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A Narrative of Captivity in Abyssinia by Henry Blanc

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a kingdom, and a general without an army. Magdala and Zer Amba were
still garrisoned by his troops; but apart from these forts, he had
nothing left: even his camp was only full of mutinous men, and
desertions went on at such a rate that he could then only muster
from 6,000 to 7,000 men, the majority of whom were peasants, who
had followed him to avoid starvation. For miles around Debra Tabor
the country was a perfect desert, and Theodore saw with dread the
rainy season coming on, for he had no supplies in camp, and a large
number of followers, the people of Gondar, and an endless host of
useless individuals to support.


In Begemder plundering was out of the: question; the peasants were
always on the watch, and on the slightest sign of a move were
everywhere on the alert, killing the stragglers and plunderers, and
keeping out of the way of the gunmen who stood around the Emperor.
Theodore remembered a rich district not as yet plundered, Belessa,
at the north-east of Begemder. In order to surprise the inhabitants
completely, he proclaimed some days before that he was going on an
expedition in quite a different direction, and to make his army
appear as formidable as possible, he had given orders that every
one who possessed a horse or a mule, or a servant, must send them,
under penalty of death, to accompany the expedition. The Belessa
people, far from being surprised, had been informed of his intention
by their spies, and Theodore, to his disappointment, saw from a
distance their villages on fire; the peasants themselves having
preferred destroying their homes to leaving them a prey to the
invader. Under the conduct of a gallant chief, Lij Abitou, a young
man of good family, and a runaway officer, from the Imperial
household, the peasants, well armed, took up a position on a small
plateau, separated by a narrow ravine from the route Theodore would
take. To his surprise, instead of running away at the mere sight
of his charger, they not only stood their ground, but several
well-mounted chiefs rode out in front and bid defiance to Theodore
himself. Astrologers must have told him that the day was not
favourable, as after several of his chiefs who had answered the
cartel had been laid dead on the field, he still refused to lead
his men in person, and before this unexpected resistance gave way
and ordered a retreat. Belessa was saved: the hungry, famished
robbers that Theodore called soldiers passed a dreadful night;
tired, hungry, and cold, they could not sleep, for the peasants
might surprise and attack them, in their turn. The cruelties Theodore
perpetrated after his return to Debra Tabor were fearful; too
horrible to be related. At last, tired of taking his revenge on the
innocent, he turned his thoughts to the place he might most easily
plunder, and fixed upon the island of Metraha.

That island, situate in the Tana Sea, about twenty miles north of
Kourata, is only a few hundred yards from the mainland. It was
considered in the light of an asylum, and protected by its sacred
character, priests and monks resided there in peace; while merchants
and rich landowners sent their goods and stores there for safe
custody. Theodore had no scruples about violating the sanctity of
the island: the asylum afforded by the churches to all before his
time he had long ago violated, and, certain of a large booty, did
not hesitate to add another sacrilege to his numerous crimes. On
his arrival before Metraha, he at once ordered his people to make
rafts. Whilst Theodore was occupied in their construction, a priest
came in a boat, and approaching within speaking distance, inquired
of the Emperor what it was that he desired. Theodore told him the
grain that they had in store. The priest replied that they would
send it to him; but Theodore, not satisfied with the grain alone,
told the priest not to be afraid, but to send their boats. He took
a solemn oath that he would not injure them, nor remove anything
but the grain he required. The priest, on his return to the island,
informed the people of his conversation with the Emperor, and the
majority being in favour of complying with his requests, it was
agreed that all the available boats should be taken to the mainland.
A few who had no trust in Theodore's word entered their canoes, and
paddled away in an opposite direction. Theodore ordered the Europeans
to fire upon them with the small cannons they had brought. They
complied; but, to Theodore's great disappointment, failed to hit
any of the fugitives. No sooner had Theodore and a select party
been admitted on the island than he caused all the remaining
inhabitants to be shut up in a few of the larger houses; and after
all the grain, silver, gold, and merchandise had been removed, he
set the place on fire, and burnt to death priests, merchants, women
and children!

For a while, abundance reigned in Theodore's camp. The work of
casting the big cannon had been going on for some time: the day of
its completion at last arrived, and Emperor and workmen anxiously
awaited the result of their labours. The Europeans, to their great
dismay, saw that they had failed; but Theodore, not in the least
put out, told them not to be afraid, but to try again: perhaps they
would succeed another time. Theodore examined carefully everything,
connected with the smelting, in order to find out the cause of the
failure, and he soon perceived that it was due to the presence of
some water around the mould. He at once set to work, and had a
large, deep, broad trench constructed from beneath the mould to
some distance outside. This drain dried up the place, and on a
second attempt being made the success was complete. Theodore was
delighted; he made handsome presents to the workmen, and prepared
everything requisite to carry away with him his immense piece of

During that rainy season (1867) Theodore's difficulties were very
great: indeed, the punishment of his evil deeds was falling heavily
upon him, and to his proud nature it must have been a daily and
constant agony. The rebels were now so little afraid of Theodore
that every night they made attacks on his camp, and were always on
the watch to seize stragglers, or camp-followers. They had at last
become such a terror to the soldiers that, to protect them, and at
the same time check, to a certain extent, desertion, Theodore had
a large stockade built around the foot of the hill on which his
camp was pitched. A war of extermination on both sides now took
place; Theodore showing no pity to the peasants whom he succeeded
in capturing, and they, on their side, torturing and murdering any
one who belonged to the Emperor's camp. A detailed account of the
atrocities committed by Theodore during the last month of his stay
in Begemder would be too horrible to narrate: suffice it to say
that he burnt alive, or sentenced to some cruel death, in that short
space of time, more than 3,000 persons! His rage at times was so
blind that, unable to satisfy his revenge by punishing those who
daily insulted and scorned him, he vented his anger on the few
remaining faithful companions who shared his fate: chiefs who had
fought by his side for years, friends whom he knew from his childhood,
old respectable men who had protected him in former days, all had
to suffer more or less for their faithfulness, and fell innocent
victims to his mad fits of violence. Many succumbed to a lingering
death, or chains and torture, for no reason whatever except that
they loved him!

Desertions were still frequent, but the difficulty of escape was
greater than before; the peasants often put to death the fugitives;
and always stripped and plundered them of everything they had. The
gates of the fence were guarded night and day by faithful men, and
it required often a good deal of ability and cunning to be able to
pass through them. I was told an anecdote which exemplifies the
expedients the soldiers resorted to in order to get out of the
dreaded camp. One evening, about half an hour before sunset, a woman
presented herself at the gate, carrying on her head one of the large
flat baskets used for keeping bread; she said, with tears in her
eyes; that her brother was lying down some short distance from the
fence so dangerously wounded that he could not walk; she had brought
him a little bread and water, etc. The guards allowed her to pass.
A few minutes afterwards a soldier presented himself at the gate,
and asked if they had seen a woman go through, giving the description
of the one that had just gone out. The guards said that they had;
the soldier appeared to be in a fearful passion, and said that she
was his wife, who had made an assignation to run away with her
lover; and he threatened to report them to the Emperor. The guards
told him that she could not be far off, and that he had better go
quickly and overtake her; off he went: as might be expected, neither
appeared again.

To the annoyances and difficulties caused by the presence of large
bodies of armed peasants, day and night hanging about the outskirts
of the camp, were soon added the evils of famine: a small Abyssinian
loaf cost a dollar; a salt and a half, a dollar; butter could not
by any means be obtained; and hundreds died daily of want and
starvation. When the grain plundered at Metraha was consumed, no
more could be found; plundering was now quite impossible, and as
long as Theodore did not move his camp there was no hope of supplies
of any kind being obtained. Almost all the mules, horses, and the
few remaining sheep had died from want of food; they could not graze
any more in close vicinity to the camp, that pasture being completely
eaten up; and as to driving them to some green fields at a distance,
that was impossible. The poor animals dropped one after the other,
and infected the place by the stench that arose from their dead
bodies. The cows had all been killed long before by order of
Theodore. One day, when, after one of his first razzias, he had
brought back with him to Debra Tabor more than 80,000 cows; at night
the peasants came, and from a distance implored him to have pity
upon them, and restore them their cattle, without which they were
unable to cultivate the soil. Theodore was on the point of acceding
to their request, when some of the rascals around him said, "Does
not your Majesty know that there is a prophecy in the country, that
a king will seize a large amount of cattle, and that the peasants
will come and beg him to return them; the king will comply, but
soon afterwards die." Theodore replied, "Well, the prophecy will
not apply to me." He immediately gave orders for all the cows in
camp, those he had lately brought, and all others, to be killed at
once; the order was obeyed, and nearly, it is said, 100,000 were
killed and left to rot in the plain at a short distance from the

The next day, Theodore, seated outside his hut, perceived a man
driving a cow into the fields; he sent for him, and asked him if
he had not heard the order. The man replied in the affirmative, but
said that he had not killed his cow because his wife having died
the day before on giving birth to a child, he had kept that one for
the sake of her milk. Theodore told him, "Why did not you know that
I would be a father to your child? Kill the man," he said to those
around him, "and take care of his child for me."

The waggons being at last ready, Theodore decided upon marching
towards Magdala. Pestilence, engendered by famine and the noxious
effluvia arising from the heap of unburied dead bodies, now increased
the already dismal condition of the Emperor's army; and in a few
weeks more he and his whole host must have perished from sickness
and want. On the 10th of October, his Majesty set fire to his houses
at Debra Tabor, and destroyed the whole place; leaving only, as a
record of his stay, a church he had built as an expiation for his
sacrilege at Gondar. His march was, indeed, the most wonderful feat
he ever accomplished; none but he would have ventured on such an
undertaking; and no other man could have succeeded in accomplishing
the arduous journey that lay before him: it required all his energy,
perseverance, and iron will to carry out his purpose under such
immense difficulties.

He had not more than 5,000 men with him, all more or less in bad
condition, weakened by famine, discontented, and only awaiting a
favourable opportunity to run away. The camp-followers, on the
contrary; numbered between forty and fifty thousand helpless and
useless beings whom he had to protect and feed. He had, moreover,
several hundred prisoners to guard, an immense amount of baggage
to carry, fourteen gun-carriages, with cannon or mortars--one of
them the famous "Sebastopol," weighing between fifteen and sixteen
thousand pounds--and ten waggons, the whole to be dragged by men
across a country without roads. Theodore did not let himself be
influenced by all these unfavourable circumstances; he seemed, for
a time, to have regained much of his former self, and behaved with
more consideration towards his followers. His daily marches were
very short, not more than a mile and a half to two miles a day. A
portion of his camp marched early every morning, carrying the heavy
luggage, dragging the waggons, and protecting the followers from
the attacks of the rebels, who were always hovering in the distance,
watching a favourable opportunity to avenge themselves on the
Emperor's people for all the miseries they had suffered at his hand;
another portion remained behind to guard what could not be carried;
off, and, on the return of the first batch, all started for the
spot fixed upon for that day's halt, conveying what had been left
behind in the morning. Even then the day's work wast not over; the
corn was as yet not quite ripe, and stood in the fields by the side
of the road; Theodore would set the example, pluck a few unripe
ears of barley, rub them between his hands, and, satisfied with
this frugal meal, repair to the nearest brook to quench thirst.
From Debra Tabor to Checheo, such was the daily routine of the
reduced host of Theodore,--harnessed to waggons, in place of the
horses and mules now so scarce in the camp; constantly on the alert,
as the country was all up in arms against them; with no supplies
available, only the unripe barley plucked by the wayside; no peace
by day nor rest at night: in a word, a march unequalled in the
annals of history.

