“No, no,” said Major Denham, “we think that a sin.” “Wallah! really!” (literally, by God!) cried Min Ali; “why, I have four now, and I have had more than sixty. She, however, whom I like best, always says, one would be more lawful; she may be right; you say she is. You are a great people; I see you are a great people, and know every thing. I, a Tibboo, am little better than a gazelle.”
The 17th of February was a momentous day to the Europeans, as well as to their conductors. Notwithstanding all the difficulties that had presented themselves at the various stages of their journey, they were at last within a few short miles of their destination; they were about to become acquainted with a people, who had never seen, or scarcely heard of a European, and to tread on ground, the knowledge and true situation of which had hitherto been wholly unknown. These ideas of course excited no common sensations, and could scarcely be unaccompanied by strong hopes of their labours being beneficial to the race amongst whom they were shortly to mix; of their laying the first stone of a work, which might lead to their civilization, if not their emancipation from all their prejudices and ignorance, at the same time open a field of commerce to their own country, which might increase its wealth and prosperity.
The accounts, which they had received of the state of this country, had been so contradictory, that no opinion could be formed as to the real condition, or the number of its inhabitants. They had been told that the sheik’s soldiers were a few ragged negroes, armed with spears, who lived upon the plunder of the black kaffir countries, by which he was surrounded, and which he was enabled to subdue by the assistance of a few Arabs, who were in his service; and again they had been assured that his forces were not only numerous, but to a certain degree well trained. The degree of credit which might be attached to these reports, was nearly balanced in the scales of probability, and they advanced towards the town of Kouka, in a most interesting state of uncertainty, whether they should find its chief at the head of thousands, or be received by him under a tree, surrounded by a few naked slaves.
These doubts, however, were quickly removed; Major Denham had ridden on a short distance in front of Boo Khaloom, with his train of Arabs all mounted, and dressed out in their best apparel, and from the thickness of the leaves soon lost sight of them, fancying that the road could not be mistaken. He rode still onwards, and on approaching a spot less thickly planted, was not a little surprised to see in front of him a body of several thousand cavalry, drawn up in a line, and extending right and left as far as he could see; checking his horse, he awaited the arrival of his party, under the shade of a wide-spreading acacia. The Bornou troops remained quite steady