網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

nestle amid the surrounding hills; it is the normal, primitive, agricultural life and economy of the region, and the late political and social condition of the inhabitants, which this story illustrates. The means and methods of rural toil, the "wine, corn, and oil" of Scriptural and Virgilian times; the avarice, the pride, the love, the industry, and the superstition of the Contadini of the Romagna; a household of prosperous rustics, their ways and traits; and the subtle and prevailing agency of priestcraft in its secret opposition to the new and liberal Italian government, — are all exhibited with a quiet zest and a graphic fidelity which take us into the heart of the people, and the arcana, as well as the spectacle, of daily life as there latent and manifest. The domestic, peasant, and provincial scenes and characters are drawn with fresh and natural colors and faithful outlines.

The scene of the last-published domestic novel of the series is laid at Siena; and, although the story is based upon one of those impassioned tragedies of love and jealousy which can only be found in the family chronicles of Italy, the still-life, social phases, and local traits of the romance are delineated with the same quiet simplicity and graphic truth which constitute the authenticity of the author's previous delineations of modern Italian life. The grave, conservative, and old-fashioned Tuscan city reappears, with its mediæval aspect and traditional customs. Convent education, the homes of the patrician and the citizen, the little gig of the fattore, with the small, wiry ponies of the region, the local antiquarian and doctor, the letter-carrier, family servant, lady-superior, pharmacist, the noble and plebeian, the costumes, phrases, and natural language characteristic of that non-commercial and isolated Tuscan city before the days of railroads and annexation, are drawn with emphasis and significant detail. Shades and causes of character are finely discriminated; the old medi

Gemma. A Novel in three volumes. London: Chapman and Hall. 1866.

æval festa peculiar to Siena, with all its original features and social phenomena, is vividly enacted in the elaborate description of the "Palio" on the 15th of August; while the insalubrious and picturesque Maremma is portrayed, from the Etruscan crypts of the ravines to the desolate streets of Savona, by an artistic and philosophic hand. Incidentally the solidarity of families and the antagonism of contrade, dating from the Middle Ages, are defined in expla nation of modern traits. We pace the bastions of the fortress built by Cosmo de' Medici for "the subjection of his newly conquered subjects"; we haunt the cabinet of a numismatic enthusiast, and the forlorn palace-chamber of a baffled and beautiful scion of the old, fierce Orsini race; we overhear the peasants talk, and watch the exquisite gradations of color at sunset on the adjacent mountains, across the lonely plains, or gaze down upon St. Catherine's house in the dyers' quarter, and muse in deserted church, urban garden, and precipitous street, consciously alive the while to the aspect and atmosphere, not only of the Siena we have visited or imagined, but of mediaval Tuscany, and its language and life of to-day, as they are incidentally reflected in the experience of a few distinctly individualized and harmoniously developed characters, - true to race, period, and locality, and far more complete and authentic, as a record and revelation, than dry annals on the one hand, or superficial travel-sketches on the other.

The justice which these writings display, in revealing the latent goodness in things evil, the instinctive and spiritual graces as well as the social perversions of the Italian character, is quite as refreshing as the correct observation of external traits and the true record of historical causes. A generous and intelligent sympathy imparts "a precious seeing to the eye" of the agreeable story-teller, who has thus patiently and fondly explored the past, delineated the present, and hailed the future of Italy, in a spirit of liberal wisdom and true humanity.

N

A NATIVE OF BORNOO.

ICHOLAS SAID, at the time of his enlistment in the army of the Union, during the third year of the great Rebellion, was about twenty-eight years of age, of medium height, somewhat slenderly built, with pleasing features, not of the extreme negro type, complexion perfectly black, and quiet and unassuming address.

He became known to the writer while serving in one of our colored regiments; and attention was first directed to his case by the tattooing on his face, and by the entry in the company descriptive book, which gave "Africa" as his birthplace.

