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A Narrative of Captivity in Abyssinia by Henry Blanc

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the Amba awaiting his trial. One day, as he was cutting wood, a
large splinter flew off, and, striking his mother in the chest,
caused her death. Theodore was, at the time, on an expedition, and
to conciliate the Bishop, he made over the case to him; who, however,
declined to investigate it as it did not fall under his jurisdiction.
Theodore, vexed at the Bishop's refusal, sent the lad to Magdala,
where he was chained, awaiting the good pleasure of his judges.
Lij Barie had only been able to open one of the rings, the other
being too strong; so he fastened the chain and ring on one leg by
means of a large bandage as well as he could, and put on the shirt
and cloth of one of the servant-girls, who was in his confidence,
and, carrying on his shoulder the gombo (earthen jar for water),
left the prison inclosure without being seen. The boy had fortunately
been able to get rid of his fetters altogether, and he slipped out
also without being noticed; not being encumbered with much clothing,
and quite free in his limbs, he soon reached the gate, passed out
with the followers of some chief, and was already far away and in
safety before his disappearance was noticed.

Lij Barie failed in his attempt. What with the chain fastened on
one leg, the woman's dress, and the gombo, he could not advance
quickly. He was, however, already half way between the prison and
the gate, somewhere not far from our inclosure, when a young man,
perceiving a good-looking girl coming in his direction, advanced
to speak to her; but as he came closer, his eyes fell upon the
bandage, and to his astonishment he saw a piece of chain peeping
through the interstices of the cloth. He guessed at once that this
was a prisoner endeavouring to escape, and followed the individual
until he met some soldiers; he told them his suspicions, and
they fell upon Lij Barie and made him a prisoner. A crowd soon
collected around the unfortunate young man, and the alarm being
given that a prisoner had been seized as he was endeavouring to
escape, several of the guards rushed to the spot, and at once
recognizing their old inmate, claimed him as their property. In
an instant all his clothes were torn off his back, and the cowardly
ruffians struck him with the butt-ends of their lances, and with
the back of their swords, until his whole body was a mass of wounds
and sores, and he lay senseless, nearly dead, on the ground. But
even this was not enough to satisfy their savage revenge; they
carried him off to the prison, hammered on hand and foot chains,
placed a long heavy log of wood round his neck, put his feet in the
stocks, and left him there for days, more dead than alive, until
the good pleasure of the Emperor should be known.

An immediate search was made for his companion and for the servant-girl,
his accomplice. The first was already beyond their reach, but they
succeeded in capturing the unfortunate young woman. The Ras and
council immediately assembled, and condemned her to receive, in
front of the Emperor's house, one hundred blows from the heavy giraf.
The next morning the Ras, accompanied by a large number of chiefs
and soldiers, came to the spot to witness the execution of the
sentence. The girl was thrown down on the ground, stripped of her
skirt, and leather ropes tied to her feet and hands to keep her at
full stretch. A strong, powerful ruffian was entrusted with the
execution of the punishment. Each fall of the whip could be heard
from our inclosure, resounding like a pistol-shot; every blow tore
off a strip of flesh; and after every ten strokes the giraf became
so heavy with blood that, it had to be wiped before the operation
could be continued. She never said a word, nor even groaned. When
she was removed, after the hundredth stroke, the naked ribs and the
back-bone were visible through the flowing blood: the whole of the
flesh of the back having been torn to pieces.

Some time afterwards a messenger brought back Theodore's answer.
Lij Barie was first to have his hands and feet cut off, before
all the Abyssinian prisoners, and afterwards to be thrown over the
precipice. The chiefs made quite a holiday of that execution; and
even sent a polite message to Samuel requesting him to "come and see
the fun." Lij Barie was brought out, a dozen of the bravest fell
upon him at once; and, with their ungainly blunt swords, hacked
away at his hands and feet with all the delight an Abyssinian has for
spilling blood. Whilst submitting to this agonizing torture, Lij
Barie never lost his courage or presence of mind, and it is very
remarkable that whilst they were so unmercifully murdering him, he
prophesied, almost to a letter, the fate that before long awaited
them. "You cowards," he shouted out, "fit servants of the robber
your master! He can seize no man but by treachery; and you can kill
them only when they are unarmed and in your power. But before long
the English will come to release their people; they will avenge in
your blood the ill treatment you have inflicted upon their countrymen,
and punish, you and your master for all your cowardice, cruelties,
and murders." The wretches took little notice of the dying words
of the brave lad; they hurled him over the precipice, and, in a
body, walked over to our place to finish the day, so well begun,
by partaking of Mr. Rassam's generous hospitality.


Second Rainy Season ends--Scarcity and Dearness of Provisions--Meshisha
and Comfou plot their Escape--They succeed--Theodore is robbed--Damash
pursues the Fugitives--The Night Attack--The Galla War-cry and the
"Sauve qui peut"--The wounded left on the Field--Hospitality of the Gallas
--Theodore's Letter on the Subject--Mastiate's Troubles--Wakshum Gabra
Medhin--Sketch of Gobaze's Career--He invites the Co-operation
of the Bishop in seizing Magdala--The Bishop's Plan--All the rival Chiefs
intrigue for the Amba--Mr. Rassam's Influence overrated.

Another Maskal (Feast of the Cross) had gone by and September ushered
in fine, pleasant weather. No important change had taken place in
our daily life: it was the same routine over again; only we were
beginning to be very anxious about the long delay of our messengers
from the coast, as our money was running short: indeed, we had
hardly any left, and every necessary of life had risen to fabulous
prices. Five oblong pieces of salt were now given in exchange for
a Maria Theresa dollar, whilst formerly, at Magdala, during their
first captivity, our companions had often got as much as thirty,
never less than fifteen or eighteen. Though the value of the salt
had so greatly increased, the articles purchased with it had not
followed the same proportion, they were, on the contrary, lowered
in amount and quality. When the salts were abundant we could buy
four old fowls for a salt; now that they were scarce, we could only
buy two; and everything in the same ratio; consequently all our
expenses had risen 200 per cent. Supplies. in the market were also
getting very scarce; and often we could not purchase grain for our
Abyssinian servants. The soldiers on the mountain suffered greatly
from this scarcity and high prices; they were continually begging,
and many, no doubt, were saved from starvation by the generosity
of those they kept prisoners. Very fortunately, I had put aside a
small sum of money in case of accident, otherwise I believe the
Abyssinian difficulty would have been at an end, so far as we were
concerned. I kept a little for myself, and handed the rest over to
Mr. Rassam, as he usually supplied us with money from the sums
forwarded to him by the agent at Massowah. We dismissed as many
servants as we possibly could, reduced our expenses to a minimum,
and sent messengers after messengers to the coast to bring us up
as much money as they could. At that time, if we had fortunately
been provided with a large sum of ready cash, I do really believe
that we might have bought the mountain; so discouraged and mutinous
were the soldiers of the garrison at the long privations and
semi-starvation they were enduring for a master of whom they had
no reliable information. The agent at the coast did his best. Hosts
of messengers had been despatched, but the condition of the country
was such that they had to bury the money they were carrying in the
house of a friend at Adowa, and abide there for several months,
until they could, with great prudence and by travelling only at
night, venture to pass through districts infested with thieves, and
a prey to the greatest anarchy.

On the morning of the 5th of September, whilst at breakfast, one
of our interpreters rushed into the hut, and told us that our friend
Afa Negus Meshisha (the lute-player), and Bedjerand Comfou, one of
the officers in charge of the godowns, had run away. Theirs was a
long-preconcerted and ably managed plan. At the beginning of the
rainy season, ground had been allotted to the various, chiefs and
soldiers, at Islamgee and at the foot of the mountain. Some of the
chiefs made arrangements with the peasants living below for them
to till the soil on their account, they supplying the seed grain,
and the harvest to be divided between the two; others, who had many
servants, did the work themselves. Afa Negus Meshisha's and Bedjerand
Comfou's lots happened to be at the foot of the mountain; they
themselves undertook the cultivation, occasionally visited their
fields, and sent once or twice a week all their male and female
servants to pull out the weeds under the superintendence of their
wives. The whole of the land they had received had not been put
under cultivation, and, a few days before, Comfou spoke to the Ras
about it, who advised him to sow some tef, as, with the prevailing
scarcity, he would be happy to reap a second harvest. Comfou approved
of the idea, and asked the Ras to send him a servant on the morning
of the 5th, to allow him to pass the gates. The Ras agreed. On that
very morning Meshisha went to the Ras, and told him that he also
wanted to sow some tef, and asked him to allow him to go down. The
Ras, who had not the slightest suspicion, granted his request. Both
had that morning sent down several of their servants to weed the
fields, and, not to excite suspicion, had sent their wives by another
gate, also under the same pretence. As the Gallas often attacked
the soldiers of the garrison at the foot of the mountain, the
door-keepers were not surprised to see the two officers well armed
and preceded by their mules; nor did they take much notice of the
bags their followers carried, when they were told that it was tef
they were going to sow, a statement moreover corroborated by the
Ras's servant himself. Off they started in open daylight, meeting
many of the soldiers of the mountain on the way down. Arrived, at
the fields, they told their servants to follow them, and made
straight for the Galla plain. Some of the soldiers who were at the
time working at their fields suspected that all was not right, and
at once returned to the Amba and communicated their suspicions to
the Ras. He had but to take a telescope to perceive the two friends
winding their way in the distance along the road that led to the
Galla plain. All the garrison was at once called out, and an immediate
pursuit ordered; but during the interval the fugitives had gained
ground, and were at last perceived quietly resting on the plain
above, in company with such a respectable-looking body of Galla
horsemen that prudence dictated to the braves of Magdala the
advisability of not following any further. On their way back they
found, hiding herself in the bushes, the wife of Comfou, carrying
her infant babe in her arms. It appears that, flurried and excited,
that young woman failed to find the place of rendezvous, and was
concealing herself until the soldiers had passed by, when the cries
of her child attracted their attention. She was triumphantly brought
back, chained hand and feet, and cast into the common gaol, "awaiting

Whilst the garrison had been sent on their unsuccessful errand, the
chiefs had met together, and as one of the runaways was superintendent
of the storehouses and magazines, an immediate search was made, in
order to ascertain whether he had helped himself to some of the
"treasures" before taking his unceremonious leave. To their horror
they soon found out that silks, caps, powder, even the Emperor's
gala dress, his favourite pistol and rifle, together with a large
sum of money, were missing: in fact, the _bags of tef_ were
full of spoils. The Ras felt the gravity of his position; he had
not only allowed himself to be grossly duped, but, moreover, some
of the most valuable of the Emperor's property intrusted to his
care had been carried off by his former friend. He utterly lost his
head; he painted to himself Theodore's rage on hearing the news;
he saw himself an inmate of the gaol, loaded with fetters, or perhaps
condemned to a speedy and cruel death. He assembled the council,
and laid the case before the chiefs; the wisest and most experienced
were for trusting to his relationship with the Emperor, and to his
well-known friendship for him; others proposed an expedition in the
Galla country, a night attack on the village where it was supposed
the fugitive would spend the nights: a few hundred would start in
the evening, they said, surprise the fugitives, bring them back,
recover the lost property, and, at the same time, murder a few
Gallas, and plunder as much as they could--exploits that would
immensely gratify their royal master, and make him forget the easy
way the Ras had been imposed upon.

This last advice was carried out; and, though some still dissented,
the Ras overruled their objections: he was already so deeply
compromised that he clutched at every chance that offered itself
of retrieving his position. Bitwaddad Damash, the friend and
countryman of Theodore, the brave warrior, was intrusted with the
command; under him were, placed Bitwaddad Hailo, Bitwaddad Wassie,
and Dedjazmatch Goji, all of them "old friends of ours," and of
whom I have given a short description. Two hundred of Damash's
gunmen, and two hundred of Goji's spearmen, all picked soldiers,
well armed and well mounted, formed the attacking party. Towards
sunset they all assembled. Before leaving, Damash, clad in a silk
shirt, wearing gallantly over his shoulders a splendid tiger's skin,
armed with a pair of pistols and a double-barrelled gun; came to
our prison to bid us good-by; or rather to gratify his vanity by
our compelled admiration, and to obtain a parting blessing from his
friend Mr. Rassam, who courteously performed the ceremony.

