We had some additional camel-drivers from Kaleebah, who, of course, endeavoured to extort more than they had agreed for. When we had squabbled with them a little, we had the honour of receiving Sheikh Omer, of Mizdah, in the tent. He came with about thirty notables of the place, the greater part of whom sat outside the doorway, whilst he stroked his beard within, indulging in a touch of eau de Cologne and a cup of coffee. We read him the circular-letter of Izhet Pasha, and received all manner of civilities. The next day, indeed, he came to us to serve as guide through the country over which he wields delegated dominion. He had not far to go. His empire is a mere pocket one. The palm-trees are about three hundred in number, and there are but half-a-dozen diminutive fields of barley ripening in the ear, fed by irrigation from several wells which supply tolerably sweet water. A few onion-beds occur in the little gardens, which are partially shaded by some small trees.
Sheikh Omer supplied us with copious bowls of milk; the most refreshing thing, after all, that can be drank in the heat of the day. We were, however, impatient to get off, but had to wait for a blacksmith to shoe the horses of our chaouch. The only knowing man in this department was away at some neighbouring village, and it was necessary to send messengers to find him. There being nothing better to do, the day, accordingly, was spent in quarrelling. We had at least a hundred tongue-skirmishes between our people and the people of Mizdah—between our chaouch and the other chaouch—between our chaouch and the sheikh of the country—between Yusuf and the Fezzanee—between every individual black and every other individual black—Between our chaouch particularly and all the people of Mizdah:—in short, there were as many rows as it were possible for a logician to find relations betwixt man and man.
I must not forget that our chaouch, in spite of all this effervescence, had got up this morning in a very pious state of mind. He told us that a marabout had appeared to him in a dream, and had said, “O man! go to Soudan with the Christians, and thou shalt return with the blessing of God upon thee!” This vision seemed to have made a deep impression upon him at the time, but he had forgotten it long before it had ceased to be the subject of my anxious thoughts—“O God, I beseech thee, indeed, to give us a prosperous journey! But thy will be done. We are entirely in thy hands!”
April 10th.—We had another glorious row this morning before starting. A man who had gone to fetch the blacksmith, and found him not, demanded payment of two Tunisian piastres. The chaouch, suspecting that he never went at all, but concealed himself in the village, would not pay him. This brought on a collision. Sheikh Omer supported us; and so all the people of the other village took part against us. Two of them were armed, and some of us thought it advisable to load our pistols.