One unfortunate lad, who had joined the caravan before it entered the desert, I suspect a domestic who had fled from the distresses that had found us in the upper countries, made pathetic applications to me for water; I twice divided with him a bowlful I was drinking, “in the name of God, the protector of the traveler.”
This young man, in the course of this toilsome night, had disappeared, having doubtless laid himself down in despair. We unfortunately did not miss him till it was too late. About two hours before day-break we reached the entrance of a deep ravine, between ridges and hills of rocks. We marched in it for six hours. It zigzagged perpetually, and its bottom was covered with fragments of the rocks that enclosed it, and which had apparently been displaced by strong currents of water. This phenomenon surprised me, as the entrance into this ravine being from the plain, it was evident that the currents which had produced these displacements could not at any era have come from thence. But at the termination of this ravine, which ended nearly at the river, the cause became evident. An ancient canal, now nearly filled up, leads from the river into this ravine, and the rush of the current during the seasons of inundation, has loosened and displaced fragments of the bordering mountains.
It was about two hours before noon on the 18th of Zilkade, when, emerging from this ravine, we came upon the bank of the beautiful and blessed river, which is the very heart and life’s blood of all north-eastern Africa. It was with the most grateful feelings toward “the Lord of the universe,” that I laid myself down under the date trees by its brink to cool and to wash my swollen and inflamed eyes, whose disorder was greatly increased by fatigue, a dazzling sun, and want of sleep.
Immediately after our arrival at the little village of Seboo, which stands on the canal leading to the ravine before mentioned, myself and Khalil Aga addressed ourselves to the people of the village to engage some one to go and bring to the river the unfortunate lad who had been missed. I told them that, in two hours, a man mounted on a dromedary could reach the place where he had disappeared, and save his life: I appealed to their humanity, to their sense of duty towards God and man, to engage them to go and save him. Finding them deaf to my entreaties, I offered them money, and Khalil Aga his musket, to bring him safe and sound to the river. I appealed to their humanity in vain, and to their avarice without effect. We told them that the Christians, in a case of this kind, would send not one but forty men, if necessary, to go and save a fellow creature from the horrible death of desert famine; and that heaven would surely require at their hands the life of this young man, if they neglected to save him At length the Sheck of the village promised me to send a dromedary to the place to-morrow morning. He made the promise probably to appease my reproaches, for he did not fulfill it.