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I was unprotected, and I was a Christian ; each of these circumstances is sufficient to drive every spark of humanity from the heart of a Moor ; but when all of them, as in my case, were combined in the same person, and a suspicion prevailed withal, that I had come as a spy into the country, the reader will easily imagine that, in such a situation, I had every thing to fear. Anxious, however, to conciliate favour, and if possible, to afford the Moors no pretence for ill treating me, I readily complied with every command, and patiently bore every insult; but never did any period of my life pass away so heavily: from sunrise to sunset, was I obliged to suffer, with an unruffled countenance, the insults of the rudest sa
vages on earth.
Various Occurrences during the Author's Confinement at Benowm
is visited by some Moorish Ladies. - A Funeral and Wedding.The Author receives an extraordinary Present from the Bride.Other Circumstances illustrative of the Moorish Character and Manners.
The Moors, though very indolent themselves, are rigid taskmasters, and keep every person under them in full employment. My boy Demba was sent to the woods to collect withered
for Ali's horses ; and after a variety of projects concerning myself, they at last found out an employment for me; this was no other than the respectable office of barber. I was to make my first exhibition in this capacity in the royal presence, and to be honoured with the task of shaving the head of the young prince of Ludamar. I accordingly seated myself upon the sand, and the boy, with some hesitation, sat down beside me. A small razor, about three inches long, was put into my hand, and I was ordered to proceed; but whether from my own want of skill, or the improper shape of the instrument, I unfortunately made a slight incision in the boy's head, at the very commencement of the operation ; and the King observing the awkward manner in which I held the razor, concluded that his son's head was in very improper hands, and ordered me to resign the razor, and walk out of the tent. This I considered as a very fortunate circumstance; for I had laid it down as a rule, to make myself as useless and insignificant as possible, as the only means of recovering my liberty.
March 18. Four Moors arrived from Jarra with Johnson my interpreter, having seized him before he bad received any intimation of my confinement: and bringing with them a bundle of clothes that I had left at Daman Jumma's house, for my use in case I should return by the way of Jarra. Johnson was led into Ali's tent and examined ; the bundle was opened, and I was sent for to explain the use of the different articles. I was happy, however, to find that Johnson had committed my papers to the charge of one of Daman's wives. When I had satisfied Ali's curiosity respecting the different articles of apparel, the bundle was again tied up, and put into a large cow-skin bag, that stood in a corner of the tent. The same evening Ali sent three of his people to inforın me, that there were many thieves in the neighbourhood, and that to prevent the rest of my things from being stolen, it was necessary to convey them all into bis tent. My clothes, instruments, and every thing that belonged to me, were accordingly carried away; and though the heat and dust made clean linen very necessary and refreshing, I could not procure a single shirt out of the small stock I had brought along with me. Ali was however disappointed, hy not finding among my effects the quantity of gold and amber that he expected ; but to make sure of every thing, be sent the same people on the morning following, to examine whether I had any thing concealed about my person. They, with their usual rudeness, searched every part of my apparel, and stripped me of all my gold, amber, my watch, and one of my pocket compasses; I had fortunately, in the night, buried the other compass in the sand ; and this, with the clothes I had on, was all that the tyranny of Ali bad now left me.
The gold and amber were highly gratifying to Moorish avarice, but the pocket compass soon became an object of superstitious curiosity. Ali was very desirous to be informed, why that small piece of iron, the needle, always pointed to the Great Desert; and I found myself somewhat puzzled to answer the question. To have pleaded my ignorance would have created a suspicion that I wished to conceal the real truth from him; I therefore told him, that my mother resided far beyond the sands of Sahara, and that whilst she was alive the piece of iron would always point that way, and serve as a guide to conduct me to her, and that if she was dead, it would point to her grave.
Ali now looked at the compass with redoubled amazement; turned it round and round repeatedly; but observing that it always pointed the same way, he took it up with great caution and returned it to me, manifesting that he thought there was something of magic in it, and that he was afraid of keeping so dangerous an instrument in his possession.
March 20th. This morning a council of chief men was held in Ali's tent respecting me; their decisions, though they were all unfavourable to me, were differently related by different persons. Some said that they intended to put me to death; others, that I was only to lose my right hand: but the most probable account was that which I received from Ali's own son, a boy about nine
who came to me in the evening, and, with much concern, informed me that his uncle had persuaded his father to put out my eyes,
which, they said, resembled those of a cat, and that all the Bushreens had approved of this measure. His father, however, he said, would not put the sentence into execution until Fatima, the queen, who was at present in the north, had
March 21st. Anxious to know my destiny, I went to the king early in the morning; and as a number of Bushreens were assembled, I thought this a favourable opportunity of discovering their intentions. I therefore began by begging his permission to return to Jarra, which was flatly refused ; his wife, he said, had not yet seen me, and I must stay until she came to Benowm, after which I should be at liberty to depart; and that my horse, which had been taken away from me the day after I arrived, should be again restored to me. Unsatisfactory as this answer was, I was forced to appear pleased ; and as there was little hopes of making my escape, this season of the year, on account of the excessive heat, and the total want of water in the woods, I resolved to wait patiently until the rains had set in, or until some more favourable opportunity should present itself;—but hope deferred maketh the heart sick. This tedious procrastination from day to day, and the thoughts of travelling through the Negro kingdoms in the rainy season, which was now fast approaching, made me very melancholy; and having passed a restless night, I found myself attacked, in the morning, by a smart fever. I had wrapped myself close
in my cloak, with a view to induce perspiration, and was asleep when a party of Moors entered the hut, and with their usual rudeness, pulled the cloak from me. I made signs to them that I was sick, and wished much to sleep; but I solicited in vain; my distress was matter of sport