Twice before, Damash had, during our stay at Magdala, started for
Watat, a village some twelve miles distant from Magdala, not far
from where the Bechelo separates the province of Worahaimanoo from
the plateau of Dahonte. There the Emperor's cattle were kept, and
messengers had been sent to the Amba by the peasants requesting
immediate assistance, as a Galla force had made its appearance, and
they felt themselves unable to protect Theodore's cows. On these
occasions the very sight of Damash and his gunmen had driven the
Gallas away: at least so they said on their return; but _mauvaises
langues_ asserted that it was only a trick of the country people
themselves, who desired to be reported to the Emperor as faithful
subjects of his and anxious to protect the cattle they had in charge.
Many of the younger and inexperienced soldiers felt confident that
on this occasion the result would be the same; the fugitives would
be surprised, and the Gallas run away in all directions at the sight
of Damash and his valiant companions, leaving their homesteads and
property at the mercy of the invaders.

The Ras passed an anxious, sleepless night; at day-dawn he and his
friends went upon the small hillock near the prison, and telescope
in hand anxiously watched the Galla plain. Hours passed away, and
they saw nothing. What had occurred? why had not Damash and his
men come back? such were the questions every, one asked: the old
men shook their heads; they had fought in their days in the Galla
country, and knew the valour of these savage horsemen. Even our old
spy, Abu Falek, probably to see what we would say exclaimed, "That
fool Damash had the impudence to make a raid in the Galla country,
when even Theodore himself could not go there now." At last the
welcome intelligence that Damash and his men were coming back,
spread like wild-fire all over the mountain: they had been seen
descending a steep ravine, not the road they had taken on going,
but a shorter one. Soon afterwards horses and men were perceived
on the plain; and something like confusion, and cattle being hurried
down could be made out by the glasses. The party from the garrison
were seen to halt at a short distance from the ravine they had
descended, and march on very slowly. Something was wrong evidently;
horsemen were at once despatched by the Ras to ascertain the result
of the expedition. They returned with a doleful tale, and the Amba
soon rang with the wailing of widows and orphans; eleven dead,
thirty wounded, scores of fire-arms lost, the fugitives at large,
was in sum the intelligence they brought back to the desponding

A Galla renegade had the night before led Damash and his men straight
to the village of the chief in whose company they had been seen in
the morning, and under whose hospitable roof he justly surmised
that they would spend the night. At first all succeeded as they had
expected. They reached the doomed village an hour before day-dawn,
and surrounded at once the house of the chief, whilst a small body
was sent to search and plunder the village itself. A fearful massacre
took place; surprised in their sleep, the men were murdered before
they were aware of the presence of the enemy; only a few were spared,
together with some women and children, by the less blood-thirsty
of these midnight assassins. Before retiring to rest, Meshisha and
Comfou, thinking that perhaps an attempt might be made to capture
them, advised the chief to be on his guard, and proposed to sleep
with him in a small broken-down hut at some distance from his house.
Fortunately for them and the chief, they adopted that prudent course;
awoke by the cries and shouts in the village, they bridled their
ready-saddled steeds, and were off before even their presence had
been suspected.

Damash collected his men, and with his prisoners and plunder at
once retraced his steps, glorying in his great deed and rejoicing
in his success; it is true he had not caught the fugitives, but
after all that was the Ras's business. He had planned the expedition,
carried fire and sword into the Galla country; and without the loss
of a single man was returning to the Amba with prisoners, horses,
cows, mules, and other spoils of war. He knew how pleased Theodore
would be, and he fancied himself already the fortunate successor
of the disgraced Ras. He was within a few hundred yards of the
short road he intended to take on his way back, leading from the
Tanta plateau to the valley below Magdala, when he saw on the distant
horizon a few horsemen riding towards him at full speed. The cattle
and prisoners under charge of Goji and a few men were already engaged
in the narrow road, and retreat was impossible. He placed his gunmen
so as to face the horsemen, only a dozen, hoping to scare that
handful off by the very sight of his large force; but he was mistaken.
Brave Mahomed Hamza had the blood of his relations to avenge, and,
though at the head of only twelve men, he bravely charged the 400
Amhara soldiers. A shot struck him in the forehead, and he fell
dead from his horse. His companions, however, before the Amharas
could reload, made a second brilliant charge, avenged their chief,
and carried away the body all were anxious to mutilate. More
horsemen came pouring in from all directions; the war-cry was echoed
far and wide; men, women, and children assailed the Amharas with
lances and stones. Mahomed's brothers, now supported by fifty lances,
charged again and again the affrighted enemy, and drove them like
sheep to the very brink of the precipice.

Damash, however, had not come to fight but to slay; he was only
brave when he had prisoners to bully, defenceless men to murder,
and children to reduce to slavery: the cattle had reached the valley
below and the road was clear, so throwing away his tiger's skin,
his shield, his pistols, his gun, and abandoning his horses, he
gave the example of the _sauve qui peut_, and rolled rather
than ran down the steep descent. His example was followed by all
the Amharas. A complete rout followed; the ground was strewed with
matchlocks, spears, and shields; wounded and dead were alike abandoned
on the battlefield. The Gallas did not follow them down the ravine
as they could not charge on the broken ground below; they, however,
killed several with sharp stones--a dreadful weapon in a Galla's
hand--as their terrified foe hurried down the narrow pass and tumbled
one over the other in their eagerness to reach the valley, where
these cowards knew well that they would be safe.

Almost all the wounded came to me; and for twelve hours I was busy
bandaging and dressing their wounds. In several cases, where I knew
that recovery was impossible, I informed the relations of the fact;
as otherwise their death would have been laid to me, a rather serious
matter in our critical position. Those thus warned always sought
native advice, but they found out very soon that charms and amulets
were of no avail, and that my prognostic had been but too true. I
remember one case: a chief who had often been on guard at night
over our prison had his left leg completely smashed by a stone;
without entering into professional details, suffice it to say that
I at once pronounced amputation as the only possible remedy; but
to please the chiefs, who took a great interest in him, I agreed
to dress his wound for a week, and after that time, should I be
still of the same opinion to inform them of it. He had a small godjo
built in our inclosure, and remained there until I gave for the
second time as my opinion that nothing could save his life but
immediate amputation. He was on that taken to his house and made
over to a Shoa doctor, who promised not only to save his life but
also the limb. The poor man was tortured by that ignorant quack for
a week or ten days, until death put an end to his misery.

Two days after, on a female spy reporting that in the ravine where
the Amharas had been slaughtered, she had seen two wounded men
hidden among the bushes, and still alive; an old chief, also a Galla
renegade, with a few hundred men, was ordered to proceed to the
spot, and endeavour to bring them back and bury the dead; they were
on no account to engage in any action with the Gallas, but to retreat
at once should he meet with resistance. He saw no enemy except his
old comrade Comfou, who, from a rock above, fired at them with his
rifle, without wounding or killing any one; they returned his fire,
but to no purpose, and, having fulfilled their instructions, brought
in the two wounded men: both, however, died shortly afterwards.
One of them had his right arm and left leg broken; moreover, a spear
had cut open the abdominal integuments, and the bowels protruded:
he said that he had suffered greatly from thirst, but that his
greatest trouble was, with his left hand, to keep off the vultures
from tearing his intestines.

The Ras, it is true, was now in a worse plight than before; but
this time not alone. Damash had abandoned his men, run away, and
lost the gun, pistols, and horse the Emperor had given, or rather
lent, him. Many of the petty chiefs and soldiers had followed
Damash's example, and some twenty-five matchlocks could not he
accounted for, and of spears and shields the number missing was
still greater. By-the-by, Damash pretended to be wounded, and for
a long time we saw nothing of him, a circumstance at which we
rejoiced extremely, but _his friends_ told us that he was only
suffering from a few excoriations due to his rather too rapid

If force had failed, perhaps negotiations might succeed. It was
known that the two fugitives were still living in some of the
villages belonging to the relations of Mahomed, awaiting the return
of a messenger they had sent to the Galla Queen Mastiate, whose
camp was a few days distant. The Magdala chiefs, therefore, proposed
to the Gallas in their power that if they could induce their relations
to give up the two fugitives, with the things they had taken away
with them, they would set them all--men, women, and children--free,
and restore the cattle that had been plundered. A woman, the wife
of one of the principal men captured, volunteered to go. To the
honour of the Gallas, they proudly and with scorn refused to give
up their guests: they preferred to allow their relatives to linger
in chains at Magdala, and abandon them to tortures and death, rather
than obtain their release by a dishonourable action.

The Magdala magnates had now to give up all hope of redeeming their
conduct in the eyes of Theodore; the good understanding between
them was much shaken: they taxed one another, when in their cups,
with cowardice, sent messengers separately to the Emperor, accusing
one another, and lived in as much dread of the arrival of an Imperial
messenger as we did ourselves. But Theodore, surrounded by difficulties,
almost cut off from his amba, was far too cunning to show his
displeasure: his letter on the subject was perfect. What if two of
his servants had run away? they were unfaithful, and he was only
too glad that they had left his amba; as for the arms lost, what
did it matter? he had more to give them; and when he came they
should take their revenge. A few, not many, were taken in, but all
pretended to be so, and several only awaited a favourable opportunity
to follow the example of those they had endeavoured to capture.

Every one suspected that Mastiate, the Galla Queen, would resent
the foray made in her country, and avenge the death of her subjects
so treacherously murdered. She would probably, they feared, destroy
their crops at the foot of the Amba, stop the market, and starve
out the place. She had, they knew, faithful allies in Comfou and
Meshisha, and as the latter had been almost brought up on the
mountain, and knew the many paths by which to lead; at night, the
Galla host, much anxiety, therefore, prevailed, and great precautions
were taken to protect the Amba against a sudden attack.

I believe that it was indeed Mastiate's plan, and that she was on
the point of executing it when a serious danger from, another side
required her presence. Wakshum Gobaze, at the head of a powerful
army, had invaded her dominions.

Our days of calm repose were at an end; if it was not one rebel
chief or the other that threatened the Amba, it was the good news
from home that at last an expedition for our deliverance had been
decided upon, or the less welcome information that the King was
about to move in our direction; and one excitement had hardly
subsided before we were again a prey to another--one day full of
hope, the next, perhaps, desponding and cast down.

Watshum Gobaze's career, had been full of adventure. As a young
man he accompanied his father, Wakshum Gabra Medhin, the hereditary
chief of Lasta, to the Imperial camp. On Theodore's first campaign
in Shoa, which ended in the submission of that country, Gobaze's
father fell under Theodore's displeasure, and was on the point of
being executed when the Bishop interfered, and, as he was of great
use to Theodore at the time, his request was granted. However, not
long afterwards, Gobaze and his father seized their opportunity,
deserted from Theodore's army, and retired into Lasta. They had not
much difficulty in inducing the mountaineers to espouse their cause,
and declare themselves independent. Theodore deputed to suppress
that insurrection the rebel's own cousin, called Wakshum Teferi, a
brave soldier and splendid horseman. He pursued his relative,
totally defeated his army, and brought him a chained prisoner to
the foot of the throne. Theodore was at the time in Wadela, a high
plateau situate between Lasta and Begemder. He condemned the rebel
chief to death; and as but few trees are to be found on that elevated
plateau, he had him hung on the one near which his tent was pitched,
so that the body of his enemy might be seen far and wide. Gobaze
had managed to escape; and some time afterwards, Theodore, who was
afraid of Wakshum Teferi, as he was beloved and admired by the
soldiers, put him in chains,--forgetting that the man had served
him so faithfully as even to bring to the scaffold his blood relation,
--on the pretext that he had willingly allowed Gobaze to escape.