Inquiry showed that he was more or less acquainted with seven different languages, in addition to his native tongue; that he had travelled extensively in Africa and Europe, and that his life had been one of such varied experience as to render it interesting both on that account and also on account of the mystery which surrounds, notwithstanding recent explorations, the country of his birth.

At the request of those who had been from time to time entertained by the recital of portions of his history, he was induced to put it in writing. The narrative which follows is condensed from his manuscript, and his own language has been retained as far as possible.

Reader, you must excuse me for the mistakes which this article will contain, as you will bear in mind that this language in which I am now trying to write is not my mother tongue; on the other hand, I never had a teacher, nor ever was at school for the purpose of acquiring the English. The only way I learned what little of the language I know was through French books.

I was born in the kingdom of Bornoo, in Soodan, in the problematic central part of Africa, so imperfectly known

[blocks in formation]

These nations are strict Mohammedans, having been converted some two or three centuries ago by the Bedouin Arabs and those from Morocco, who, pushed by want of riches, came to Soodan to acquire them. Different languages are found in each nation, some written and some not; but the Arabic is very much in use among the higher class of people, as the Latin is used by the Catholic priests. Especially the Koran is written in Arabic, and in my country no one is allowed to handle the Sacred Book unless he can read it and explain its contents.

Bornoo, my native country, is the most civilized part of Soodan, on account of the great commerce carried on between it and the Barbary States of Fezzan, Tunis, and Tripoli. They export all kinds of European articles to Central Africa, and take gold-dust, ivory, &c., in return.

Bornoo has had a romantic history for the last one hundred years. The whole of Soodan, more than two thousand miles in extent, was once under the Maïs of Bornoo; but by dissensions and civil wars nearly all the tributaries north of Lake Tchad were lost. In 1809 a shepherd arose from the country of the Fellatahs and assumed the title of Prophet. He said to the ignorant portion of his countrymen, that Allah had given him orders to make war with the whole of Soodan, and had promised him victory. They believed his story, and the legitimate king was dethroned and the false prophet, Otman Danfodio, was proclaimed Emperor of the Fellatahs. The impostor went at once to work, and in less than two years conquered almost the whole of Soodan, excepting

Kanem, a tributary to my country. Bornoo, after a manly effort, was compelled by force of arms to submit to the yoke of the Fellatahs.

In 1815 Bornoo arose from its humiliating position, to shake off the yoke of Danfodio. Mohammed el Anim el Kanemy, the Washington of Bornoo, was the man who undertook to liberate his country and restore her former prestige. This immortal hero could collect from the villages of Bornoo but a few hundreds of horsemen ; but in Kanem he got eight hundred men, and accepted an engagement with the enemy. He gained the first victory, and took such good advantage of his success, that in the space of two months he won forty battles, drove the enemy entirely out of Bornoo, and captured a great many places belonging to the Fellatahs.

At the close of the war, El Kanemy found himself at the head of twentyeight thousand horsemen, and, the real ruler of Bornoo. Like all great men, he refused the sceptre, and, going to the legitimate heir of the throne, Maïs Barnoma, told him he was at his disposal. Barnoma, notwithstanding the noble actions of El Kanemy, was jealous of his fame, and tried a plan to dispose of him, which he thought would be best, and of which the public would not suspect him. Accordingly he wrote to the king of Begharmi, promising to pay the expenses of his troops, and some extra compensation beside, if he would make as though he were really at war with Bornoo. He agreed to the proposal, and crossed with his army the great river Shary, the natural frontier of the two kingdoms. El Kanemy was then in the city of Kooka, which he had built for himself. He heard finally of the war between Bornoo and Begharmi, and, hastily calling out his ancient veterans, he reported to Engornoo, where the king resided. The combined forces numbered some forty thousand men. El Kanemy knew nothing of the infamous act of the king; but Allah, who protects the innocent and punishes the guilty, was smiling over

him. The armies pitched their camps opposite to each other; and the king of Begharmi sent a messenger with a letter to Maïs Barnoma, informing him that the heaviest assault would be made upon the left, and that, if he would give El Kanemy command there, the bravest of the assailants would surround and kill him at once. This letter the messenger carried to El Kanemy instead of the king, who, at once seeing the plot, immediately answered the important document, signing the name of Barnoma, and loading the messenger with presents of all descriptions for his master. The next morning El Kanemy went to the king and told him that the heaviest assault would be made on the right, and that he should not expose his precious life there. As Barnoma got no letter from the king of Begharmi, he thought El Kanemy was right, and acted accordingly.

