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James Richardson (explorer of the Sahara)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Narrative of a Mission to Central Africa Performed in the Years 1850-51, Volume 1.
other place, which gives itself airs of metropolitan importance, is not more than double.  How they have not abandoned the place long ago to jackals and hawks is a mystery.  They do not possess a single camel; only two or three asses and some flocks of sheep; and depend, in a great measure, on chance profits from caravans, for their valley often only affords provision for a couple of months or so.  At intervals, it is true, when there has been much rain, they sell barley in the neighbouring valleys; but this season has been a dry one, and the crop has consequently fallen short.  When they have no barley, they say, they eat dates; and when the dates are out, they fast—­a long, continual fast—­and famine takes them off one by one.  The melancholy remnant preserve traditions of prosperity in comparatively recent times.  Notwithstanding their miserable condition, however, these wretched people are drained by taxation of thirty mahboubs per annum—­so many drops of blood!  The eastern village pays in proportion.  Possibly in a few years this cluster of wadys may be abandoned to chance Arab visitors, so that the starting-point for the traverse of the Hamadah will be removed farther back, perhaps to Mizdah.  There is no life in the civilisation which claims lordship over these countries unfriended by nature.  The only object of those who wield paramount authority over them seems to be to extract money in the most vexatious and expeditious manner.

I purchased of the people of Ghareeah a greyhound bitch for four Tunisian piastres, so that we may now expect some hares and gazelles.  In returning to the encampment I observed the phenomenon of a column of dust carried into the heavens in a spiral form by the wind, whilst all around was perfectly calm.  Such columns are not of so frequent occurrence in the desert as is imagined, but from time to time, as in this instance, are seen.

The evening was spent in making arrangements with Dr. Barth and Dr. Overweg, who had agreed to traverse the Hamadah by day, whilst I was to follow by night, with the blacks.  Next morning, accordingly, the caravan separated into two portions, and my companions rode slowly away over the burning desert.

This important day could not be allowed to pass by my people without a tremendous quarrel.  Our blacks seemed to be in a peculiarly excitable state.  Ali, especially, who has distinguished himself for several days in the obstreperous line, has had a regular turn-to with his father-in-law; and not satisfied with this, nearly strangled Moknee’s son.  The Mandara black threw himself on the ground and called out,—­“Load my pistol, O Chaouch; I must shoot this reprobate Ali!”

This fellow is a pest in the caravan, and I have been obliged to send him off and insist on his return to Tripoli.  He may be brought to his senses in this way.

CHAPTER IV.

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