18th.—I finished to-day a vocabulary of the Kailouee language. I endeavour also to divert my mind from the many causes of annoyance that now exist, by studying the records of the Denham and Clapperton expedition. We shall soon be amidst the same countries that they explored, and, no doubt, shall find that little has changed in the manners of the people during these last thirty years. Neither in the Desert nor in the kingdoms of Central Africa is there any march of civilisation. All goes on according to a certain routine established for ages past.
A courier has just arrived from the new Sultan of Aghadez, demanding the gumruk, or custom-dues, from the caravan of Christians who have entered Aheer. As if we had not already paid enough! After two or three weeks of incessant solicitation, by the way, I gave Es-Sfaxee, Yusuf, and Mahommed, a small bottle of rum—the first, and it shall be the last; for they got drunk and quarrelsome upon it.
19th.—This day I took a walk over the neighbouring rocks, whence there is a wide view over the whole surrounding valley. I have omitted to observe, that at our former place of encampment were seen many scorpions; so that here these reptiles inhabit the open country equally with the ruins of old houses or mosques, and such places. Under one of my boxes was also discovered a lefa, the most dangerous species of serpent in these countries.
It appears that most of the caravans that pass through this country are obliged to pay a certain gumruk to the prince of Aghadez. The relations of the lesser Sheikhs of Aheer with the paramount sultan are of this kind. When a sultan dies, or is displaced, they assemble like the College of Cardinals, or rather like the old Polish nobility, to elect a new one. It is the law that this Sultan of Aghadez must be a stranger. When once chosen he is invested with something like absolute authority throughout all Aheer, and he alone possesses the dreaded power of “cutting off heads.” En Noor has sent this morning what is called “the present, of salutation,” which he determined to despatch to Abd-el-Kader, the new Sultan of Aghadez, instead of the immense gumruk demanded. The present consists of one Egyptian mattrass; two white turbans with red borders; a piece of white muslin for making light turbans; two shasheeahs, or red caps; two small gilt-framed looking-glasses; and a few beads of glass and earthen composition; one pound of jouee, or perfume for burning; a small packet of simbel, an aromatic herb used for washing the body; and two heads of white sugar. This composed what may be called the official present for the district of Tintalous. En-Noor added, from himself, two camels, a piece of silk for a gown, and various other little things.
Whilst these magnificences are going on, we are enjoying the comfortable reflection that all our losses are gains to other people, whether they be friends or enemies.