall ; at which times travellers were obliged to go up the banks three days’ journey to a fall before they could cross it: that he himself had once been that way, but for the last five years the land had been so cursed with droughts, that it had not once overflowed its present bed where we crossed it, and where it was not more than twenty yards wide, and one foot in depth.

As we passed along close to the prickly-poars, which hung over the thorn bushes, bearing yellow fruit, some of my men plucked them and put them in their mouths, without regarding the sharp prickles with which these pears were covered, so that their tongues and the roofs of their mouths were literally- filled with them: on the first touch, they were extremely painful, and were extracted afterwards with . much difficulty. There were also on both sides of this river, near where we crossed it, numerous herds, and many inhabitants. We travelled along the right bank of the river for several miles, until it became both wide and deep, for it met the tide water from the sea; when coming within sight pf a city on the high right bank, we made towards It. On our approaching within two miles of its walls, we passed large fields of Indian corn and barley corn, and gardens filled with mos|l kinds of common vegetables* The borders of these fields and gardens Mrere planted with date, fig, pomegranate, orange, and other fruit trees in great numbers, and many clumps of grape vines: the soil of this spot appeared to be of the richest black mould. As we passed along in a high footway, formed by throwing up the turf from the enclosures, (apparently, to make them perfectly level, or all of a gentle descent) we saw hundreds of the inhabitants busily employed in gathering the Indian corn and barley corn into heaps, for it was now their harvest time, while others (men and boys) were loading it in sacks and baskets on camels, mules, and asses, and driving them, thus loaded, with the rich products of the soil, into their city. These several enclosures contained, I should judge, one hundred acres of land, divided from each other by mud walls, strewed with dry thorn bushes; the whole were watered by means of a considerable stream brought from the heights near the city, in a large ditch, and carried round each enclosure in small gutters, dug for the purpose; so that any one of the owners could either water the whole or any part of his field or garden, at pleasure. Hundreds of oxen . and cows, sheep and goats, were feeding in the newly cleared fields, whose thin and famished appearance proved they had been forced to feed on scanty and dried up herbage during the summer months, and that on account of the long and excessive droughts, they had merely been able to exist. Rais also informed me, that the locusts had nipped off and destroyed nearly every verdant thing in the whole country; and that for the last five years they had laid waste whole provinces in the empire of Morocco.

We now arrived at the city, and entered it at d very large gateway, with our camels and mules, and took up our quarters in a smith’s shop, near the gate. It was after sunset when we entered this town, and I could observe one broad street, that appeared to run its whole length. The houses were built of rough stones, principally laid in clay, but some in lime; all of one story high, and flat roofed; there w r ere no windows next the street, except a small aperture in each one not a foot square, for the purpose probably of admitting light. They had each a stout plank door strongly made, and furnished with a big clumsy iron lock. The corn continued to pass into the city till dark,—all the camels, oxen, cows, sheep, goats, and asses, belonging to the inhabitants, and which were .very numerous, were also driven into the city, and the gate shut and barred with four large pieces of timber: this was about eight o’clock, and a watch was then stationed on the wall. On entering the city, Rais bel Cossim and She- ick Ali waited on the governor or chief, and obtained permission to remain in his town over night; and a few dates were brought by Rais for our suppers. The shop in which we were permitted to stay was about twenty feet square; a kind of forge was fixed in one corner; two skins were curiously applied, so as to form a bellows to blow this fire with, wlich was of charcoal; a man stood between them with a hand on each skin, which he raised and depressed alternately, and thus kept up a small and irregular stream of air. They had a large piece of iron for an anvil, which lay so low on the ground, that when they worked on it with the hammer, which was a very clumsy sort of one, they were obliged to squat down. I believe every man and boy in this town came to look at us by turns, and ask questions concerning ourselves, our country, &c. so that we were surrounded with people during the whole night, chattering with each other, and asking our Arab guides an endless string of questions.

These people were of the same nation we had been in the habit of seeing since we came to the river Nun, yet they appeared to be more civilized. Several of them asked me in Spanish, how I did ? and uttered many other words in that language, the meaning of which they did not seem to understand; the most of them being vile oaths and execrations; which proved satisfactorily to me that they had had frequent communications in some way or other with people of that nation. Sheick Ali had all the day after we left Sidi Mohammed’s house, been lost in a seeming reverie: he would seldom speak, and when he did, it was in a low voice ap4rt with Seid, and I strongly suspected that some plot was in preparation between them. We had travelled the last day about five hours, at the rate of four miles an hour, before we came abreast of the ruins of the city 1 have described, and we had proceeded five hours afterward at the same rate, making together forty miles.