The prisoners were very badly off: many--even the Europeans--were
in hand and foot chains; to walk a few steps in such a condition
is fatiguing in the extreme, but to have to go over a mile or two
of broken ground with such fetters equals the cruellest torture.
Mrs. Flad and Mrs. Rosenthal every day, as soon as they arrived at
the stage, sent back their mules for the Europeans to ride; and
some time afterwards, on Mr. Staiger making a gala dress for his
Majesty, the hand-chains of all five were taken away. On the native
prisoners requesting to be allowed to ride, his Majesty sent them
word that, as he knew they had money, he would grant permission to
those who would send him a _dollar_. Theodore must have been
hard up, indeed, to be satisfied with such a trifle. Several complied
with his demand, and, by giving small presents to those chiefs who
had mules, they got an occasional lift.

At Aibankab Theodore halted a few days to rest his men; near it two
heaps of stones arise, giving to the place the name of Kimr Dengea.
[Footnote: "Kimr Dengea," heap of stones.] The story the people of
the country narrate with reference to these heaps of stones is that
on one occasion a Queen, at the head of her army, went on an
expedition against the Gallas; before starting she ordered every
one of her soldiers as he passed along to put a stone on a certain
spot, and on her return again ordered them to place a stone at a
short distance from the former heap. The first is a large mass, the
second very much smaller; the Queen knew by that how great her loss
had been, and never since then ventured against the Gallas.

At Kimr Dengea Theodore fell in with a caravan of salt-merchants
on their route to Godjam. He asked them why they went to the rebels
instead of coming to him. The chief of the caravan honestly replied
that they had heard from merchants that his Majesty was in the habit
of burning people alive, and consequently they were afraid to come
near him. Theodore said, "It is true I am a bad man, but if you had
trusted and come to me, I would have treated you well; but as you
prefer the rebels, I will take care that in future you do not go
to them." He then seized the salt and mules, sent all the merchants
into an empty house, had it surrounded with dry wood, put guards
at the door, and set fire to it.

The peasants of Gahinte, to whom Theodore offered an amnesty,
declined to accept it; on three occasions he issued a proclamation
offering them a free pardon should they return to him. At last,
however, they sent him some priests to see what terms he would make;
he received the priests well, and told them that he would not enter
Gahinte: he only required a few supplies; but to prove to him their
sincerity they must send from each village a person of influence
to reside in his camp until he left Begemder. Luckily for them, the
peasants declined to comply with his demands; Theodore was too
prudent to venture into their valleys, and contented himself by
plundering at a short distance from his camp; burning alive, before
he left, a few poor wretches who had been simple enough to rely on
the faith of his proclamation.

Theodore arrived at the foot of the steep ascent that leads from
Begemder to Checheo on the 22nd of November. Up to that spot the
road was not bad; but now an almost perpendicular height stood
before him, and he was obliged to blast enormous rocks, cut a road
through basalt, to enable him to bring his waggons, guns, and mortars
on the Zebite plains above.

About that time he must have received the first intelligence of the
landing of British troops at Zulla; for one afternoon he said to
the Europeans, "Do not be afraid if I send for you at night. You
must be on the watch, as I hear some donkeys intend stealing my
slaves." The Europeans could not make out his meaning, and retired
as usual to their tents. In the middle of the night, all of them,
with the exception of an old man called Zander, and McKelvie, who
had for a long time been suffering from dysentery, were awoke by
soldiers coming into their quarters and ordering them to go at once
to the Emperor. They were all ushered into a small tent, and many
frivolous charges made against them. They were not allowed to leave
that night; even a large bundle of chains was brought in; but on
some of the chiefs representing to his Majesty that without their
labour it would be exceedingly difficult to make roads and guide
the waggons, and that he could always put them in chains when he
reached Magdala, Theodore relented. He allowed them to go to their
own tents in the daytime, when not on duty; but at night for their
own safety, and, as he said, on account of the badness of his people,
he made them all sleep in one tent, a few yards from his own: with
the exception of a few days, they remained prisoners at night and
slaves during the day, until the beginning of April.

From early dawn to late at night Theodore was himself hard at work;
with his own hands he removed stones, levelled the ground, or helped
to fill up small ravines. No one could leave so long as he was there
himself; no one could think of eating, drinking, or of rest, whilst
the Emperor showed the example and shared the hardships. When he
could capture a few peasants or some of the rebels that crowned all
the heights around him, and day and night insulted or laughed at
him, he killed them in some cruel way or the other; but towards the
soldiers, ever since leaving Debra Tabor, he behaved better, and
left off beating or imprisoning them, as had been of late his wont.
On one or two occasions only he called them all around him, and,
standing on an elevated rock, addressed them in these terms: "I
know that you all hate me; you all want to run away. Why do you not
kill me? Here I am alone, and you are thousands." He would pause
for a few seconds, and add, "Well, if you will not kill me, I will
kill you all, one after the other."

On the 15th of December, the road being completed, he brought up
his waggons on the plain of Zebite, and encamped there for a few
days. The peasants of that district, believing that Theodore would
never be able to ascend to their plateau, with all the incumbrances
he had with him--though they were themselves ready to fly at the
shortest notice--had not removed their cattle and grain; thus
Theodore, for the first time for many months, was able to provide
food for his small army, and make even some provision for the future.
From Zebite to Wadela the road is naturally good, so that, as far
as that district, the task before him was easy. He reached that
plateau on the 25th of the same month, and encamped at Bet Hor.

But the work now before him would have driven any other man to
despair; though not fifty miles from his Amba Magdala, he had,
before he could rest there, to make roads down two precipitous
descents, cross two rivers, and surmount again two steep perpendicular
ascents. He went, however, steadily to work. Little by little he
made a road, creditable even to a European engineer, bringing with
him his mortars, cannons, &c.; he plundered at the same time, and
kept away by his name alone Watshum Gobaze and his uncle Meshisha,
who were both watching his movements: not that they intended to
attack him, but who were anxious to be able to decamp at the first
sign of his marching in the direction of the provinces they
"protected." On the 10th of January he began his descent, reached
the valley of the Jiddah on the 28th of the same month, ascended
the opposite precipice, and encamped on the Dalanta plain on the
20th of February, 1868.


Theodore in the vicinity of Magdala--Our Feelings at the Time--An
Amnesty granted to Dalanta--The Garrison of Magdala join the
Emperor--Mrs. Rosenthal and other Europeans are sent to the
Fortress--Theodore's Conversations with Flad and Waldmeier on the
coming of the Troops--Sir Robert Napier's Letter to Theodore reaches
us--Theodore plunders Dalanta--He abuses Mr. Waldmeier--Reaches the
Bechelo--Correspondence between Mr. Rassam and Theodore--Mr. Rassam
is Released from his Fetters--Theodore arrives at Islamgee--His
Quarrel with the Priests--His first Visit to the Amba--Trial of the
Two Chiefs--He places a New Commandant over the Garrison.

We have now followed the Emperor's career from the day of our
departure from Debra Tabor to his arrival in our neighbourhood.
During that time, apart from the letters he addressed to Mr. Rassam
relative to the one from the Queen, and about Mr. Flad and the
artisans, we had but little intercourse with him. For a long time
messengers passed with the greatest difficulty, and, afraid lest
his written communications with the chiefs on the Amba might fall
into the hands of the rebels, he had of late sent only verbal
messages. Every messenger usually brought us compliments, and when
any were sent from the Amba they always came to us by order of the
chief before they left, so that Mr. Rassam might return a civil
message in answer to the one he had received.

The ordinary staff of messengers were too well known on the road
to be able to pass through the districts in rebellion; and for a
long time we rejoiced at the idea that all communications were for
ever interrupted between the camp and the fort, when one day a young
Galla, servant of one of the political prisoners, reached the Amba,
bringing a letter from his Majesty. The lad went forwards and
backwards many times; but, apart from the presents be received from
us, I do not believe he ever even got a salt for so constantly
exposing his life; a few more men, who had friends and acquaintances
on the road, managed also to pass through. All of them were very
useful to us, as they also carried the correspondence between us
and Mr. Flad, and, beings well rewarded, could be trusted with the
most dangerous letters. We thought it even good fun to make the
King's messenger our medium of communication between our friends
in his camp and ourselves, often on treasonable matters.

Soon after reaching Bet Hor, Theodore issued a proclamation to the
rebel districts of Dahonte and Dalanta, offering full amnesty for
the past, and pledging himself, "by the death of Christ," that he
would neither plunder nor ill-use them, should they return to their
allegiance. For some days both districts refused, as Gobaze had
promised to come and defend them; but the people of Dalanta, on seeing
that, far from giving them any help, Gobaze was himself getting
out of the way of Theodore, thought that, after all, it was perhaps
better to accept the latter's offer, and, as they could not help
themselves, trust to his pledged word. Dahonte, however, remained
in its rebellion, and proposed to resist by force of arms any attempt
on the part of Theodore to plunder the province. As the Emperor had
spoken in very friendly terms to his workmen and others about Mr.
Rassam, that gentleman was advised by the chiefs to write to the
King, congratulating him on his safe arrival. This he repeated on
several similar occasions; and the messengers he sent with these
letters were very cordially treated by his Majesty. Theodore also
wrote to Mr. Rassam on one or two occasions; and we had a ludicrous
repetition of the courteous and edifying correspondence that had
passed formerly between the two in the sunny days of Kourata.

January, 1868, ushered in a period of great mental excitement for
us, which lasted until the very end; increasing in intensity as we
approached the last days, as we well knew that then our fate would
be decided. But there is something in the constant repetition of
stimulants, be they moral or physical, which blunts the feelings,
hardens the heart, and at last allows the person long submitted to
their influence to look upon everything with indifference and
impassiveness. We had had so many "shocks" during the last three
months--so many times we expected to be tortured or killed--that
when the day arrived that we were in reality placed almost beyond
hope, the crisis did not affect us much, and once passed, we never
thought of the matter again.

Having become "reconciled" with his children of Dalanta, Theodore's
task was much easier. Several thousand peasants helped him in his
road-making, others carried part of his property to Magdala, and
now that the brave garrison of the Amba could cross the Dalanta
plateau without fear, he sent for them, leaving only a few old men
on the mountain beyond the ordinary number of prisoners' guards.
On the 8th of January Bitwaddad Damash, in command, with the "brave"
Goji as his lieutenant, and accompanied by seven or eight hundred
men, started for Wadela. Many left with beating hearts, trembling
at the prospect of meeting the Emperor. He was worshipped at a
distance, but dreaded on his approach. His Majesty, however, received
them very well; but was not over civil to all. Damash he treated
rather coolly; but as he wanted them a little time longer, he did
not say much, nor give them any cause to believe that he was greatly
displeased with them.

A few days after Theodore had reached Dalanta he sent back the
Magdala garrison to the Amba, to accompany thither the prisoners
he had brought, with him,--the Europeans included,--and forwarded
by them some powder, shot, and the instruments belonging to his
workmen. Mrs. Rosenthal was also allowed to accompany the party,
and all arrived on the Amba on the afternoon of the 26th of January.
The five Europeans were sent to us; and on the interpreter's hut
being given to Mr. and Mrs. Rosenthal, the larger one that gentleman
had previously occupied was made over to the other five. We were
well pleased to be all together. The new comers had much to tell
us, and we in return gave them an account of our doings. We were,
above all things, rejoiced at the arrival of Mrs. Rosenthal; our
morbid idea having been for months, almost up to the end, that some
flying column would be detached from the main body of our army to
cut off Theodore from the mountain; and our anxiety had been great
on account of Mrs. Rosenthal and her child, as Theodore, according
to his system of hostages, had kept her near him as a security to
prevent the Magdala prisoners from running away.

