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A Voyage to Abyssinia by Father Jerome Lobo

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same amongst the women, whom we separated from the men. We then
confessed them, and admitted them to the communion. After mass we
applied ourselves again to catechise, to instruct, and receive the
renunciation of their errors, scarce allowing ourselves time to make
a scanty meal, which we never did more than once a day.

After some time had been spent here, we removed to another town not
far distant, and continued the same practice. Here I was accosted
one day by an inhabitant of that place, where he had found the
people so prejudiced against us, who desired to be admitted to
confession. I could not forbear asking him some questions about
those lamentations, which we heard upon our entering into that
place. He confessed with the utmost frankness and ingenuity that
the priests and religious have given dreadful accounts both of us
and of the religion we preached; that the unhappy people were taught
by them that the curse of God attended us wheresoever we went; that
we were always followed by the grasshoppers, that pest of Abyssinia,
which carried famine and destruction over all the country; that he,
seeing no grasshoppers following us when we passed by their village,
began to doubt of the reality of what the priests had so confidently
asserted, and was now convinced that the representation they made of
us was calumny and imposture. This discourse gave us double
pleasure, both as it proved that God had confuted the accusations of
our enemies, and defended us against their malice without any
efforts of our own, and that the people who had shunned us with the
strongest detestation were yet lovers of truth, and came to us on
their own accord. Nothing could be more grossly absurd than the
reproaches which the Abyssinian ecclesiastics aspersed us and our
religion with. They had taken advantage of the calamity that
happened the year of our arrival: and the Abyssins, with all their
wit, did not consider that they had often been distressed by the
grasshoppers before there came any Jesuits into the country, and
indeed before there were any in the world.

Whilst I was in these mountains, I went on Sundays and saints' days
sometimes to one church and sometimes to another. One day I went
out with a resolution not to go to a certain church, where I
imagined there was no occasion for me, but before I had gone far, I
found myself pressed by a secret impulse to return back to that same
church. I obeyed the influence, and discovered it to proceed from
the mercy of God to three young children who were destitute of all
succour, and at the point of death. I found two very quickly in
this miserable state; the mother had retired to some distance that
she might not see them die, and when she saw me stop, came and told
me that they had been obliged by want to leave the town they lived
in, and were at length reduced to this dismal condition, that she
had been baptised, but that the children had not. After I had
baptised and relieved them, I continued my walk, reflecting with
wonder on the mercy of God, and about evening discovered another
infant, whose mother, evidently a Catholic, cried out to me to save
her child, or at least that if I could not preserve this uncertain
and perishable life, I should give it another certain and permanent.
I sent my servant to fetch water with the utmost expedition, for
there was none near, and happily baptised the child before it

Soon after this I returned to Fremona, and had great hopes of
accompanying the patriarch to the court; but, when we were almost
setting out, received the command of the superior of the mission to
stay at Fremona, with a charge of the house there, and of all the
Catholics that were dispersed over the kingdom of Tigre, an
employment very ill-proportioned to my abilities. The house at
Fremona has always been much regarded even by those emperors who
persecuted us; Sultan Segued annexed nine large manors to it for
ever, which did not make us much more wealthy, because of the
expensive hospitality which the great conflux of strangers obliged
us to. The lands in Abyssinia yield but small revenues, unless the
owners themselves set the value upon them, which we could not do.

The manner of letting farms in Abyssinia differs much from that of
other countries: the farmer, when the harvest is almost ripe,
invites the chumo or steward, who is appointed to make an estimate
of the value of each year's product, to his house, entertains him in
the most agreeable manner he can; makes him a present, and then
takes him to see his corn. If the chumo is pleased with the treat
and present, he will give him a declaration or writing to witness
that his ground, which afforded five or six sacks of corn, did you
yield so many bushels, and even of this it is the custom to abate
something; so that our revenue did not increase in proportion to our
lands; and we found ourselves often obliged to buy corn, which,
indeed, is not dear, for in fruitful years forty or fifty measures,
weighing each about twenty-two pounds, may be purchased for a crown.

Besides the particular charge I had of the house of Fremona, I was
appointed the patriarch's grand-vicar through the whole kingdom of
Tigre. I thought that to discharge this office as I ought, it was
incumbent on me to provide necessaries as well for the bodies as the
souls of the converted Catholics. This labour was much increased by
the famine which the grasshoppers had brought that year upon the
country. Our house was perpetually surrounded by some of those
unhappy people, whom want had compelled to abandon their
habitations, and whose pale cheeks and meagre bodies were undeniable
proofs of their misery and distress. All the relief I could
possibly afford them could not prevent the death of such numbers
that their bodies filled the highways; and to increase our
affliction, the wolves having devoured the carcases, and finding no
other food, fell upon the living; their natural fierceness being so
increased by hunger, that they dragged the children out of the very
houses. I saw myself a troop of wolves tear a child of six years
old in pieces before I or any one else could come to its assistance.

While I was entirely taken up with the duties of my ministry, the
viceroy of Tigre received the commands of the Emperor to search for
the bones of Don Christopher de Gama. On this occasion it may not
be thought impertinent to give some account of the life and death of
this brave and holy Portuguese, who, after having been successful in
many battles, fell at last into the hands of the Moors, and
completed that illustrious life by a glorious martyrdom.

Chapter V

The adventures of the Portuguese, and the actions of Don Christopher
de Gama in Aethiopia.

About the beginning of the sixteenth century arose a Moor near the
Cape of Gardafui, who, by the assistance of the forces sent him from
Moca by the Arabs and Turks, conquered almost all Abyssinia, and
founded the kingdom of Adel. He was called Mahomet Gragne, or the
Lame. When he had ravaged Aethiopia fourteen years, and was master
of the greatest part of it, the Emperor David sent to implore
succour of the King of Portugal, with a promise that when those
dominions were recovered which had been taken from him, he would
entirely submit himself to the Pope, and resign the third part of
his territories to the Portuguese. After many delays, occasioned by
the great distance between Portugal and Abyssinia, and some
unsuccessful attempts, King John the Third, having made Don Stephen
de Gama, son of the celebrated Don Vasco de Gama, viceroy of the
Indies, gave him orders to enter the Red Sea in pursuit of the
Turkish galleys, and to fall upon them wherever he found them, even
in the Port of Suez. The viceroy, in obedience to the king's
commands, equipped a powerful fleet, went on board himself, and
cruised about the coast without being able to discover the Turkish
vessels. Enraged to find that with this great preparation he should
be able to effect nothing, he landed at Mazna four hundred
Portuguese, under the command of Don Christopher de Gama, his
brother. He was soon joined by some Abyssins, who had not yet
forgot their allegiance to their sovereign; and in his march up the
country was met by the Empress Helena, who received him as her
deliverer. At first nothing was able to stand before the valour of
the Portuguese, the Moors were driven from one mountain to another,
and were dislodged even from those places, which it seemed almost
impossible to approach, even unmolested by the opposition of an

These successes seemed to promise a more happy event than that which
followed them. It was now winter, a season in which, as the reader
hath been already informed, it is almost impossible to travel in
Aethiopia. The Portuguese unadvisedly engaged themselves in an
enterprise, to march through the whole country, in order to join the
Emperor, who was then in the most remote part of his dominions.
Mahomet, who was in possession of the mountains, being informed by
his spies that the Portuguese were but four hundred, encamped in the
plain of Ballut, and sent a message to the general that he knew the
Abyssins had imposed on the King of Portugal, which, being
acquainted with their treachery, he was not surprised at, and that
in compassion of the commander's youth, he would give him and his
men, if they would return, free passage, and furnish them with
necessaries; that he might consult upon the matter, and depend upon
his word, reminding him, however, that it was not safe to refuse his

The general presented the ambassador with a rich robe, and returned
this gallant answer: "That he and his fellow-soldiers were come
with an intention to drive Mahomet out of these countries, which he
had wrongfully usurped; that his present design was, instead of
returning back the way he came, as Mahomet advised, to open himself
a passage through the country of his enemies; that Mahomet should
rather think of determining whether he would fight or yield up his
ill-gotten territories, than of prescribing measures to him; that he
put his whole confidence in the omnipotence of God and the justice
of his cause, and that to show how just a sense he had of Mahomet's
kindness, he took the liberty of presenting him with a looking-glass
and a pair of pincers."

This answer, and the present, so provoked Mahomet, who was at dinner
when he received it, that he rose from table immediately to march
against the Portuguese, imagining he should meet with no resistance;
and indeed, any man, however brave, would have been of the same
opinion; for his forces consisted of fifteen thousand foot, beside a
numerous body of cavalry, and the Portuguese commander had but three
hundred and fifty men, having lost eight in attacking some passes,
and left forty at Mazma, to maintain an open intercourse with the
viceroy of the Indies. This little troop of our countrymen were
upon the declivity of a hill near a wood; above them stood the
Abyssins, who resolved to remain quiet spectators of the battle, and
to declare themselves on that side which should be favoured with

Mahomet began the attack with only ten horsemen, against whom as
many Portuguese were detached, who fired with so much exactness,
that nine of the Moors fell, and the tenth with great difficulty
made his escape. This omen of good fortune gave the soldiers great
encouragement; the action grew hot, and they came at length to a
general battle; but the Moors, dismayed by the advantages our men
had obtained at first, were half defeated before the fight. The
great fire of our muskets and artillery broke them immediately.
Mahomet preserved his own life not without difficulty, but did not
lose his capacity with the battle: he had still a great number of
troops remaining, which he rallied, and entrenched himself at
Membret, a place naturally strong, with an intention to pass the
winter there, and wait for succours.

