Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

398

ALI BEY DRESSES US.

the hand was a man of great influence and importance. As yet we had no interpreters, and it was difficult for us to guess what was ultimately to be done. However, the Wukeel soon rejoined us, and, more mysterious than ever, he beckoned and led us into the first or outer room of his house, where we were shown a quantity of seedy old-fashioned clothes, and told that we must put them on,—they were his. I don't know what possessed me—whether affection for my own tatters, or a natural repugnance to put on clothes that had been worn by another—but I shrank from wearing the garments, and objected strongly to a thick cloth surtout, stating that it was too hot for 94° in the shade. The Wukeel then commenced to put his fingers into the holes and rents of my ragged old flannel friend, and said, that I must really oblige him, because these holes were “ibes” or blemishes, which the expected visitors would observe. I accordingly submitted to being stripped by Bombay and our host, who seized my arms, pulled off my old coat, and replaced it by an extraordinary sky-blue paletot. Speke's costume was ludicrous; he looked as if dressed up for some boyish frolic. His trousers, in front, though short, were passable, being of English blue cloth and cut; but when he turned round we saw an immense piece of calico let in, so as to enlarge them for a figure of twenty stone. The next difficulty arose from his unwillingness to change his comfortable plaid waistcoat for a chintz jacket, which buttoned to the throat and had tight sleeves. He objected, because there was no watchpocket, but one was found, and he yielded. Over this garment a tight-sleeved frock-coat was pulled on by

ENTHUSIASTIC RECEPTION.

399

the good little Wukeel. There was great trouble in squeezing him into it, but it was effected, and I thought all was completed. No; Ali Bey took the wideawake off, and placed instead a tasseled fez on the back of Speke's head ; and then, fully equipped, Ali Bey stood back, examined him from top to toe, clapped his hands, and pronounced the whole get-up highly becoming ! The ingenuity of the Wukeel was not yet over. Tying a knot on each leg of the cast-off trousers, he crammed into them coats, waistcoats, wideawakes, &c., making a decapitated Guy Fawkes, and bundled them over to Bombay. I thought I had escaped all further dressing, but my toilet was not considered complete until an attempt was made to fit a fez upon my head; and this proving hopeless, we were ushered into a room with sofas all round, to partake of coffee, brandy, and cigars. About twenty fashionably-dressed gentlemen in European and Turkish costumes then came rushing in to welcome us. They had heard of our approach the previous day by a letter which we had forwarded from Gutena, and they had already despatched the message that first reached England regarding us, announcing that the “Nile was settled.” It was the intention of these gentlemen to have ridden out on horseback and camels up the bank to bring us into Khartoom in triumph, but their messenger had failed to find us, and they politely expressed regret at being taken unawares. However, their welcome was most enthusiastic. M. de Bono, commonly called Latiffe by the natives, whose trading depot we had found at Faloro, took the lead in offering us hospitality. We all adjourned to his beautifully fitted-up house, and enjoyed the “chi

400

RESIDE AT THE BRITISH CONSULATE.

book” amidst animated conversation, interpreted by Bombay, who stood looking as great a rough as one could well imagine. M. de Bono generously offered us his house as a home during our halt at Khartoom ; but there being a British consulate, we considered that it would be more correct to reside under its protection, and therefore we proceeded thither.

CHAPTER XVII.

KHARTOOM, FROM 30TH MARCH TILL 15TH APRIL 1863—THE BLUE

NILE-NATURAL PRODUCTS—ALI BEY-KHARTOOOM A CANTONMENT FOR TROOPS-ITS BAZAARS AND MANUFACTURES -THE COPTIC CHURCH-THE AUSTRIAN MISSION-HOUSEEGYPTIAN REMAINS-DEPARTURE BY BOAT FOR BERBER.

Half a century ago no town existed where the

present Khartoom stands, at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles ; but, in the days of Egypt's greatness, a city stood on the plain, on the right bank of the Blue river, not ten miles from the modern site. The origin of Khartoom forty-four years ago was a military post on the Egyptian frontier. Previous to annexation it belonged to Abyssinia: now it is a place of considerable trade, governed by Musa Pasha, and held by fifteen thousand Egyptian troops. The point of land on which the town is built is so low, that every season the streets are flooded by the overflow of the river, and still its locality is not changed, though all agree as to its unhealthiness. The derivation of Khartoom is most probably from the safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.), called here “Gartoom,” cultivated all over Egypt for its oil, used in burning. Except

402

THE BLUE AND WHITE NILES.

where irrigated, the country everywhere presents an arid, uninteresting aspect; drifting sands cover the land; there are no trees or anything green to relieve the eye from the glare. In the distance to the north, about seven miles off, there are a few bare hills—those of Dongola, and a small range to the left. It is truly a land of banishment, cut off by deserts and a river of cataracts from the civilised portions of the world. To this Soudan, or country of the blacks, many whose conduct is questioned by their government are sent to pine without hope of release, unless their shortcomings should be forgiven, or a change of rulers take place, when they might hope for pardon, and permission to return to their homes in Egypt proper.

In April the Blue Nile was twenty feet lower than it is during the months of July and August; the snows in the mountains of Abyssinia bring it up to this height; and I suspect this flood has more to do with the inundations of Lower Egypt than the more constant flow of water from the White Nile. The latter river we saw at its maximum height in November, and it has another flooding season in April. Where do these waters go? A great portion is lost in overrunning a space of perhaps 1000 square miles of lowland ; and the White Nile thus robbed, as it were, never displays those sudden changes in height that the Blue Nile, more confined to its bed, presents.

The waters of the two rivers are very different in taste and appearance. Neither is considered first-class drinking water by residents at Khartoom ; but after their waters are mingled well together, the mixture is esteemed excellent. Opposite the town the Blue Nile is two hundred and fifty yards across, and of a

« ForrigeFortsett »