In the beginning of December, Karfa proposed to complete his purchase of slaves, and for this purpose collected all the debts which were owing to him in his own country; and on the 19th, being accompanied by three slatees, he departed for Kancaba, a large town on the banks of the Niger and a great slave-market. Most of the slaves who are sold at Kancaba come from Bambarra; for Mansong, to avoid the expense and danger of keeping all his prisoners at Sego, commonly sends them in small parties to be sold at the different trading towns; and as Kancaba is much resorted to by merchants it is always well supplied with slaves, which are sent thither up the Niger in canoes. When Karfa departed from Kamalia he proposed to return in the course of a month, and during his absence I was left to the care of a good old bushreen, who acted as schoolmaster to the young people of Kamalia.
CHAPTER XX—NEGRO CUSTOMS
The whole of my route, both in going and returning, having been confined to a tract of country bounded nearly by the 12th and 15th parallels of latitude, the reader must imagine that I found the climate in most places extremely hot, but nowhere did I feel the heat so intense and oppressive as in the camp at Benowm, of which mention has been made in a former place. In some parts, where the country ascends into hills, the air is at all times, comparatively cool; yet none of the districts which I traversed could properly be called mountainous. About the middle of June the hot and sultry atmosphere is agitated by violent gusts of wind (called tornadoes), accompanied with thunder and rain. These usher in what is denominated “the rainy season,” which continues until the month of November. During this time the diurnal rains are very heavy, and the prevailing winds are from the south-west. The termination of the rainy season is likewise attended with violent tornadoes, after which the wind shifts to the north-east, and continues to blow from that quarter during the rest of the year
When the wind sets in from the north-east it produces a wonderful change in the face of the country. The grass soon becomes dry and withered, the rivers subside very rapidly, and many of the trees shed their leaves. About this period is commonly felt the harmattan, a dry and parching wind blowing from the north-east, and accompanied by a thick smoky haze, through which the sun appears of a dull red colour. This wind in passing over the great desert of Sahara acquires a very strong attraction for humidity, and parches up everything exposed to its current. It is, however, reckoned very salutary, particularly to Europeans, who generally recover their health during its continuance. I experienced immediate relief from sickness, both at Dr. Laidley’s and at Kamalia, during the harmattan. Indeed, the air during the rainy season is so loaded with moisture that clothes, shoes, trunks, and everything that is not close to the fire becomes damp and mouldy, and the inhabitants may be said to live in a sort of vapour-bath; but this dry wind braces up the solids, which were before relaxed, gives a cheerful flow of spirits, and is even pleasant to respiration. Its ill effects are, that it produces chaps in the lips, and afflicts many of the natives with sore eyes.