Messengers now went backwards and forwards daily, sometimes twice
in the same day, between the camp and the amba. At first, we saw
with anxiety the near approach of Theodore and the renewed facility
of his communications with us; but as it was an evil we were powerless
to contend against, we consoled ourselves as best we could, and
though fearing the worst, hoped for the best. One advantage we
gained was the facility of corresponding with Mr. Flad, who always,
with great courage, had, ever since his return from England, on all
possible occasions, kept us informed of Theodore's doings, and of
anything he might have said with reference to the existing difficulties.
He wrote to us in the beginning of February to inform us that, from
some, conversation he had had with officers of the Imperial household,
it was his opinion that his Majesty was aware of the landing of our
troops, and had purposely sent to him a chief to find out what the
intentions of our Government were concerning himself, and if there
was still any hope of the matter being peaceably settled.

There is no doubt that for several mouths past, his Majesty had
been advised by his spies that English troops had landed in his
country; but under the difficulties he was placed in at the time,
he considered it advisable to keep silent on the subject. Since he
had reached the vicinity of the Amba, however, he frequently, in
his conversation with his people, gave strong hints that he expected
before long to have to contend with the soldiers of Europe. On the
8th of February Theodore told Mr. Waldmeier, the head of the
workmen--a very intelligent and well-educated man, for whom Theodore
had a great regard, though of late he had somewhat roughly used
him--that he had received news from the coast informing him that
the English had disembarked at Zulla. The following day he sent for
Mr. Flad, and calling him aside, told him, "The people from whom
you brought me a letter, and who you said would come, have arrived
and landed at Zulla. They are coming up by the Salt Plain. Why did
they not take a better road? The one by the Salt Plain is very

Flad explained to him that for troops arriving from India, that
road was the best, as they would in three or four days reach the
highlands of Agam. Theodore said, "We are making roads with great
difficulty; for them it will only be play to make roads everywhere.
It seems to me that it is the will of God that they should come.
If He who is above does not kill me, none will kill me, and if He
says, 'You must die,' none can save me: remember the history of
Hezekiah and Sennacherib." Theodore appeared very calm and composed
during that conversation. Two days afterwards he said to some of
his workmen, "I long for the day I shall have the pleasure of seeing
a disciplined European army. I am like Simeon; he was old, but
before he died he rejoiced his heart by holding the Saviour in his
arms. I am old, too; but I hope God will spare me to see them before
I die. My soldiers are nothing compared to a disciplined army,
where thousands obey the command of one man." Evidently he still
entertained some vague hope that the coming event might turn to his
advantage, as on another occasion he said to Mr. Waldmeier, "We
have a prophecy in our country that a European king will meet an
Abyssinian one, and that afterwards a king will reign in Abyssinia
greater than any before him. That prophecy is going to be fulfilled
at the present time; but I do not know whether I am the king alluded
to, or if it is some one else."

We were delighted at the receipt of this intelligence; for a long
time we believed that Theodore knew of the landing of our troops,
but as he had never made any mention of the fact we still had our
doubts on the subject, and were somewhat in dread of his first burst
of passion on the intelligence reaching him.

On the 15th of February a letter from the Commander-in-Chief addressed
to Theodore was brought to us by the messenger to whom it had been
entrusted, as he was afraid of handing it over to his Majesty
himself. This placed us in a difficult position; though as regarded
the Amharic translation, it was perhaps as well that it had not
reached Theodore, as that version, on some important points, gave
a totally different meaning from that of the letter itself. I was
quite delighted at listening to the Commander-in-Chief's manly and
straightforward language. The letter was as firm as it was courteous,
and I felt happy and proud, even in my captivity, that at last an
English general had torn asunder the veil of false humility which
for so long a time had concealed the bold and haughty spirit of
England. We felt strengthened by the conviction that the hour was
come when right and might would prevail, and the merciless despot
who had acted towards us with such unheard-of treachery would meet
his fate.

According to the latest news we had received from the Imperial camp,
Theodore did not seem inclined to vent upon us his disappointment
and anger at seeing all his plans frustrated by the landing of an
English army; it was therefore decided to keep for the present the
important and valuable document that had so accidentally fallen
into our hands, as a powerful weapon to use, should a change take
place in the line of conduct Theodore had adopted since he was made
conversant of the fact that force was at last resorted to to effect
our deliverance: for we had our fears, knowing his changeable and
fickle disposition.

Nor did Theodore's peaceful mood last much longer. The Dalanta
people, relying on his promises, and anxious to get rid of his
presence, gave him every assistance in their power, carrying his
baggage to the Amba, or working at the roads under his direction.
The honourable way in which he had kept his word with the people
of Dalanta induced the neighbouring district to send him deputations
begging for pardon, and offering to pay him tribute and send supplies
into his camp, if he would proclaim in their favour the same amnesty
he had granted to the Dalanta people. Had Theodore been wise, even
then he had a good opportunity of regaining part of his lost kingdom;
and had he continued to keep to his word, province after province,
disgusted with the cowardice of the rebels, would have returned to
him. But he was too fond of plundering: the peasants did not,
according to his ideas, send sufficient supplies; and as he knew
that the district was exceedingly rich in grain and cattle, regardless
of his oath, on the 17th of February, he gave orders for his soldiers
to plunder the peasants' houses.

Taken quite by surprise, very little resistance was offered. Theodore
succeeded beyond his expectations; corn and cattle were now in
abundance, and in order to economize his supplies, he allowed; all
the Gondar people who were still with him, and many of the women
and children of runaway soldiers and chiefs, to leave the camp and
go wherever they liked. Since Ohecheo he had formed the strongest
and hardiest of the women of his camp into a plundering band; he
was always much pleased with their bravery, and one of them having
killed a petty chief, and brought to him the sword of her adversary,
he was so delighted that he gave her a title of rank and presented
her with one of his own pistols. We knew enough of the Emperor's
character to fear that, when once he again took to plundering and
killing, he would lose much of the amenity and gentleness he had
of late displayed, and look upon the arrival of an armed force from
England in a very different light; we were not, therefore, much
astonished to hear that he had again quarrelled with the Europeans
around him. It is also not improbable that a copy of the proclamation
the Commander-in-Chief had sent to the different chiefs may have
fallen into his hands about this time, as one was found after his
death amongst his papers. Whatever may have been the cause of his
sudden change, he, without any apparent reason, all at once regarded
his workmen with suspicion, and though he ordered them to be in
constant attendance upon his person, he would not for many days
allow them to work.

Mr. Waldmeier one evening, on returning to his tent to take his
evening meal, entered into conversation with a spy of the Emperor's
on the subject of the advance of the English army. Waldmeier, amongst
other things, told the man that it would be a very unwise act of
his Majesty if he did not at once make friends with the English,
as he had not a single friend in the country. On the officer reporting
that conversation, Theodore in a fearful passion sent for all the
Europeans; for a while his rage was such that he could not speak,
but kept walking up and down, looking fiercely at them, and holding
his spear in a threatening attitudes. At last, stopping before Mr.
Waldmeier, he abused him in no measured terms: "Who are you, you
dog, but a donkey, a poor man who came from a far country to be my
slave, and whom I have paid and fed for years? What does a beggar
like you know about my affairs? Are you to dictate to me what I
am to do? A King is coming to treat with a King! What do you know
about such matters?" Theodore then threw himself on the ground and
said, "Take my spear and kill me; but do not revile me." Waldmeier
prostrated himself before him and begged for pardon; the Emperor
rose, but refused to grant his request, and ordered him to rise and
follow him.

On the 18th of February Theodore pitched his camp near the ridge
of the Dalanta plateau, and the following day the chiefs of the
Amba, with their telescopes, could perceive several working parties
engaged in making the road down to the Bechelo. Theodore had made
about a thousand prisoners when he had plundered Dalanta, and all
of them, under strong escorts, were set to work for him; but when
the road was finished half way, he allowed them to return to Dalanta.

For a while the communications between the Amba and the camp were
again suspended. The few chiefs and soldiers that had remained at
Magdala viewed with great despondency this last breach of faith of
their master, as it foreboded anything but gratitude towards them
for the many privations they had submitted to in fulfilment of the
trust vested in them. With great difficulty we succeeded in getting
a messenger to pass through the valley of the Bechelo, on account
of the disturbed condition of the country since Dalanta had been
plundered. The news he brought was a little more favourable. His
Majesty had reconciled himself with Mr. Waldmeier, and now treated
all his artisans with consideration and kindness. He did not,
however, allow them to work, and they all slept in a tent near his
Majesty: a precaution he had for a short time ceased to take. Often
he spoke to his soldiers, or to the Europeans, about the coming of
our troops; sometimes avowing his intention to fight with them, at
other times expressing himself in a more conciliatory tone. He had
hardly mentioned our names of late; he spoke about Mr. Stern, but,
contrary to his habit, not in anger. He referred several times to
a certain letter of Mrs. Flad's, which had given him great offence
some years before. That lady alluded in it to the possible invasion
of the county by the English and French, giving as her opinion that
he would not be afraid. Theodore frequently said that Mrs. Flad was
right: "They are coming, and I do not fear."

On the 14th of March his Majesty, with all his waggons, cannons,
and mortars, reached the valley of the Bechelo. From a letter we
received from Mr. Flad it appears that his Majesty was in a great
hurry to reach Magdala. The Europeans were still treated courteously,
but, day and night, were strictly watched. He evidently received
good information of what was going on in the British camp. To Mr.
Waldmeier, who was more than any other in his confidence, he said,
"With love and friendship they will overcome me; but if they come
with other intentions I know they will not spare me, and I will
make a great blood-bath, and afterwards die."

On the 16th he despatched a messenger to the Amba to rejoice his
people with the good news of his approach, and sent us a courteous
message. Mr. Rassam at once wrote to him, complimenting him on his
success. Mr. Rassam is certainly deserving of praise for endeavouring,
by every means in his power, to impress upon his Majesty the fervent
friendship he felt for him, and the sincere admiration and deep
devotion which time had only strengthened, and that even captivity
and chains could not destroy. Mr. Rassam's official position gave
him great advantages over the other captives; he was able to make
"friends" of all the royal messengers, of all the personal attendants,
of his Majesty, and of every one on the Amba or in the camp, who
could say a good word for him. Ignorant of the source of Mr. Rassam's
liberality, the chief courtiers, and even his Majesty himself, came
to the conclusion that Mr. Prideaux and myself were very inferior
beings--harmless individuals, whom it would be perfectly absurd to
place on a footing of equality with the open-handed, sweet-talking
gentleman, who alone, and out of mere regard, again congratulated
his Majesty.

Theodore was so pleased with Mr. Rassam's letter that early on the
18th he sent Mr. Flad, his secretary and several officers, with a
friendly letter to that gentleman, and instructed the chief of the
Amba to remove at once _his friend's_ fetters. Theodore, in
his letter to Mr. Rassam, forgetting that he himself had on several
occasions made mention of his fetters, said that he had no quarrel
with him, and that when he had sent him to Magdala he had only told
his people to watch him, but out of precaution they put him in
chains. He sent him also 2,000 dollars for the money and things
Flad had brought with him, and said that, on account of the rebellious
condition of the country, he had not been able to forward them, and
hoped he would, at the same time, accept a present of a hundred
sheep and fifty cows. No one else was included in the order; and I
confess that we were foolish enough to feel this disappointment
bitterly. Probably twenty months of captivity weakens the mind as
well as the body, as at other times we should not have given even
a thought to the matter. Even as it was we soon forgot all about
it, wisely remembering that freedom and liberty would be ours when
the British flag should float over our former gaol. It appears that
our displeasure had been remarked, and a spy started at once for
the camp to inform his Majesty that we were angry at our chains not
being opened.