Gobaze for a while remained hidden in the fastnesses of the high
mountains of Lasta, but no sooner did he perceive that the Emperor's
power was weakened and that the peasants were discontented with his
tyrannical rule, than he came forth from his retreat, and having
collected around him some of the former followers of his father, hoisted
the standard of rebellion, and loudly proclaimed himself the avenger
of his race. All Lasta soon acknowledged him. His rule was mild; and
before long Gobaze found himself at the head of a considerable force.
He advanced in the direction of Tigre, subdued the provinces
of Enderta and Wajjerat, marched into Tigre proper, conquered
Theodore's lieutenant, and left there his deputy, Dejatch Kassa.
He himself returned to Lasta, having in view the extension of his power
towards Yedjow and the Galla country, so as to protect Lasta from being
invaded by these tribes during his proposed conquest of the Amhara country.
Circumstances were greatly in his favour, and for a while he was
the man to whom all Abyssinia looked to as their future ruler. On
his return to Lasta he was at once acknowledged by Wadela, and at
the same time some runaway chiefs of Yedjow having come to him, he
availed himself of their assistance to make himself master of that
province. He had some trouble, however, in settling it, as part of
it was strongly in favour of an alliance with the Wallo Gallas: he
deemed it the wisest course, therefore, to invade the Wallo country
after the rainy season, and dictate his terms. He detached a small
force, and sent with it one of his relations to receive the submission
of Dalanta; and not long afterwards Dahonte was evacuated by the
Gallas, and occupied by his troops. In the beginning of September
he entered the Wallo Galla country by its north-eastern frontier, not
far from Lake Haik. On the intelligence reaching Queen Mastiate she
hastened to oppose his march, and encamped a few miles in advance of his
army, on a large plain, where her splendid cavalry would have all
advantage. For at least a fortnight or three weeks the two armies
remained in front of each other; Gobaze awaiting his enemy on
the broken ground he had encamped upon, and where the Galla horse
could not charge, but where his gunmen would be all-powerful; while
the Queen, on her side, would not leave the ground she had chosen,
and where she was almost certain of victory.

Gobaze had been long before in communication with the Bishop and
with Mr. Rassam. Before the rainy season of 1867, he had sent word
to the Bishop that he was coming to Magdala, presented him a few
hundred dollars, and asked him to afford all the assistance in his
power should he advance towards the place. The Bishop said he would
do his utmost, and that as soon as the Amba was invested he would
leave no stone, unturned to facilitate his plans. Gobaze sent
back word that if the Bishop would secure him the services of Damash,
Goji, and the Ras (the three who had all the garrison under their
joint command), that he would come at once. This request was simply
absurd; if we had been able to gain over these men to our cause,
we could have dispensed with the presence of Gobaze altogether.
What the Bishop proposed was, that Gobaze should encamp at
Islamgee; the moment he appeared below the mountain, the Bishop would
supply us and some men upon whom he could depend with fire-arms and
ammunition. We should in the meanwhile open our chains with the
assistance of our servants, and arm all those amongst them who could
be trusted; and on the Bishop being informed, that we were ready,
he would come out in full canonicals, carrying the holy cross, and
excommunicate Theodore and every one who adhered to him, placing
under an irrevocable curse all who attempted to arrest him or us.
Our party, including Portuguese, natives of Massowah, and messengers,
would have amounted to at least twenty-five; the Bishop could bring
fifty men, and surround himself with about 200 priests and defteras,
so as to form a mixed sortie; all, however, ready to fight in case
of need. Should persuasion or threats fail to force the way to the
gate, they were to shoot down any one attempting to molest us in
our advance. Arrived at the gate, the Bishop and the priests would
stand before the inner door, whilst the armed party would seize
upon the outer gate and hold it until the Wakshum and his men, ready
at hand, would march in and take possession of the fort.

The plan was a very good one, and no doubt would have succeeded.
We knew well, that no pity would have been shown to us had we been
recaptured, and we would have fallen one after the other, rather
than allow ourselves to be made prisoners again. In presence of
even a handful of men, determined to sell their lives dearly, few
of the soldiers would have ventured on an open attack; the affair
would have been sudden, and the garrison taken by surprise: moreover,
we had to deal with bigoted people, and many who might have rushed
upon us, would have been kept back by the presence of the Bishop,
and would kiss the ground before his feet rather than encounter his
dreaded excommunication. The Bishop informed Gobaze of this plan,
and for days we lived in a fearful state of excitement, always hoping
that the messenger would return with the grateful intelligence
that Gobaze had accepted it. However, we were doomed to
disappointment: Gobaze did not approve the suggestion; he sent word
to the Bishop, "It is better for me to go to Begemder and attack there
my blood enemy: only give me your blessing. On the fall of Theodore,
the Amba belongs to me; it is far preferable that I should fight him
instead of attacking Magdala, as you know well that we cannot take
forts." The blessing was duly given; but Gobaze thought better
of it: he did not venture to attack the murderer of his father,
and a few days afterwards we heard that he had marched into Yedjow.
Gobaze behaved always very well towards us; he assisted, as much as
lay in his power, our messengers on their way to the coast, and was
anxious to effect our deliverance; unfortunately he had not sufficient
courage to fight when Theodore was his opponent.

Gobaze and Mastiate after a time got tired of staring at one
another. The latter was aware that before long she would have to
deal with even a more serious enemy, in the person of her rival
Workite, and she would willingly have come to terms. She sent a
horse to Gobaze as a peace-offering, but he returned the present,
accompanied with a parcel of cotton and a spindle, with a message to
the effect that she had nothing to do with horses, and as her
occupation was to spin cotton, he had sent her the necessary articles.
Gobaze, however, shortly afterwards heard that in Tigre, Dejatch
Kassa, who for some months had abandoned his cause, had made
himself very powerful, and marched upon Adowa. Supplies also began to
run short in his camp, whilst Mastiate being in her own country, could
draw them with all facility; he therefore retraced his steps
towards Yedjow. Mastiate followed him in the rear, only biding her time
to fall upon him when a favourable opportunity presented itself.
Gobaze found his position difficult, and made advances. Mastiate saw
her advantage and made her own terms. She promised not to interfere in
the affairs of Yedjow, on condition that he made over to her the
provinces of Dahonte and Dalanta, which he had shortly before occupied.
He agreed, and peace was made between the two parties; it was even
reported that an offensive and defensive alliance had been concluded
between them; but this could hardly have been the case, as soon
afterwards, when Mastiate was hard pressed by Menilek, her new ally
did not afford her any assistance.

To us these constant changes of rulers was most annoying, more so
as we had no money, and were constantly obliged to make presents
to the new chiefs appointed by the conqueror of the day. We had
hardly made "friends" with the shums (governors) Theodore had left
in those provinces, than we had to open communications with the
deputies of the Galla Queen, and again with those of Gobaze
on the evacuation of those districts by the Gallas, and a fourth
time on their reoccupation by the Gallas: we had to ensure their
neutrality, at least,--for they had already plundered several of
our messengers--by suitable offerings and promises of more, should
they favour our cause. In one respect we were very fortunate: on
our arrival we were saved from much discomfort, if not from something
worse, by the money the Emperor gave to his workmen; who made it
over to us. During the rainy season we were again saved from
starvation by a few dollars I had kept in reserve; for the third
time, everything appeared desperate, and we were so reduced that
some sold and others were talking of selling their mules and anything
available, when a messenger at last reached us with a few hundred

Whilst Mastiate was negotiating with Gobaz, her son wrote to Mr.
Rassam and to the Bishop. He asked Mr. Rassam to use his influence
and give him the mountain, promising in return to treat us honourably
if we liked to remain in his country, or enable us to reach the
coast if we desired to return to our own native land. To the Bishop
he promised all protection; he would allow him to take away his
property, and would not injure what he called "his idols."

So long as we could get out of the clutches of Theodore, it did not
matter much into whose hands we fell: not that we ever expected,--such,
at least, was the opinion of the majority amongst us,--that we
should be allowed to leave the country: but, at all events, we
should not be in daily fear of our lives, of tortures, and of
starvation, as we were then. We should not have liked to fall into
the hands of the peasants or of some petty chief: the first would
have at once put us to death out of hatred to the white men; the
second, most probably would have ill-treated us or have sold us to
the highest bidder. The great rebels would have acted differently:
we should have been, for a time, at least, comparatively free, and
allowed to depart on a suitable ransom being given. Therefore, to
Ali, to Gobaz, to Ahmed the son of Mastiate, or to Menilek the
King of Shoa, Mr. Rassam's answer was always the same, "Come; invest
this place, and then we will see what we can do for you."

It amused us sometimes to watch all these different rivals of
Theodore, each of them endeavouring to seize upon Magdala even
before Theodore was quite out of the way. Gobaze and Menilek,
had both in view to make themselves rulers of Abyssinia, by the
possession of Magdala: (indeed the latter had also written before
the rainy season, informing the Bishop of his coming to take
possession of _his_ amba, and requesting the bishop to take
care of _his_ property.) Apart from the great prestige it would
confer upon them, they would obtain the three things they rightly
judged would most likely insure the fulfilment of their ambitious
views: viz., the throne, the Bishop, and the English prisoners. All
wanted Mr. Bassam, not merely to help them, but to _give_ them
the mountain: they were aware that the chiefs were on friendly terms
with us, and supposed that we were in possession of fabulous sums
of money, so that, by means of friendship and bribery, we might
open the gates to the candidate we selected.

Magdala could only become theirs by treachery: in their immense
armies, they could not have found twenty men with sufficient courage
to venture on an assault. Magdala had the reputation of being
impregnable; and, indeed, against natives badly armed, it was very
nearly so. Even Theodore only took possession of it because the
Galla garrison, through fear, evacuated the place during the night.
He had pitched his camp at the foot of the Amba, and attempted an
assault; but soon retired from his hopeless task before the shower
of missiles thrown from above. It was not until several days after
the Gallas had retired, that one of the chiefs, suspecting the place
to be empty, cautiously ventured to ascertain the fact, and returned
to inform Theodore that he might quietly walk in as the enemy had


Death of Abouna Salama--Sketch of his Life and Career--Grievances
of Theodore against him--His Imprisonment at Magdala--The Wallo
Gallas--Their Habits and Customs--Menilek appears with an Army in
the Galla Country--His Policy--Advice sent to him by Mr. Rassam--He
invests Magdala and fires a _feu-de-joie_--The Queen's Behaviour
--Steps taken by the Chiefs--Our Position not Improved--The Effects
of Smoke on Menilek--Our Disappointment followed by Great Joy--We
receive News of the Landing of British Troops.

On the 25th of October, Abouna Salama (the Bishop of Abyssinia)
died after a long and painful illness.

Abouna Salama was in many respects a remarkable man. Two such
characters as Theodore and himself are seldom met with at the same
time in those distant lands. Both ambitious, both proud, both
passionate, it was inevitable that sooner or later they must come
into collision, and the stronger crush the weaker.

Abyssinia had been for years without a bishop. Priests could no
more be consecrated, nor new churches dedicated to Christian worship,
as the ark could not contain the tabot blessed by the bishop of the
land. Ras Ali, although outwardly a Christian and belonging to a
converted family, had still too many connections amongst the Mussulman
Gallas, his true friends and supporters, to care for more than an
apparent profession of the State religion, and troubled himself
very little about the inconvenience to which the priesthood was
subjected by the long-continued vacancy of the bishopric.

Dejatch Oubie was at that time the semi-independent ruler of
Tigre. From the position of a simple governor he had gradually
risen to power, and now at the head of a large army strove for the
title of Ras. Though still on apparent terms of friendship with
Ras Ali, even to a certain degree acknowledging him as his superior,
he was all the while secretly exerting his influence to overthrow
the Ras's power in order to reign in his stead. For these reasons
he despatched some of his chiefs, with Monsignor de Jacobis, an
Italian nobleman and Roman Catholic bishop at Massowah, to Egypt,
to obtain a bishop for the Abyssinian see; [Footnote: According to
the rules of the Abyssinian Church, the bishop must be a Coptic
priest ordained at Cairo. The expenses required for the consecration
of a bishop amount to about 10,000 dollars] and in order to secure
for himself such a powerful weapon as the support of the priesthood,
he incurred the heavy expense required for the consecration of an
Abouna. De Jacobis made strenuous efforts to have a bishop anointed
who would favour the Roman Catholics; but he failed, as the Patriarch
chose for that dignity a young man who had received part of his
education at an English school at Cairo, and whose views were more
in favour of Protestantism than of the Copt's long-standing adversary,
the Church of Rome.

Andraos, this young priest, was only in his twentieth year. When
informed that he must leave his monastery and the companionship of
the monks his friends to proceed to the distant and semi-civilized
land of Habesch, he firmly declined the honour proposed for him.
He requested his superiors to fix their choice on a worthier man,
declaring himself unfit for the dignity so suddenly thrust upon
him. His objections were not admitted, and as he still persisted
in his refusal, the superior of the convent put him in irons; wherein
he should remain, he was told, until he agreed to obey the head of
the Coptic Church. Andraos gave in; and having been duly anointed
and consecrated Bishop of Abyssinia, under the title of Abouna
Salama, with all the pomps and ceremonies proper to the occasion,
started shortly afterwards in an English man-of-war, reaching
Massowah in the beginning of 1841.