On the 30 th of October, we made ready to start before daylight, and as soon as it dawned, the gate was opened, and we proceeded on our journey. The walls of this city or town, were byilt of rough stone laid in clay, and were four feet thick at their base in the gateway, and about twenty feet high, but had no outer ditch to defend them, nor any cannon mounted. It appeared to cover a space, of about three hundred yards in length along the river’s bank, north and south, and one hundred and fifty yards in breadth from east to west. The channel of the river at low stages of the water is about one mile west of the town:—this river is called by the natives, Woed Sehlem, or river Sehlem, and the town, Rais told me, bore the same name; i. e. Sehlemah: it is, I should judge from its appearance, fifty yards in width opposite the town at high water, and pro- portionably deep. I was now informed by Rais bel Cossim and Sidi Mohammed, that there was once a large and flourishing Christian town and settlement near the mouth of this river, and only thirty miles from us: that the town was taken by storm about eight centuries ago, and all the Christians massacred. An Arabian century contains forty lunar years, and is called Zille, and they reckon twelve moons to the year. Both Rais bel Cossim and Sidi Mohammed said they had been to the spot, am| seen some of the remains of the walls, which were still standing, though nearly all buried up in sand drifted from the sea-shore. They further stated, that there was now a village at a little distance from the ancient ruin, inhabited by fishermen; that the old

Christian town was situated on a bay or arm of the sea, and five or six miles broad at its entrance, and that it is an excellent harbour both for large and small vessels: that there was no bar across its mouth, but $iat the usual bar was formed of sand a few miles below the town we had left. From my own observations on the increasing breadth of the river, I am inclined to think that this bay may contain a fine harbour, particularly as Rais and his companion could have no motive for deceiving me. Rais bel Cossim had been many times in Europe as Gaptain under the Moorish flag, in the grain trade, and insisted that this was a better harbour than Cadiz: if so, it is the only one on that coast, from Cape Spartel, in latitude 34. 30. to the latitude of 19. north.

Travelling on at a great rate, we entered on a vast plain, over whose surface a few shrubs, and weeds, and clumps of trees were thinly scattered: the boughs of these trees were bending under the weight of a bright yellow fruit, and I learned from Rais that it was the Arga tree, from the nut of which is extracted the Argan oil, very much esteemed by the natives; and it was also highly relished by my companions. This nut, when ripe, much resembles the ripe date in appearance; so much so, indeed, that seeing some of them scattered on the ground, I took one up and bit it, when I found out my mistake, as its bark was extremely bitter. The trees generally grew in clusters of from three to ten trunks, that seemed to spring from the same seed: these rise in a shaft of from ten to fifteen feet in height; and then branch off in all directions, form* ing a diameter of at least one hundred feet; the trunks are from one to three feet in diameter; the branches are covered with thorns, wbjjbnfall and lie so thick on the ground, as to make it almost impossible to approach them near enough to shake or knock off the nuts, and they are consequently left to ripen and drop off spontaneously.

We were now going on at a small trot, mostly all mounted on the camels, mules, and two asses that were in company. The Atlas mountains were now full in view, stretching as far as the eye could reach from N. E. to S. W. at some distance on our right. We had seen these mountains for several days past, in the distant horizon, when we w'ere on the high ridges, which we were obliged to pass; but we now beheld them from this wide-spreading plain in all their awful magnitude; their lofty summits, towering high above the clouds in sharp peaks, appeared to be covered with never-melting snows. This sight was calculated to fill the mind of the beholder with wonder and astonishment. The cold and chilling blasts of wind which blew directly from the Atlas, almost congealed our impoverished blood, and made our feeble frames shake almost to dissolution, notwithstanding the good cloaks and shoes with which we were provided. Seid and the other Arabs were also shivering with cold, and ran on foot to make themselves warm, for the sky was overcast and obscured by thick and heavy clouds, portending torrents of rain. I was now sure we were very near the emperor of Morocco’s dominions, and began to imagine myself a free man—I felt myself at peace with all mankind; my mind expanded with gratitude towards the great Author of my being, and I viewed this stupen^is ridge of mountains, as one of the strongest props of Divine goodness to his creatures; for I considered that all the rivers, and streams, and springs, that water and refresh the northern part of Afr ica, from the borders of that immense and thirsty desart over which I had travelled, to the streights of Gibraltar, and which empty into the Atlantic ocean, or into the Mediterranean sea, westward of Tripoli, and from the 26th to the 35th degree of North latitude, must either take their rise or have their sources in this vast chain of Atlas. On these burning coasts, seldom refreshed by rains, (and that only in small quantities, and during the winter season,) the great bodies of accumulated snow on these mountains, tend in the summer season to cool the atmosphere in their vicinity, as well as to supply water for the use of the animal and vegetable creation.

