« AnteriorContinuar »
vultures waiting for their share in the feast. Sick and dizzy I spurred on my mule, and a few minutes later was threading the jasminehedged lanes of the gardens, free of Harrar and its terrors. How brightly the sun shone; how sweetly the birds sang: all around was peace and happiness, and the past, so near, seemed like a nightmare, while the present was the awaking to find it all a dream. Yet my troubles were scarcely at an end, for the same night I was taken ill with a violent attack of fever, being delirious for some hours. Fortunately, the attack came on near an Abyssinian village, and I was carried into a hut and there treated by a native doctor who had been educated in Jerusalem-to the local cure for fevernamely, by having bucket after bucket of cold water poured over me; and certainly it was efficacious, for by nine o'clock I was able to get to sleep. It was the last attack I had before reaching the coast. Pushing on, the next morning we arrived at Jildessa, and almost by forced marches crossed the plains again to Zeilah. Though I had expected to find greater heat on my downward journey than I had done proceeding to Harrar, the exact contrary was the case, and once or twice we had refreshing showers of rain, and nearly every day a cloudy sky. Travelling was therefore very pleasant, and as our camels were good we made excellent progress. There was but one noticeable change in the country-the advent of great herds of "aoul," an antelope much resembling the "springbok" of South Africa. As far as one could see over the plains as we neared Zeilah, grazed enormous quantities of this pretty antelope; nor did I find him difficult stalking, and the camp was
well provided with food. At length, early one morning, the white houses of Zeilah shimmered over the sandy plain, and an hour or two later, to my great delight, I found myself in Mr Prendergast Walsh's most comfortable house, enjoying first a bath, then clean clothes, and lastly an excellent breakfast. You who live in comfort at home do not know what luxury these things are to the weary, travel-stained wanderer.
The following day I witnessed a sight as interesting as, and more picturesque than, any I had seen during the whole journey. The king of the Black Esa Somalis, one of the wildest and furthest removed of all the tribes, had died, and a successor had been chosen. The form of coronation-though such a term ill applies to the native customwas the shaving of the head of the new monarch under a certain holy tree. Although the tribe in question inhabits the highlands far up country, the scene of this ceremony is near Zeilah, about equidistant from that town and the French port of Jibuti. The representatives of both nations had been attempting to persuade the king after the ceremony to proceed on a visit to their own town, and up to the last moment it was uncertain whether he and his black hordes would go to Jibuti or Zeilah. However, Mr Prendergast Walsh's great tact and experience in dealing with Somalis won the day, and the visit of the king took place in great state. From an early hour one could see a dense mass of people, a black patch on the yellow sand, approaching the town, and we watched with interest the slow marching of the Black Esa. But there were other things to think of besides the political significance of the king's visit for his comrades were said to num
ber several thousand men, not one of whom probably had ever seen a town, much less a white man, before; and this horde, armed with spears, savages as they were, might not prove altogether a pleasant addition to Zeilah's little population. Another difficulty presented itself. No Somali is allowed to carry weapons inside the town, and would these wild savages put up with being disarmed? and if so, how was the process to be carried out? However, as it turned out, everything passed off most satisfactorily, each native on his entry giving up his spear to the custody of the police, to be returned to him the next day. At length, seeing that the king was approaching, Mr Walsh and I sauntered out to the large open space near a mosque and tomb, for there the official reception was to take place. A stranger sight never met man's eyes. Thousands of coalblack men, most of them carrying, as well as their hide shields, a couple of spears, danced as they approached. A scarcity of clothing displayed the lithe limbs of the Somalis, accentuated by their wild gesticulations, as, turning and leaping in every direction, they brandished their spears above their heads. In the centre of this dense mass of whirling humanity rode the king, his bare head shaded from the sun by a white umbrella. By his side rode a few of the native merchants, &c., of Zeilah, who had gone out to meet him. Unlike the Gadabursi and other tribes, the Black Esa possess no horses, and, with the exception of the new king, they were all on foot. About four hundred yards from us the whole body drew up into a solid mass, then, at a given signal, charged, stopping again some thirty or forty yards nearer with a sudden stamping movement, which literally made the ground shake under our feet.
