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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Sadek and the camel men complained of feeling very ill


We

did not halt for dinner as we could find no fuel to do the cooking with, and we marched all night (November 15th)--a most painful march, for the camels were all more or less sick and tired, and they dragged themselves jerkily, grunting and making the most awful noises all night.

My fever got very bad and I was seized with bad pains in my ribs and spine. Sadek and the camel men complained of feeling very ill, and the cats remonstrated from their high perch at not being let out of their box at the customary hour. To add to our happiness, one of my camels, carrying some air-tight cases with sharp brass corners, collided with the camel conveying the precious load of the two remaining water-skins which hung on its sides, and, of course, as fate would have it, the brass corners wrenched the skin and out flowed every drop of water, which was avidly absorbed by the dry sand.

[Illustration: The Trail we left behind in the Salt Desert.]

The character of the country was the same as on the previous day, a long stretch of flat, then undulations, after which we entered another dry canal cut deep, with vertical rocky sides, very similar to the Chel-Payeh except that in the bed of the gorge itself there were now enormous flat slabs of stone instead of sand and gravel, as the day before. Further on we were surrounded by low hills, which we crossed by a pass, and after having been on the saddle

continuously for sixteen hours we halted at eight o'clock a.m. in the middle of a broiling, barren stretch of sand, gravel and shingle.

After so long a march, and under such unpleasant conditions, our throats and tongues were parched with thirst. Fortunately, we still had one skin of water left, I thought, so my first impulse was to hasten to have it taken off the saddle that we might all have a sip. But misfortune pursued us. On approaching the camel that carried it, the animal was all wet on one side, and I fully realised what to expect. Sadek, with a long face of dismay, took down the flabby empty skin; the water had all dripped out of it, and here we were, in the middle of the desert, no well, whether salt or otherwise, and not a thimbleful of water!

The very thought that we could get nothing to drink made us ten times more thirsty, and we seemed to be positively roasting under the fierce sun. The camel men threw themselves down upon their felt coats and moaned and groaned, and the camels, who had drunk or eaten nothing for three days, appeared most unhappy and grunted pitifully.

For want of better remedy we sucked pebbles, which stimulated salivation and allayed the thirst to a certain extent, but with the high fever, which brought about fearful exhaustion and severe aches, and the unpleasant, abundant electricity in the air caused by the intense dryness--which has a most peculiar effect on one's skin--we none of us felt particularly happy. The three cats were the only philosophers of the party and were quite sympathetic. They amused themselves by climbing up the camel's long necks, just as they would up a tree, to the evident discomfort of the larger animals. They had a particular fancy for sitting on the camels' bushy heads.

The electricity with which the air of the desert is absolutely saturated is gradually absorbed by the human body and stored as in an accumulator. On touching the barrel of a rifle or any other good conductor of electricity, one would discharge an electric spark of some length. By rubbing one's woollen blankets with one's hands one could always generate sufficient electricity to produce a spark; and as for the cats, if one touched them they always gave out a good many sparks. At night, if one caressed them, there was quite a luminous greenish glow under one's fingers as they came into contact with the hair. Quite a brilliant flash ensued when the cats were rubbed with a woollen blanket.


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