In the course of this morning, Thomas Burns became so weak (being benumbed with cold) that he could no longer hold on the camel, and tumbled off over the beast’s tail with great violence, falling on his head and back, which deprived him, for a considerable time, of all sensation:—with much exertion, however, on our part, he at length revived, and was again placed on his camel. Proceeding on the plain, we saw a large number of cities, or walled towns, I should reckon at least fifty, some on one side of our path, and some on the other; but mostly on our right, and extending as far as the eye could reach towards the mountains. Those near the path appeared to be three or four hundred yards square: the walls were built of rough stones laid in clay, and with only one gate; they were from twenty to thirty feet in Height, and crowned withwTort turrets about three yards apart all around : areach corner on the top was built a kin4 of circular sentry box, also of stone, something in the manner of old European castles. Most of the land, at some distance from the vicinity of these towns, was prepared for sowing, and many of the inhabitants were engaged in ploughing. A little nearer, were numerous orchards of fig, date, and other fruit trees; and close to the walls, many gardens of fine vegetables, such as onions, cabbages, turnips, squashes, &c.- Round about these gardens, we saw many dung-hill fowls, and at a distance, herds of neat cattle, asses, and flocks of sheep and goats, were feeding upon the scanty and dried up herbage, under the eye of their respective keepers or herdsmen. These beasts were very poor, yet the whole seemed to promise abundance of food to the apparently industrious inhabitants, and brought to my mind the aftcient Jewish history.

Sheick Ali had been very attentive to me all this morning: he had, in imitation of Rais bel Cossim, called me captain, and endeavoured to convince me that I had better go with him to the mountains southward, where he had large possessions, and would give me one of his daughters for a wife, and make me a chief in his nation. He had stopped the whole company two or three times to talk -over his own ainnrs, god I now supposed that Seid was leagued with him, and bent on doing me and my men some mischief. “"•We had travelled on thus for ten hours, (say from four in the morning till two in the afternoonjjBhe rate of five miles an hour, making a distance ^ififty miles, when turning aside from our path, as if by choice, we approached the gate of a city. We were both hungry and thirsty, and we seated ourselves down by a very deep well, within one hundred yards of the city gate : Seid and She- ick Ali went immediately into the town, as I supposed, to get some provisions—Sidi Mohammed and Rais bel Cossim were soon invited in also, to partake with them, leaving us on the outside, and under charge of Bo-Mohammed, who stood in Sidi Hamel’s stead, and two others. A great many men, and I believe, all the boys belonging to the place, now came out to look at, and make remarks on the slaves; most .of them, no doubt, from mere curiosity. The boys, by way of amusement, began to throw stones and dirt at, and to spit on us, expressing, by that means, their titter contempt and abhorrence of us and of our nation. Burns jand Clark were 60 far exhausted as to be unable to support themselves sitting, and were obliged to lie down on the ground; but one man brought a bucket from the town, and drew water, that we might allay our thirst: this revived us in some measure. Mr. Savage, Horace, hnd myself, were in so weak a state, that I much feared we should not be able to keep on for the remainder of this day. Burns’s fall had proved him to be too weak to hold on the camel, and had besides bruised him very much. I tried my utmost to encourage them and keep up their spirits, by representing to them that we were now free, and would soon be in the emperor’s dominions where I presumed we should be out of the reach of the rapacious Arabs: for I hgd been informedn^ Rais bel Cossim, that in the space of one day’s journey we should be within the territories of the emperor.

Whilst Rais bel Cossim and the rest of his company remained within the walls, the winds from the mountains, driving before them thick masses of dark clouds, loaded with vapour, brought on a copious discharge of rain, and we were directed to enter under the gateway for shelter, which we did, supporting each other in our weakness, and seated ourselves in the gate. This was the first rain I had witnessed in this country; and it continued to fall for ^Jbout an hour. I had for a long time looked for Rais bel Cossiml and his companions to come out, and began to apprehend some disaster or treachery on the part of Sheick Ali, whose harsh and loud voice I now heard roaring within. This tremendous clamour between the Sheick and other persons, continued for about two hours, when Rais bel Cossim made his appearance, escorted by a number of men: his intelligent countenance bespoke fear, grief, and indignation—he called me aside from my companions, and told me that Sheick Ali was the intimate friend of Muley Ibrahim, (or prince Abraham,) the king or governor of the city: that Sheick Ali had claimed us as his property, alleging that Sidi Hamet was his son-in-law, and owed him a great deal of money, and that he (Sidi Hamet) was now held as a hostage or slave to a Christian in Swearah: that he had insisted we should not proceed one step further until fifteen hundred dollars were produced, together with Sidi Hairnet, the husband of his daughter: and that in conjunction with Seid^ he had contrived to stop us here by the power of the prince. This news was to me like a clap of thunder; it bereft me of all my fortitude ; the fair prospects I had entertained of a speedy liberation from slavery, particularly for the last two days, were now suddenly darkened. Hats bel Cossim further informed me that he had argued the matter every way, but all to no purpose—that he had promised the money required, namely, six hundred dollars, as soon as we should get to Santa Cruz, in the emperor’s dominions, and that he would agree to have the prince and She- ick go along with him and receive it there, and there wait for the return of Sidi Hamet; “ but they will not listen to me, (added he) and I must set off immediately and carry this discouraging news to Mr. Willshire, leaving you here until I return, (which will be in six days) and may God preserve you in the meantime from their evil machinations.” This was more than I could bear:—tears of anguish, which I had not the power to control, now gushed from my eyes; and my almost bursting heart vented itself in bitter groans of despair. My companions heard my distress, though at a considerable distance from me, and turning fearfully on me their almost extinguished eyes, begged for an explanation of the cause.