Mr. Flad returned that evening to the Imperial camp, already pitched
on the northern banks of the Bechelo; and the following morning the
Emperor sent for him and asked him if he had seen us all, and if
we were looking well. He inquired especially about Mr. Prideaux and
myself; Flad told his Majesty that we were in good health, but sorry
that he had made a difference between us and Mr. Rassam. At this
the Emperor, smiling all the while, said:--"Yes, I have heard of
it: when they were put in chains by my people Mr. Rassam did not
say a word, but both of them looked angrily at the chains. I have
no anger against them, nor have they done me any wrong; as soon as
I shall meet Mr. Rassam I will take off their chains also."

Mr. Flad explained to his Majesty that we had felt disappointed,
as some one, on Mr. Rassam's chains being ordered to be opened, had
come to the conclusion that the Consul, Dr. Blanc, and Mr. Prideaux
would be included in the same order, and had run on ahead to bring
us the _miserach_ (good news); that Mr. Rassam was also very
sorry his two companions were separated from him, and had asked him
the reason why it was so, but as he did not know his Majesty's
motives he could not answer him, &c. Theodore, still smiling, said
to Mr. Flad, "If there is only friendship, everything will be right."

On the evening of the 25th of March, his Majesty pitched his camp
on the small plateau of Islamgee; he had brought his cannons and
even the monster mortar as far as the foot of the ascent, and was
hard at work making the road required for them to be dragged up.

Early on the morning of the 26th, the priests of the Amba, in full
canonicals, carrying crosses and gaily-tinselled umbrellas, went
to Islamgee to congratulate the Emperor on his safe arrival. Theodore
received them with great courtesy, and shortly afterwards dismissed
them, saying, "Go back, my fathers, be of good cheer; if I have
money I will share it with you. My clothes will be yours, and with
my corn I will feed you." They were on the point of starting when
an old bigoted priest, who had always shown himself badly disposed
towards us, turned round and addressed his Majesty in the following
terms:--"Oh, my King, do not abandon your religion!" Theodore, quite
surprised, inquired of him what he meant. The priest, rather excited,
exclaimed, in a loud voice, "You do not fast, you observe no more
the feasts of the saints! I fear that you will soon follow entirely
the religion of the Franks." Theodore turned towards some of the
Europeans that stood near him and said, "Did I ever inquire of you
about your religion? Did I ever show any desire to follow your
creed?" They all replied, "Certainly not." Theodore then addressed
the priests, who were listening with dismay to this conversation,
and told them, "Judge this man." The priests did not consult long,
and with one accord gave as their decision, that "the man who insults
his king is worthy of death." On that, the soldiers fell upon the
old priest, tore off his clothes, and would have, killed him on the
spot had not Theodore mitigated the punishment. He ordered him to
be put in chains, sent to the Amba, and for seven days not to be
allowed either bread or water.

Another priest, who had also on a former occasion grossly insulted
his Majesty, was sent up to the prison at the same time. That priest
had said to some of the Emperor's spies that their master wore three
matabs: [Footnote: _Matab_: a string made of blue silk, and
worn round the neck as the sign of Christianity in Abyssinia.] one,
because he was a Mussulman, having burnt the churches; the second
because he was a Frank, never observing the fast days; the third,
to make the people believe he was a Christian.

The following morning we were awoke by the merry _elelta_--the
shrill cry of joy uttered by the Abyssinian _beau sexe_ on
great and happy events. On this occasion a peculiar mixture of
joyous and plaintive strains slightly modified its usual character,
and it was a sharp but also tremulous sound that greeted the arrival
of the Emperor Theodore on the Amba. Carpets were at once spread
on the open space in front of his house, the throne was brought out
and decked with gorgeous silks, and the state umbrella unfolded to
protect the reclining Emperor from the hot rays of the sun. We
expected, on seeing all these preparations made and the large number
of courtiers and officers assembled in front, that before long we
would be called for, and that something similar to the trial and
reconciliation of Zage was going to be acted over again. We were,
however, mistaken: it was on account of some private affairs that the
Emperor, abandoning for a day his work, had called a court of justice.

For a long time various charges had been whispered against two of
the chiefs of the Amba, Ras Bisawar and Bitwaddad Damash. His Majesty
now desired to investigate them; he listened quietly to the accusers,
and having heard the defence, he asked the opinion of the chiefs
around him. They advised him to forgive them on account of their
former good services, but that they should not be trusted any more.
Had not a chief, they said, deserted a few nights before--a feat
he could not have accomplished had not several of the garrison
helped him in his escape?--and moreover, should an enemy present
himself before the Amba during one of the Emperor's absences, they
would most probably quarrel amongst themselves instead of defending
the place. The Emperor accepted their decision and said that he
would send a new garrison, that the former one should proceed that
very day to his camp, and that as their store of grain would only
be a burden to them, they should leave it behind; he would give
orders to the writers to make out a correct account of all they
had, and, _to oblige them_, he would keep the grain himself
and pay them the value in money. He afterwards sent for the two
priests he had imprisoned the day before, released them from their
fetters, and told them that he forgave them, but that they must
leave his country at once. On going away, he sent word by Samuel
to Mr. Rassam that he had intended to come and see him but that
he felt too tired; he added, "Your people are near; they are coming
to deliver you."

The soldiers of the garrison were greatly annoyed at having to
leave, and were much pleased early the next morning to learn that
Theodore had rescinded his order. He had, he said, pardoned them
on account of their long and faithful services. The Ras was put on
"half-pay," and a new commandant, Bitwaddad Hassanie, sent to take
over the charge, while the garrison was reinforced by some 400 musketeers.

It is probable that Theodore wanted simply to know what amount of
corn the garrison possessed, as he might perhaps require it himself
before long, and possibly also the clemency shown by him was due
to his being pleased at the soldiers having complied with his orders
and purchased grain, as he had directed them, with the money he had
a short time before given them.


We are counted by the new Ras, and condemned to sleep in One
Hut--Theodore's Second Visit to the Amba--Sends for Mr.
Rassam and gives orders that Prideaux and myself should have
our Chains taken off--The Operation described--Our Reception
by the Emperor--We are sent for to see "Sebastopol" landed on
Islamgee--Conversation with his Majesty--The remaining Prisoners
are freed from their Fetters--Theodore is unable to Plunder his
own property.

On the 28th of March, all of us, with the exception of Mr. Rassam,
were called out and made to stand in a line to be _counted_
by the new Ras; then at about ten at night, as we were undressing,
Samuel came to inform us that he had received orders to put us all,
with the exception of Mr. Rassam, in one hut for that night, but
that as none of our huts was large enough, he had obtained leave
that we should be distributed into two. Cameron, Mr. Rosenthal, and
Mr. Kerans were made to join us company, and four villanous-looking
rascals, with lighted candles burning all night, were posted inside
the door to prevent our going out. Samuel and two chiefs slept in
Mr. Rassam's room, and I strongly suspect that Samuel was on that
occasion more in the position of a prisoner than a guardian.

We slept but little, expecting that the morning would bring some
change for the worse. To our day guards some ten or fifteen of the
greatest scoundrels of the camp had been recently added, and we
felt rather anxious when we learnt early the next morning that
Theodore had sent word he would come up in the course of the day
to muster the garrison.

At about three in the afternoon some of our servants came rushing
into our hut to tell us that Theodore had arrived on the Amba, and
that he appeared to be a _little_ drunk. Shortly afterwards
Mr. Flad came with a message to Mr. Rassam from the Emperor, to the
effect that if his Majesty had time he would send for him after his
return from the church. A red-flannel tent, the sign of royalty,
was, in the meanwhile, pitched in the plain, and all around carpets
were spread. When Theodore issued from the church he was in a great
passion, seized a priest by the beard, and said to him, "You say
that I want to change my religion; before any one could force me
to do so I would cut my throat." He then thrust his spear with
violence into the ground, "fakered," cursed the Bishop,--in a word,
acted in all respects as if drunk or mad. He called Mr. Meyer, who
was standing at a short distance from him, and told him to go to
Mr. Rassam with the message, "Your people are coming. I put you in
chains for that purpose. I have not obtained what I wanted. Come
to me, and in the same dress you used to wear before."

We all felt very nervous about the interview, as Theodore seemed
in a bad disposition; however, all went on well. As soon as Mr.
Rassam approached the tent, Theodore advanced a few steps to meet
him, shook hands with him, and asked him to sit down. He then said,
"I cannot say that I could not bring my throne today, as you are
aware that it is at Magdala; but out of respect for my friend the
Queen, whom you represent here, I desire to sit on the same carpet
as yourself." After a while, he said to Mr. Rassam, "Those two
persons who came with you are neither my friends nor my enemies,
but if you consent to become their security, I will have their
chains opened." On that Mr. Rassam rose, and said, "Not only will
I become their security, but should they do anything displeasing
to your Majesty, do not say it is Blanc or Prideaux, but that Rassam
did it." Theodore then asked Mr. Rassam to send two persons to have
our chains taken off, and as his Majesty insisted upon it, Mr.
Rassam mentioned Mr. Flad and Samuel.

The servants had heard the good news and rushed in before Flad came
to us with the welcome intelligence. On the arrival of Flad and
Samuel, we were taken to Mr. Rassam's house, where Mr. Flad delivered
to us from his Majesty the following message:--"You are neither my
friends nor my enemies. I do not know who you are. I chained you
because I chained Mr. Rassam: now I open your chains because he
promised to be your security. If you run away it will be a shame
for you and for me."

On that we were told to sit down; an iron wedge was first hammered
in where the ring was joined, and when the intervening space was
considered sufficient, three or four loops of strong leather rope
were passed inside the irons, and we were told to put one leg on a
large stone brought in for the purpose. On each side a long pole
was then fixed in the leather loops, and five or six men pulled on
them with all their strength, using the stone as a "point d'appui"
for the lever. As the leather thongs acted on the iron ring, little
by little it gave way and stretched out, until at last it was wide
enough to pass over the foot: the operation was then performed on
the other leg. It took at least half an hour to take mine off, and
even more to open Prideaux's. Though we were delighted at the
prospect of having again the free use of our limbs, we did not enjoy
the rude operation at all; and although (as we were in favour) the
soldiers did their best not to hurt us, still the pain was at times
quite unbearable, as the "point d'appui" now and then slipped from
the stone to the chain itself, and pressing on the shin it seemed
to us as if the leg would be crushed to pieces.

At first we could hardly walk. Our legs seemed to us as light as
feathers; we could not guide them, and we staggered very much like
drunken men: if we met with a small stone in our way, we involuntarily
lifted up the foot to a ridiculous height. For days the limb was
painful, and the slightest exertion was followed by great fatigue.