Then a dozen or so of the warriors emerged from the ranks and performed wild devilish dances, gradually working their way back to the troops, until, just as suddenly as before, the whole host advanced. The sight of these strange longhaired, half-naked savages rushing over the yellow sand, their spearpoints forming a blaze of light over their heads, was one that can never be forgotten.
We waited at the steps of the mosque, where the king dismounted, and received from Mr Walsh, on behalf of the Indian Government, a handsome sword and a rich suit of green and gold Arab clothing.
It was an interesting experience to watch the crowds in the streets wondering at all they saw, for never before had they been in a town; but this only is due to them, that not one occasion arose that called for rebuke, and during the day they spent there no disorder of any sort occurred- -a fact that speaks not only for the innate manners of the Somali, but also for the excellent arrangements of the only Englishman in Zeilah, Mr Prendergast Walsh.
I have in this article merely stated my own experiences in the country, which, though they may possess no particular interest, may help to throw light upon that portion of Africa which is now likely to become a subject of contention among the European Powers. The political part of the question I do not touch upon, for it is a subject that requires knowledge as to the existing treaties both of Berlin and Brussels, which, unfortunately, I do not possess.
However it is apparent whether it would be advantageous to England to allow Italy's annexation, or to permit the country in time to lapse into the hands of the French; and there can be little
doubt that Italy as a neighbour in the Gulf of Aden would be in every way satisfactory. The French already possess territory at the west end of that gulf, Obock and Jibuti being their principal ports; and from the manner in which their Government have carried on its affairs there, one can safely say that difficulties of a serious nature would arise were their frontier to touch our own. The French have
found to their own cost the rottenness of their system, for, intent upon making money, they allowed to be imported into the country of the Donakil tribes, adjoining these ports, large quantities of arms, ammunition, and drink, with the result that they are in constant dread of an organised attack upon their garrisons, which have had to be strengthened accordingly. At the English ports on the Somali coast no rifles or ammunition are allowed to be imported, and such a heavy duty is placed upon spirits as to render it unprocurable to the native. The benefit of this is most apparent, and I believe I am right in saying that there are only some four resident British officials in the whole of Somaliland, protected by a few score of native and Arab police. This fact speaks more than any words of mine could do as to the excellence of our policy, where a whole country like Somaliland can be held at peace,
and friendly to the British, by four men, whose posts are in towns several days' journey apart, with no telegraphic communication of any sort, and only a weekly service of steamers. There can be little doubt that should Italy take possession of Harrar, the British port of Zeilah, which commands the road, will also be ceded, and reciprocal arrangements be entered into between Italy and England as to the veto on the importation of arms and the heavy duties on spirits. There is also little doubt that, should Italy annex the country, the existing regulations will be maintained, while the vast increase that will accrue from the opening up of the rich Harrar plateau, and the unexplored territory behind it, will give a fresh stimulus to our already very considerable trade at Aden. Nor are the interests of Italy in any way in opposition to our own in the East; and the fact that a friendly Power held a large territory as near Aden as the opposite African coast, would help to keep secure in our hands the road to India. These are but a few of the advantages that would accrue were Italy to annex, as is to be hoped will be the case, the Harrar district, and if England cedes to her the western end of our Somaliland Protectorate.
WALTER B. HARRIS.
LA FEMME DE M. FEUILLET.
IF we were to deal with Madame Feuillet's book in accordance with its attractions and our inclinations, we should transfer it almost en bloc to the pages of Maga; but that being unfortunately impossible, we must do with it the best we can. She is one of those French feminine writers whose instinctively playful charm of style gives piquancy to each subject she touches. And the variety of the matter in the volume is infinite. A singularly retentive and tenacious memory gives freshness and point to all the recollections of childhood and girlhood. We see the survivals of the pre- Revolutionary order of things, in that picturesque old country of the Norman Cotentin, which lay between its falaises and its forests far aside from the centres of political agitation. Whether all her sketches of quaint originals are strictly true to the life, we may be content to leave to herself and her conscience. At all events they are impressive as the rough Bretons of Balzac, and realistic as the elaborated studies of Zola. Troyon and Millet, and the French Salvators, never did greater justice to the Bruyères and the smiling rural landscapes to the dark foliage of sombre woodlands hanging over the lonely pools; and then-by way of contrast-when Madame goes on her travels, we have the soft green slopes of the Jura, the walnut groves and spreading chestnuts that are mirrored in the Lake Leman, and the orangegardens that clothe the rocks of the Riviera. There are the gloomy Norman châteaux of which she was
an involuntary occupant, with the shadowy corridors haunted by ghosts and hung with mouldering tapestry.