The battle finally began, and the Sycaries of Begharmi, attacking the left where they thought El Kanemy was, surrounded Maïs Barnoma and killed him, supposing him El Kanemy. The battle, however, went on, and the king of Begharmi found out before long that he had killed the wrong lion. His army, in spite of their usual courage, were beaten, and obliged to recross the river Shary, at that place more than two miles wide, with a loss of half their number. The victorious army of El Kanemy also crossed the river, and, pursuing the retreating forces, captured Mesna, the capital of Begharmi, and drove the king into the country of Waday.

El Kanemy now found himself the absolute ruler of Bornoo, nor had that kingdom ever any greater ruler. Under his reign the nation prospered finely. He encouraged commerce with Northern and Eastern Africa, and, building a fleet of small vessels, sailed with a strong force against a tribe who inhabited the main islands of Lake Tchad, and who used to commit depredations upon the neighboring sections of Bornoo, and chastised them severely. These islanders are the finest type of the African race, possessing regular

features, and large, expressive eyes, though they are the darkest of all Africans. El Kanemy also subdued many of the surrounding tribes and nations, until the population of Bornoo and its provinces amounted to nearly fifteen millions.

My father was the descendant of a very illustrious family. He was the first man who had a commission under El Kanemy when he went to Kanem to recruit his forces. He was made a Bagafuby, or captain of one hundred cavalry, and was in every engagement which El Kanemy went through. The name by which my father was known was Barca Gana.* My great-grandfather was from Molgoi. He established himself in Bornoo many years ago, and was greatly favored by the monarchs of that country. My mother was a Mandara woman, the daughter of a chief. I was born in Kooka, a few years after the Waday war of 1831. We were in all nineteen children, twelve boys and seven girls. I was the ninth child of my mother. All my brothers were well educated in Arabic and Turkish. Two of them, Mustapha and Abderahman, were very rich, having acquired their wealth by trading in ivory and gold-dust. Both had been to Mecca as pilgrims. My father himself was rich, but when he was killed, our elder brother seized the greater part, and those who were not eighteen years of age had to leave their share in their mother's hands. Five cleared farms and a considerable amount of gold fell to my share. I do not know how much the gold amounted to, but my mother used to tell me, that, when I got to be twenty years of age, I would have as much as either of my elder brothers.

After my father's death I was given to a teacher to be instructed in my native tongue, and also in Arabic. In the space of three years I could read and write both languages. I was tried in my native tongue, and passed; but I could not pass in Arabic, and my

Barca Gana is alluded to in the Encyclopædia

Britannica Vol. V. p. 54 as the general of the Scheik of Bornoo. - EDs.

mother and uncle returned me to the teacher for eighteen months. I stayed the required time, and then was tried and passed.

I was then old enough to be circumcised. Three hundred boys went through the ceremony at once, and were then dressed in white clothes, and received according to custom a great many presents. Fifteen days we ate the best that Kooka had, the king himself giving us the best he had in his palace. This generally happens only to the sons of those who have distinguished themselves in the army, or, to explain myself better, to those of the military aristocracy. At the end of this time all of us went home. For my part, this was the first time I had slept in my father's house for four years and seven months. I was very much welcomed by my mother, sisters, and brothers, and was a pet for some time.