Theodore having expressed his desire that we should present ourselves
before him in uniform, we dressed ourselves immediately the chains
were taken off. As I was the first to get rid of my twenty-one
months' friends, I was ready when Prideaux came in; but no sooner
had he begun taking off his prison garb to dress himself, than
messenger after messenger rushed in, sent from Theodore to hurry
us on. Well knowing the fickle disposition of their master, all the
chiefs present, Samuel, the guards, every one kept continually
shouting out to Prideaux, "Make haste, make haste!" Flurried, and
unaccustomed since so many months to the civilized way of putting
on his clothes, and unable to guide his feet properly, in his hurry
he tore his uniform trousers almost in two. But no one _would hear
of waiting any longer: off we must go. Luckily a few pins were at
hand, and what with his cap as a screen, the accident, if not
repaired, was hidden. On reaching the Imperial tent, his Majesty,
after greeting us cordially, said, "I chained you because your
people believed that I was not a strong king; now that your masters
are coming I release you to show them that I am not afraid. Fear
not; Christ is my witness, and God knows, that I have nothing in
my heart against you three. You came to this country knowing what
the Consul had done. Do not fear, nothing will happen to you. Sit

Once seated he ordered some tej to be given to us, and conversed
with Mr. Rassam; amongst other things he said, "I am like a woman
in the family way, and know not if it will be an abortion, a girl
or a boy; I hope it will be a boy. Some men die when they are young,
some at middle age, some when they are old; some are prematurely
cut off, but what my end will be, God only knows." He then introduced
his son to Mr. Rassam. He inquired if we had carpets, and if our
houses were comfortable; and on Mr. Rassam telling him that by his
favour we had everything we required, and that his Majesty would
be pleased if he saw the nice home he had, Theodore looking up to
heaven said, "My friend, believe me, my heart loves you; ask me for
whatever you like, even for my own flesh, and I will give it to

His Majesty, during the whole of the interview, was most courteous
and appeared much pleased with Mr. Rassam's answers, and laughed
heartily more than once. When he dismissed us, he sent his son and
the Europeans to accompany us to our huts.

I heard, both from Mr. Rassam and from the Europeans that were
present all along, that before as well as during the time we were
present, Theodore had shown himself most friendly and kind. The
Europeans told me that whilst our chains were being opened he talked
on many subjects with Mr. Rassam. Amongst other things, he said
to him, "Mr. Stern has wounded me in the arm, but if anything bad
is to happen, before that I will wound him also." He also said, "I
will fight; you may see my dead body, and say there is a bad man,
who has injured me and mine; and perhaps you will not bury me."

After we left he mustered his troops and spoke to them about us.
"Whatever happens, I will not kill these three--they are messengers;
but amongst those that are coming, and here also, I have enemies;
those I will kill if they want to injure me." As he was passing the
gate on his way back to his camp, he called the Ras and told him,
"Mr. Rassam and his companions are not prisoners, they may play and
run; watch them with the eye only."

That night we had no guards inside our room; they slept outside as
before. We, however, did not venture to avail ourselves of the order
and walk about the Amba, but remained quietly in our inclosure.

On reaching his camp, Theodore assembled his people and said to
them:--"You hear of white men coming to fight me; it is no rumour,
but quite true." A soldier shouted out, "Never mind, my king, we
will fight them." Theodore looked at the man, and said, "You fool!
you do not know what you say. These people have long cannons,
elephants, guns, and muskets without number. We cannot fight against
them. You believe that our muskets are good: if they were so they
would not sell them to us. I might kill Mr. Rassam, as he brings
these soldiers against me. I did him no harm: it is true I put him
in chains; but it is your fault, you people of Magdala, you should
have advised me better. I might kill him, but he is only one; and
then those who are coming would take away my children, my women,
my treasures, and kill me and you."

The following morning, the 30th, a message was sent to the five who
had lately joined us, asking them to work again for him, as he
wanted more stone shots. On accepting his offer, their foot chains
were taken off, hand chains put by pairs, and they were conducted
to the camp. A tent was pitched for them, and on their arrival they
received a present of tej, meat and bread, from his Majesty.

None of us were over sanguine at the recent good treatment we had
received at the hands of Theodore; we knew how suddenly he changed,
and that often,--as formerly in our case,--he pretended great
friendship, when he intended all the while to ill-use, or even kill
his dupes. We were, however, in good spirits and kept up our courage,
knowing that the end was near: we left the result in God's hands,
and hoped for the best.

On the 1st of April we learnt that the evening before, Theodore,
being very drunk, had "fakered" a great deal. At about ten in the
forenoon a large number of soldiers came rushing in from the camp
below (we always disliked very much those abrupt movements of the
soldiers), but instead of coming towards our fence, as at first we
feared, they went in the direction of the magazines, and shortly
afterwards we saw them again passing along on their way back,
carrying the cannons Theodore had on the mountain, powder, cannon-balls,
&c. We supposed that Theodore had either decided on defending
Selassie, or had sent for his guns, as he intended, such was the
general opinion, to have a great "faker."

Early on the morning of the 2nd, some of the chiefs were sent by
the Emperor to inform us that his Majesty required us immediately
to proceed to Islamgee. From our former experience of Theodore's
fickle disposition we knew not what would be our fate, whether a
polite reception, imprisonment or something worse; but as there was
no help for it, we dressed, and, accompanied by the chiefs, left
our huts, (perhaps never to see them again,) and walked down to the
camp below the mountain. It was the first time, with the exception
of the short distance we had gone on the day our chains had been
opened, that we had left our inclosure. We had but a very indifferent
idea of the Amba, and were astonished to find it much larger than
we expected, the road between the gates longer and steeper, and the
paths along the side of the Amba more abrupt and more lengthy than
we had supposed from our recollections of twenty-one months before.

We found Theodore seated on a heap of stones about twenty yards
below Islamgee, on the side of the road just completed, and through
which the cannons, mortars, and waggons were going to be dragged.
From the spot he had chosen he could see all the road down to the
foot of Islamgee, where all his people were busily engaged fixing
long leather ropes to the waggons, and, under the supervision of
the Europeans, making everything ready, for the ascent. The Emperor
was dressed very simply: the only difference in his attire from the
chief in attendance standing some ten yards on his side, was in the
silk border of his shama: he held a spear in his hand, and two long
pistols were fixed in his belt. He greeted us cordially and made
us sit down _behind him_: a proof of confidence, he would
certainly not have accorded to his dearest Abyssinian friend, as
we had only to give him a sudden push, and he would have rolled
down the precipice below.

The road he had made on the side of Islamgee was broad but very
steep on the average at a gradient of one in three; half way an
almost straight angle intersected it, and we feared that there might
be some difficulty in turning the heavy waggons without upsetting
them. He did not speak much at first, being intent on examining the
waggons below; but as soon as the big mortar came in sight he pointed
it out to us, and asked Mr. Rassam his opinion about it. We all
admired the huge piece, and Mr. Rassam, having complimented his
Majesty on his great work, added, that before long he hoped that
our people would have the same pleasure of admiring it as we did.
Samuel, who translated on that occasion, turned quite pale, but as
the Emperor understood a little Arabic he was obliged to render the
sentence, though he evidently did not like it. Theodore laughed,
and sent Samuel to tell Mr. Waldmeier what Mr. Rassam had just said.
A few minutes afterwards his Majesty got up; we rose also, and Mr.
Rassam told him, through Samuel, that to gladden his heart still
more he begged him to be gracious enough to release from their
fetters our companions still in chains on the Amba. This time
Samuel not only turned pale, but shook his head, declining to open
such a subject; but on Mr. Rassam repeating his request, this time
in a higher tone of voice, Theodore looked round, and Samuel, having
no option left, complied. His Majesty looked sullen and a little
annoyed, but after a short pause gave orders to some of his attendants
and to Samuel to proceed at once to the Amba and have the chains
of the five remaining captives opened at once.

The Emperor then walked down to the spot where the road made a sharp
angle, and directed the laborious task of having such heavy masses
dragged up the precipitous incline. He sent us to the other side
of the road, where we might witness the whole scene well, and
appointed several of his high officers to attend upon us. None but
Theodore, I believe, could have directed that difficult operation;
the leather ropes, from long use, were always breaking, and we were
very much afraid that some accident might happen, and that, at the
very last stage, the ponderous mortar "Sebastopol" would tumble
over the precipice. We fancied the rage his Majesty would be in;
and our close proximity to him made us earnestly pray that nothing
of the kind would occur. The sight was well worth witnessing:
Theodore standing on a projecting rock, leaning on his spear, sent
his aide-de-camp at every moment with instructions to those who
directed the five or six hundred men harnessed to the ropes. At
times when the noise was too great, or when he wanted to give some
general instructions, he had but to lift up his hand and not a sound
would arise from the thousands engaged in the work, and the clear
voice of Theodore would alone be heard in the deep silence that his
simple gesture had produced.

At last the big mortar was safely landed on Islamgee. We climbed
up as fast as we could, and complimented his Majesty on the achievement
of his great undertaking; he sent us word to examine the mortar.
We all three jumped on the gun-carriage, greatly admired it, and
loudly expressed our astonishment and delight to the bystanders.
His Majesty was evidently well pleased with the praises we had
bestowed upon his great favourite, and made us sit down near him
on the verge of the Islamgee plateau whilst the remaining cannons
and waggons were being drawn up. The wonderful work of dragging up
the 16,000 pounds weight of "Sebastopol" once over--though some of
the cannons were also of a considerable size,--the rest of the
operation was only child's play, and his Majesty, though present,
never interfered.

We must have remained with him for at least several hours in quiet
and friendly talk. As the sun was getting hot, his Majesty insisted
on our putting on our caps, and, on Mr. Rassam a short time afterwards
asking his permission to open an umbrella, he not only granted it,
but, seeing that I had none, kindly sent one of his pages for his
own, opened it, and gave it to me. He told us of all the difficulties
he had undergone, and how the peasants refused every assistance.
He said, "I was obliged to make roads during the day and drag my
waggons, and to plunder at night, as my people had nothing to eat."
All the country, he said, had been against him, and when they could
seize any of his followers they immediately put them to death; in
return, when he made any of them prisoners, to avenge his friends,
he burnt them alive: this he told us in the quietest way possible,
just as if he had done the right thing. He then asked about our
troops, the elephants, the rifles, &c. Mr. Rassam told him everything
we knew; that about 12,000 troops had landed, but that not more
than 5,000 or 6,000 would advance on Magdala--adding, "It will only
be friendship." Theodore said, "God only knows; before, when the
French came into my country, at the time of that robber 'Agau
Negussi,' I made a quick march to seize them, but they had run away.
Do you believe that I would not have gone to meet your people, and
asked them what they came into my country for? but how can I? You
have seen to-day my army, and"--pointing to the Amba above--"there
is all my country. But I will wait for them here, and then let God's
will be done."

He next spoke about the Crimean war, of the late contest between
Austria and Prussia, of the needle-gun, and asked us if the Prussians
had made the Emperor of Austria a prisoner, or seized his country.
Mr. Rassam told him that the needle-guns, by their rapid fire, had
gained the victory for the Prussians; that on peace being made the
Emperor of Austria was obliged to pay a large sum of money; that a
part of his territory had been annexed by the conqueror, and all
his allies had lost their kingdoms. His Majesty listened with great
composure, only when he was told that only 5,000 men were coming,
the proud curl of his lip expressed how much he felt his fallen
condition when so few men were considered sufficient to conquer
him. He afterwards spoke to us about his old grievances against
Cameron, Stern, and Rosenthal. About us he said, "You have never
done me any wrong. I know that you are great men in your country,
and I feel very sorry to have ill-treated you without cause."

After the last waggon had been drawn up, he rose and told us to
follow; we walked a few yards behind him, and when Samuel, who had
gone to give orders for a tent to be pitched for us, returned, he
asked us, through him, several questions about shells, the charge
required for his big mortar, &c., to all of which Mr. Rassam replied,
that being a civilian he knew nothing about it. He then told him
to ask me, but Mr. Rassam replied that I was only acquainted with
medicines. On that he ceased his inquiries and conducted ne to the
tent prepared for us; then bidding us good afternoon, retired to
his apartment. An Abyssinian breakfast, tej, and a few European
dishes and cakes that Mrs. Waldmeier had prepared; according to
his instructions, were then sent for us to partake of. A short time
afterwards he sent for Mr. Waldmeier and Samuel.