Rais bel Cossim was just in the act of hunting his mule to ride off, when Sidi Mohammed, who went in the first place with my master to Swearah, came near him and said, “ Rais—Muley Ibrahim and Sheick Ali have determined you shall not go to Swearah; they fear you will cause a wa^ to break out between them and the sultan.” Observing me in tears and in great affliction, he took me by the hand, and said, “ Don’t be cast down, Riley, I will go to Swearah, and carry a letter from Rais, and one from you to Willshire; and if he wants a hostage, I will stay with him. I have two wives and seven children to leave, and houses, and lands, and herds of cattle; and shall be a more valuable hostage than Sidi Hamet—he is your friend, and will come immediately down and relieve you. God is great and good, (added he) and will restore you to your family.” I kissed his hand in gratitude, and called him father, and hoped the Almighty would reward him for his benevolence. Rais now joined Sheick Ali and the prince, who, with .many attendants, were seated on the ground, in a circle, outside of the city gate—here they debated the matter over again. Rais insisted we were his slaves; that neither the prince nor Sheick had a right to detain what he had bought with his own money, much less to stop him like a criminal: that it was contrary to their religion (which made them all brothers) to commit such an outrage on hospitality. Sheick Ali, on the other hand, contended, that Sidi Hamet and Seid owed him money to a large amount; that we were their joint property, and that consequently he had an undoubted right to detain and to carry us off into his own tribe, or family, and there to keep us, until Sidi Hamet should return and pay his debt. Rais insisted he had paid his money for us, and had nothing toffo with Sheick Ali’s claim; however, after extolling the justice and virtue of the prince to the highest pitch, they both at last agreed to leave it to Muley Ibrahim to decide what should be done. Muley Ibrahim now asked Sidi Mohammed and Bo- Mohammed what they knew concerning this business; and they gave testimony in favour of Rais bel Cossim’s previous claim: thus prepared, Muley Ibrahim said—“ You, Sheick Ali, my old friend, and Rais bel Cossim, both of you claim these five Christian slaves as your own property, and each of you has some reason on your side—yet, as it is not in my power to decide whose claim is the best founded, I am resolved, with a strict regard to justice, and without going into further evidence, to keep the slaves in my own city, carefully guarded, until messengers can be sent to Swearah, who shall bring down Sidi Hamet, when you three being confronted, may settle your claims as shall be found most consistent with justice.” He then proposed that Rais should remain with him, (like a friend) and without having any thing to fear. This plan was agreed to by all parties, and they shook hands upon it like friends.

This done, we were conducted into the city, and into a house adjoining that where the prince lived. A mat was spread for the Sheick and Rais, and their companions to sit on, while we were placed in a narrow corner on the ground, among the saddles and other stuffs—Sentinels with muskets and scimitars were stationed at the door of our apartment and the other doors, and at the city gate. It was after dark when the dispute was settled, and soon afterwards a dish of Coos-coo-soo was brought in, of which all partook after due ablutions; and they then performed their evening prayers most devoutly. My companions were very much cast down; and their bodies and minds were so much exhausted and debilitated by their sufferings, that they had become like children, and wept aloud. I was certain that it would have been impossible for Clark and Burns to have proceeded further on that day, and I tried to persuade them all that it was better for us to be detained a little, as it would give us an opportunity of taking some rest, without which we should be in danger of fainting on our route. Muley Ibrahim, the Sheick, and Rais, were conversing during the whole night, and when daylight appeared, (the 2d of November) Rais furnished me with pen, ink, and paper, and told me to write to Mr. Willshire, stating our present situation as near as I was able: this I accordingly did, while a talb or scrivener was employed in writing a letter for him, (as he could not write himself.) At an early hour Seid, Sidi Mohammed, and Bo-Mohammed, set out for Swearah, taking our letters, and promising to return as soon as possible. Sheick Ali also, soon afterwards, left us, promising to return in four days.

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