Those sketches of scenery
and strikingly romantic sites are always admirable. Then a change comes over the spirit of her dreams, when the girl is married to a celebrated man and goes abroad into the great world. There is gay life in the provinces: there is the passing whirl of dissipation in the élite of fashionable and intellectual society at Paris. There are amusing descriptions of the Court gaieties at Compiègne, Fontainebleau, and in the Tuileries, given chiefly in a series of letters from her marvellously spirituel husband. To tell the truth, and it is much to say for Madame Feuillet, her husband's letters are to us the least taking part of the book. It is true he wrote them to amuse and cheer his wife, who was left to vegetate with her little ones in rustic solitude. But Madame is invariably brilliant, and, we were going to say, invariably lively. That, however, would give a false impression of a life in which the lights were darkened by heavy shadows. Sometimes, in her darker moods of deep depression, sorrow or a morbid sentimentality gets the better of her like Job, she would curse the day of her birth; with the Psalmist, would wish she had never been born. But these melancholy moods never last very long, and she remembers that such an event as the loss of a father is a calamity that comes in the course of nature, and for which Nature offers consolation within easy
Quelques années de ma vie. Par Mme. Octave Feuillet. Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1894.
reach. Really, her temperament is essentially buoyant; and she needed all her elasticity of spirits. She made a love-match: she almost leaped into her cousin's arms when he presented himself, and she never ceased to admire and adore him. But her Octave, with all his genius and his fame, was an exceedingly hard bargain. This bright and bewitching mondaine found herself mated with an inspired lunatic, with susceptible nerves and an impressionable temperament. In his eccentricities, his nervous imaginings, and the caprices of his perverse fancies, he was the exact counterpart of our own Sage of Chelsea.
But if he
was not always more considerate, he was far more tenderly affectionate. So Madame in her intellect, manners, and methods closely resembled Mrs Carlyle. She was much more clever than was generally suspected, though all her world had admired her esprit. In this sparkling and incisive volume she shows that in a somewhat different style she might have rivalled her husband in literature. with some self-restraint, she disciplined herself to find pleasure in indulging those caprices which at first she had difficulty in tolerating. After all, thanks to her high spirits and complacent disposition, she must have had a happy time of it on the whole. She had no serious griefs against her husband, who was much more an enemy to himself than to her. Those spirits of hers would go up on the slightest provocation: her susceptibility to sunshine and serenity is reflected on every page of her book, and there are no end of good and humorous stories which assuredly lose nothing by the manner of telling.
The "Quelques" in the title gives rather a false impression of time, for the memoirs begin soon after
her birth in 1832, and are carried forward to the collapse of the Commune. Indeed she goes back with the family romance to the sanguinary dramas of the Revolution. Madame Feuillet, née Dubois, especially on the maternal side, was born a Legitimist of the Legitimists. Losing her mother early, she had been brought up by an eccentric grand-aunt, one of the most remarkable of the many remarkable characters she sketches. Mademoiselle de Sainte- Suzanne had been a famous beauty. As a girl she had saved her father from the guillotine. He had been shut up by the Reds in a provincial State prison, at a time when suspicion was virtually a sentence of death. One morning his daughter mounted her horse and set out from their château of Trécœur it was painted afterwards by Feuillet in more than one of his novels, and doubtless suggested the title of his 'Julie de Trécœur.' She went out on her mission with a single attendant. Wearing now the tricolour and again the white cockade, crossing the scenes of recent battles, and sleeping out in the fields at night, the maiden made her way to Nantes, and sought an audience of the Revolutionary commissioners. Hoche was then the chief of the tribunal and of the army.
She was ushered into
a room where they were seated at table: the gallant general was dazzled with her beauty, and listened sympathetically to her pitiful tale. Then he got up, seized her hand, and exclaimed, "Citoyenne, I have a little daughter myself: I pray God that one day she may be like you.
Your father is free;" and he warmly embraced her. The other commissioners applauded, and insisted that Mademoiselle should dine with them. As it was a penitential season, in spite of