It seems that Theodore had already been drinking, as he talked to
them in a very excited manner, inquiring why he had not received
any intimation of the landing of our troops and if it was not
customary for a king to inform another that he was invading his
country &c. Mr. Waldmeier and Samuel, when they returned, appeared
rather alarmed, as it was no unfrequent case with Theodore to be
very friendly in the morning, and, when in his cups, to change his
demeanour and ill-treat those he had petted a little while before.
Samuel and Waldmeier were a second time sent for. Theodore then
abused Samuel a great deal, told him that he had many charges to
bring against him, but that he left it for another day; he then
ordered him to take us back to the fort, gave instructions for three
mules to be brought, and for the commandant of the mountain, together
with the former one, to escort us. To Mr. Waldmeier he said, "Tell
Mr. Rassam that a small fire, the size of a pea, if not put out in
time, may cause a great conflagration: it is left to Mr. Rassam to
extinguish it before it spreads." We were glad to return safe and
sound to our old prison, and rejoiced on seeing our companions freed
from their fetters and looking happy and hopeful.

On the following morning Mr. Rassam sent word to the Emperor,
requesting his permission to be allowed to inform the Commander-in-Chief
of the British army of his Majesty's good-will towards the Europeans
in his power; but Theodore answered that he did not desire him to
write, as he had opened the chains of the captives not out of fear,
but simply on account of his personal friendship for Mr. Rassam.

As Theodore had on several occasions expressed his astonishment at
not receiving any communication from the Commander-in-Chief, we
thought it advisable to request Sir Robert Napier, through our
friends, to be kind enough to send a short courteous letter to the
Emperor, informing him of the object of the expedition; as the
letter he had addressed to him before landing had been detained by
Mr. Rassam, and the ultimatum sent by Lord Stanley previous to the
intervention of an armed force, having also fallen into Mr. Rassam's
hands, instead of reaching the Emperor, had been destroyed by that

The five (Mr. Staiger and his party) were making stone balls for
his Majesty's cannons, but as none of the Europeans in his service
would stand security for them, every evening the hand chains were
hammered on after their day's work was over. On the evening of the
3rd Theodore sent to Mr. Rassam, asking him to become their guarantee;
but he refused, as he could not, he said, hold himself responsible
for them so long as they were working for his Majesty and resided
at a distance from him. However, Mr. Flad and one of the other
Europeans consenting to become security, the torture of having the
chains daily fastened on was discontinued, and the captives were
simply guarded at night in their tent.

Provisions were running short, and for some days a foraging expedition
was much talked about, Dahonte being considered as the place selected.
But Theodore, unwilling to expose his small force to a repulse, did
not venture so far, but on the morning of the 4th of April plundered
his own people, the few small villages situate at the foot of the
Amba; and he unsuccessfully attempted to sack the village of Watat,
where his _own cattle_ were kept. Theodore met with much more
resistance than he expected from the Galla peasants; many of the
soldiers were killed, and the booty brought back was very small.

The soldiers on the mountain were more despondent than ever: little
aware of the great change that before long was to take place, they
viewed with great concern and anxiety this last raid, as, were the
Emperor to go away, they would be left to starve on their rock.
From Mr. Munzinger we frequently received short notes, which reached
us sewn in the worn-out trousers of some peasant or messenger; thus
we knew that our deliverers were now near, and we longed for the
day, not far distant, when our fate would be decided: for we suffered
more from constant anxiety and doubt--as to what every minute might
bring, than from the certainty of death: even the few hopeful
thoughts we now and then indulged in were nothing compared to
regained liberty.


All the Prisoners leave the Amba for Islamgee--Our Reception by
Theodore--He harangues his Troops, and releases some of the
Prisoners--He informs us of the Advance of the English--
The Massacre--We are sent back to Magdala--Effects of the
Battle of Fahla--Messrs. Prideaux and Flad sent to negotiate
--Release of the Captives, and their Narrow Escape--Their
Arrival in the British Camp.

On the evening of the 7th of April we heard indirectly that the
next morning all the prisoners, ourselves included, would be called
before his Majesty, who was at the time encamped at the foot of
Selassie, and that in all probability we should not return to
the Amba. At day-dawn a messenger came from Theodore ordering us
to go down, and take with, us our tents and anything else we might
require. As was our wont on such occasions, we put on our uniforms,
and proceeded to the Emperor's camp accompanied by the former
captives. On approaching Selassie we perceived his Majesty,
surrounded by many of his chiefs and soldiers, standing near his
guns in conversation with some of his European workmen. He saluted
us courteously, and told, us to advance and stand near him. Cameron
was staggering from the effects of the sun, and could with difficulty
keep himself from falling to the ground. On perceiving his condition
his Majesty asked us what was the matter with him. We answered that
Cameron was unwell, and begged permission for him to sit down, a
request that was immediately granted. Theodore then greeted the
other prisoners, asked them how they were, and on perceiving the
Rev. Mr. Stern he said, smiling all the while, "O Kokab (Star), why
have you plaited your hair?" [Footnote: Only soldiers plait the
hair; peasants and priests shave the head about once a month.]
Before he could answer Samuel told the Emperor, "Your Majesty, it
is not plaited; it falls naturally on his shoulders."

Theodore then retired a little way from the crowd, and told us three
and Cameron to follow him. Seating himself on a large stone, and
telling us also to sit down, he said, "I have sent for you, as I
desire to look after your safety. When your people come and fire
upon me I will put you in a safe place; and should you even there
be in danger I will remove you to somewhere else." He asked us if
our tents had arrived, and on being informed that they had not, he
ordered one of his own, of red flannel, to be pitched in the
meanwhile. He remained with us about half an hour conversing on
different topics; he narrated the anecdote of Damocles, asked us
about our laws, quoted Scripture--in a word, jumped from one subject
to the other, discoursing on topics quite foreign to his thoughts.
He did his best to appear calm and amiable, but we soon detected
that he was labouring under great excitement. When, in January,
1866, he received us at Zage, we were struck by the simplicity
of his dress, in every respect the same as that of his common
soldiers; of late, however, he had adopted a more gaudy attire, but
nothing compared to the harlequin coat he wore that day.

After he had dismissed us, he ascended the hill under which our
tent was pitched, and for two hours, at about fifty yards from us,
surrounded by his army, he "fakered" (bragged) to his heart's
content. He discoursed first on his former deeds, or what he intended
to do when he should encounter the white men, speaking all the while
in contemptuous terms of his advancing foe. Addressing the soldiers
whom he was sending as an advanced post to Arogie, he told them,
on the approach of the white men, to wait until they had fired, and
before the enemy had time to reload, to fall upon them with their
spears; and showing the gaudy dress he had put on for the occasion,
he added: "Your valour will meet with its reward, and you will
enrich yourselves with spoils, compared to which the rich dress I
am wearing is but a mere trifle." When he had concluded his harangue
he dismissed his troops, and sent for Mr. Rassam. He told him not
to notice what had taken place, as it meant nothing; but that he
was obliged to speak publicly in that manner to encourage his
soldiers. He then mounted his mule and ascended to the top of Selassie
to examine the road from Dalanta to the Bechelo, and ascertain the
movements of the English army.

The next day, the 8th, we only saw his Majesty at a distance, seated
on a stone in front of his tents, and talking quietly to those
around him. In the afternoon he ascended to the top of Selassie,
and on his return sent us word that he had seen nothing; but that
our people could not be far off, as a woman had come to inform him
that, the evening before, horses and mules had been taken down to
the Bechelo to be watered.

As we came down from the Amba the day before, we had met on the
road all the prisoners crawling along, many of them in hand and
foot chains, having in that condition been obliged to walk down the
irregular and steep descent. Their appearance was enough to inspire
pity in the most callous heart; many had no other covering than a
small piece of rag round the loins, and were living skeletons,
covered with some loathsome skin disease. Chiefs, soldiers or
beggars, all wore an anxious expression: they had but too much
reason to fear that they had not been dragged out of the prison
where they had spent years of misery for any good purpose. However,
on that morning Theodore gave orders for about seventy-five to be
released, all either former servants of his, or chiefs whom he had
imprisoned, without cause, during his fits of madness, so frequent
of late.

Soon after his return from Selassie, his merciful mood being
over, Theodore sent orders to have seven prisoners executed; amongst
them the wife and child of Comfou (the storekeeper who had run away
in September)--poor innocent beings on whom the despot vented his
rage for the desertion of the husband: they were shot by the "brave
Amharas," and their bodies hurled over the nearest precipice.
Theodore sent me word to go and visit Bardel, who was lying dangerously
ill in a tent close by. Having seen him and prescribed, I afterwards
visited some of the Europeans and their families; I found them all
exceedingly anxious and none could arrive at any conclusion as to
the probable course Theodore would adopt.

Early on the morning of the 9th some of the European workmen informed
us that Theodore was making roads to drag part of his artillery to
Fahla, where it overlooks the Bechelo; they also told us that before
parting he had given orders for the release of about one hundred
prisoners, most of them women or poor people. Towards 2 P.M. the
Emperor returned, and sent us word by Samuel that he had seen a
quantity of baggage coming down from Dalanta to the Bechelo--four
elephants, but very few men. He had also remarked, he said, some
small white animals, with black heads, but he could not make out
what they were. Did we know? We made a rough guess, and answered
that they were probably Berbera sheep. He sent a last message,
saying, "I am tired from looking out so long; I am going to rest
awhile. Why are your people so slow?"

A severe storm then broke out; and it had hardly subsided when we
saw soldiers rushing from all directions towards the side of the
precipice--a couple of hundred yards from our tent. We soon heard
that his Majesty, in a fearful passion, had left his tent, and had
gone to Mr. Rassam's servants' houses, where the Magdala prisoners
had been shut up since they had been taken down to Islamgee.

As I have said, that morning Theodore had released a large number
of his prisoners. Those who remained, believing that they might
avail themselves of the Emperor's good disposition, clamoured for
bread and water, as for two days they had been deprived of both,
all their servants having decamped and kept away since they had
been removed from Magdala. At the cries of "abiet, abiet,"
[Footnote: "Abiet," master, lord. The usual expression used by beggars
when asking alms.] Theodore, who was reposing after indulging in deep
potations, asked his attendant, "What is it?" He was told that the
prisoners begged for water and bread. Theodore, seizing his sword,
and telling the man to follow him, exclaimed, "I will teach them
to ask for food when my faithful soldiers are starving." Arrived
at the place where the prisoners were confined, blind with rage and
drink, he ordered the guards to bring them out. The two first he
hacked to pieces with his own sword; the third was a young child;
though it arrested his hand, it did not save the poor creature's
life, and he was hurled alive over the precipice by Theodore's
order. He seems to have been somewhat calmer after the two first
murders, and something like order prevailed during the remainder
of the executions. As every prisoner was brought out he inquired
his name, his country, and _his crime_. The greater part were
found guilty, hurled over the precipice, and shot below by musketeers
sent there to despatch any one who still showed signs of animation,
as many had escaped with life from the awful fall. Some 307 were
put to death, and 91 reserved for another day. These last, strange
to say, were all chiefs of note; many of whom had fought against
the Emperor, and all, he knew, were his deadly enemies.

What our feelings were all this time can easily be surmised: we
could see the deep line of soldiers standing behind the Emperor,
and counted up to two hundred discharges of fire-arms, when we left
off the agonizing calculation of how many victims were being
slaughtered. A friendly chief came to us, and implored us to remain
very quiet in our tents, as it would be very dangerous if Theodore
remembered us in his present mood. At dusk he returned, followed
by an admiring crowd. He, however, took no notice of us; and, after
a while, seeing all quiet, we felt pretty confident that we were
safe for _that day_ at least.

There is no doubt that when Theodore sent for us and all the
prisoners, he had made up his mind to kill every one. His apparent
clemency was merely used as a blind to mask his intent and inspire
hopes of freedom in the hearts of those whose death he had already
determined upon.

Early on the morning of the 10th his Majesty sent us word to get
ready to return to Magdala. Shortly afterwards one of his servants
brought us the following message:--"Who is that woman who sends her
soldiers to fight against a king? Send no more messengers to your
people: if a single servant of yours is missing, the covenant of
friendship between you and myself is broken." A few minutes afterwards
a boy whom I had some days previously sent to General Merewether,
with a request that a letter should be sent to Theodore, who had
on several occasions manifested great astonishment at not receiving
any communication from the army, returned with a letter from his
Excellency the Commander-in-Chief for the Emperor. The letter was
perfect; just what we had wished for--firm, courteous; it contained
no threats, no promises, except that Theodore would be honourably
treated if he delivered the prisoners uninjured into his hands. We
at once sent Samuel to inform the Emperor that a letter from Sir
R. Napier had arrived for him. His Majesty declined to receive it.
"It is of no use," he said; "I know what I have to do." However,
shortly afterwards he sent for Samuel privately, and asked him its
contents, and as Samuel had translated it, he informed him of the
principal points. His Majesty listened attentively, but made no
remarks. A mule from the Imperial stables was sent for Mr. Rassam's
use to ride; Lieutenant Prideaux, Captain Cameron, and myself were
told that we might ride our own mules; but this favour was denied
to the other captives. On our return to Magdala we were hailed by
our servants, and the few friends we had on the mountain, as men
who had returned from the grave. We sent for our tents, bedding,
&c., and awaited with anxiety the next move of the fickle despot.

About noon the whole of the garrison of the Amba were told to arm
and proceed to the King's camp; a few old men only and the ordinary
prisoners' guard remaining on the mountain. Between 3 and 4 P.M. a
violent thunder-storm burst over the Amba. We thought now and then
that we could distinguish amidst the peals of thunder distant guns,
and some close at hand. At other times we were almost certain that
the sound we had just heard was a volley; but we only laughed at
the idea, and wondered how the echoes of the almost constant thunder
could to our excited imagination bear such close resemblance to the
welcome music of an attack by the army of rescue. Shortly after 4
P.M. the storm subsided, and then no mistake was possible; the deep,
dull sound of guns, and the sharp reports of small arms, now reached
us plainly and distinctly. But what was it? No one would or could
say. Twice during the next hour the joyous _elelta_ resounded
from Islamgee to the Amba above, where it was responded to by the
soldiers' families. Then all doubts vanished: evidently the King
was only "fakering;" no fight could have taken place, as no
_elelta_ would be heard if Theodore had ventured to encounter
the British troops.

We were fast asleep, quite unaware of the glorious battle that had
taken place a few miles from our prison, when we were aroused by a
servant, who told us to dress quickly, and come over to Mr. Rassam's
house, as messengers had just arrived from his Majesty. We found
on entering Mr. Rassam's room Messrs. Waldmeier and Flad, and several
of the Emperor's chiefs, who had come up to deliver the Imperial
message. Then for the first time we heard of the battle of Fahla;
heard, indeed, that we were now safe; that the humbled despot had
acknowledged the greatness of the power he had for years despised.
The Imperial message was as follows:--"I thought that the people
that are now coming were women; I now find that they are men. I
have been conquered by the advance guard alone. All my musketeers
are dead. Reconcile me with your people."

Mr. Rassam sent him back word that he had come to his country to
make peace, and now, as well as formerly, he only wished to see
that happy result obtained; he proposed, he said, sending Lieutenant
Prideaux for himself, and that his Majesty should send Mr. Flad,
or any other European whom he trusted, together with one of his
noblemen, to the British camp to make terms; but that unless he was
willing to deliver over to the Commander-in-Chief all the prisoners,
the proposed steps would be quite useless. The two Europeans and
the other messenger remained some time with us to rest and refresh
themselves: they told us that his Majesty had mistaken a battery
of artillery for Baggage, and seeing only a few men at Arogie,
he had given in to the importunities of his chiefs, and allowed
them to have their own way. On a cannon being fired, the Abyssinians,
excited by the prospect of a large booty, rushed down the hill. His
Majesty commanded the artillery, which was served by Abyssinian
workmen, under the direction of a Copt, the former servant of the
Bishop, and of Lij Engeddah Wark, the son of a converted Bengal
Jew. At the first discharge the largest piece of ordnance, "Theodoros,"
burst, the Abyssinians by mistake having rammed in two cannon balls.
Towards dusk he had sent to recall his troops, but messenger after
messenger was despatched to no purpose: at last the broken-down
remnants of his army were seen slowly climbing the steep ascent,
and he heard for the first time the dismal tale of their disaster.
Fitaurari [Footnote: _Fitaurari_, the commander of the advanced guard.]
Gabrie, his long-attached friend, the bravest of the brave, lay dead
on the battle-field; he inquired for others, but the answer was
Dead, dead, dead!! Cast down, conquered at last, Theodore, without
saying a word, walked back to his tent with no other thought but
an appeal to the friendship of his captives and to the generosity
of his foe.

Returning to the Emperor's tent Messrs. Flad and Waldmeier informed
him of their arrival by one of the eunuchs who had accompanied them
for that purpose. It appears that in the meanwhile Theodore had
been drinking hard; he came out of his tent very much excited, and
asked the Europeans, "What do you want?" They told him that as he
had commanded them, they had spoken on his behalf to Mr. Rassam,
and that that gentleman had proposed sending Mr. Prideaux, &c. &c.
The Emperor interrupted them, and in an angry tone exclaimed, "Mind
your own business: go to your tents!" The two Europeans stood still,
in the hope that his Majesty might change his mind; but seeing that
they did not depart, he got into a rage, and in a high tone of voice
ordered them to retire at once.

At about 4 A.M. a messenger was sent by his Majesty to call Messrs.
Flad and Waldmeier before him. As soon as they arrived he asked,
"Do you hear this wailing? There is not a soldier who has not lost
a friend or a brother. What will it be when the whole English army
comes? What shall I do? counsel me." Mr. Waldmeier told him: "Your
Majesty, peace is the best." "And you, Flad, what do you say?" "Your
Majesty," replied Mr. Flad, "ought to accept Mr. Rassam's proposal."
Theodore remained a few minutes silent, his head between his hands,
apparently in deep thought, and then said, "Well, go back to Magdala,
and tell Mr. Rassam that I trust in his friendship to reconcile
me with his people. I will do what he thinks best." Mr. Flad brought
us this message, Mr. Waldmeier remaining with the Emperor.

On Lieutenant Prideaux and Mr. Flad reaching Islamgee they were
conducted to the Emperor, whom they found sitting outside on a stone
and dressed in his ordinary manner. He received them very graciously,
and immediately ordered one of his best mules to be saddled for
Prideaux's use. Noticing that he was rather exhausted from the rapid
walk, he gave him a horn of tej to refresh himself with on the road.
He then dismissed them with the following message:--"I had thought
before this that I was a strong man, but I have now discovered that
they are stronger; now reconcile me." They then left, and accompanied
by Dejatch Alame, the Emperor's son-in-law, proceeded to the British
camp at Arogie, where they arrived after a two hours' ride, and were
warmly cheered and greeted by all. After a short stay in the camp,
they returned to his Majesty bearing a letter from Sir Robert Napier,
couched in firm but conciliatory terms, and assuring Theodore that,
provided he submitted to the Queen of England and brought all the
prisoners and other Europeans to the British camp, honourable
treatment would be accorded to himself and his family.

Sir Robert Napier received Dejatch Alame with great courtesy
(a fact that was immediately reported to Theodore by a special
messenger), invited him into his tent, and spoke plainly to him.
He told him that not only all the Europeans must at once be sent
to the camp, but the Emperor himself must come in also and submit
to the Queen of England. He told him that if he complied he would
be honourably treated, but that if any one of the Europeans in his
hands were injured, he could expect no pity; and that had he (Sir
Robert Napier) to remain for five years in the country, he would
not leave until the last murderer was punished, had he even to buy
him from his mother. He then showed Alame some of the "toys" he
had brought with him, and explained to him their effects.

On the return of Prideaux and his companions to Theodore's camp,
they found him sitting on the brow of Selassie, overlooking the
British camp, and in anything but a pleasant humour. They had been
joined on their arrival by Mr. Waldmeier, and together they presented
themselves before him, and delivered the letter into his hands. It
was twice translated, and at the conclusion of the second reading
he asked, in a deliberate manner, "What does honourable treatment
mean? Does it mean that the English will help me to subdue my
enemies, or does, it mean honourable treatment as a prisoner?"
Prideaux replied, that on the first point the Commander-in-Chief
had said nothing; that all his wishes were contained in his letter;
and that the English army had simply come into the country to rescue
their fellow-countrymen, and that object effected they would then
return. This answer did not please him at all. Evidently his worst
passions were aroused; but, controlling himself, he motioned them
to stand a little distance from him, while he dictated a letter to
his secretary,--a letter begun before the arrival of Prideaux, an
incoherent epistle, not sealed, stating, amongst other things, that
he had hitherto surrendered to no man, and was not prepared to do
so now. He inclosed with his letter the one he had just received
from Sir Robert Napier, handed it over to Prideaux, and bade them
be off at once; not allowing Prideaux even to wait for a glass of
water, telling him that there was no time to lose.

Another couple of hours' ride brought Prideaux and Flad again to
the British camp. Sir Robert Napier, however reluctant he must have
felt, after allowing them time to rest, despatched them back to
Theodore. It was, indeed, the proper way to deal with him: firmness
alone could save our lives; as we had but too ample proofs that the
kind of adoration for so long bestowed upon him resulted in nothing
but a nonsensical correspondence, and no real advantage had ever
been gained. No answer could possibly be given to the mad production
Theodore had sent; a verbal message to the same purport as the first
communication from the Commander-in-Chief was all that was required.

We were still in the power of Theodore; had not, as yet, tasted
liberty; whatever, before long, would be our fate, we were passive,
and ready to submit with as much good grace as possible to the
sentence we every minute expected. Mr. Flad had left his wife and
children on Islamgee, and could not well decline to go back; but
for Prideaux the case was quite different: he returned, like a
brave, gallant man, ready to sacrifice his own life in endeavouring
to save ours, and going willingly to almost certain death in obedience
to his duty. None of the brave soldiers who gallantly wear the
Victoria Cross ever did a nobler deed. Fortunately, however, as
they were nearing Selassie, they met Mr. Meyer, one of the European
workmen, who communicated to them the welcome intelligence that we were
all liberated and on our way to the camp. They gladly turned round
the heads of their tired mules, and, together with Mr. Meyer, brought
back the good news to our anxious countrymen.

But we must return to ourselves, still shut up in Magdala. We
remained all day in great suspense, not knowing at any moment what
course Theodore would adopt. I dressed several of the wounded and
saw many of the soldiers who had taken part in the fight of the
previous day. All were much cast down, and declared that they would
not fight again. "Of what use is it," they said, "fighting against
your people? When we fight with our countrymen each side has its
turn; with you it is always your turn. See how many dead and wounded
we have! We did not see any of your men fall: and then you never
run away." The rockets terrified them greatly, and if their description
of the shells is correct they must indeed be terrible weapons.

Shortly after receiving an answer from Sir Robert Napier, and
despatching Prideaux and Flad for the second time, Theodore called
his principal chiefs and some of his European workmen before him
and held a kind of council; but he soon became so excited, so mad,
that it was with difficulty he was restrained from committing
suicide. The chiefs reproved him for his weakness, and proposed
that we should all be killed, or kept in a hut in the camp and burnt
alive on the approach of our soldiers. His Majesty took no notice
of these suggestions, dismissed his chiefs, and told Messrs. Meyer
and Saalmueller, two of his European workmen, to get ready to
accompany us to the English camp. At the same time he sent two of his
high officers, Bitwaddad Hassanie and Ras Bissawur, to us with
the following message:--"Go at once to your people: you will send
for your property to-morrow."

We did not like that message at all. The two chiefs were sullen and
downcast, and Samuel was so excited that he would give us no
explanation of this sudden decision. We called our servants to pack
up a few things, and many of them bade us good-by with tears in
their eyes. The best disposed of the guards looked sad and sorrowful:
no doubt the general impression was the same as ours, that we were
sent for, not to go to the English camp, but to certain death. There
was no use in remonstrating or in complaining, so we dressed; glad
that at all events the end of our captivity had arrived, whatever
it might be; we bade good-by to our servants, and under a strong
escort left the Amba. Whilst we had been dressing, Samuel had
consulted with the two chiefs; they told him that Theodore was quite
mad, and that anything which might delay our meeting should not be
neglected, as time to allow him to cool down a little was of the
utmost importance. They decided on sending a soldier in advance
with a supposed message from us, to ask from his Majesty the favour
of a last interview, as we could not depart without first bidding
him good-by.

Arrived at the foot of the Amba, we found that the Emperor had sent
no mules, as was his custom, and we had to have ours saddled, or
borrow some from the European workmen. The place seemed almost
deserted, and on our way to the Imperial tent we met only a few
soldiers; but as we advanced we perceived that the heights of
Selassie and Fahla were crowded with the remnants of the
Imperial host.

At about a hundred yards from the King's tent we met the messenger
whom Samuel and the chiefs had sent to request a last interview,
coming back towards us. He said that the King was not in his
tent, but between Fahla and Selassie, and that he would only see
his beloved friend Rassam. Orders were then given by the chiefs who
escorted us to conduct Mr. Rassam by one road, and the remainder
of the captives by another. We had to follow a small pathway
on the side of Selassie, and Mr. Rassam was conducted by a road
some fifty yards above. We advanced in that manner for a couple of
hundred yards, when we were ordered to stop. The soldiers told us that
the Emperor was coming towards Mr. Rassam, and that we must wait until
their interview was over.

After a while we were told to advance, as Mr. Rassam had left the
King and was moving on.

I was walking in front of our party, and great was my surprise,
after a few steps, on arriving at a sudden turn in the road, to
find myself face to face with Theodore. I at once perceived that
he was in a fearful passion. Behind him stood about twenty men in
a line, all armed with muskets. The spot on which he was standing
is a small platform, so narrow that I would have almost to touch
him on my way onwards. Below the platform the precipice was abrupt
and deep; above, the rocks rose like a huge wall: evidently he could
not have chosen a better place if he had any evil intentions against

He could not have seen me at first, as his face was half turned;
he whispered something to the soldier nearest to him, and stretched
out his hand to take the man's musket. I was quite prepared for the
worst, and, at the moment, had no doubt in my mind that our last
hour had come.

Theodore, his hand still on his musket, turned round; he then
perceived me, looked at me for a second or two, dropped his hand,
and in a low sad voice asked me how I was, and bade me good-by.

The chief on the following day told me that, at the time, Theodore
was undecided as to whether he would kill us all or not; only
allowing Mr. Rassam to go on account of his personal friendship for
him, and that we owed our lives to the mere accident that his eye
first fell upon me, against whom he had no animosity; but that the
result would have been quite different had his anger been roused
by the sight of those he hated.

A few minutes later we rejoined Mr. Rassam, and moved on as fast
as our mules could amble. Mr. Rassam told me that Theodore had
said to him, "It is getting dark; it is perhaps better if you
remained here until to-morrow." Mr. Rassam said, "Just as your
Majesty likes." Theodore then said, "Never mind; go." He shook hands
with Mr. Rassam, both crying at the idea of parting, and Mr. Rassam
promising to return early the next morning.

We had nearly reached the outposts of the Imperial camp when some
soldiers shouted for us to stop. Had Theodore again changed his
mind? So near liberty, were we again doomed to captivity or death?
Such thoughts immediately crossed our minds; but our suspense was
short, as we perceived running towards us one of the Emperor's
servants, carrying Prideaux's sword, as well as my own, which his
Majesty had seized at Debra Tabor some twenty-one months before.
We sent back our thanks to his Majesty by the servant, and resumed
our march.

Little did we know at the time the narrow escape we had just had.
It appears that, after our departure, Theodore sat down on a stone,
and, putting his head between his hands, began to cry. Ras Engeddah
said to him, "Are you a woman, to cry? Let us bring back these white
men, kill them, and run away; or fight and die." Theodore rebuked
him in these words:--"You donkey! have I not killed enough these
two last days? Do you want me to kill these white men, and cover
Abyssinia with blood?"

Though now fairly out of the Imperial camp, and in sight almost of
our pickets, we could hardly credit that we were not the victims
of some delusion. Involuntarily, we would look back, fearful that,
regretting his clemency, Theodore might follow and overtake us
before we reached our camp. But God, who had almost by a miracle
delivered us that day, still protected us; and shortly afterwards,
with grateful and joyful hearts, we entered the British lines; and
heard the gladdening sound of English voices, the hearty cheers of
our countrymen, and shook hands with the dear friends who had
laboured so zealously for our release.


On the morning of the 12th, the day following our deliverance,
Theodore sent a letter of apology, expressing his regret for having
written the impertinent missive of the day before. He at the same
time requested the Commander-in-Chief to accept a present of 1,000
cows; this, according to Abyssinian custom, implying a peace-offering,
which once accepted, removed all apprehension of hostilities.

The five captives who had joined us in January, 1868 (Mr. Staiger
and his party), Mrs. Flad and her children, several of the Europeans,
and the families of all of them, were still in Theodore's power.
The Europeans who had accompanied us the evening before, and who
had spent the night at the camp, were early that morning sent back
to Theodore; and Samuel, who was one of the party, was instructed
to demand that the whole of the Europeans and their families should
be allowed to depart at once. A dhoolee and bearers were also sent
at the same time for Mrs. Flad, whose state of health did not allow
her to ride. Before starting, Samuel was told by Mr. Rassam that
the Commander-in-Chief had accepted the cows: an unfortunate mistake,
as it misled and deceived Theodore, but so far opportune, that it
probably saved the lives of the Europeans still in his power.

When the Europeans who had returned to Selassi to bring down their
families, and Samuel, approached the Emperor, his first question
was, "Have the cows been accepted?" Samuel, bowing respectfully
before him, said: "The English Ras says to you, 'I have accepted
your present: may God give it back to you.'" On that Theodore drew
a long breath, as if relieved of a deep anxiety, and told the
Europeans, "Take your families and go." To Mr. Waldmeier he said,
"You also want to leave me; well, go: now that I have friendship
with the English, if I want ten Waldmeiers I have only to ask for
them." In the afternoon the European workmen and their families,
Mr. Staiger and his party, Mrs. Flad and children, Samuel, and our
servants, all came into the British camp. They had been allowed to
take away their property, and on their departure Theodore, in good
spirits, bade them good-by.

On Saturday, the 11th, Sir Robert Napier had clearly pointed out to
Dejatch Alame, the course he had adopted, and that not only the
captives, but Theodore also, must come into the British camp
before twenty-four hours, otherwise hostilities would begin anew;
but at the urgent request of Dejatch Alame, who knew how difficult
it would be for Theodore to comply with that part of the order
which referred to himself, he promised to extend to forty-eight hours
the term he had fixed upon for his ultimatum to be acceded to.

On the morning of the 18th, the Emperor having not as yet made his
submission, it became necessary to compel him to obey, and steps
were being taken to complete the work so ably begun, when several
of the greatest chiefs of Theodore's army made their appearance,
stating that they came in their own name and in that of the soldiers
of the garrison, to lay down their arms and surrender the fortress;
they added that, Theodore, accompanied by about fifty followers,
had made his escape during the night.

It appears that the evening before, Theodore, on hearing that the
cows had not been accepted, but were still outside the English
pickets, believed that he had been deceived, and that, if he fell
into the hands of the English, he would either be doomed to chains
or to a cruel death. All night he walked about Selassie anxious
and cast down, and towards early morn called upon his people to
follow him. But instead of obeying they retired to another part
of the plain. Theodore shot the two nearest to him; but this daring
act did not quell the mutinous disposition of the soldiery: on the
contrary, they only retreated further back.

With the few men who followed him, he passed through the Kafir Ber,
but had not gone far before he saw the Gallas advancing from all
sides in order to surround him and his party. He then said to his
few faithful followers, "Leave me: I will die alone." They refused;
on that he said to them, "You are right; but let us return to the
mountain: it is better to die by the hands of Christians."

The surrender of the army, the storming of Magdala, the self-inflicted
death of Theodore, are too well-known facts for me to enlarge upon
them I entered the place shortly after it had been occupied by our
troops. One of the first objects that attracted my attention was
the dead body of Theodore. There was a smile on his lip--that happy
smile he so seldom wore of late: it gave an air of calm grandeur
to the features of one whose career had been so remarkable, whose
cruelties are almost unparalleled in history; but who at the last
hour seemed to have recalled the days of his youth, fought like a
brave man, and killed himself rather than surrender.

I remained that night in Magdala. It seemed passing strange to spend
a night as a free man in the same hut where I had been so long
confined a prisoner. English soldiers now guarded our former gaolers,
the queen was our guest, the dead body of Theodore lay in one of
our huts: in the short span of forty-eight hours our position had
so completely changed that it was difficult to realize it: at times
I was apprehensive of being the victim of a delusion. I was too
excited to sleep.

General Wilby, his aide-de-camp Captain Cappel, and his brigade-major
Major Hicks, shared my hut; hungry and tired they enjoyed quite as much as
I did, the simple Abyssinian dish of teps, the peppery sauce, and some tej,
which we ourselves went to fetch from the cellars in the royal buildings.
The next day we returned to Arogie, and during my stay there I received
the kind hospitality of General Merewether. On the 16th, some of the
released captives and myself started for Dalanta, where we waited a few
days until all had joined; and on the 21st, after Sir Robert Napier had
presented us to our deliverers, we proceeded on our way to the coast,
and reached Zulla on the 28th of May.

Looking back now, a free man in a free country, the past appears
to me like a horrible dream, a kind of missing link in my life; and
when I remember that our deliverance was followed so shortly
afterwards by the self-destruction of the passionate despot who
held us in his power, I can find no truer solution to this difficult
problem, than the words inscribed by the warm-hearted countrymen
of Kerans, on the banner that floated at Ahascragh to welcome his
return, "God is good, who set you free."


Page 33, line 13,--_For_ "Samuel, the Georgis balderaba"
_Read_ "Samuel Georgis, the balderaba"

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