Dejatch Oubie received him with great honours; added numerous
villages and large districts to those the hereditary possession of
the bishops, and made every endeavour to attach him to his cause.
He succeeded even beyond his expectations. Abouna Salama, instead
of needing the persuasions of Oubie to join him in the overthrow
of Ras Ali, proposed the attempt. Through his influence Oubie
concluded an alliance with Goscho Beru, the ruler of Godjam. The
two chiefs agreed to march on Debra Tabor, attack Ras Ali, wrest
from him the power he had usurped, and divide the government of
Abyssinia, confirming the Bishop's alleged rights to a third of the
revenue of the land.

Oubie and Goscho Beru kept to their engagements, offered battle
to Ras Ali near Debra Tabor, and utterly routed his army; Ras Ali
with difficulty escaping from the field with a small body of well-mounted
followers. It so happened, however, that Oubie celebrated his
success in potations too many and deep. Some of the fugitive soldiers
of Ras Ali accidentally entered Oubie's tent, found their master's
conqueror in the condition known as dead drunk, and availed themselves
of his helpless condition to make him their prisoner. This sudden
contretemps changed the aspect of affairs. Certain well-mounted
horsemen galloped after Ras Ali and succeeded in overtaking him
towards evening. He would not at first believe in his good fortune;
but others of his soldiers arriving and confirming the glad tidings,
he returned to Debra Tabor, reunited his scattered followers, and
was able to dictate terms to his captive conqueror. Oubie was
pardoned and allowed to return to Tigre, the Bishop being answerable
for his fidelity. Ras Ali treated the Bishop with all respect, fell
at his feet and implored him not to listen to the calumnies of
his enemies, assuring him that the Church had no more faithful son
than himself, nor any more willing to comply with the holy father's
wishes. The Bishop, now on friendly terms with all parties, and all
but worshipped by them, soon made his authority felt; and had not
Theodore risen from obscurity, Abouna Salama would, no doubt, have
been the Hildebrand of Abyssinia.

During the campaigns of Lij Kassa against the ruler of Godjam, and
during that period of revolution ending in the overthrow of Ras
Ali, Abouna Salama retired to his property in Tigre, residing
there in peace under the protection of his friend Oubie. Ever
since his arrival in Abyssinia Abouna Salama had shown the bitterest
opposition to the Roman Catholics: an enmity not so much engendered
by conviction, perhaps, as inflamed by the fact that some of his
property had been seized at Jiddah at the instigation of some Roman
Catholic priests, who had through his influence been plundered,
ill-treated, and expelled from Abyssinia. When the intelligence
reached the Abouna that Lij Kassa was marching against Tigre,
he publicly excommunicated him, on the ground that Kassa was the
friend of the Roman Catholics, protected their Bishop, De Jacobis,
and wanted to subvert in favour of the creed of Rome the religion
of the land. But Kassa was a match for the Abouna; he denied the
charge, and at the same time stated "that if Abouna Salama could
excommunicate, Abouna de Jacobis could remove it." The Bishop,
alarmed at the influence his enemies might possibly obtain, offered
to recall his anathema, on condition that Kassa would expel De
Jacobis. These terms having been agreed upon, Abouna Salama shortly
afterwards consented to place the crown of Abyssinia on the usurper's
head, and did so in the very church Oubie had erected for his own
coronation, under the name of Theodore II.

Pleased with the Bishop's compliance, Theodore showed him the utmost
respect. He carried his chair, or walked behind him with a lance
and shield as if he was nothing but a follower of his, and on all
fit occasions fell down to the ground in his presence and respectfully
kissed his hand. Abouna Salama for a time believed that his influence
over Theodore was unbounded, as it had been over Ras Ali and Oubie;
mistook Theodore's show of humility for sincere admiration and
devotion; and the more humble Theodore seemed disposed to be, the
more arrogant did the Bishop, publicly show himself. But he had not
quite understood the character of the Emperor he had anointed; and
overrating his own importance, at last he made of Theodore an open
and relentless enemy. The crisis came when Abouna Salama least
expected it. One day Theodore went in state to pay him his respects.
Arrived at the Abouna's tent, he informed him of his visit; the
Bishop sent word that he would receive him when convenient, and
meanwhile bade him wait without. Theodore complied; but as time
passed and the Bishop made no appearance, Theodore walked away, the
enemy of his prelate, and burning for revenge.

For years afterwards they lived in open enmity, or enmity slightly
masked: each worked hard at the destruction of the other. If
Theodore's reign had been a peaceful one, the Abouna would have
gained the day; but the Emperor, surrounded as he was by a large
army of devoted followers, found ready listeners to his descriptions
of the Bishop's character. Abouna Salama was never very popular;
he was, without being a miser, far from liberal. Friendship in
Abyssinia means presents: it is accepted as such by all; and every
chief, every man of note, who courts popularity, lavishes with an
unsparing hand. The Emperor naturally took advantage of this want
of liberality in the Bishop's character, to contrast it with his
own generosity. He insinuated that the Abouna was only a merchant
at heart; that instead of selling the tribute he received in kind
to the people of the country, as was formerly the custom, he sent
it by caravans to Massowah, trafficked with the Turks, and hoarded
all his money in Egypt. Little by little Theodore worked on the
minds of his people, impressing them with the idea that, after all,
the Bishop was only a man like themselves; and, at least in Theodore's
camp, he had already lost much of his prestige when the Emperor
spread the report that his honour had been assailed by the Bishop
whom they all worshipped.

Theodore, when detailing to us his grievances one day on our way
to Agau Medar, introduced the subject of his quarrel with the Abouna.
He then stated as the reason of his enmity against him that, one
day when he was entertaining his officers at a public breakfast,
the Bishop, taking advantage of his absence, and under pretence of
confessing the Queen, went into her tent. When Theodore returned
after the breakfast was over, he presented himself at the door of
his wife's apartment, but on being informed that she was engaged
in her religious duties with the Abouna he walked away. In the
evening he returned again to his wife's tent. When he entered, she
flew to him, and sobbing on his neck told him that she had been
that day unwillingly unfaithful to him, having been unable to resist
the violence of the Bishop. He forgave her, he said, because she
was innocent; and as for the suborner of his honour he could not
punish him: nothing but death could avenge such a crime, and how
could he lay violent hands on a dignitary of the Church?--There is
no doubt that the whole was an abominable invention; but Theodore
had evidently told the same story over and over again until at last
he had come to believe it himself.

Abouna Salama lost reputation, though, perhaps, few people believed
the Emperor's assertion. But on the principle that if you throw mud
some will stick, the Abouna's character was amongst a certain class
fairly gone; and henceforward his friends were only to be found
amongst the King's enemies, while his foes were Theodore's bosom
friends. In public Theodore still always treated him with respect,
though not with such a great show of humility as before; but he
evidently, for the sake of his people, made a distinction between
the official character of the Abouna, respecting it on account of
his Christian faith, and his private one, for which he expressed
the greatest scorn.

For a long while the question of the Church lands was a great deal
discussed between them. Theodore could not tolerate any power in
the State but his own. He had fought hard to be the supreme ruler
of Abyssinia; he had done his utmost to bring the Abouna into
contempt, and when he thought the occasion favourable to do away
entirely with his power and influence, he confiscated all the Church
lands and revenues--some of the Bishop's hereditary property by the
same stroke--and placed himself virtually at the head of the Church.
The Abouna's anger knew no bounds. Naturally of a violent temper,
he grossly abused Theodore on every occasion. Some of their quarrels
were most unbecoming; the intense hatred burning in the prelate's
heart showing itself in expressions that ought never to have fallen
from his lips. The Bishop of Abyssinia was never tolerant. I have
mentioned that towards Roman Catholics he was most intolerant. He
persecuted them at every opportunity, and even when himself a
prisoner at Magdala he never sought to obtain the release of an
unfortunate Abyssinian who had been years before cast into chains
at his instigation, for the sole reason that the man had visited
Rome and become a convert there. Towards Protestants he was better
inclined; still, he would not hear of "conversions." Missionaries
might instruct, but they had to stop there; and when, as it happened,
some Jews were led by the teachings of the missionaries to accept
Christianity, they had to be baptized and received as members of
the Abyssinian Church. He showed himself on all occasions friendly
towards Europeans, not Roman Catholics, and in time of trouble
proved of good service to the European captives; even helping them
with small sums of money at a time of great scarcity and want. But
his friendship was dangerous. Theodore distrusted, nay, disliked
any one who was on friendly terms with his great enemy; the horrid
torture the Europeans suffered at Azzazoo was due entirely to that
cause; and the quarrels or reconciliations between Church and State
always influenced their and our fate. The Abouna left Azzazoo with
the King's camp after the rainy season of 1864.

A serious rebellion had broken out in Shoa, and Theodore, leaving
his prisoners, wives and camp-followers at Magdala, made a quick
march through the Wallo Galla country; but he found the rebels so
strong that he could do nothing against them. He was greatly annoyed
at the Bishop's refusal to accompany him. The Shoa people are of
all Abyssinians the most bigoted, and have the greatest regard for
their Abouna; with him in his camp many of the opposing chiefs would
at once have laid down their arms and returned to their allegiance.
But the Bishop, who had in view his fertile districts in Tigre,
proposed accompanying Theodore first to that province; and after
the rebellion had been put down in that part of the kingdom, to
proceed with him to Shoa. Their interview on that occasion was
very stormy; and Theodore must have had great command over himself
to have refrained from extremities. Abouna Salama remained at
Magdala, according to his desire; but a prisoner. He was never put
in chains; though it is said that Theodore had several times resolve
it should be done, and even had the fetters prepared; but he was
always restrained by dread of the effect that such a measure might
have on his people. The Bishop was allowed to go as far as the
church, should he desire it; but at night a small guards always
watched outside his house; sometimes even a few of the soldiers
passed the night in the Abouna's apartment. Almost all his servants
were spies of the King. He could trust no one, except a few of his
slaves--young Gallas given to him in former days by Theodore--and
a Copt, who, with some priests, had accompanied the Patriarch David
on his visit to Abyssinia: some of them had accepted the King's
service, whilst others, like the Copt servant I have mentioned,
devoted themselves to their compatriot and bishop.

During the former imprisonment of the captives at Magdala, the
intercourse between the Bishop and them had been very limited. They
never saw each other; but occasionally a young slave of the Bishop's
would carry a verbal message, or a short Arabic note containing
some piece of news, generally some exaggerated rumours of the rebels'
doings (always believed by the too credulous Abouna), or simple
inquiries about medicine, &c.

The day of our arrival, and whilst the chiefs were reading Theodore's
instructions concerning us, the young slave above mentioned came
up to Mr. Rosenthal with kind compliments from the Abouna, to inform
us that as far as his master then knew there was nothing bad for
the present, but great fears for the future. The Bishop, we knew,
had frequent communications with the great rebel chiefs (Theodore
was also well aware of the fact, and hated him all the more for
it); he had shown himself at all times well disposed towards us,
and as he was as anxious as ourselves to escape from the power of
Theodore, we deemed it of the highest importance to open communication
with him. But the difficulties in the way were enormous. Nothing
would have injured our prospects more than the betrayal of our
intercourse with the Bishop to the Emperor. Samuel in that respect
could not for a long time be trusted; as a deadly enmity existed
between himself and the Bishop. It required all the persuasive
powers of Mr. Rassam to bring on a good understanding between the
two; he, however, managed the affair so skilfully that he not only
succeeded, but after mutual explanations, they became affectionate
friends. But, until this difficulty had been overcome, great
precautions were necessary.

The small slave was soon suspected by our vigilant guards. It would
have been dangerous to confide to him anything of importance, for
he might at any time be seized and searched. We therefore employed
servant-girls, who were known to the Bishop, as they had resided
on the mountain with the former captives. The Bishop accepted with
eagerness our proposal to escape from the Amba, and, sanguine as
he was hasty, at first gave us great hopes; but when we came to the
details of his plot, as far as we were concerned, we found it was
perfectly ridiculous. He wanted some nitrate of silver in order
to blacken his face, so as to pass unperceived through the gates.
Once free, he was to join either Menilek or the Wakshum, excommunicate
and depose Theodore, and proclaim the rebel emperor in his place.
He had evidently forgotten that the days of Oubie and Ras Ali
were gone long ago, that the man who held Magdala cared but little
for excommunication, and that, deposed or not, Theodore still would
virtually be king. The Bishop might have succeeded, perhaps; but
had he been caught, or had it ever been known that we were parties
to his escape, no power in the world would have saved us from the
rage of the infuriated monarch.

