Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa Performed in the Years 1850-51, Volume 1 eBook

James Richardson (explorer of the Sahara)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 295 pages of information about Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa Performed in the Years 1850-51, Volume 1.

More quarrels!  The chaouches are boiling over again; they must fight it out between them.  No doubt they are both correct in exchanging the epithet of “thief.”  Scarcely has the grumbling of these two terrible fellows died away, when the blacks are at it amongst themselves.  He who has two wives gets hold of his blunderbuss, and threatens to blow himself to pieces.  Nobody interferes; there is little public spirit in a caravan:  so he consents to an explanation, saying sententiously, “My little wife is mad.”  The fact is, his two helpmates, one young and one old, are vastly too much for him, as they would be for most men.  He moves along in a perpetual family tornado.  The mother of the young one, a sort of derwish negress, is a tremendous old intriguer, and stirs up at least one feud a day.  Quarrelling is meat and drink to her.

It would have been out of character had not Ali got up a little convulsion on his own account.  One day, in the Targhee’s absence, he took his gun to “play at powder,” and using English material, succeeded in splitting the machine near the lock.  When the Targhee returned, and found what damage had been done, he began first to whimper, and then working himself up into a towering passion, swore he would shoot the culprit.  Scarcely with that weapon, O Targhee!  When his excitement was over, I offered to make a collection among the people to indemnify him; but he shook his head, laughed, and refused.  The gun was nearly all his property, and he had just bought it new at Tripoli.[2]

  [2] The Orientals are prevented by superstitious fear from
      allowing any article destroyed by accident to be replaced
      in the way mentioned.—­Ed.

All this part of Northern Africa may be compared to an archipelago, with seas of various breadths dividing the islands.  Three days took us from Tripoli to Gharian, and three more to Mizdah.  We were now advancing across the preliminary desert stretching in front of the great plateau of the Hamadah, which defends, like a wall of desolation, the approaches of Fezzan from the north.  At first occur broken limestone hills, as previous to Mizdah; but when we approach the plateau the aspect of the hills changes, and they are composed chiefly of variegated marl mixed with gypsum, and with a covering of limestone.  Fossil shells were picked up at intervals.  Some huge, irregular masses, that appeared ahead during the first day, were mistaken by us for the edge of the plateau; but we broke through, and left them right and left as we proceeded.  They are great masses of limestone and red clay, in which are scooped deep valleys, many of them supplied with abundant herbage.  As yet we have never attained a level of more than 2500 feet above the level of the sea.  Water must exist underground, if we may argue from the presence of the aoudad and the gazelle.  Indeed, out of the line of route, amongst the hills, there are wells and Arab tents.  The presence of Roman remains reminds us that the country has seen more prosperous times.  We encamped on the 11th in a wady, overlooked by the ruins of a mausoleum, which had assumed colossal proportions in the distance.  Some Berber letters were carved upon its walls; probably by Tuaricks, who had formerly inhabited the district.

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Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa Performed in the Years 1850-51, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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