Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/307

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


MUNGO PARK. 101


ries of Ali, who were in pursuit of him, he was at one time nearly famished in the wilderness, and we will take his own account of his sensations at this awful crisis. Thirst, intense and burning thirst, was the first and direst of his suffer- ings ; his mouth and throat became parched and inflamed, and a sudden dim- ness frequently came over his eyes, accompanied with symptoms of fainting. The leaves of the few shrubs that grew around were all too bitter for chewing. After climbing up a tree in the hopes of discovering some signs of a human ha- bitation, but without success, he again descended in despair. " As I was now," says he, " too faint to attempt walking, and my horse too fatigued to carry me, I thought it but an act of humanity, and perhaps the last I should ever have it in my power to perform, to take off his bridle, and let him shift for him- self; in doing which, I was affected with sickness and giddiness, and, fal- ling upon the sand, felt as if the hour of death was fast approaching. Here, then, thought I, after a short but ineffectual struggle, terminate all my hopes of being useful in my day and generation ; here must the short span of my life come to an end. I cast, as I believed, a last look on the surrounding scene ; and whilst I reflected on the awful change that was about to take place, this world and its enjoyments seemed to vanish from my recollection. Nature, however, at length resumed her functions ; and, on recovering my senses, I found myself stretched upon the sand, with the bridle still in my hand, and the sun just sinking behind the trees. I now summoned all my resolution, and determined to make another effort to prolong my existence : and as the evening was somewhat cool, I resolved to travel as far as my limbs would carry me, in hopes of reaching (my only resource) a watering place. With this view, I put the bridle upon my horse, and driving him before me, went slowly along for about an hour, when I perceived some lightning from the northeast ; a most delightful sight, for it promised rain. The darkness and lightning increased very rapidly, and, in less than an hour, I heard the wind roaring behind the bushes. I had already opened my mouth to receive the refreshing drops which I expected, but I was instantly covered with a cloud of sand, driven with such force by the wind, as to give a very disa- greeable sensation to my face and arms ; and I was obliged to mount my horse, and stop under a bush, to avoid being suffocated. The sand continued to fly for nearly an hour in amazing quantities, after which I again set forwards, and travelled with difficulty until ten o'clock. At this time, I was agreeably surprised by some very vivid flashes of lightning, followed by a' few heavy drops of rain. I alighted, and spread out all my clean clothes to collect the rain, which at length I saw would certainly fall. For more than an hour it rained plentifully, and I quenched my thirst by wringing and sucking my clothes." Park at length entered the kingdom of Bambarra, where he found the people hospitable, and was astonished at the opulence and extent of culti- vation he everywhere found. The country, he says, was beautiful, intersected on all sides by rivulets, which, after a rain-storm, were swelled into rapid streams. He was, however, such an object of amusement and ridicule to the inhabitants, from his own tattered condition, together with the appearance of his horse, which was a perfect skeleton, and which he drove before him, that the very slaves, he says, were ashamed to be seen in his company. Notwith- standing all this, however, he held on his way, and at last, on the 21st of July (1796), had the inexpressible gratification of coming in sight of Sego, the capital of Bambarra, situated on the Niger, which the natives denominated Joliba, or the " Great Water." " As we approached the town," says Park, " I was fortunate enough to overtake the fugitive Kaartans, and we rode to- gether through some marshy ground, where, as I anxiously looked around for