After the Bishop's reconciliation with Samuel our relations with
him were more frequent and intimate. He was at all times willing
to help us to the best of his ability, lent as a few dollars when
we were hard pressed for money, wrote to the rebels to protect our
messengers, invited them to come to our release, promising to the
successful one his support, and, I believe, would even have accepted
a reconciliation with the man from whom he had received so many
injuries, solely for our sake.

Disappointed in his ambition, deprived of his property, insulted,
degraded, without power, without liberty, Abouna Salama succumbed
to the too common temptation of men who suffer much. Almost without
society, leading a dull misanthropic life, he did not remember that
sobriety in all respects was essential to his health and that
over-indulgence at table was not consistent with his forced seclusion.
Constant annoyances, added to intemperate habits, could but bring
on sickness. During our first winter I attended him, through Alaka
Zenab, our friend and his, and under my care he recovered.
Unfortunately, he only listened to my advice and obeyed my injunctions
for a short time; soon missing the stimulants he had for years been
accustomed to, he gradually felt the want of their cheering influence,
and again resorted to them. During the rainy season of 1867 he had
a more serious attack. This time Samuel, being able to visit him
at night, was our medium, and being a very intelligent man could
give us a correct account of his condition. For a while his health
improved; but he was even more unreasonable than formerly: hardly
was he convalescent than several times a day he sent to inquire if
he could drink some arrack, take a little opium, or indulge in some
of his more favourite dishes. It is not astonishing that relapse
quickly followed: though I showed him the danger of the course he
was pursuing, he persisted in it.

In the beginning of October the Bishop's condition became so critical
that he applied to the Ras and chiefs to allow me to visit him.
They met in consultation, and in a body repaired to Mr. Rassam,
when I was called and asked if I would attend him. I replied that
as far as I was concerned I was perfectly willing. The chiefs then
retired to consider the matter; and on one of them insinuating that
Theodore would not be sorry if his enemy the Abouna died, and that
he would be angry if he knew that the Bishop had been brought in
contact with the Europeans, they decided on refusing his request;
though they consented to the attendance of the _cow-doctor_.
With the Abouna we lost a staunch ally, a good friend; nay, the
only one we had in the country. Had a rebel succeeded in making
himself master of the Amba his protection would have been invaluable:
not that I believe his influence would have been sufficient to
ensure our release; but still, with him, we should have met at the
hands of any of the great rebel chiefs nothing but good treatment
and courteous demeanour.

The messenger sent to convey the tidings of the Abouna's death to
the Emperor, was rather puzzled how to express himself, not knowing
in what light his Majesty would receive the news. He adopted a
middle course as the safest, and tried to appear neither sorry nor
rejoiced. Theodore listened to his tale and exclaimed, "Thank God,
my enemy is dead!" Then, addressing the messenger, he added, "You
fool! why did you not on reaching me shout out 'Miserach' (good
tidings)? I would have given you my best mule."

With the death of the Bishop, our hopes, though always of the
faintest kind, when natives were expected to be the deliverers,
seemed for ever crushed. Wakshum Gobaze had, for a time at least,
by his treaty with Mastiate, given up his pretensions to the
possession of Magdala; and Menilek, even if he kept to his word and
attempted the siege of our amba, would, no doubt, fall back on Shoa
as soon as he should be apprised of the death of his friend whom
he was so anxious to release. We had no precise information as to
the steps that were taken at home for our rescue; and, until certain
that troops had landed, we felt very anxious lest some _contretemps_
should, at the last instant, occur, and the expedition be abandoned,
or some more or less chimerical plan adopted in its stead. We had
received a little money of late, but as everything was scarce and
dear, we had to be very careful, and refuse many a "friend's"
request--rather a dangerous proceeding in those days.

We believed--but events proved we were wrong--that if any great
rebel, any rising man of influence, should present himself before
the Amba, the discontented, half-starved wretches would be only too
glad to open the gates and receive him as a saviour. The garrison,
we knew, would not on any account surrender to the Gallas. For years
they had been at enmity, and the marauding expeditions which the
soldiers of the mountain had lately made into their territory, had
increased that bad feeling, and quite destroyed any hope of
reconciliation. This was the more vexatious, as now that Mastiate
had, by her treaty with Gobaze, obtained possession and garrisoned
all the districts around Magdala, it was but natural to expect that
she would make some efforts at least to seize upon a fortress that
lay within her dominions. Not many days after the departure of
Gobaze for Yedjow, she issued orders to the people of the
neighbourhood to cease supplying the Amba, and forbade any of her
subjects from attending the weekly market; she even fixed a day for
the troops she had detached to Dalanta and Dahonte to rendezvous
at a short distance from Magdala, as she intended to destroy the
whole of the country for miles around, and reduce the garrison by

The Wallo Gallas are a fine race, far superior to the Abyssinian
in elegance, manliness, and courage. Originally from the interior
of Africa, they made their first appearance in Abyssinia towards
the middle of the sixteenth century. These hordes invaded the fairest
provinces in such numbers, they excelled so greatly the Amharas in
horsemanship and in courage, that not only did they overrun the
land, but lived for years on the resources of the country in imprudent
security. After a while they settled down on the beautiful plateau
extending from the river Bechelo to the highlands of Shoa, and from
the Nile to the lowland inhabited by the Adails. Though retaining
most of the characteristics of their race, they adopted many of the
customs of the people they conquered. They lost in great measure
their predatory and pastoral habits, tilled the soil, built permanent
dwellings, and to a certain, extent adopted in their dress, food,
and mode of life the usages of the former inhabitants.

In appearance the Galla is tall, well made, rather
slender, but wiry; the hair of both men and women is long, thick,
waving, rather than curly, and is altogether more like coarse
European hair than the semi-woolly texture that covers Abyssinian
skulls. Their dress is in many respects identical; both wear
trousers, only those of the Gallas are shorter and tighter, somewhat
resembling those worn by the people of Tigre. They both wear
a large cotton cloth, a robe by day and a covering by night; the
only difference being that the Galla seldom weaves in the side the
broad red stripe, the pride of the Amhara. The food of both races
is nearly the same; both enjoy the raw meat of the cow, the shiro
or hot spiced dish of peas, the wat, and the teps (toasted meat);
they only differ in the grain they use for bread, the Amhara
delighting in pancakes made of the small seed of the tef, whilst
the Galla's bread is more loaf-like, and is prepared with the flour
of wheat or barley, the only grain that prospers on their elevated
land. The Galla women are generally fair; and when not exposed to
the sun, their large, black, brilliant, shining eyes, their rosy
lips, their long, black, and neatly-braided hair, their little feet
and hands, their graceful and well-rounded forms, make them comparable
to the fairest daughters of Spain or Italy. The long shirt falling
from the neck to the ankle, and fastened round the waist by the
ample folds of a white cotton belt; the silver anklets, from which
hang tiny bells, the long necklace of beads and silver, the white
and black rings covering the taper fingers, are all very much the
same articles as those that are thought necessary for the toilette
of the Galla amazon and the more sedentary Amhara lady.

The most apparent difference is in their religion. At the time of
their first appearance, the Wallo Gallas, like many of the divisions
of the same family who, having settled further inland and having
less intercourse with foreigners, are still plunged in the grossest
idolatry, worshipped trees and stones; or rather under these natural
objects rendered adoration to a being called the Unknown, who was
to be propitiated by human sacrifices. It is impossible to obtain
any correct information as to the exact date of their conversion
to Islamism; but it has been accepted by the Wallo tribe almost
universally. None at the present day are given to heathen practices,
and only a few families belong to the Christian faith.

If we compare the races still further, and examine the morality and
social habits of the two, at a first glance it would seem that both
are licentious, both dissolute. But, on closer inspection, the
degradation of the one is seen to be so thorough, that the other
may claim, by contrast, something like primitive simplicity. The
Amhara's life is one round of sensual debauchery; his conversation
seldom deviates to pure or innocent subjects: no title is so envied
by the men as that of libertine, and the women, also, are all
ambitious of a like distinction: an "unfortunate" is not regarded
as unfortunate there. The richest, the noblest, the highest in the
land are profligates in love, or mercenary: more frequently both.
Nothing is so disagreeable to an Abyssinian lady's ear as an
insinuation that she is virtuous; for that would be taken to mean
that she is either ill-looking or for some other reason is not
favoured with many lovers.

In some parts of the Galla country the family exists in the old
patriarchal form. The father is in his humble hut as absolute as
the chief is over the tribe. If a man marries and is afterwards
obliged to leave his village on a distant foray, his wife is
immediately taken under the close protection of his brother, who
is her husband until the elder's return. This custom was for many
years very prevalent; now it is more limited: it is most common in
the plateau arising from the Bechelo to Dalanta or Dahonte, where
Galla families, almost isolated from the general tribe, have preserved
many of the institutions of their forefathers. The stranger invited
under the roof of a Galla chief will find in the same large smoky
hut individuals of several generations. The heavy straw roof rests
on some ten or twelve wooden pillars, having in the centre an open
space, where the matrons, sitting near the fire, prepare the evening
meal, while a swarm of children play around them. Opposite the rude
door of small twigs, held together by nothing but a few branches
cut from the nearest tree, stands the simple alga of the "lord of
the manor." Near his bed neighs his favourite horse, the pet of
young and old. In other partitioned places are his stores of barley
or wheat. When the evening meal is over, and the children sleep
where they last fell in their romping games, the chief first sees
that the companion of his forays is well littered; he then conducts
his guest to the spot where some sweet-smelling straw has been
spread under a dried cow-hide. Nor is that the end of his hospitality,
which at this point becomes rather embarrassing to the married
traveller. But the strange way in which the guest is honoured must
not be set down to licentiousness; it really is simplicity.

Every Galla is a horseman, every horseman a soldier; and thus is
formed a perfect militia, an always ready army, where no discipline
is required, no drill but to follow the chief. As soon as the war-cry
is heard, or the signal fire is seen on the summit of the distant
peak, the ever-ready steed is saddled, the young son jumps up behind
his father to hold his second lance, and from every hamlet, from
every apparently peaceful homestead, brave soldiers rush to the
rendezvous. When Theodore himself, at the head of his thousands,
invaded their land, then farewell to their homes. His revengeful
hand burnt forms and villages far and wide wherever he was opposed,
and the defenceless peasants fled in order to save their lives,
knowing well how futile were their hopes of safety, should they
fall into his power.

The Wallos are divided into seven tribes. Presenting no differences
amongst themselves, they were simply separated by civil wars. Could
these brave horsemen only understand the motto "Union is strength,"
they could make as easy a conquest of the whole of Abyssinia as
their fathers did of the plains they now dwell upon. When united,
they have always carried their arms successfully into an enemy's
country. Children of their race, the Gooksas, the Maries, the
Alis, have held the Emperor in their sway, and governed the land
for years. Unfortunately during the days of our captivity, as had
been but too frequently the case before, petty jealousies, unworthy
rivalries, weakened to such an extent their power that, far from
being able to impose their laws on others, they in turn became but
tools in the hands of the Christian kings and rulers. With Abusheer
died the last vestige of union. If not at actual war, one party was
always working against another; and no distant campaign could be
thought of when their enemies in their own country dwelt.

Abusheer, the last Imam of the Wallo Gallas, left two sons by
different wives, Workite [Footnote: Fine gold.] and Mastiate.
[Footnote: Looking-glass.] The son of the former, as we mentioned
in a previous chapter, was killed by Theodore on the escape of
Menilek to Shoa, and Workite had no option left but to seek the
hospitality of the young king for whom she had sacrificed so much.

Thus for more than two years Mastiate was left in undisturbed
possession of the supremacy vested in her by the unanimous consent
of the chiefs, a regent for her son until he attained his majority.

Menilek, after his escape, had no easy task before him: the chief
who had headed the rebellion in the name of his king, after the
gallant repulse and the check he inflicted upon Theodore, declared
himself independent--became the Cromwell instead of the Monk of
Abyssinia. Menilek was, however, well received by a small party of
faithful adherents; Workite had also been accompanied by a small
force of trusty followers; and on a large number of the chiefs
abandoning the usurper and joining the standard of Menilek, he
marched against the powerful rebel, who still held the capital and
many strong places, utterly defeated his army and made him a prisoner.

This victory was shortly afterwards followed by the complete
submission of Shoa to his rule; chief after chief made their
obedience, and all acknowledged as their king the grandson of Sahela
Selassi. Once his rights admitted by his people, he led his army
against the numerous Galla tribes who inhabit the beautiful country
extending from the south-eastern frontier of Shoa to the picturesque
lake of Guaragu. But, instead of plundering these agricultural
races, as his father had done, he promised them honourable treatment,
a kind of mild vassalage, on the payment of a small annual tribute.
The Gallas, surprised at his unexpected generosity and clemency,
willingly accepted his terms, and, from former foes, enrolled
themselves as his followers, and accompanied him on his expeditions.
Theodore had left a strong garrison on an almost impregnable amba,
situated at the northern frontier of Shoa, commanding the entrance
into the pass leading from the Galla country to the highlands of
Shoa. Menilek, before his campaign in the Galla country, had invested
that last stronghold of Theodore in his own dominions, and, after
a six months' siege, the garrison, who had repeatedly applied to
their master for relief, at last gave in and opened their gates to
the young king. Menilek treated them exceedingly well, many were
honoured with appointments in his household, others received titles
and commands, or were placed in positions of trust and confidence.

Menilek owed much to Workite; without her timely protection he would
have been pursued, and as Shoa had shut its gates upon him, his
position would have become one of great difficulty and danger. He
could not forget, either, that to save his life she had sacrificed
her only son and lost her kingdom: his debt of gratitude towards
her was immense, and nothing he could do could adequately repay her
for her devotion. But if he could not give her back her murdered
son, he would, at all events, march against her rival, and restore
by force of arms the disgraced queen to the throne she had lost on
his account. At the end of October, 1867, Menilek, at the head of
a considerable army, computed at 40,000 to 50,000 men, composed of
30,000 cavalry, some 2,000 or 3,000 musketeers, and the rest spearmen,
entered the Wallo Galla plain: he proclaimed that he came not as
an enemy, but as a friend; not to destroy nor to plunder, but to
re-establish in her rule the deposed and lawful queen Workite. She
was accompanied by a young lad who, she asserted, was her grandson,
the child of the prince who had been killed more than two years
before at Magdala. She stated that he had been born in the Wallo
country, before her departure for Shoa, the result of one of those
frequent casual unions so common in the country, and that she had
taken him away when she sought refuge in the land of the man whom
she had saved. To avoid any attempt being made by her rival to
secure the person of her grandchild, she had until then kept the
matter secret. However, her story was but little credited: I know
on the Amba the soldiers laughed at it; still it offered an excuse
to many of her former adherents for again joining her cause, and
if they did not credit her tale they pretended at least to do go.

The Galla chiefs for some time remained undecided. Menilek kept
to his word; he neither plundered nor molested any one, and, before
long, he reaped the reward of his wise policy. Five of the tribes
sent in their adhesion, and recognized Workite as regent for her
grandson. Mastiate, in presence of such defection, adopted the most
prudent course of retiring with her reduced army before the
overwhelming forces of her adversaries; they followed her for some
days, but without overtaking her. Menilek, believing that they had
nothing more to fear on that side, settled as he best could the
claims of Workite, and, accompanied by a large force of his new
allies, marched against Magdala.

Menilek had evidently placed much confidence in the well-known
disaffection of the garrison, and he expected that, through the
influence of the Bishop (of whose death he was not aware), of his
uncle Aito Dargie, and of Mr. Kassam, he would find on his arrival
a party in his favour, who would materially assist him, if not make
over the Amba to him at once. No doubt, had the Bishop been still
alive he would either have succeeded by promises, threats, or force
in opening the gates to his beloved friend. Aito Dargie, I believe,
contrived to secure a promise of assistance from a few chiefs; but
they were not powerful enough, and at the last moment lacked courage.

As for Mr. Rassam, he adopted the most prudent course of suiting
his policy to the movements of Menilek; too much caution could not
be used, as there was much reason to fear that the great deeds about
to be achieved would end in empty boasting. To Menilek he gave
great encouragement, offered him the friendship of England, and
even went so far as assuring him that he would be acknowledged by
our Government as king, should we be indebted to him for our
deliverance; he requested him to encamp at Selassie, fire his
two guns against the gate, and should the garrison not give in, to
encamp between Arogie and the Bechelo, and keep Theodore from
reaching the Amba until the arrival of our troops.

We had been greatly disappointed by Wakshum Gobaze: for six
weeks he was always coming, but never came. Next we had Mastiate
as our great excitement: she, we thought, would strive to gain
possession of her amba; but she also never made her appearance; and
now for nearly a month we were in daily expectation of the arrival
of Menilek. We had already given him up when, to our great surprise,
on the morning of the 30th of November, we perceived a large camp
pitched on the northern slope of Tanta; and on the top of a small
eminence commanding the plateau, and opposite to Magdala, stood the
red, white, and black tents of the King of Shoa, the ambitious young
prince who styled himself already "King of kings." Our astonishment
was complete when, towards noon, we heard the report of a steady
musketry-fire mingled with the occasional discharge of small cannon.
We at once gave credit to Menilek for greater pluck than we ever
believed him capable of; expecting that under cover of his fire the
elite of his troops would assault the place; and aware of the little
resistance he would meet with, we already rejoiced at the prospect
of liberty, or at least of an advantageous change of masters. We
had not finished our mutual congratulations when the firing ceased:
as everything was calm and quiet on the Amba, we could not make out
what was going on, until some of our guards came into our huts and
asked us if we had heard Menilek's "faker." Alas, it was indeed
nothing but a mere boast: he had fired from the verge of the Galla
plateau, far out of range, to terrify into submission the wavering
garrison; then, satisfied with his day's work, he and his men had
retired to their tents, awaiting the result of their warlike

The fact of Menilek being encamped on the Galla plain was full of
peril for ourselves without being of any avail to him. The next
morning he sent a message to us through Aito Dargie, asking what
he should do. We again strongly urged upon him the necessity of his
attacking the Amba by the Islamgee side; and in case he deemed it
impossible to assault the place, to stop all communication between
the fortress and the Imperial camp. Our great fear was that Theodore,
on hearing that Menilek was besieging his amba, would send orders
for the immediate execution of all prisoners of note, ourselves
included. No doubt great disaffection existed on the Amba, and if
Menilek had gone the proper way to work, before many days the place
would have been his. But he never did anything; he remained encamped
on the spot he had first chosen, and made no other attempt to rescue

Waizero Terunish, Theodore's queen, acted well on that occasion:
she gave an adderash (public breakfast), presided over by her son
Alamayou, to all the chiefs of the mountain. It being a fast-day,
the feast was limited to tef bread, and a peppery sauce; and as the
supply of tej in the royal cellars was scanty, the enthusiasm was
not very considerable. Still it had the desired effect--chiefs and
soldiers had publicly to proclaim their loyalty to Theodore; as
with the party, still strong, that would give ear to no treachery,
she was prepared to seize the malcontents individually, before they
had time to declare themselves in open rebellion as the adherents
of Menilek. Every one who thought that he was in any way suspected,
and many who had no doubt made promises to Menilek and accepted his
bribes, felt very nervous. Samuel was sent for; he did not like
the prospect at all, and we were very much afraid for him ourselves,
and glad when we saw him come back. On its being perceived that
some of the chiefs had not made their appearance, inquiries were
made as to the cause of their absence; they, seeing that there was
very little hope of securing a strong party in favour of Menilek,
gave explanations that were accepted, conditionally that on the
following day they would repair to the King's inclosure, and there,
in presence of the assembled garrison, proclaim their loyalty. They
went as they had been ordered, and were the loudest in their praise
of Theodore, in their expressions of devotion to his cause, and in
their abuse of the "fat boy" who had ventured near a fortress
entrusted to their care.

The Queen had done her duty well and honourably. The Ras and chiefs
consulted together, and considered it advisable, in order to show
their affection and devotion for their master, to do something
themselves also. But what should be done? They had already placed
extra guards at night on the gates, and protected every weak point
on the Amba; nothing remained but to bully the prisoners. The second
evening after the arrival of Menilek before the mountain, Samuel
received orders from the chiefs to make us all sleep at night in
one hut; the only exception being made in favour of the king's
friend, Mr. Rassam. But poor Samuel, though sick, went to the Ras
and insisted on having the order cancelled: I believe his influence
was backed on that occasion by a douceur he quietly slipped into
the Ras's hand. The chiefs in their wisdom had also decreed, and
the next morning enforced the order that all the servants, Mr.
Rassam's excepted; should be sent down from the mountain. The
messengers and other public servants employed by Mr. Rassam were
also obliged to leave. To Prideaux and myself they allowed, apart
from our Portuguese, a water-girl and a small boy each. I had no
house down at Islamgee; Samuel could not think of allowing me to
pitch a tent, so the poor fellows would have been very badly off
if Captain Cameron had not very kindly allowed them to share his
servants' quarters. We were put to great inconvenience by this
absurd and vexatious order, and I had some trouble, when everything
was again quiet, in getting the servants up again; it required all
the influence of Samuel and a douceur to the Ras, out of my pocket,
to gain my object.

As may well be expected, the Abyssinian prisoners were not spared;
all their servants were counted, and sent down the mountain, one
only being allowed to three or four during the daytime to carry
wood, water, and prepare their food. They were not suffered to leave
the night-houses, but had to remain day and night in those filthy
places. Every one on the mountain was exceedingly anxious that
Menilek should decide on something, and put an end to that painful
state of anxiety.

Early on the morning of the 3rd of December we were apprised by our
servants that Menilek had struck his camp and was on the move. Where
he was going to no one knew; but, as we were to some extent in his
confidence, we flattered ourselves that he had accepted our advice,
and would before long be seen on Selassie, or on the plateau of
Islamgee. We spent a very anxious morning; the chiefs seemed
perplexed, evidently expecting an assault from that direction, and
we were confidentially informed that we should be called upon to
man the guns should the Amba be attacked. However, our suspense was
shortly at an end. The smoke rising in the distance, and in the
direction of the road to Shoa, showed us but too clearly that the
would-be conqueror had, without striking a blow, returned to his
own country, and, with great gallantry, was burning a few miserable
villages, whose chiefs were adherents of Mastiate.

The excuse Menilek gave for his hasty retreat was, that his supplies
had run short, and that, having no camp-followers with him he could
not have flour prepared; that his troops being hungry and dissatisfied,
he had decided on returning at once to Shoa, collect his camp-followers,
and advance again better provisioned, and remain in the neighbourhood
of Magdala until it fell. The truth was, that to his great
disappointment he had heard from his camp the muskets fired during
the "fakering;" he knew that, as far as treachery was concerned,
his chance was gone for a while, and that he must await the effects
of want and privation induced by a long siege. Supplies he might
have obtained in abundance, as he was the ally of Workite and in a
friendly country. Should he even have required more, the undefended
districts of Worahaimanoo, Dalanta, etc., would have been quite
willing to send abundant provisions into his camp on the assurance
that they would not be molested. But if this "fakering" somewhat
deranged his plans, something he saw on the evening of the second
day, a mere speck of smoke, made him fairly run away. That smoke
was kindled by the terrible Theodore. He was, it is true, still far
away; but who could say? His father-in-law, Menilek knew well, was
a man of long marches and sudden attacks. How his large army would
be scattered like chaff before the wind at the cry, "Theodore is
coming," he was well aware, and he came to the conclusion that the
sooner he was off the better.

Our disappointment was something beyond description. Our rage, our
indignation and scorn for such cowardice, I cannot express. The
"fat boy," as we also now called him, we hated and despised. Had
we been imprudent enough openly to take his part, what would have
become of us? Menilek, doubtless, meant well, and probably would
have succeeded had the Bishop lived a few weeks longer. As it is,
he did us a great deal of harm. Had he and Workite never left Shoa,
Mastiate would have laid siege to the mountain. Sooner or later it
must have surrendered, and neither Theodore nor his messengers would
ever have ventured south of the Bechelo if Mastiate had been there
with her 20,000 horsemen.

With Menilek's departure, I, for one, made up my mind never again
to credit any of the promises of the native chiefs, which always
ended in mere moon-shine. Since then, I heard with the utmost
indifference that so-and-so was marching in such a direction, that
he or she would attack Theodore, or invest the Amba and stop all
communication between the rascals on the top and "our friend"
Theodore. We had been a long time without messengers, and the last
had not brought us the intelligence so anxiously looked for. Our
impatience was greater since we knew that we could expect nothing
from the natives, and believed the expedition from England to be
on its way: we felt that something was going on and we longed for
the certainty.

How well I remember the 13th of December, a glorious day for us!
No lover ever read, with more joy and happiness the long-expected
note from the beloved one, than I did that day the kind and cheering
letter of our gallant friend, General Merewether. Troops had landed!
Since the 6th of October, our countrymen were in the same land that
saw us captives. Roads, piers, were being made; regiment after
regiment were leaving the shores of India, some already marching
across the Abyssinian Alps to rescue or avenge. It seemed too
delightful to be true: we could hardly credit it. Ere long all must
be over! Liberty or death! Anything was better than continued
slavery. Theodore was coming--_qu'importe_? Was not Merewether
there? the brave leader of many a hard fight; the gallant officer
and accomplished politician. With such men as a Napier, a Staveley
at the head of British troops, who could feel but contempt for petty
vexations? We were prepared even for a worse fate, if it was to be
our lot. At least, England's prestige would be restored, her
children's blood not left unrevenged. It was one of those exciting
moments in a man's life that few can realize who have not passed
through months of mental agony, and then been suddenly overcome
with joy. We laughed more than ever at the idea of giving even a
thought to such poltroons as Gobaz and Menilek. The hope of meeting
our brave countrymen cheered us. In the mind's eye we beheld them,
and in our hearts we thanked them for the toils and privations they
would have to undergo before they could set _the captives free_.
For the second time, Christmas and New Year's Day found us in fetters
at Magdala; but we were happy: they would be the last, at all events,
and, full of trust in our deliverance, we now looked forward to
spending the next _at home_.


Theodore's Proceedings during our Stay at Magdala--His Treatment
of Begemder--A Rebellion breaks out--Forced March on Gondar--The
Churches are Plundered and Burnt--Theodore's Cruelties--The Insurgents
increase in Strength--The Designs of the Emperor on Kourata
Frustrated--Mr. Bardel Betrays the New Workmen--Theodore's Ingratitude
towards the "Gaffat People"--His Raid on Foggara Unsuccessful.

Theodore remained at Aibankab for only a few days after our departure,
and returned to Debra Tabor. He had told us once, "You will see
what great things I will achieve during the rainy season," and we
expected that he would march into Lasta or Tigre before the roads
were closed by the rains, to subdue the rebellion that for years
he had allowed to pass unnoticed. It is very probable that if he
had adopted that course he would have regained his prestige, and
easily reduced to obedience those provinces. No one was so much
Theodore's enemy as himself; he seems to have been possessed with
an evil spirit urging him to his own destruction. Many a time he
would have regained the ground he had lost, and put down to a certain
extent rebellion; but all his actions, from the day we left him
until he arrived at Islamgee, were only calculated to accelerate
his fall.

Begemder is a large, powerful, fertile province, the "land of sheep"
(as its name indicates), a fine plateau, some 7,000 or 8,000 feet
above the sea, well watered, well cultivated, and thickly populated.
The inhabitants are warlike, brave for Abyssinians, and often have
repulsed the rebels venturing to invade their province, so firm in
its allegiance to Theodore. Not many months before Tesemma Engeddah,
a young man, hereditary chief Of Gahinte, a district of Begemder
near its eastern frostier, with the aid of the peasants, attacked
a force sent into Begemder by Gobaze, utterly routed it and put
every man to death; except a few chiefs who were kept for the
Emperor to deal with as he thought fit.

Begemder paid an annual tribute of 300,000 dols., and supplied at
all times the Queen's camp with grain, cows, &c., and during the
stay of the Emperor in the province liberally provided his camp.
Moreover, it furnished 10,000 men to the army, all good spearmen,
but bad shots. Theodore, therefore, preferred for his musketeers
the men of Dembea, who showed more skill in the use of fire-arms.

Begemder, the proverb says, "is the maker and destroyer of kings;"
certainly it was so in the case of Theodore. After the flight of
Ras Ali, Begemder at once acknowledged him, and caused him to be
looked upon as the future ruler of the land. Theodore was well aware
of the difficult game he had to play, but believed his precautions
were such that he would inevitably succeed. At first he was all
smiles; chiefs were rewarded, peasants flattered; his stay would
be short; every day he expected he would leave. The annual tribute
was paid; Theodore gave handsome presents to the chiefs, honoured
many with silk shirts, and swore that as soon as the cannons his
Europeans were casting should be completed, he would start for
Godjam, and with his new mortars destroy the nest of the arch-rebel
Tadla Gwalu. He invited, all the chiefs to reside in his camp during
his stay, to rejoice his heart. They were his friends, when so many
rose against him. Would they advance him a year's tribute? could
they not provide more liberally for the wants of his army? He was
going away for a long time, and would not for years trouble them
for tribute or supplies. The chiefs did their best; every available
dollar, all the corn and cattle the peasants could spare, found its
way into Theodore's treasury and camp. But the peasants at last got
tired, and would not listen any longer to the entreaties of their
chiefs. Good words Theodore perceived would be of no avail any more,
so he adopted an imperious, menacing tone. One after the other, on
some _good_ ground, he imprisoned the chiefs; but it was only
to test their fidelity: they would, he knew get for him what he
wanted, and then he would not only release them, but treat them
with the greatest honour. The poor men did their best, and the
peasants, in order to obtain the deliverance of their chiefs, brought
all they had as a ransom. At last, both chiefs and peasants found
that all their efforts failed to satisfy their insatiable master.

This state of things lasted for more than eight months, and during
that period, first by plausible and honeyed words, afterwards by
intimidation, he kept himself and army without difficulty and without
trouble. He made no expeditions during that time, except one against
Gondar. He hated Gondar--a city of merchants and priests, always
ready to receive with open arms any rebel: any robber chief might
sit undisturbed in the halls of the old Abyssinian kings and receive
the homage and tribute of its peaceful inhabitants. Several times
before Theodore had vented his rage on the unfortunate city; he had
already more than once sent his soldiers to plunder it, and the
rich Mussulman merchants had only saved their houses from destruction
by the payment of a large sum. It was no more the famous city of
Fasiladas, nor the rich commercial town that former travellers had
described; confidence could no longer dwell under the repeated
extortions of king and rebel, nor could the metropolis of Abyssinia
afford to answer the repeated calls made upon its wealth. But still
the forty-four churches stood intact, surrounded by the noble trees
that gave to the capital such a picturesque appearance; no one had
dared extend a sacrilegious hand to those sanctuaries, and until
then Theodore himself had shrunk from such a deed. But now he had
made up his mind: the gold of Kooskuam, the silver of Bata, the
treasures of Selassie should refill his empty coffers; her churches
should perish with the doomed city: nothing would he leave standing
as a record of the past, not a dwelling to shelter the people he

On the afternoon of the 1st of December, Theodore started on his
merciless errand, taking with him only the elite of his army, the
best mounted and the best walkers amongst his men. He never halted
until he came, the next morning, to the foot of the hill on which
Gondar is built--a march of more than eighty miles in less than
sixteen hours. But though he suddenly pounced upon his enemy, it
was too late; the news of his approach had spread faster. The joyous
_elelta_ resounded from house to house; the anxious and terrified
inhabitants desired to appear happy in presence of the dire calamity
such a visit presaged. The rebel's deputy had left the palace in
time, and accompanied by a few hundred horsemen, awaited, at some
distance from the town, the result of Theodore's coming. He had not
long to wait. The invaders searched every house, plundered every
building, from the churches to the poorest hut, and drove away
before them like cattle the 10,000 remaining inhabitants of that
large city. Then, the work of destruction began: fire spread from
house to house, the churches and palace, the only remarkable buildings
the country possessed, became a heap of blackened ruins. But the
priests looked sullen; some entreated, others murmured, a few were
bold enough to curse; at an order given by Theodore, hundreds of
aged priests were hurled into the flames. But his insatiate fury
demanded fresh victims. Where were the young girls who had welcomed
his entrance. Was it not their joyous shouts that had scared away
the rebel? "Let them be brought!" cried the fiend, and these young
girls were thrown alive into the fire!

The expedition had been successful; Gondar was utterly destroyed.
Four inferior churches only had escaped destruction. Gold, silks,
dollars were now abundant in the royal camp. Theodore was received
on his return to Debra Tabor with all the triumphal honours bestowed
on a victor; the Gaffat people went to meet him with lighted torches;
and compared him to the pious Hozekiah. If Theodore's star had been
dim before this wanton barbarity, it disappeared altogether from
that day: all went against him--success never attended him more.

The burning of Gondar increased immensely the power of the rebels.
They advanced steadily and cautiously, seizing district after
district, until whole provinces acknowledged their sway, and all
joined in anathematizing the sacrilegious monarch who had not
hesitated to destroy churches that even the Mussulman Gallas had
respected. As long as the soldiers had money the peasants willingly
sold them their goods; but this could not last long: soon scarcity
prevailed in the camp. Theodore applied to the chiefs; they must
use their influence and force the "bad peasant" to bring in more
supplies. The peasants would listen no longer; they told the chiefs,
"Let the king set you free and then we will do anything you tell
us, but now we know that you are only acting under compulsion."
Theodore ordered the chiefs to be tortured: "If they cannot bring
grain they must give money." Some who had a few savings sent them--for
torture was worse than poverty; but this did not improve their
condition. Theodore believed that they had more, and as they had
nothing to give, many died under the daily repetition of the tortures
Theodore now inflicted on his prisoners; amongst whom were his
bravest soldiers, his staunchest supporters, nay, his bosom friends.

Desertions were now more frequent than ever; chiefs left in the
open day with their followers; the gunman threw away his weapon,
and joined his oppressed brother the peasant; great numbers of the
Begemder soldiery daily abandoned his cause and returned to their
villages. Theodore, in this plight, resorted to a former practice
of his. He must plunder, and feed his army by plunder. But the
Begemder men would not plunder their own countrymen, and he did not
place much confidence in the bravery of his Dembea men: therefore
he pitted the man of Gahinte against the peasant of Ifag, the sons
of Mahdera Mariam against those of Este--all districts of the same
province, but far distant from one another, and with long feuds
existing between some of them. At first he succeeded, and returned
from his expeditions with ample supplies; but his fearful cruelties
at last aroused the peasants. Joined by the deserters they fought
in their own way, cut off stragglers, sent their families to distant
provinces, and for miles around Debra Tabor ceased cultivating the

In March, 1867, Theodore started for Kourata, the third town in
importance in Abyssinia, and the greatest commercial centre after
Gondar and Adowa. But this time he failed completely; ever since
his expedition to Gondar, the peasants of all the surrounding
districts were always on the alert: beacon-fires were ready, the
people telegraphed to each other in their rude way, and the victims
evaded the tyrant.

At Kourata he found no one, and hardly any plunder; the rich
merchants, priests, every one had embarked with all their goods in
the small native boats, and, out of range of Theodore's rifles,
quietly awaited his departure to return to their homes. Theodore
was greatly disappointed; he expected to reap a rich harvest and
found nothing. He must revenge himself; but here, again, he was
frustrated. The soldiers deserted _en masse_; few, very few
would remain with him, he was told, if he destroyed Kourata. The
sacred town, houses, streets, trees, had all been dedicated to God's
service; such a sacrilege was beyond the rascality of even the
Abyssinian soldier. Theodore had to return to Debra Tabor. Sometimes
once or twice a week he would go forth and plunder; but with little
success: each time his difficulties increased; the peasants had
lost their first great dread of him; they fought well at places,
and defied the gaily-dressed chiefs: none as yet stood before him,
but the day was not far off when his prestige had fallen so low
that a man was found who challenged his anointed king.

The position of the Europeans near Theodore was, indeed, most
painful. Always to please a ferocious, mad, enraged tiger, would
have been trifling compared to what they had to undergo during the
last year they served him. Theodore was quite changed; no one who
had known him in former days would have now recognized the elegant
and chivalrous young prince, or the proud, but just Emperor, in the
homicidal monomaniac of Debra Tabor.

A few days before we left for Magdala (after the political trial),
Messrs. Staiger, Brandeis, and the two hunters, foreseeing that
captivity, and probably chains, would be our lot before long, availed
themselves of a former permission they had obtained to remain near
Mrs. Flad during her husband's absence, in order to keep clear of
the coming storm. McKelvie (a former captive, and servant of Capt.
Cameron,) pretended sickness, also remained behind, and shortly
afterwards took service with his Majesty. Mackerer (also a former
captive, and servant of Capt. Cameron,) had previously been in
Theodore's service, and preferred to return to him rather than go
through a second captivity at Magdala. Little were they aware at
the time how much they would have to go through themselves.

Mrs. Rosenthal, on account of her health, could not accompany us
then; afterwards she several times applied for leave to join her
husband, but until a couple of months before our release, was always
refused on some specious reason or the other. Mrs. Flad and children
belonged to the same party, having been left by her husband on his
departure, under the protection of the "Gaffat people."

Altogether the number of Europeans with his Majesty during the time
of our captivity at Magdala, including Mr. Bardel, was fifteen,
exclusive of the two ladies and several half-castes.

Theodore had no sooner returned to Debra Tabor, after sending us
to Magdala, than he set to work, with the assistance of the Europeans,
casting cannons of various shapes and sizes, and mortars of immense
weight and calibre. Gaffat, where the foundry had been erected, was
only a few miles from Debra Tabor, and every day Theodore was in
the habit of riding down with a small escort and superintending the
works. On these occasions, the four who had remained behind (Mr.
Staiger and his party) usually came to present their respects, but
did not work. Mackerer and McKelvie had been apprenticed to some
of the Gaffat people, and did their utmost to please the Emperor,
and he, to encourage them, presented them with a silk shirt and 100
dollars each. One morning when the four had come as usual to look
on, Theodore, in an angry voice, asked them why they did not work
with the others. They perceived by his tone and manner that it was
imprudent to refuse; and accordingly bowed in acquiescence and set
to work. Theodore, to mark his pleasure, ordered them to be invested
with robes of honour, and sent them also 100 dollars each. For some
time they worked at the foundry, but were afterwards sent with Mr.
Bardel to make roads for the artillery; Theodore, with his usual
caution, having two constructed at the same time, one in the direction
of Magdala, the other leading towards Godjam, so as to leave every
one, his people and the rebels, in doubt as to his movements.

At this time Mr. Brandeis and Mr. Bardel happened to meet at some
hot springs not far from Debra Tabor, whither they had gone with
his Majesty's permission for the benefit of their health. Though
Bardel was not a favourite; being justly distrusted by all, it seems
that a kind of intimacy sprung up between the two, and in an hour
of confidence Mr. Brandeis revealed to Bardel a plot they had made
to run away, proposing to him to join their party. Bardel accepted.
A short time afterwards they returned to Debra Tabor, or rather to
a short distance from it, where they were making the roads. They
at once set to work to complete their arrangements, and at last,
everything being ready for the route, they fixed upon the night of
the 25th of February for their departure. Towards ten in the evening
Bardel looked into the tent where all were assembled, and seeing
at a glance that everything was ready, pretended to have forgotten
something in his tent, and begged them to wait a few minutes for
him. They agreed, and mounting his horse, Bardel started at full
gallop to fetch Theodore. That man, so unprincipled that even
Abyssinians looked upon him with contempt, had basely betrayed, out
of mere love of mischief, those poor men who had trusted in him.
Theodore was quite taken aback when Bardel told him that the four
he had taken into his service, and Mackerer, were on the point of
deserting. "But were you not also one of the party?" Theodore
inquired. Bardel said that it was true; but if he had entered into
the plot, it was only to be able to prove his attachment to his
master by revealing it to him, when he could with his own eyes
assure him of the correctness of the assertion. Theodore accompanied
him to the tent where the others were anxiously expecting their
companion's return. Fancy their dismay and astonishment when they
saw the Emperor quietly walking in followed by their betrayer!

Theodore was calm, asked them why they were so ungrateful, and why
they wanted to run away? They replied that they longed to see their
country. They were given in charge to the soldiers who had accompanied
Theodore, chained hand and foot, each of them to one of their
servants; all their followers were stripped naked, tied with ropes,
and several of them killed. Their condition ever since was most
dreadful: they were confined at first with hundreds of starving and
naked Abyssinians, witnessed the execution of thousands, many of
whom had been their bed companions, and expected at any instant to
be called upon to pay with their lives the penalty of their rash
attempt. However, Theodore after a while made a difference between
them and his people, he set apart a small tent for them, did not
deprive them of all their clothes, and allowed them some servants
to prepare their food.

The rebellion had by this time, April, 1867, become so universal,
that apart from a few provinces in the neighbourhood of Magdala,
that fortress and another one, Zer Amba, near Tschelga, he could
only call his own the few acres on which his tents were pitched.
His European workmen had cast some guns for him, and afraid that
at Gaffat these might be seized by some rebel, he determined upon
removing them to his camp. He took advantage of the receipt of a
letter from Mr. Flad, to appear displeased at the news he had
received, and thereby cover his ingratitude towards those faithful
servants by a plausible excuse.

On the 17th of April Theodore went to Gaffat, stopped at the foot
of the hillock on which it is built, sent for the Europeans, and
told them that he had received a letter from Mr. Flad, containing
serious matters, and that, as he could not trust them far from him,
they must go to Debra Tabor until Mr. Flad's return, when all would
be explained; he added that he had also heard that preparations for
the reception of troops were being made at Kedaref, and that "if
he was to be killed, they would die first." One of the Europeans,
Moritz Hall, remonstrated against the unfair treatment he was
subjected to, after long and faithful services: "Kill us at once,"
he exclaimed, "but do not degrade us in this way; if in the letter
you have received, there is anything you can charge against us,
then have it read out before your people. Death is better than
unjust suspicion." Theodore, in angry tone, ordered him to be silent,
and sent them all under escort to Debra Tabor; their wives and
families followed; all their property was seized, but afterwards
partly returned, and on the tools and instruments being given back
to them, they were told to work. The Europeans and guns safe in his
camp, Theodore left Debra Tabor on a plundering expedition; but in
Begemder he met with such constant resistance from the peasantry,
that his soldiers at last objected.

To please them, he led them towards Foggara, a fertile plain to the
north-west of Begemder; but he found hardly anything there. All the
grain had been buried, and the cattle removed to distant parts of
the country. One of our messengers sent to him by Mr. Rassam found
him there, and on his return, gave us the most dreadful description
of the Emperor's temper: floggings, beatings, and executions were
going on all day, and he was so badly off for money, that he had
imprisoned several of his own personal attendants, fixing their
release at 100 dollars each. During his absence, the Gaffat people
had consulted amongst themselves as to the best means of regaining
the Emperor's favour, and decided on proposing to cast an immense
mortar for him. Theodore was delighted. A foundry was erected, and
the "Great Sebastopol," which was destined to be the crushing blow
for him, and the means of our salvation, was begun.


Arrival of Mr. Flad from England--Delivers a Letter and Message
from the Queen--The Episode of the Telescope--Our Property
taken care of--Theodore will not yield except to force--He
Recruits his Army--Ras Adilou and Zallallou desert him--He
is repulsed at Belessa by Lij Abitou and the Peasants--The
Expedition against Metraha--His Cruelties there--The "Great
Sebastopol" is Cast--Famine and Pestilence compel the Emperor
to raise his Camp--The Difficulties of his March to Magdala--His
Arrival in Dalanta.

Soon after the Gaffat people had been sent to Debra Tabor, Mr. Flad
arrived from England, and met Theodore in Dembea on the 26th of
April. Their first meeting was not very friendly. Mr. Flad handed
to his Majesty the Queen's letter, with others from General Merewether,
Dr. Beke, and from the relations of the former captives. On presenting
General Merewether's letter to Theodore, Flad informed him that he
had brought as a present to him from that gentleman, an excellent
telescope. Theodore asked to see it. The telescope was rather
difficult to arrange so as to suit Theodore's sight, and as it took
some time before Flad could put it in order, Theodore got impatient
and said, "Take it to the tent, we will try it to-morrow; but I
know it is not a good telescope: I know it is not sent to me for

Theodore then ordered every one to retire, and having told Flad to
sit down, asked him, "Have you seen the Queen?" Flad replied in the
affirmative, adding that he had been very graciously received, and
that he had a verbal message to deliver to him from her Majesty.
"What is it?" Theodore immediately asked. Had replied, "The Queen
of England has told me to inform your Majesty, that if you do not
at once send out of your country all those you have detained so
long against their will, you have no right to expect any further
friendship from her." Theodore listened attentively, and even had
the message repeated to him several times. After a pause, he said
to Flad, "I have asked from them a sign of friendship, but it is
refused to me. If they wish to come and fight, let them come, and
call me a woman if I do not beat them."

The following day Mr. Flad presented him with the several gifts he
had brought with him from Government, Dr. Beke, and others; the
supplies he had brought for as he put aside, but everything was
sent to the royal tent, and 1,000 dollars he had also conveyed for
us, Theodore took, saying the roads were dangerous, and that he
would send an order for it to Mr. Rassam at Magdala. On the 29th
Theodore sent again for the telescope: one of his officers had
examined it, and found it excellent, but Theodore pretended not to
be able to see anything with it.

"It is not sent for good," he said; "it is the same story as some
years ago when Basha Falaka (Captain Speedy) sent me a carpet by
Kerans; but by the power of God I chained the bearer of that carpet.
The man who sends me the telescope only wants to annoy me; he wishes
to tell me, 'Though you are a king and I send you an excellent
telescope, you will not be able to see through it.'" Flad did his
best to disabuse his Majesty of this impression, and convince him
of the fact that the telescope was sent to him as a token of
friendship; but as Theodore only got more violent, Flad thought it
prudent to be silent.

On Monday, the 30th, Theodore sent for Flad again and told him that
he was going to send him to rejoin his family at Debra Tabor. Flad
took advantage of this occasion to give a full account of the
dealings of the rebels with France, and their desire to be acknowledged
by us; he assured Theodore that if he did not comply with our Queen's
request he would certainly involve himself in a disastrous war,
etc. Theodore listened with great coolness and indifference, and
when Flad ceased talking, quietly said: "Do not be afraid: the
victory comes from God. I trust in the Lord and he will help me;
I do not trust in my power. I trust in God who says, If you have
faith like a mustard seed, you can remove mountains." He said that
even if he had not chained Mr. Rassam it would have been all the
same; they would not have sent him the workmen. He knew already,
at the time of Bell and Plowden, that the English were not his
friends, and he only treated these two well out of personal regard
for them. He concluded by saying, "I leave it to the Lord: he will
decide it when we fight on the battle-field."

Theodore had vented his rage about the telescope to hide his
disappointment; he had said to one of his workmen at the time he
wrote to Flad to come up with the artisans, "You do not know me
yet; but call me a fool, if by my cunning I do not get them." Instead
of artisans, white men to be held as hostages, he received a firm
message, holding out no hope of friendship unless he set at liberty
all those he had so long unlawfully detained. His answers, so full
of meekness, he knew would please his followers; they were superstitious
and ignorant, and placed a certain credence in his hopeful words.

Desertions had considerably reduced his army. He well knew the
influence of numbers in a country like Abyssinia, and to increase
his scanty host, after plundering for the fourth or fifth time
Dembea and Taccosa, he issued a proclamation to the peasants in the
following terms:--"You have no more homes, grain, or cattle. I have
not done it: God did it. Come with me, and I will take you where
you will find plenty to eat, cattle in abundance, and punish those
who are the cause of God's anger upon you." He did the name for the
districts of Begemder he had lately destroyed; and many of these
poor starving, homeless creatures, not knowing where to go or how
to live, were only too glad to accept his offer.

Theodore's position was not an enviable one. In May, Ras Adilou,
together with all the Yedjow men, the only cavalry left to him,
departed from the camp in open daylight, taking with them their
wives, children, and followers. Theodore was afraid of pursuing the
deserters, lest the greater part of his remaining force should seize
the opportunity thus offered to them and join the discontented,
instead of fighting to capture them. Not long before, a young chief
of Gahinte, named Zallallou, at the head of two hundred horse, had
fled to his native province, and through his influence all the
peasants of that warlike district had aimed and prepared themselves
to defend their country against Theodore and his famished host.
Zallallou, the very day he left the Imperial camp, fell upon some
of our servants _en route_ to Debra Tabor, where they were
going to purchase supplies; all were plundered of everything they
had, stripped, and several detained as prisoners for a few days.

Dahonte and Dalanta not long afterwards, declared themselves for
the Gallas, turned out of their provinces the governors Theodore
had appointed over them, and seized upon the cattle, mules, and
horses belonging to the Magdala garrison, which had been sent there,
as was the custom before the rainy season, on account of the scarcity
of water on the Amba itself. If Theodore, only a few months before,
had but a very insecure portion of his former vast empire that he
could call his own, at that date, June, 1867, he was a king without

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