After returning from school to my father's house, I judge about four or five years afterwards, I was invited, in company with three of my brothers, by the eldest son of the governor of the province of Yaoori and Laree, who lived in the town of the latter name, to visit him. This part of the province is very charming. The forests are full of delicious game, and the lake of fish and beautiful aquatic birds; while in the dry seasons the woods and uncultivated plains are worthy to be called the garden of Eden. In my childhood I had quite a passion for hunting, one of my father's great passions also. In spite of the efforts of my elder brothers to check me in it, I would persuade the other boys to follow me into the thick woods, to the danger of their lives and mine. My worthy mother declared several times that I would be captured by the Kindils, a wandering tribe of the desert. Her prophecy was fulfilled after all, unhappily for myself, and perhaps more so for those I had persuaded with me. While on the visit just spoken of, one day, it was a Ramadan day, anniversary of the Prophet's day, — I persuaded a great number of boys, and we went into the woods a great way

---

from any village. We came across nests of Guinea fowl, and gathered plenty of eggs, and killed several of the fowl. We made fire by rubbing two pieces of dry stick together, and broiled the chickens and eggs. Then we proceeded farther, and came across a tree called Agoua, bearing a delicious kind of fruit. We all went up the tree, eating fruit and making a great deal of noise. We frolicked on that tree for many hours. Presently several of the boys told me they heard the neighing

of horses.

We then all agreed not to make so much noise, but we were just too late. In about a quarter of an hour we were startled by the cry, “Kindil ! Kindil!" The boys who were nearest to the ground contrived to hide themselves in the thicket. It happened that I was higher than any one, and while coming down with haste, I missed my hold and fell, and lay senseless. When I opened my eyes, I found my self on horseback behind a man, and tied to him with a rope. Out of forty boys, eighteen of us were taken captive. I wished then that it was a dream rather than a reality, and the warnings of my mother passed through my mind. Tears began to flow down my cheeks; I not only lamented for myself, but for those also whom I persuaded into those wild woods. Meanwhile, our inhuman captors were laughing and talking merrily, but I could not understand them. About six hours' ride, as I suppose, brought us to their camp. The tents were then immediately taken down, the camels loaded, and we started again, travelling night, and day for three long days, until we came to a temporary village where their chief was. After we got there we were all chained together, except four, who were taken pity upon, on account of their age and birth. It was then night, and nearly all the camp was under the inquence of hashish, an intoxicating mixture made of hempseed and other ingredients, which when too much is eaten will intoxicate worse than whiskey, or even spirits of wine. While the robbers were drunk, we boys were consulting and plotting to

run

away. We succeeded in breaking the chains, and four of the oldest boys took their captors' arms, cut their throats. jumped on their horses, and succeeded in making their escape. When it was found out, they gave each of us fifteen strokes in the hollows of our feet, because we did not inform them.

A little while after our comrades' escape we started on again. This time we had to go on foot for five days, until we reached a town called Kashna. belonging to the Emperor of the Fellatahs, but situated in the country of Houssa, where we were all dispersed to see each other no more. Fortunately, none of my brothers were with me in the woods.

My lot was that of an Arab slave, for I was bought by a man named Abdel-Kader, a merchant of Tripoli and Fezzan. He was not an Arabian, however, but a brown-skinned man, and undoubtedly had African blood in his veins. He had at this time a large load of ivory and other goods waiting for the caravan from Kano and Saccatoo. This caravan soon came, and with it we started for Moorzook, capital of the pachalic of Fezzan. Although we numbered about five hundred, all armed except slaves who could not be trusted, a lion whom we met after starting, lying in our path, would not derange himself on our account, and we had to attack him. Twelve men fired into him. Four men he killed, and wounded five or six, and then escaped. He was hit somewhere, as they found blood where he lay, but it was not known where. When he roared, he scared all the horses and camels composing the caravan. Abd-el-Kader was one of those who attacked the lion, but he was not hurt.

Five days after we left Kashna, we came to the first oasis. Here the plains were all barren and sandy, but full of gazelles, antelopes, and ostriches. The principal tree growing here was the date-palm, and the water was very bad, tasting salty.

As the caravan travelled toward the east, the ground rose by degrees. If

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »