Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

M. Mollien returned in 1817 to France, for the purpose of obtaining the patronage of the Government in his projected journey; but his application was unsuccessful: he persevered, however, in his design, and in 1818, procured from M. Fleuriau, Governor of Senegal, the necessary sanction and the very moderate outfit required for his arduous undertaking. In a preliminary visit to the neighbouring Damel (or King) of Cayor, who is described as a young and corpulent negro, with a sweet voice, but ferocious look, M. Mollien was so fortunate as to obtain a friendly interview with the monarch. Previously to setting out on his main journey, be received from the Governor a brief paper of instructions, specifying the sources of the Senegal, the Gambia, and the Niger, as the chief objects to be ascertained, directing his attention to certain subordinate inquiries, and enjoining the utmost prudence and the avoidance of all unnecessary risk. A native Marabout, or Mohammedan priest, was engaged to accompany him. Having provided himself with a good horse, and an ass to carry his baggage, together with a small assortment of coral, amber, tobacco, beads, powder, and ball, he set off, in . the end of January, on bis enterprise. In the early part of his journey, M. Mollien unadvisedly assumed the Dioorish dress, which exposed bim to the suspicion and hostility of the negroes, who hold the Moors in the utinost dread and abhorrence, as robbers and murderers: happily, be ascertained this in time to remedy bis error, by sending back to St. Louis for his European garb. The first stages of his course lay through villages either already ravaged by the army of the Damel, or in constant appre. hension of a similar fate; but, as he approached the frontiers of the state, he seemed to leave the traces of this

scourge behind him, and to find every where the signs of a more tranquil and contented condition.

At Coqué, he saw, for the first time, the Baubah, the monarch of the African forest; but his notices of the appearance and character of this fine tree, are extremely meagre. M. Golberry, in bis valuable Fragmens d'un Voyage en Afrique, has devoted a whole chapter to the description of this noble plant; and we shall borrow from bis authority a few particulars in illustration of its qualities and aspect. It is described by him as the giant of the vegetable tribe, slow in its growth, and indestructibly vigorous in its constitution: it flourishes in sites where all other verdure perishes, and, amid sterile and arid sands, shoots up its enormous trunk, and strikes deep and wide its prodigious roots. One of these trees which he visited in the valley of Gagack, measured jo circuinference one bundred and four feet, and more than thirtyfour in diameter. This patriarch of African vegetation had in its trunk a large hollow, twenty feet in either diameter, which the negroes had

taken some pains to adorn with rude sculptures;

and which formed an admirable assembly-room for the principal inhabitants of the vale. This species of tree is by no means lofty in proportion to its bulk, but throws forth its branches horizontally to a considerable extent: at the level of the ground, it pushes out side-roots, which radiate from the stem to a great distance all round, while the tap-root penetrates perpendicularly to an immense depth. The inside of the plant is filled with pith, which is subject to a sort of canker that appears not to affect the growth or luxuriance of the branches. The flower closes at night, and opens with the dawn. The leaves are employed in different uses : the bark is manufactured into cordage, and the 'fruit is used for food and medicine.

The inhabitants of Coqué gave M. Mollien a rude and bois. terous reception, but the chief conducted himself with courtesy and hospitality. After crossing uninhabited woods and parched plains, be quitted the kingdom of Cayor, and entered upon the territory of the Bourb-Joloffs. The soil of Cayor is described as sandy but fertile, producing in abundance, millet, cotton, and indigo. The principal trees are, the tamarind, the Baobab, the gum-tree, and other species of Mimosa. The natives are, like all negroes, industrious from 'necessity, indolent by choice: they are careless of the morrow, and spend the nine months' interval between the seasons of harvest, stretched upon their mats. The sovereign is despotic, though his mandates are sometimes resisted by his more powerful chiefs. It is related of one of these, that having ascertained the intention of the Damel to take away his life, he nevertheless boldly presented himself at court, surrounded by an armed and numerous retinue.

"The tyrant had ordered a deep pit to be dug at his feet, and covered with a mat; he desired the chief whose destruction he meditated, to seat bimself on the mat, but the latter, guessing the perfidious intention of the despot, thus replied: “ Damel, I am thy slave, and worthy of reposing only in the dust upon which thy feet have trod.” By this adroit answer, he avoided the fate prepared for him. When a Damel wants a horse of great value, he sends for the general of his army. “Go," he says to him, " thou knowest that such a village contains more than one of my enemies; go, let fire and sword soon deliver me from them." The general, agreeably to the orders given him, plunders and lays waste, and the captives whom he seizes, serve to pay the price of the horse which the king requires.

M. Mollien affirms that Mohammedanism is making great progress among the inhabitants of this country, though the court continues attached to Paganism. He assigns as circumstances highly favourable to this change, the prevalence, even among beathens, of the practice of circumcision; the public schools over which the Marabouts preside, and to which all the children resort; and the sacred and inviolable character which invests the

person of the Mohammedan priest, not less among the Pagans than among the votaries of Islam. The realm of Cayor was originally an integral portion of the great Joloff country, but the Governor having rejected the authority of his sovereign, and assumed the title of Damel, the province has since remained an independent kingdom. But of the history of these states, little is accurately known, and there is considerable variation even in the scanty information afforded us on this head. M. Mollien, for instance, introduces the following tragical and romantic narrative.

The Damel was at war with the Joloffs of the kingdom of Baol, which he afterwards annexed to his own dominions. The people of Baol, secure among their woods, had declined to fight, excepting when stratagem or their position had given them a decided advantage. At length, having issued froin their forests, they appeared on the plain, preceded by their king. “ It is here,” they cried, “ that we must perish! We have been accused of cowardice, let those who thus reproach us, imitate our example: they pretend that we know only how to run away. Let each of us then make it impossible for him to save himself by flight.” At these words, each man filled his wide trowsers with sand, and, thus encumbered, fell on his knees, and began to fire. The combat continued till their ammunition was expended. Baol lost all its warriors on the field of battle; and the king of Cayor, though he saved a few, left behind a still greater number.'

This is, certainly, a very heroical and affecting story; but, independently of its improbabilities and inconsistencies, we have a good reason for rejecting it; namely, that the same revolution is recorded by M. Golberry, whose tale is very different from the romance just cited. IIe simply states, that the Damel of Cayor, on the death of the king of Baol without heirs, took unresisted possession of the country.

About the middle of February, M. Mollien reached Ouamkrore, the capital of the Bourb-Joloffs, which he found to be nothing more than a considerable village. The monarch was ' an old man of low stature,' bis countenance prepossessing, and his behaviour, except that he was very inquisitive, frank and courteous, and such as by no means justified the weak irritability expressed, but, we suspect, not then betrayed, by his Visitant, who,

notwithstanding the favour bis majesty did him of pulling his hair, and taking him by the nose to measure its length, retired • very much shocked by such liberties.' Though the present wbich M. M. had made to the chief was of very trilling amount, the kind old man sent an order to the head of the next village to furnish the traveller with a guide through the country. At Me. dina, as well as at the capital, the griots, or musicians, presented themselves in expectation of a fee, and afforded him a specimen of African invention and musical skill, by celebrating the praises

of the illustrious white man.' During his passage through the

Jolotl territory, M. Mollien excited the utmost astonishment, but was treated with great kindness. He supposes, but without assigoing his reasons, that the natives were originally Numidian or Mauritanian, and that they were driven across the Zahara, and beyond the Senegal, by the invasion of the Saracens. Their kingdom was formerly the most extensive in this part of Africa, and the other black sovereigns still acknowledge in its ruler a precedency of raok, by prostrating themselves in his presence. In this realm, Heathenism predominates over Mohammedanism, but the Marabouts are here also in possession of the business of tuition, and their mild and prudent conduct will probably, in the end, procure them the ascendancy. The religion of the Pagans is unmixed Fetichism. Among the Joloffs, there exists a singular tribe, called Laaubés, between whom and our gipsies there seem to be many points of resemblance: they live a wandering life, andare professed fortune-tellers. They monopolize certain branches of manufacture, and have the reputation of possessing great wealth ; their women are excessively fond of finery, and their transient favours are in even superstitious request among the Jolofls. The Laaubés are a distinct race, acknowledging a chief who alone communicates with the government under which they may reside, and they enjoy the privilege of exemption from military service, on paying a stipulated tax.

M. Mollien crossed the Mandingue, or forest, which separates the country of the Bourb-Joloffs from the territory of Foutatoro, in company with a caravan of sixty persons. The distance was considerable, and the sufferings of the party, from thirst, great. At the first village, he was hustled and robbed of his poniard, with a decision and dexterity which would have done credit to a Fleet-street gang: by the interposition of the chief, however, he recovered his property. The country on the banks of the Saldé, a tributary of the Senegal, refreshed the eye of our Traveller with its rich verdure, and he enjoyed the luxury of bathing for the first time since quitting St. Louis. At Diaba, an attempt was made to detain him, but lie succeeded, by the aid of a Mohamme dan priest, in extricating himself, and without further difficulty reached Sedo, the capital of Foutatoro,--a town containing six thousand inhabitants, and situated in the midst of a rich and highly cultivated plain, well-wooded, and shewing the comfort and opulence of its tenants by the size and number of its villages. The Almamy gave him a courteous reception, and in return, M. Mollien told him that he was journeying to Oulli, to weep over the tomb of bis father, whom the Pagans had mur. dered there; that he hoped to collect the remains of his paternal property; and that, on his return, he expected to be able to make a handsome acknowledgement to his credulous auditor for his

kindness. We would not exercise too nice a casuistry on these occasions, but we must be permitted to remark, that M. Mollien does not appear to ' make conscience' of veracity, and that, though he professes to have been vastly affected by the piety of the natives in their attention to the devotions prescribed by their faith, it iloes not seem to have stimulated hiin to an equally punctual observance of his own religious duties; for, when pressed upon that point, be evaded inquiry by the “ready lie,' that his journal was the repository of his prayers, and the act of writing in it, a devotional exercise. A present of coral to the ruler, and to Aldondou, a powerful chief, smoothed every difficulty, and M. M. departed. At Ogo, he was greeted by the Iman Fonebé with Bonjour, Monsieur. This man, having visited St. Louis, and been well treated there, was even profuse and polished in his attentive and delicate bospitality: the description given of him, conveys the idea of a very lively, amiable, and accomplished person. In the village of Senopalé, our Traveller found some female relations of his Marabout Boukari: the greeting was very cordial, avd the Mussulman was quite happy, though, when the Frenchman complimented him on the beauty and modesty of the ladies, he whispered in return_ You cannot imagine bow

deceitful the women of our country are; this modesty which " they affect, joined to the beauty of their features, and the lively • passion they seem to feel for their lovers, inflames the latter to

such a degree, that they eat them up! The plain of Senopalé is thickly set with villages, containing a population estimated at twenty-five thousand persons. In this neighbourhood resided a Marabout who bad made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and who answered, in reply to queries addressed to him through Boukari, that on both sides of the river, and beyond Tombuctoo, there were countries entirely peopled by Poula (Foulab) negroes; that the Dyaliba (Joliba or Niger) joined the Nile, and, mingling with the river of Egypt, flowed to the sea. At Banai, M. Mol. Jien was compelled to return to Almamy, and, when he expressed bis exasperation at this detention, the natives only laughed at his anger and menaces.

One in particular,' he says, ' gave me an answer, to which, I must own, I could find no reply. “ Thou complainest,” said he to me, "of being unceasingly questioned, and exposed to a thousand vexations; but we are very differently treated when we go to St. Louis: a soldier, one day, was going to kill me for not answering, when he cried ti vive, quan vite?) words which I did not understand."

On his way back, M. Mollien was introduced to the chief of Bondou, also called by the official title of Almamy, who was in alliance with the ruler of Foutatoro, and now visited bim on national business. This chief, an old man of sixty, treated M. M. with courtesy, and promised his protection wben be should pass

« НазадПродовжити »