The Portuguese, who were more desirous of glory than wealth, did not
encumber themselves with plunder, but with the utmost expedition
pursued their enemies, in hopes of cutting them entirely off. This
expectation was too sanguine: they found them encamped in a place
naturally almost inaccessible, and so well fortified, that it would
be no less than extreme rashness to attack them. They therefore
entrenched themselves on a hill over against the enemy's camp, and
though victorious, were under great disadvantages. They saw new
troops arrive every day at the enemy's camp, and their small number
grew less continually; their friends at Mazna could not join them;
they knew not how to procure provisions, and could put no confidence
in the Abyssins; yet recollecting the great things achieved by their
countrymen, and depending on the Divine protection, they made no
doubt of surmounting all difficulties.

Mahomet on his part was not idle; he solicited the assistance of the
Mahometan princes, pressed them with all the motives of religion,
and obtained a reinforcement of two thousand musketeers from the
Arabs, and a train of artillery from the Turks. Animated with these
succours, he marched out of his trenches to enter those of the
Portuguese, who received him with the utmost bravery, destroyed
prodigious numbers of his men, and made many sallies with great
vigour, but losing every day some of their small troops, and most of
their officers being killed, it was easy to surround and force them.

Their general had already one arm broken, and his knee shattered
with a musket-shot, which made him unable to repair to all those
places where his presence was necessary to animate his soldiers.
Valour was at length forced to submit to superiority of numbers; the
enemy entered the camp and put all to the sword. The general with
ten more escaped the slaughter, and by means of their horses
retreated to a wood, where they were soon discovered by a detachment
sent in search of them, and brought to Mahomet, who was overjoyed to
see his most formidable enemy in his power, and ordered him to take
care of his uncle and nephew, who were wounded, telling him he
should answer for their lives; and, upon their death, taxed him with
hastening it. The brave Portuguese made no excuses, but told him he
came thither to destroy Mahometans, and not to save them. Mahomet,
enraged at this language, ordered a stone to be put on his head, and
exposed this great man to the insults and reproaches of the whole
army. After this they inflicted various kinds of tortures on him,
which he endured with incredible resolution, and without uttering
the least complaint, praising the mercy of God who had ordained him
to suffer in such a cause.

Mahomet, at last satisfied with cruelty, made an offer of sending
him to the viceroy of the Indies, if he would turn Mussulman. The
hero took fire at this proposal, and answered with the highest
indignation that nothing should make him forsake his heavenly Master
to follow an impostor, and continued in the severest terms to vilify
their false prophet, till Mahomet struck off his head.

Nor did the resentment of Mahomet end here; he divided his body into
quarters, and sent them to different places. The Catholics gathered
the remains of this glorious martyr, and interred them. Every Moor
that passed by threw a stone upon his grave, and raised in time such
a heap, as I found it difficult to remove when I went in search of
those precious relics.

What I have here related of the death of Don Christopher de Gama I
was told by an old man, who was an eye-witness of it: and there is
a tradition in the country that in the place where his head fell, a
fountain sprung up of wonderful virtue, which cured many diseases
otherwise past remedy.

Chapter VI

Mahomet continues the war, and is killed. The stratagem of Peter

Mahomet, that he might make the best use of his victory, ranged over
a great part of Abyssinia in search of the Emperor Claudius, who was
then in the kingdom of Dambia. All places submitted to the
Mahometan, whose insolence increased every day with his power; and
nothing after the defeat of the Portuguese was supposed able to put
a stop to the progress of his arms.

The soldiers of Portugal, having lost their chief, resorted to the
Emperor, who, though young, promised great things, and told them
that since their own general was dead, they would accept of none but
himself. He received them with great kindness, and hearing of Don
Christopher de Gama's misfortune, could not forbear honouring with
some tears the memory of a man who had come so far to his succour,
and lost his life in his cause.

The Portuguese, resolved at any rate to revenge the fate of their
general, desired the Emperor to assign them the post opposite to
Mahomet, which was willingly granted them. That King, flushed with
his victories, and imagining to fight was undoubtedly to conquer,
sought all occasions of giving the Abyssins battle. The Portuguese,
who desired nothing more than to re-establish their reputation by
revenging the affront put upon them by the late defeat, advised the
Emperor to lay hold on the first opportunity of fighting. Both
parties joined battle with equal fury. The Portuguese directed all
their force against that part where Mahomet was posted. Peter Leon,
who had been servant to the general, singled the King out among the
crowd, and shot him into the head with his musket. Mahomet, finding
himself wounded, would have retired out of the battle, and was
followed by Peter Leon, till he fell down dead; the Portuguese,
alighting from his horse, cut off one of his ears. The Moors being
now without a leader, continued the fight but a little time, and at
length fled different ways in the utmost disorder; the Abyssinians
pursued them, and made a prodigious slaughter. One of them, seeing
the King's body on the ground, cut off his head and presented it to
the Emperor. The sight of it filled the whole camp with
acclamations; every one applauded the valour and good fortune of the
Abyssin, and no reward was thought great enough for so important a
service. Peter Leon, having stood by some time, asked whether the
King had but one ear? if he had two, says he, it seems likely that
the man who killed him cut off one and keeps it as a proof of his
exploit. The Abyssin stood confused, and the Portuguese produced
the ear out of his pocket. Every one commended the stratagem; and
the Emperor commanded the Abyssin to restore all the presents he had
received, and delivered them with many more to Peter Leon.

I imagined the reader would not be displeased to be informed who
this man was, whose precious remains were searched for by a viceroy
of Tigre, at the command of the Emperor himself. The commission was
directed to me, nor did I ever receive one that was more welcome on
many accounts. I had contracted an intimate friendship with the
Count de Vidigueira, viceroy of the Indies, and had been desired by
him, when I took my leave of him, upon going to Melinda, to inform
myself where his relation was buried, and to send him some of his

The viceroy, son-in-law to the Emperor, with whom I was joined in
the commission, gave me many distinguishing proofs of his affection
to me, and of his zeal for the Catholic religion. It was a journey
of fifteen days through part of the country possessed by the Galles,
which made it necessary to take troops with us for our security;
yet, notwithstanding this precaution, the hazard of the expedition
appeared so great, that our friends bid us farewell with tears, and
looked upon us as destined to unavoidable destruction. The viceroy
had given orders to some troops to join us on the road, so that our
little army grew stronger as we advanced. There is no making long
marches in this country; an army here is a great city well peopled
and under exact government: they take their wives and children with
them, and the camp hath its streets, its market places, its
churches, courts of justice, judges, and civil officers.

Before they set forward, they advertise the governors of provinces
through which they are to pass, that they may take care to furnish
what is necessary for the subsistence of the troops. These
governors give notice to the adjacent places that the army is to
march that way on such a day, and that they are assessed such a
quantity of bread, beer, and cows. The peasants are very exact in
supplying their quota, being obliged to pay double the value in case
of failure; and very often when they have produced their full share,
they are told that they have been deficient, and condemned to buy
their peace with a large fine.

When the providore has received these contributions, he divides them
according to the number of persons, and the want they are in: the
proportion they observe in this distribution is twenty pots of beer,
ten of mead, and one cow to a hundred loaves. The chief officers
and persons of note carry their own provisions with them, which I
did too, though I afterwards found the precaution unnecessary, for I
had often two or three cows more than I wanted, which I bestowed on
those whose allowance fell short.

The Abyssins are not only obliged to maintain the troops in their
march, but to repair the roads, to clear them, especially in the
forests, of brambles and thorns, and by all means possible to
facilitate the passage of the army. They are, by long custom,
extremely ready at encamping. As soon as they come to a place they
think convenient to halt at, the officer that commands the vanguard
marks out with his pike the place for the King's or viceroy's tent:
every one knows his rank, and how much ground he shall take up; so
the camp is formed in an instant.

Chapter VII

They discover the relics. Their apprehension of the Galles. The
author converts a criminal, and procures his pardon.

We took with us an old Moor, so enfeebled with age that they were
forced to carry him: he had seen, as I have said, the sufferings
and death of Don Christopher de Gama; and a Christian, who had often
heard all those passages related to his father, and knew the place
where the uncle and nephew of Mahomet were buried, and where they
interred one quarter of the Portuguese martyr. We often examined
these two men, and always apart; they agreed in every circumstance
of their relations, and confirmed us in our belief of them by
leading us to the place where we took up the uncle and nephew of
Mahomet, as they had described. With no small labour we removed the
heap of stones which the Moors, according to their custom, had
thrown upon the body, and discovered the treasure we came in search
of. Not many paces off was the fountain where they had thrown his
head, with a dead dog, to raise a greater aversion in the Moors. I
gathered the teeth and the lower jaw. No words can express the
ecstasies I was transported with at seeing the relics of so great a
man, and reflecting that it had pleased God to make me the
instrument of their preservation, so that one day, if our holy
father the Pope shall be so pleased, they may receive the veneration
of the faithful. All burst into tears at the sight. We indulged a
melancholy pleasure in reflecting what that great man had achieved
for the deliverance of Abyssinia, from the yoke and tyranny of the
Moors; the voyages he had undertaken; the battles he had fought; the
victories he had won; and the cruel and tragical death he had
suffered. Our first moments were so entirely taken up with these
reflections that we were incapable of considering the danger we were
in of being immediately surrounded by the Galles; but as soon as we
awoke to that thought, we contrived to retreat as fast as we could.
Our expedition, however, was not so great but we saw them on the top
of a mountain ready to pour down upon us. The viceroy attended us
closely with his little army, but had been probably not much more
secure than we, his force consisting only of foot, and the Galles
entirely of horse, a service at which they are very expert. Our
apprehensions at last proved to be needless, for the troops we saw
were of a nation at that time in alliance with the Abyssins.

Not caring, after this alarm, to stay longer here, we set out on our
march back, and in our return passed through a village where two
men, who had murdered a domestic of the viceroy, lay under an
arrest. As they had been taken in the fact, the law of the country
allowed that they might have been executed the same hour, but the
viceroy having ordered that their death should be deferred till his
return, delivered them to the relations of the dead, to be disposed
of as they should think proper. They made great rejoicings all the
night, on account of having it in their power to revenge their
relation; and the unhappy criminals had the mortification of
standing by to behold this jollity, and the preparations made for
their execution.

The Abyssins have three different ways of putting a criminal to
death: one way is to bury him to the neck, to lay a heap of
brambles upon his head, and to cover the whole with a great stone;
another is to beat him to death with cudgels; a third, and the most
usual, is to stab him with their lances. The nearest relation gives
the first thrust, and is followed by all the rest according to their
degrees of kindred; and they to whom it does not happen to strike
while the offender is alive, dip the points of their lances in his
blood to show that they partake in the revenge. It frequently
happens that the relations of the criminal are for taking the like
vengeance for his death, and sometimes pursue this resolution so far
that all those who had any share in the prosecution lose their

I being informed that these two men were to die, wrote to the
viceroy for his permission to exhort them, before they entered into
eternity, to unite themselves to the Church. My request being
granted, I applied myself to the men, and found one of them so
obstinate that he would not even afford me a hearing, and died in
his error. The other I found more flexible, and wrought upon him so
far that he came to my tent to be instructed. After my care of his
eternal welfare had met with such success, I could not forbear
attempting something for his temporal, and by my endeavours matters
were so accommodated that the relations were willing to grant his
life on condition he paid a certain number of cows, or the value.
Their first demand was of a thousand; he offered them five; they at
last were satisfied with twelve, provided they were paid upon the
spot. The Abyssins are extremely charitable, and the women, on such
occasions, will give even their necklaces and pendants, so that,
with what I gave myself, I collected in the camp enough to pay the
fine, and all parties were content.

Chapter VIII

The viceroy is offended by his wife. He complains to the Emperor,
but without redress. He meditates a revolt, raises an army, and
makes an attempt to seize upon the author.

We continued our march, and the viceroy having been advertised that
some troops had appeared in a hostile manner on the frontiers, went
against them. I parted from him, and arrived at Fremona, where the
Portuguese expected me with great impatience. I reposited the bones
of Don Christopher de Gama in a decent place, and sent them the May
following to the viceroy of the Indies, together with his arms,
which had been presented me by a gentleman of Abyssinia, and a
picture of the Virgin Mary, which that gallant Portuguese always
carried about him.

The viceroy, during all the time he was engaged in this expedition,
heard very provoking accounts of the bad conduct of his wife, and
complained of it to the Emperor, entreating him either to punish his
daughter himself, or to permit him to deliver her over to justice,
that, if she was falsely accused, she might have an opportunity of
putting her own honour and her husband's out of dispute. The
Emperor took little notice of his son-in-law's remonstrances; and,
the truth is, the viceroy was somewhat more nice in that matter than
the people of rank in this country generally are. There are laws,
it is true, against adultery, but they seem to have been only for
the meaner people, and the women of quality, especially the ouzoros,
or ladies of the blood royal, are so much above them, that their
husbands have not even the liberty of complaining; and certainly to
support injuries of this kind without complaining requires a degree
of patience which few men can boast of. The viceroy's virtue was
not proof against this temptation. He fell into a deep melancholy,
and resolved to be revenged on his father-in-law. He knew the
present temper of the people, that those of the greatest interest
and power were by no means pleased with the changes of religion, and
only waited for a fair opportunity to revolt; and that these
discontents were everywhere heightened by the monks and clergy.
Encouraged by these reflections, he was always talking of the just
reasons he had to complain of the Emperor, and gave them sufficient
room to understand that if they would appear in his party, he would
declare himself for the ancient religion, and put himself at the
head of those who should take arms in the defence of it. The chief
and almost the only thing that hindered him from raising a
formidable rebellion, was the mutual distrust they entertained of
one another, each fearing that as soon as the Emperor should publish
an act of grace, or general amnesty, the greatest part would lay
down their arms and embrace it; and this suspicion was imagined more
reasonable of the viceroy than of any other. Notwithstanding this
difficulty, the priests, who interested themselves much in this
revolt, ran with the utmost earnestness from church to church,
levelling their sermons against the Emperor and the Catholic
religion; and that they might have the better success in putting a
stop to all ecclesiastical innovations, they came to a resolution of
putting all the missionaries to the sword; and that the viceroy
might have no room to hope for a pardon, they obliged him to give
the first wound to him that should fall into his hands.

As I was the nearest, and by consequence the most exposed, an order
was immediately issued out for apprehending me, it being thought a
good expedient to seize me, and force me to build a citadel, into
which they might retreat if they should happen to meet with a
defeat. The viceroy wrote to me to desire that I would come to him,
he having, as he said, an affair of the highest importance to

The frequent assemblies which the viceroy held had already been much
talked of; and I had received advice that he was ready for a revolt,
and that my death was to be the first signal of an open war.
Knowing that the viceroy had made many complaints of the treatment
he received from his father-in-law, I made no doubt that he had some
ill design in hand; and yet could scarce persuade myself that after
all the tokens of friendship I had received from him he would enter
into any measures for destroying me. While I was yet in suspense, I
despatched a faithful servant to the viceroy with my excuse for
disobeying him; and gave the messenger strict orders to observe all
that passed, and bring me an exact account.

This affair was of too great moment not to engage my utmost
endeavours to arrive at the most certain knowledge of it, and to
advertise the court of the danger. I wrote, therefore, to one of
our fathers, who was then near the Emperor, the best intelligence I
could obtain of all that had passed, of the reports that were spread
through all this part of the empire, and of the disposition which I
discovered in the people to a general defection; telling him,
however, that I could not yet believe that the viceroy, who had
honoured me with his friendship, and of whom I never had any thought
but how to oblige him, could now have so far changed his sentiments
as to take away my life.

The letters which I received by my servant, and the assurances he
gave that I need fear nothing, for that I was never mentioned by the
viceroy without great marks of esteem, so far confirmed me in my
error, that I went from Fremona with a resolution to see him. I did
not reflect that a man who could fail in his duty to his King, his
father-in-law, and his benefactor, might, without scruple, do the
same to a stranger, though distinguished as his friend; and thus
sanguine and unsuspecting continued my journey, still receiving
intimation from all parts to take care of myself. At length, when I
was within a few days' journey of the viceroy, I received a billet
in more plain and express terms than anything I had been told yet,
charging me with extreme imprudence in putting myself into the hands
of those men who had undoubtedly sworn to cut me off.

I began, upon this, to distrust the sincerity of the viceroy's
professions, and resolved, upon the receipt of another letter from
the viceroy, to return directly. In this letter, having excused
himself for not waiting for my arrival, he desired me in terms very
strong and pressing to come forward, and stay for him at his own
house, assuring me that he had given such orders for my
entertainment as should prevent my being tired with living there. I
imagined at first that he had left some servants to provide for my
reception, but being advertised at the same time that there was no
longer any doubt of the certainty of his revolt, that the Galles
were engaged to come to his assistance, and that he was gone to sign
a treaty with them, I was no longer in suspense what measures to
take, but returned to Fremona.

Here I found a letter from the Emperor, which prohibited me to go
out, and the orders which he had sent through all these parts,
directing them to arrest me wherever I was found, and to hinder me
from proceeding on my journey. These orders came too late to
contribute to my preservation, and this prince's goodness had been
in vain, if God, whose protection I have often had experience of in
my travels, had not been my conductor in this emergency.

The viceroy, hearing that I was returned to my residence, did not
discover any concern or chagrin as at a disappointment, for such was
his privacy and dissimulation that the most penetrating could never
form any conjecture that could be depended on, about his designs,
till everything was ready for the execution of them. My servant, a
man of wit, was surprised as well as everybody else; and I can
ascribe to nothing but a miracle my escape from so many snares as he
laid to entrap me.

There happened during this perplexity of my affairs an accident of
small consequence in itself, which yet I think deserves to be
mentioned, as it shows the credulity and ignorance of the Abyssins.
I received a visit from a religious, who passed, though he was
blind, for the most learned person in all that country. He had the
whole Scriptures in his memory, but seemed to have been at more
pains to retain them than understand them; as he talked much he
often took occasion to quote them, and did it almost always
improperly. Having invited him to sup and pass the night with me, I
set before him some excellent mead, which he liked so well as to
drink somewhat beyond the bounds of exact temperance. Next day, to
make some return for his entertainment, he took upon him to divert
me with some of those stories which the monks amuse simple people
with, and told me of a devil that haunted a fountain, and used to
make it his employment to plague the monks that came thither to
fetch water, and continued his malice till he was converted by the
founder of their order, who found him no very stubborn proselyte
till they came to the point of circumcision; the devil was unhappily
prepossessed with a strong aversion from being circumcised, which,
however, by much persuasion, he at last agreed to, and afterwards
taking a religious habit, died ten years after with great signs of
sanctity. He added another history of a famous Abyssinian monk, who
killed a devil two hundred feet high, and only four feet thick, that
ravaged all the country; the peasants had a great desire to throw
the dead carcase from the top of a rock, but could not with all
their force remove it from the place, but the monk drew it after him
with all imaginable ease and pushed it down. This story was
followed by another, of a young devil that became a religious of the
famous monastery of Aba Gatima. The good father would have favoured
me with more relations of the same kind, if I had been in the humour
to have heard them, but, interrupting him, I told him that all these
relations confirmed what we had found by experience, that the monks
of Abyssinia were no improper company for the devil.

Chapter IX

The viceroy is defeated and hanged. The author narrowly escapes
being poisoned.

I did not stay long at Fremona, but left that town and the province
of Tigre, and soon found that I was very happy in that resolution,
for scarce had I left the place before the viceroy came in person to
put me to death, who, not finding me, as he expected, resolved to
turn all his vengeance against the father Gaspard Paes, a venerable
man, who was grown grey in the missions of Aethiopia, and five other
missionaries newly arrived from the Indies; his design was to kill
them all at one time without suffering any to escape; he therefore
sent for them all, but one happily being sick, another stayed to
attend him; to this they owed their lives, for the viceroy, finding
but four of them, sent them back, telling them he would see them all
together. The fathers, having been already told of his revolt, and
of the pretences he made use of to give it credit, made no question
of his intent to massacre them, and contrived their escape so that
they got safely out of his power.

The viceroy, disappointed in his scheme, vented all his rage upon
Father James, whom the patriarch had given him as his confessor; the
good man was carried, bound hand and foot, into the middle of the
camp; the viceroy gave the first stab in the throat, and all the
rest struck him with their lances, and dipped their weapons in his
blood, promising each other that they would never accept of any act
of oblivion or terms of peace by which the Catholic religion was not
abolished throughout the empire, and all those who professed it
either banished or put to death. They then ordered all the beads,
images, crosses, and relics which the Catholics made use of to be
thrown into the fire.

The anger of God was now ready to fall upon his head for these
daring and complicated crimes; the Emperor had already confiscated
all his goods, and given the government of the kingdom of Tigre to
Keba Christos, a good Catholic, who was sent with a numerous army to
take possession of it. As both armies were in search of each other,
it was not long before they came to a battle. The revolted viceroy
Tecla Georgis placed all his confidence in the Galles, his
auxiliaries. Keba Christos, who had marched with incredible
expedition to hinder the enemy from making any intrenchments, would
willingly have refreshed his men a few days before the battle, but
finding the foe vigilant, thought it not proper to stay till he was
attacked, and therefore resolved to make the first onset; then
presenting himself before his army without arms and with his head
uncovered, assured them that such was his confidence in God's
protection of those that engaged in so just a cause, that though he
were in that condition and alone, he would attack his enemies.

The battle began immediately, and of all the troops of Tecla Georgis
only the Galles made any resistance, the rest abandoned him without
striking a blow. The unhappy commander, seeing all his squadrons
broken, and three hundred of the Galles, with twelve ecclesiastics,
killed on the spot, hid himself in a cave, where he was found three
days afterwards, with his favourite and a monk. When they took him,
they cut off the heads of his two companions in the field, and
carried him to the Emperor; the procedure against him was not long,
and he was condemned to be burnt alive. Then imagining that, if he
embraced the Catholic faith, the intercession of the missionaries,
with the entreaties of his wife and children, might procure him a
pardon, he desired a Jesuit to hear his confession, and abjured his
errors. The Emperor was inflexible both to the entreaties of his
daughter and the tears of his grand-children, and all that could be
obtained of him was that the sentence should be mollified, and
changed into a condemnation to be hanged. Tecla Georgis renounced
his abjuration, and at his death persisted in his errors. Adero,
his sister, who had borne the greatest share in his revolt, was
hanged on the same tree fifteen days after.

I arrived not long after at the Emperor's court, and had the honour
of kissing his hands; but stayed not long in a place where no
missionary ought to linger, unless obliged by the most pressing
necessity: but being ordered by my superiors into the kingdom of
Damote, I set out on my journey, and on the road was in great danger
of losing my life by my curiosity of tasting a herb, which I found
near a brook, and which, though I had often heard of it, I did not
know. It bears a great resemblance to our radishes; the leaf and
colour were beautiful, and the taste not unpleasant. It came into
my mind when I began to chew it that perhaps it might be that
venomous herb against which no antidote had yet been found, but
persuading myself afterwards that my fears were merely chimerical, I
continued to
chew it, till a man accidentally meeting me, and seeing me with a
handful of it, cried out to me that I was poisoned; I had happily
not swallowed any of it, and throwing out what I had in my mouth, I
returned God thanks for this instance of his protection.

I crossed the Nile the first time in my journey to the kingdom of
Damote; my passage brought into my mind all that I had read either
in ancient or modern writers of this celebrated river; I recollected
the great expenses at which some Emperors had endeavoured to gratify
their curiosity of knowing the sources of this mighty stream, which
nothing but their little acquaintance with the Abyssins made so
difficult to be found. I passed the river within two days' journey
of its head, near a wide plain, which is entirely laid under water
when it begins to overflow the banks. Its channel is even here so
wide, that a ball-shot from a musket can scarce reach the farther
bank. Here is neither boat nor bridge, and the river is so full of
hippopotami, or river-horses, and crocodiles, that it is impossible
to swim over without danger of being devoured. The only way of
passing it is upon floats, which they guide as well as they can with
long poles. Nor is even this way without danger, for these
destructive animals overturn the floats, and tear the passengers in
pieces. The river horse, which lives only on grass and branches of
trees, is satisfied with killing the men, but the crocodile being
more voracious, feeds upon the carcases.

But since I am arrived at the banks of this renowned river, which I
have passed and repassed so many times; and since all that I have
read of the nature of its waters, and the causes of its overflowing,
is full of fables, the reader may not be displeased to find here an
account of what I saw myself, or was told by the inhabitants.

Chapter X

A description of the Nile.

The Nile, which the natives call Abavi, that is, the Father of
Waters, rises first in Sacala, a province of the kingdom of Goiama,
which is one of the most fruitful and agreeable of all the
Abyssinian dominions. This province is inhabited by a nation of the
Agaus, who call, but only call, themselves Christians, for by daily
intermarriages they have allied themselves to the Pagan Agaus, and
adopted all their customs and ceremonies. These two nations are
very numerous, fierce, and unconquerable, inhabiting a country full
of mountains, which are covered with woods, and hollowed by nature
into vast caverns, many of which are capable of containing several
numerous families, and hundreds of cows. To these recesses the
Agaus betake themselves when they are driven out of the plain, where
it is almost impossible to find them, and certain ruin to pursue
them. This people increases extremely, every man being allowed so
many wives as he hath hundreds of cows, and it is seldom that the
hundreds are required to be complete.

In the eastern part of this kingdom, on the declivity of a mountain,
whose descent is so easy that it seems a beautiful plain, is that
source of the Nile which has been sought after at so much expense of
labour, and about which such variety of conjectures hath been formed
without success. This spring, or rather these two springs, are two
holes, each about two feet diameter, a stone's cast distant from
each other; the one is but about five feet and a half in depth--at
least we could not get our plummet farther, perhaps because it was
stopped by roots, for the whole place is full of trees; of the
other, which is somewhat less, with a line of ten feet we could find
no bottom, and were assured by the inhabitants that none ever had
been found. It is believed here that these springs are the vents of
a great subterraneous lake, and they have this circumstance to
favour their opinion, that the ground is always moist and so soft
that the water boils up under foot as one walks upon it. This is
more visible after rains, for then the ground yields and sinks so
much, that I believe it is chiefly supported by the roots of trees
that are interwoven one with another; such is the ground round about
these fountains. At a little distance to the south is a village
named Guix, through which the way lies to the top of the mountain,
from whence the traveller discovers a vast extent of land, which
appears like a deep valley, though the mountain rises so
imperceptibly that those who go up or down it are scarce sensible of
any declivity.

On the top of this mountain is a little hill which the idolatrous
Agaus have in great veneration; their priest calls them together at
this place once a year, and having sacrificed a cow, throws the head
into one of the springs of the Nile; after which ceremony, every one
sacrifices a cow or more, according to their different degrees of
wealth or devotion. The bones of these cows have already formed two
mountains of considerable height, which afford a sufficient proof
that these nations have always paid their adorations to this famous
river. They eat these sacrifices with great devotion, as flesh
consecrated to their deity. Then the priest anoints himself with
the grease and tallow of the cows, and sits down on a heap of straw,
on the top and in the middle of a pile which is prepared; they set
fire to it, and the whole heap is consumed without any injury to the
priest, who while the fire continues harangues the standers by, and
confirms them in their present ignorance and superstition. When the
pile is burnt, and the discourse at an end, every one makes a large
present to the priest, which is the grand design of this religious

To return to the course of the Nile: its waters, after the first
rise, run to the eastward for about a musket-shot, then turning to
the north, continue hidden in the grass and weeds for about a
quarter of a league, and discover themselves for the first time
among some rocks--a sight not to be enjoyed without some pleasure by
those who have read the fabulous accounts of this stream delivered
by the ancients, and the vain conjectures and reasonings which have
been formed upon its original, the nature of its water, its
cataracts, and its inundations, all which we are now entirely
acquainted with and eye-witnesses of.

Many interpreters of the Holy Scriptures pretend that Gihon,
mentioned in Genesis, is no other than the Nile, which encompasseth
all Aethiopia; but as the Gihon had its source from the terrestrial
paradise, and we know that the Nile rises in the country of the
Agaus, it will be found, I believe, no small difficulty to conceive
how the same river could arise from two sources so distant from each
other, or how a river from so low a source should spring up and
appear in a place perhaps the highest in the world: for if we
consider that Arabia and Palestine are in their situation almost
level with Egypt; that Egypt is as low, if compared with the kingdom
of Dambia, as the deepest valley in regard of the highest mountain;
that the province of Sacala is yet more elevated than Dambia; that
the waters of the Nile must either pass under the Red Sea, or take a
great compass about, we shall find it hard to conceive such an
attractive power in the earth as may be able to make the waters rise
through the obstruction of so much sand from places so low to the
most lofty region of Aethiopia.

But leaving these difficulties, let us go on to describe the course
of the Nile. It rolls away from its source with so inconsiderable a
current, that it appears unlikely to escape being dried up by the
hot season, but soon receiving an increase from the Gemma, the
Keltu, the Bransu, and other less rivers, it is of such a breadth in
the plain of Boad, which is not above three days' journey from its
source, that a ball shot from a musket will scarce fly from one bank
to the other. Here it begins to run northwards, deflecting,
however, a little towards the east, for the space of nine or ten
leagues, and then enters the so much talked of Lake of Dambia,
called by the natives Bahar Sena, the Resemblance of the Sea, or
Bahar Dambia, the Sea of Dambia. It crosses this lake only at one
end with so violent a rapidity, that the waters of the Nile may be
distinguished through all the passage, which is six leagues. Here
begins the greatness of the Nile. Fifteen miles farther, in the
land of Alata, it rushes precipitately from the top of a high rock,
and forms one of the most beautiful water-falls in the world: I
passed under it without being wet; and resting myself there, for the
sake of the coolness, was charmed with a thousand delightful
rainbows, which the sunbeams painted on the water in all their
shining and lively colours. The fall of this mighty stream from so
great a height makes a noise that may be heard to a considerable
distance; but I could not observe that the neighbouring inhabitants
were at all deaf. I conversed with several, and was as easily heard
by them as I heard them. The mist that rises from this fall of
water may be seen much farther than the noise can be heard. After
this cataract the Nile again collects its scattered stream among the
rocks, which seem to be disjoined in this place only to afford it a
passage. They are so near each other that, in my time, a bridge of
beams, on which the whole Imperial army passed, was laid over them.
Sultan Segued hath since built here a bridge of one arch in the same
place, for which purpose he procured masons from India. This
bridge, which is the first the Abyssins have seen on the Nile, very
much facilitates a communication between the provinces, and
encourages commerce among the inhabitants of his empire.

Here the river alters its course, and passes through many various
kingdoms; on the east it leaves Begmeder, or the Land of Sheep, so
called from great numbers that are bred there, beg, in that
language, signifying sheep, and meder, a country. It then waters
the kingdoms of Amhara, Olaca, Choaa, and Damot, which lie on the
left side, and the kingdom of Goiama, which it bounds on the right,
forming by its windings a kind of peninsula. Then entering Bezamo,
a province of the kingdom of Damot, and Gamarchausa, part of Goiama,
it returns within a short day's journey of its spring; though to
pursue it through all its mazes, and accompany it round the kingdom
of Goiama, is a journey of twenty-nine days. So far, and a few
days' journey farther, this river confines itself to Abyssinia, and
then passes into the bordering countries of Fazulo and Ombarca.

These vast regions we have little knowledge of: they are inhabited
by nations entirely different from the Abyssins; their hair is like
that of the other blacks, short and curled. In the year 1615,
Rassela Christos, lieutenant-general to Sultan Segued, entered those
kingdoms with his army in a hostile manner; but being able to get no
intelligence of the condition of the people, and astonished at their
unbounded extent, he returned, without daring to attempt anything.

As the empire of the Abyssins terminates at these deserts, and as I
have followed the course of the Nile no farther, I here leave it to
range over barbarous kingdoms, and convey wealth and plenty into
Egypt, which owes to the annual inundations of this river its envied
fertility. I know not anything of the rest of its passage, but that
it receives great increases from many other rivers; that it has
several cataracts like the first already described, and that few
fish are to be found in it, which scarcity, doubtless, is to be
attributed to the river-horses and crocodiles, which destroy the
weaker inhabitants of these waters, and something may be allowed to
the cataracts, it being difficult for fish to fall so far without
being killed.

Although some who have travelled in Asia and Africa have given the
world their descriptions of crocodiles and hippopotamus, or river-
horse, yet as the Nile has at least as great numbers of each as any
river in the world, I cannot but think my account of it would be
imperfect without some particular mention of these animals.

The crocodile is very ugly, having no proportion between his length
and thickness; he hath short feet, a wide mouth, with two rows of
sharp teeth, standing wide from each other, a brown skin so
fortified with scales, even to his nose, that a musket-ball cannot
penetrate it. His sight is extremely quick, and at a great
distance. In the water he is daring and fierce, and will seize on
any that are so unfortunate as to be found by him bathing, who, if
they escape with life, are almost sure to leave some limb in his
mouth. Neither I, nor any with whom I have conversed about the
crocodile, have ever seen him weep, and therefore I take the liberty
of ranking all that hath been told us of his tears amongst the
fables which are only proper to amuse children.

The hippopotamus, or river-horse, grazes upon the land and browses
on the shrubs, yet is no less dangerous than the crocodile. He is
the size of an ox, of a brown colour without any hair, his tail is
short, his neck long, and his head of an enormous bigness; his eyes
are small, his mouth wide, with teeth half a foot long; he hath two
tusks like those of a wild boar, but larger; his legs are short, and
his feet part into four toes. It is easy to observe from this
description that he hath no resemblance of a horse, and indeed
nothing could give occasion to the name but some likeness in his
ears, and his neighing and snorting like a horse when he is provoked
or raises his head out of water. His hide is so hard that a musket
fired close to him can only make a slight impression, and the best
tempered lances pushed forcibly against him are either blunted or
shivered, unless the assailant has the skill to make his thrust at
certain parts which are more tender. There is great danger in
meeting him, and the best way is, upon such an accident, to step
aside and let him pass by. The flesh of this animal doth not differ
from that of a cow, except that it is blacker and harder to digest.

The ignorance which we have hitherto been in of the original of the
Nile hath given many authors an opportunity of presenting us very
gravely with their various systems and conjectures about the nature
of its waters, and the reason of its overflows.

It is easy to observe how many empty hypotheses and idle reasonings
the phenomena of this river have put mankind to the expense of. Yet
there are people so bigoted to antiquity, as not to pay any regard
to the relation of travellers who have been upon the spot, and by
the evidence of their eyes can confute all that the ancients have
written. It was difficult, it was even impossible, to arrive at the
source of the Nile by tracing its channel from the mouth; and all
who ever attempted it, having been stopped by the cataracts, and
imagining none that followed them could pass farther, have taken the
liberty of entertaining us with their own fictions.

It is to be remembered likewise that neither the Greeks nor Romans,
from whom we have received all our information, ever carried their
arms into this part of the world, or ever heard of multitudes of
nations that dwell upon the banks of this vast river; that the
countries where the Nile rises, and those through which it runs,
have no inhabitants but what are savage and uncivilised; that before
they could arrive at its head, they must surmount the insuperable
obstacles of impassable forests, inaccessible cliffs, and deserts
crowded with beasts of prey, fierce by nature, and raging for want
of sustenance. Yet if they who endeavoured with so much ardour to
discover the spring of this river had landed at Mazna on the coast
of the Red Sea, and marched a little more to the south than the
south-west, they might perhaps have gratified their curiosity at
less expense, and in about twenty days might have enjoyed the
desired sight of the sources of the Nile.

But this discovery was reserved for the invincible bravery of our
noble countrymen, who, not discouraged by the dangers of a
navigation in seas never explored before, have subdued kingdoms and
empires where the Greek and Roman greatness, where the names of
Caesar and Alexander, were never heard of; who have demolished the
airy fabrics of renowned hypotheses, and detected those fables which
the ancients rather chose to invent of the sources of the Nile than
to confess their ignorance. I cannot help suspending my narration
to reflect a little on the ridiculous speculations of those swelling
philosophers, whose arrogance would prescribe laws to nature, and
subject those astonishing effects, which we behold daily, to their
idle reasonings and chimerical rules. Presumptuous imagination!
that has given being to such numbers of books, and patrons to so
many various opinions about the overflows of the Nile. Some of
these theorists have been pleased to declare it as their favourite
notion that this inundation is caused by high winds which stop the
current, and so force the water to rise above its banks, and spread
over all Egypt. Others pretend a subterraneous communication
between the ocean and the Nile, and that the sea being violently
agitated swells the river. Many have imagined themselves blessed
with the discovery when they have told us that this mighty flood
proceeds from the melting of snow on the mountains of Aethiopia,
without reflecting that this opinion is contrary to the received
notion of all the ancients, who believed that the heat was so
excessive between the tropics that no inhabitant could live there.
So much snow and so great heat are never met with in the same
region; and indeed I never saw snow in Abyssinia, except on Mount
Semen in the kingdom of Tigre, very remote from the Nile, and on
Namera, which is indeed not far distant, but where there never falls
snow sufficient to wet the foot of the mountain when it is melted.

To the immense labours and fatigues of the Portuguese mankind is
indebted for the knowledge of the real cause of these inundations so
great and so regular. Their observations inform us that Abyssinia,
where the Nile rises and waters vast tracts of land, is full of
mountains, and in its natural situation much higher than Egypt; that
all the winter, from June to September, no day is without rain; that
the Nile receives in its course all the rivers, brooks, and torrents
which fall from those mountains; these necessarily swell it above
the banks, and fill the plains of Egypt with the inundation. This
comes regularly about the month of July, or three weeks after the
beginning of a rainy season in Aethiopia. The different degrees of
this flood are such certain indications of the fruitfulness or
sterility of the ensuing year, that it is publicly proclaimed in
Cairo how much the water hath gained each night. This is all I have
to inform the reader of concerning the Nile, which the Egyptians
adored as the deity, in whose choice it was to bless them with
abundance, or deprive them of the necessaries of life.

Chapter XI

The author discovers a passage over the Nile. Is sent into the
province of Ligonus, which he gives a description of. His success
in his mission. The stratagem of the monks to encourage the
soldiers. The author narrowly escapes being burned.

When I was to cross this river at Boad, I durst not venture myself
on the floats I have already spoken of, but went up higher in hopes
of finding a more commodious passage. I had with me three or four
men that were reduced to the same difficulty with myself. In one
part seeing people on the other side, and remarking that the water
was shallow, and that the rocks and trees which grew very thick
there contributed to facilitate the attempt, I leaped from one rock
to another, till I reached the opposite bank, to the great amazement
of the natives themselves, who never had tried that way; my four
companions followed me with the same success: and it hath been
called since the passage of Father Jerome.

That province of the kingdom of Damot, which I was assigned to by my
superior, is called Ligonus, and is perhaps one of the most
beautiful and agreeable places in the world; the air is healthful
and temperate, and all the mountains, which are not very high,
shaded with cedars. They sow and reap here in every season, the
ground is always producing, and the fruits ripen throughout the
year; so great, so charming is the variety, that the whole region
seems a garden laid out and cultivated only to please. I doubt
whether even the imagination of a painter has yet conceived a
landscape as beautiful as I have seen. The forests have nothing
uncouth or savage, and seem only planted for shade and coolness.
Among a prodigious number of trees which fill them, there is one
kind which I have seen in no other place, and to which we have none
that bears any resemblance. This tree, which the natives call
ensete, is wonderfully useful; its leaves, which are so large as to
cover a man, make hangings for rooms, and serve the inhabitants
instead of linen for their tables and carpets. They grind the
branches and the thick parts of the leaves, and when they are
mingled with milk, find them a delicious food. The trunk and the
roots are even more nourishing than the leaves or branches, and the
meaner people, when they go a journey, make no provision of any
other victuals. The word ensete signifies the tree against hunger,
or the poor's tree, though the most wealthy often eat of it. If it
be cut down within half a foot of the ground and several incisions
made in the stump, each will put out a new sprout, which, if
transplanted, will take root and grow to a tree. The Abyssins
report that this tree when it is cut down groans like a man, and, on
this account, call cutting down an ensete killing it. On the top
grows a bunch of five or six figs, of a taste not very agreeable,
which they set in the ground to produce more trees.

I stayed two months in the province of Ligonus, and during that time
procured a church to be built of hewn stone, roofed and wainscoted
with cedar, which is the most considerable in the whole country. My
continual employment was the duties of the mission, which I was
always practising in some part of the province, not indeed with any
extraordinary success at first, for I found the people inflexibly
obstinate in their opinions, even to so great a degree, that when I
first published the Emperor's edict requiring all his subjects to
renounce their errors, and unite themselves to the Roman Church,
there were some monks who, to the number of sixty, chose rather to
die by throwing themselves headlong from a precipice than obey their
sovereign's commands: and in a battle fought between these people
that adhered to the religion of their ancestors, and the troops of
Sultan Segued, six hundred religious, placing themselves at the head
of their men, marched towards the Catholic army with the stones of
the altars upon their heads, assuring their credulous followers that
the Emperor's troops would immediately at the sight of those stones
fall into disorder and turn their backs; but, as they were some of
the first that fell, their death had a great influence upon the
people to undeceive them, and make them return to the truth. Many
were converted after the battle, and when they had embraced the
Catholic faith, adhered to that with the same constancy and firmness
with which they had before persisted in their errors.

The Emperor had sent a viceroy into this province, whose firm
attachment to the Roman Church, as well as great abilities in
military affairs, made him a person very capable of executing the
orders of the Emperor, and of suppressing any insurrection that
might be raised, to prevent those alterations in religion which they
were designed to promote: a farther view in the choice of so
warlike a deputy was that a stop might be put to the inroads of the
Galles, who had killed one viceroy, and in a little time after
killed this.

It was our custom to meet together every year about Christmas, not
only that we might comfort and entertain each other, but likewise
that we might relate the progress and success of our missions, and
concert all measures that might farther the conversion of the
inhabitants. This year our place of meeting was the Emperor's camp,
where the patriarch and superior of the missions were. I left the
place of my abode, and took in my way four fathers, that resided at
the distance of two days' journey, so that the company, without
reckoning our attendants, was five. There happened nothing
remarkable to us till the last night of our journey, when taking up
our lodging at a place belonging to the Empress, a declared enemy to
all Catholics, and in particular to the missionaries, we met with a
kind reception in appearance, and were lodged in a large stone house
covered with wood and straw, which had stood uninhabited so long,
that great numbers of red ants had taken possession of it; these, as
soon as we were laid down, attacked us on all sides, and tormented
us so incessantly that we were obliged to call up our domestics.
Having burnt a prodigious number of these troublesome animals, we
tried to compose ourselves again, but had scarce closed our eyes
before we were awakened by the fire that had seized our lodging.
Our servants, who were fortunately not all gone to bed, perceived
the fire as soon as it began, and informed me, who lay nearest the
door. I immediately alarmed all the rest, and nothing was thought
of but how to save ourselves and the little goods we had, when, to
our great astonishment, we found one of the doors barricaded in such
a manner that we could not open it. Nothing now could have
prevented our perishing in the flames had not those who kindled them
omitted to fasten that door near which I was lodged. We were no
longer in doubt that the inhabitants of the town had laid a train,
and set fire to a neighbouring house, in order to consume us; their
measures were so well laid, that the house was in ashes in an
instant, and three of our beds were burnt which the violence of the
flame would not allow us to carry away. We spent the rest of the
night in the most dismal apprehensions, and found next morning that
we had justly charged the inhabitants with the design of destroying
us, for the place was entirely abandoned, and those that were
conscious of the crime had fled from the punishment. We continued
our journey, and came to Gorgora, where we found the fathers met,
and the Emperor with them.

Chapter XII

The author is sent into Tigre. Is in danger of being poisoned by
the breath of a serpent. Is stung by a serpent. Is almost killed
by eating anchoy. The people conspire against the missionaries, and
distress them.

My superiors intended to send me into the farthest parts of the
empire, but the Emperor over-ruled that design, and remanded me to
Tigre, where I had resided before. I passed in my journey by Ganete
Ilhos, a palace newly built, and made agreeable by beautiful
gardens, and had the honour of paying my respects to the Emperor,
who had retired thither, and receiving from him a large present for
the finishing of a hospital, which had been begun in the kingdom of
Tigre. After having returned him thanks, I continued my way, and in
crossing a desert two days' journey over, was in great danger of my
life, for, as I lay on the ground, I perceived myself seized with a
pain which forced me to rise, and saw about four yards from me one
of those serpents that dart their poison at a distance; although I
rose before he came very near me, I yet felt the effects of his
poisonous breath, and, if I had lain a little longer, had certainly
died; I had recourse to bezoar, a sovereign remedy against these
poisons, which I always carried about me. These serpents are not
long, but have a body short and thick, and their bellies speckled
with brown, black, and yellow; they have a wide mouth, with which
they draw in a great quantity of air, and, having retained it some
time, eject it with such force that they kill at four yards'
distance. I only escaped by being somewhat farther from him. This
danger, however, was not much to be regarded in comparison of
another which my negligence brought me into. As I was picking up a
skin that lay upon the ground, I was stung by a serpent that left
his sting in my finger; I at least picked an extraneous substance
about the bigness of a hair out of the wound, which I imagined was
the sting. This slight wound I took little notice of, till my arm
grew inflamed all over; in a short time the poison infected my
blood, and I felt the most terrible convulsions, which were
interpreted as certain signs that my death was near and inevitable.
I received now no benefit from bezoar, the horn of the unicorn, or
any of the usual antidotes, but found myself obliged to make use of
an extraordinary remedy, which I submitted to with extreme
reluctance. This submission and obedience brought the blessing of
Heaven upon me; nevertheless, I continued indisposed a long time,
and had many symptoms which made me fear that all the danger was not
yet over. I then took cloves of garlic, though with a great
aversion, both from the taste and smell. I was in this condition a
whole month, always in pain, and taking medicines the most nauseous
in the world. At length youth and a happy constitution surmounted
the malignity, and I recovered my former health.

I continued two years at my residence in Tigre, entirely taken up
with the duties of the mission--preaching, confessing, baptising--
and enjoyed a longer quiet and repose than I had ever done since I
left Portugal. During this time one of our fathers, being always
sick and of a constitution which the air of Abyssinia was very
hurtful to, obtained a permission from our superiors to return to
the Indies; I was willing to accompany him through part of his way,
and went with him over a desert, at no great distance from my
residence, where I found many trees loaded with a kind of fruit,
called by the natives anchoy, about the bigness of an apricot, and
very yellow, which is much eaten without any ill effect. I
therefore made no scruple of gathering and eating it, without
knowing that the inhabitants always peeled it, the rind being a
violent purgative; so that, eating the fruit and skin together, I
fell into such a disorder as almost brought me to my end. The
ordinary dose is six of these rinds, and I had devoured twenty.

I removed from thence to Debaroa, fifty-four miles nearer the sea,
and crossed in my way the desert of the province of Saraoe. The
country is fruitful, pleasant, and populous; there are greater
numbers of Moors in these parts than in any other province of
Abyssinia, and the Abyssins of this country are not much better than
the Moors.

I was at Debaroa when the prosecution was first set on foot against
the Catholics. Sultan Segued, who had been so great a favourer of
us, was grown old, and his spirit and authority decreased with his
strength. His son, who was arrived at manhood, being weary of
waiting so long for the crown he was to inherit, took occasion to
blame his father's conduct, and found some reason for censuring all
his actions; he even proceeded so far as to give orders sometimes
contrary to the Emperor's. He had embraced the Catholic religion,
rather through complaisance than conviction or inclination; and many
of the Abyssins who had done the same, waited only for an
opportunity of making public profession of the ancient erroneous
opinions, and of re-uniting themselves to the Church of Alexandria.
So artfully can this people dissemble their sentiments that we had
not been able hitherto to distinguish our real from our pretended
favourers; but as soon as this Prince began to give evident tokens
of his hatred, even in the lifetime of the Emperor, we saw all the
courtiers and governors who had treated us with such a show of
friendship declare against us, and persecute us as disturbers of the
public tranquillity, who had come into Aethiopia with no other
intention than to abolish the ancient laws and customs of the
country, to sow divisions between father and son, and preach up a

After having borne all sorts of affronts and ill-treatments, we
retired to our house at Fremona, in the midst of our countrymen, who
had been settling round about us a long time, imagining we should be
more secure there, and that, at least during the life of the
Emperor, they would not come to extremities, or proceed to open
force. I laid some stress upon the kindness which the viceroy of
Tigre had shown to us, and in particular to me; but was soon
convinced that those hopes had no real foundation, for he was one of
the most violent of our persecutors. He seized upon all our lands,
and, advancing with his troops to Fremona, blocked up the town. The
army had not been stationed there long before they committed all
sorts of disorders; so that one day a Portuguese, provoked beyond
his temper at the insolence of some of them, went out with his four
sons, and, wounding several of them, forced the rest back to their

We thought we had good reason to apprehend an attack; their troops
were increasing, our town was surrounded, and on the point of being
forced. Our Portuguese therefore thought that, without staying till
the last extremities, they might lawfully repel one violence by
another, and sallying out to the number of fifty, wounded about
three score of the Abyssins, and had put them to the sword but that
they feared it might bring too great an odium upon our cause. The
Portuguese were some of them wounded, but happily none died on
either side.

Though the times were by no means favourable to us, every one blamed
the conduct of the viceroy; and those who did not commend our action
made the necessity we were reduced to of self-defence an excuse for
it. The viceroy's principal design was to get my person into his
possession, imagining that if I was once in his power, all the
Portuguese would pay him a blind obedience. Having been
unsuccessful in his attempt by open force, he made use of the arts
of negotiation, but with an event not more to his satisfaction.
This viceroy being recalled, a son-in-law of the Emperor's
succeeded, who treated us even worse than his predecessor had done.

When he entered upon his command, he loaded us with kindnesses,
giving us so many assurances of his protection that, while the
Emperor lived, we thought him one of our friends; but no sooner was
our protector dead than this man pulled off his mask, and, quitting
all shame, let us see that neither the fear of God nor any other
consideration was capable of restraining him when we were to be
distressed. The persecution then becoming general, there was no
longer any place of security for us in Abyssinia, where we were
looked upon by all as the authors of all the civil commotions, and
many councils were held to determine in what manner they should
dispose of us. Several were of opinion that the best way would be
to kill us all at once, and affirmed that no other means were left
of re-establishing order and tranquillity in the kingdom.

Others, more prudent, were not for putting us to death with so
little consideration, but advised that we should be banished to one
of the isles of the Lake of Dambia, an affliction more severe than
death itself. These alleged in vindication of their opinions that
it was reasonable to expect, if they put us to death, that the
viceroy of the Indies would come with fire and sword to demand
satisfaction. This argument made so great an impression upon some
of them that they thought no better measures could be taken than to
send us back again to the Indies. This proposal, however, was not
without its difficulties, for they suspected that when we should
arrive at the Portuguese territories, we would levy an army, return
back to Abyssinia, and under pretence of establishing the Catholic
religion revenge all the injuries we had suffered. While they were
thus deliberating upon our fate, we were imploring the succour of
the Almighty with fervent and humble supplications, entreating him
in the midst of our sighs and tears that he would not suffer his own
cause to miscarry, and that, however it might please him to dispose
of our lives--which, we prayed, he would assist us to lay down with
patience and resignation worthy of the faith for which we were
persecuted--he would not permit our enemies to triumph over the

Thus we passed our days and nights in prayers, in affliction, and
tears, continually crowded with widows and orphans that subsisted
upon our charity and came to us for bread when we had not any for

While we were in this distress we received an account that the
viceroy of the Indies had fitted out a powerful fleet against the
King of Mombaza, who, having thrown off the authority of the
Portuguese, had killed the governor of the fortress, and had since
committed many acts of cruelty. The same fleet, as we were
informed, after the King of Mombaza was reduced, was to burn and
ruin Zeila, in revenge of the death of two Portuguese Jesuits who
were killed by the King in the year 1604. As Zeila was not far from
the frontiers of Abyssinia, they imagined that they already saw the
Portuguese invading their country.

The viceroy of Tigre had inquired of me a few days before how many
men one India ship carried, and being told that the complement of
some was a thousand men, he compared that answer with the report
then spread over all the country, that there were eighteen
Portuguese vessels on the coast of Adel, and concluded that they
were manned by an army of eighteen thousand men; then considering
what had been achieved by four hundred, under the command of Don
Christopher de Gama, he thought Abyssinia already ravaged, or
subjected to the King of Portugal. Many declared themselves of his
opinion, and the court took its measures with respect to us from
these uncertain and ungrounded rumours. Some were so infatuated
with their apprehensions that they undertook to describe the camp of
the Portuguese, and affirmed that they had heard the report of their

All this contributed to exasperate the inhabitants, and reduced us
often to the point of being massacred. At length they came to a
resolution of giving us up to the Turks, assuring them that we were
masters of a vast treasure, in hope that after they had inflicted
all kinds of tortures on us, to make us confess where we had hid our
gold, or what we had done with it, they would at length kill us in
rage for the disappointment. Nor was this their only view, for they
believed that the Turks would, by killing us, kindle such an
irreconcilable hatred between themselves and our nation as would
make it necessary for them to keep us out of the Red Sea, of which
they are entirely masters: so that their determination was as
politic as cruel. Some pretend that the Turks were engaged to put
us to death as soon as we were in their power.

Chapter XIII

The author relieves the patriarch and missionaries, and supports
them. He escapes several snares laid for him by the viceroy of
Tigre. They put themselves under the protection of the Prince of

Having concluded this negotiation, they drove us out of our houses,
and robbed us of everything that was worth carrying away; and, not
content with that, informed some banditti that were then in those
parts of the road we were to travel through, so that the patriarch
and some missionaries were attacked in a desert by these rovers,
with their captain at their head, who pillaged his library, his
ornaments, and what little baggage the missionaries had left, and
might have gone away without resistance or interruption had they
satisfied themselves with only robbing; but when they began to fall
upon the missionaries and their companions, our countrymen, finding
that their lives could only be preserved by their courage, charged
their enemies with such vigour that they killed their chief and
forced the rest to a precipitate flight. But these rovers, being
acquainted with the country, harassed the little caravan till it was
past the borders.

Our fathers then imagined they had nothing more to fear, but too
soon were convinced of their error, for they found the whole country
turned against them, and met everywhere new enemies to contend with
and new dangers to surmount. Being not far distant from Fremona,
where I resided, they sent to me for succour. I was better informed
of the distress they were in than themselves, having been told that
a numerous body of Abyssins had posted themselves in a narrow pass
with an intent to surround and destroy them; therefore, without long
deliberation, I assembled my friends, both Portuguese and Abyssins,
to the number of fourscore, and went to their rescue, carrying with
me provisions and refreshments, of which I knew they were in great
need. These glorious confessors I met as they were just entering
the pass designed for the place of their destruction, and doubly
preserved them from famine and the sword. A grateful sense of their
deliverance made them receive me as a guardian angel. We went
together to Fremona, and being in all a patriarch, a bishop,
eighteen Jesuits, and four hundred Portuguese whom I supplied with
necessaries, though the revenues of our house were lost, and though
the country was disaffected to us, in the worst season of the year.
We were obliged for the relief of the poor and our own subsistence
to sell our ornaments and chalices, which we first broke in pieces,
that the people might not have the pleasure of ridiculing our
mysteries by profaning the vessels made use of in the celebration of
them, for they now would gladly treat with the highest indignities
what they had a year before looked upon with veneration.

Amidst all these perplexities the viceroy did not fail to visit us,
and make us great offers of service in expectation of a large
present. We were in a situation in which it was very difficult to
act properly; we knew too well the ill intentions of the viceroy,
but durst not complain, or give him any reason to imagine that we
knew them. We longed to retreat out of his power, or at least to
send one of our company to the Indies with an account of persecution
we suffered, and could without his leave neither do one nor the

When it was determined that one should be sent to the Indies, I was
at first singled out for the journey, and it was intended that I
should represent at Goa, at Rome, and at Madrid the distresses and
necessities of the mission of Aethiopia; but the fathers reflecting
afterwards that I best understood the Abyssinian language, and was
most acquainted with the customs of the country, altered their
opinions, and, continuing me in Aethiopia either to perish with them
or preserve them, deputed four other Jesuits, who in a short time
set out on their way to the Indies.

About this time I was sent for to the viceroy's camp to confess a
criminal, who, though falsely, was believed a Catholic, to whom,
after a proper exhortation, I was going to pronounce the form of
absolution, when those that waited to execute him told him aloud
that if he expected to save his life by professing himself a
Catholic, he would find himself deceived, and that he had nothing to
do but prepare himself for death. The unhappy criminal had no
sooner heard this than, rising up, he declared his resolution to die
in the religion of his country, and being delivered up to his
prosecutors was immediately dispatched with their lances.

The chief reason of calling me was not that I might hear this
confession: the viceroy had another design of seizing my person,
expecting that either the Jesuits or Portuguese would buy my liberty
with a large ransom, or that he might exchange me for his father,
who was kept prisoner by a revolted prince. That prince would have
been no loser by the exchange, for so much was I hated by the
Abyssinian monks that they would have thought no expense too great
to have gotten me into their hands, that they might have glutted
their revenge by putting me to the most painful death they could
have invented. Happily I found means to retire out of this
dangerous place, and was followed by the viceroy almost to Fremona,
who, being disappointed, desired me either to visit him at his camp,
or appoint a place where we might confer. I made many excuses, but
at length agreed to meet him at a place near Fremona, bringing each
of us only three companions. I did not doubt but he would bring
more, and so he did, but found that I was upon my guard, and that my
company increased in proportion to his. My friends were resolute
Portuguese, who were determined to give him no quarter if he made
any attempt upon my liberty. Finding himself once more
countermined, he returned ashamed to his camp, where a month after,
being accused of a confederacy in the revolt of that prince who kept
his father prisoner, he was arrested, and carried in chains to the

The time now approaching in which we were to be delivered to the
Turks, we had none but God to apply to for relief: all the measures
we could think of were equally dangerous. Resolving, nevertheless,
to seek some retreat where we might hide ourselves either all
together or separately, we determined at last to put ourselves under
the protection of the Prince John Akay, who had defended himself a
long time in the province of Bar against the power of Abyssinia.

After I had concluded a treaty with this prince, the patriarch and
all the fathers put themselves into his hands, and being received
with all imaginable kindness and civility, were conducted with a
guard to Adicota, a rock excessively steep, about nine miles from
his place of residence. The event was not agreeable to the happy
beginning of our negotiation, for we soon began to find that our
habitation was not likely to be very pleasant. We were surrounded
with Mahometans, or Christians who were inveterate enemies to the
Catholic faith, and were obliged to act with the utmost caution.
Notwithstanding these inconveniences we were pleased with the
present tranquillity we enjoyed, and lived contentedly on lentils
and a little corn that we had; and I, after we had sold all our
goods, resolved to turn physician, and was soon able to support
myself by my practice.

I was once consulted by a man troubled with asthma, who presented me
with two alquieres--that is, about twenty-eight pounds weight--of
corn and a sheep. The advice I gave him, after having turned over
my books, was to drink goats' urine every morning; I know not
whether he found any benefit by following my prescription, for I
never saw him after.

Being under a necessity of obeying our acoba, or protector, we
changed our place of abode as often as he desired it, though not
without great inconveniences, from the excessive heat of the weather
and the faintness which our strict observation of the fasts and
austerities of Lent, as it is kept in this country, had brought upon
us. At length, wearied with removing so often, and finding that the
last place assigned for our abode was always the worst, we agreed
that I should go to our sovereign and complain.

I found him entirely taken up with the imagination of a prodigious
treasure, affirmed by the monks to be hidden under a mountain. He
was told that his predecessors had been hindered from discovering it
by the demon that guarded it, but that the demon was now at a great
distance from his charge, and was grown blind and lame; that having
lost his son, and being without any children except a daughter that
was ugly and unhealthy, he was under great affliction, and entirely
neglected the care of his treasure; that if he should come, they
could call one of their ancient brothers to their assistance, who,
being a man of a most holy life, would be able to prevent his making
any resistance. To all these stories the prince listened with
unthinking credulity. The monks, encouraged by this, fell to the
business, and brought a man above a hundred years old, whom, because
he could not support himself on horseback, they had tied on the
beast, and covered him with black wool. He was followed by a black
cow (designed for a sacrifice to the demon of the place), and by
some monks that carried mead, beer, and parched corn, to complete
the offering.

No sooner were they arrived at the foot of the mountain than every
one began to work: bags were brought from all parts to convey away
the millions which each imagined would be his share. The Xumo, who
superintended the work, would not allow any one to come near the
labourers, but stood by, attended by the old monk, who almost sang
himself to death. At length, having removed a vast quantity of
earth and stones, they discovered some holes made by rats or moles,
at sight of which a shout of joy ran through the whole troop: the
cow was brought and sacrificed immediately, and some pieces of flesh
were thrown into these holes. Animated now with assurance of
success, they lose no time: every one redoubles his endeavours, and
the heat, though intolerable, was less powerful than the hopes they
had conceived. At length some, not so patient as the rest, were
weary, and desisted. The work now grew more difficult; they found
nothing but rock, yet continued to toil on, till the prince, having
lost all temper, began to inquire with some passion when he should
have a sight of this treasure, and after having been some time
amused with many promises by the monks, was told that he had not
faith enough to be favoured with the discovery.

All this I saw myself, and could not forbear endeavouring to
convince our protector how much he was imposed upon: he was not
long before he was satisfied that he had been too credulous, for all
those that had so industriously searched after this imaginary
wealth, within five hours left the work in despair, and I continued
almost alone with the prince.

Imagining no time more proper to make the proposal I was sent with
than while his passion was still hot against the monks, I presented
him with two ounces of gold and two plates of silver, with some
other things of small value, and was so successful that he gratified
me in all my requests, and gave us leave to return to Adicora, where
we were so fortunate to find our huts yet uninjured and entire.

About this time the fathers who had stayed behind at Fremona arrived
with the new viceroy, and an officer fierce in the defence of his
own religion, who had particular orders to deliver all the Jesuits
up to the Turks, except me, whom the Emperor was resolved to have in
his own hands, alive or dead. We had received some notice of this
resolution from our friends at court, and were likewise informed
that the Emperor, their master, had been persuaded that my design
was to procure assistance from the Indies, and that I should
certainly return at the head of an army. The patriarch's advice
upon this emergency was that I should retire into the woods, and by
some other road join the nine Jesuits who were gone towards Mazna.
I could think of no better expedient, and therefore went away in the
night between the 23rd and 24th of April with my comrade, an old
man, very infirm and very timorous. We crossed woods never crossed,
I believe, by any before: the darkness of the night and the
thickness of the shade spread a kind of horror round us; our gloomy
journey was still more incommoded by the brambles and thorns, which
tore our hands; amidst all these difficulties I applied myself to
the Almighty, praying him to preserve us from those dangers which we
endeavoured to avoid, and to deliver us from those to which our
flight exposed us. Thus we travelled all night, till eight next
morning, without taking either rest or food; then, imagining
ourselves secure, we made us some cakes of barley-meal and water,
which we thought a feast.

We had a dispute with our guides, who though they had bargained to
conduct us for an ounce of gold, yet when they saw us so entangled
in the intricacies of the wood that we could not possibly get out
without their direction, demanded seven ounces of gold, a mule, and
a little tent which we had; after a long dispute we were forced to
come to their terms. We continued to travel all night, and to hide
ourselves in the woods all day: and here it was that we met the
three hundred elephants I spoke of before. We made long marches,
travelling without any halt from four in the afternoon to eight in
the morning.

Arriving at a valley where travellers seldom escape being plundered,
we were obliged to double our pace, and were so happy as to pass it
without meeting with any misfortune, except that we heard a bird
sing on our left hand--a certain presage among these people of some
great calamity at hand. As there is no reasoning them out of
superstition, I knew no way of encouraging them to go forward but
what I had already made use of on the same occasion, assuring them
that I heard one at the same time on the right. They were happily
so credulous as to take my word, and we went on till we came to a
well, where we stayed awhile to refresh ourselves. Setting out
again in the evening, we passed so near a village where these
robbers had retreated that the dogs barked after us. Next morning
we joined the fathers, who waited for us. After we had rested
ourselves some time in that mountain, we resolved to separate and go
two and two, to seek for a more convenient place where we might hide
ourselves. We had not gone far before we were surrounded by a troop
of robbers, with whom, by the interest of some of the natives who
had joined themselves to our caravan, we came to a composition,
giving them part of our goods to permit us to carry away the rest;
and after this troublesome adventure arrived at a place something
more commodious than that which we had quitted, where we met with
bread, but of so pernicious a quality that, after having ate it, we
were intoxicated to so great a degree that one of my friends, seeing
me so disordered, congratulated my good fortune of having met with
such good wine, and was surprised when I gave him an account of the
whole affair. He then offered me some curdled milk, very sour, with
barley-meal, which we boiled, and thought it the best entertainment
we had met with a long time.

Chapter XIV

They are betrayed into the hands of the Turks; are detained awhile
at Mazna; are threatened by the Bassa of Suaquem. They agree for
their ransom, and are part of them dismissed.

Some time after, we received news that we should prepare ourselves
to serve the Turks--a message which filled us with surprise, it
having never been known that one of these lords had ever abandoned
any whom he had taken under his protection; and it is, on the
contrary, one of the highest points of honour amongst them to risk
their fortunes and their lives in the defence of their dependants
who have implored their protection. But neither law nor justice was
of any advantage to us, and the customs of the country were doomed
to be broken when they would have contributed to our security.

We were obliged to march in the extremity of the hot season, and had
certainly perished by the fatigue had we not entered the woods,
which shaded us from the scorching sun. The day before our arrival
at the place where we were to be delivered to the Turks, we met with
five elephants, that pursued us, and if they could have come to us
would have prevented the miseries we afterwards endured, but God had
decreed otherwise.

On the morrow we came to the banks of a river, where we found
fourscore Turks that waited for us, armed with muskets. They let us
rest awhile, and then put us into the hands of our new masters, who,
setting us upon camels, conducted us to Mazna. Their commander,
seeming to be touched with our misfortunes, treated us with much
gentleness and humanity; he offered us coffee, which we drank, but
with little relish. We came next day to Mazna, in so wretched a
condition that we were not surprised at being hooted by the boys,
but thought ourselves well used that they threw no stones at us.

As soon as we were brought hither, all we had was taken from us, and
we were carried to the governor, who is placed there by the Bassa of
Suaquem. Having been told by the Abyssins that we had carried all
the gold out of Aethiopia, they searched us with great exactness,
but found nothing except two chalices, and some relics of so little
value that we redeemed them for six sequins. As I had given them my
chalice upon their first demand, they did not search me, but gave us
to understand that they expected to find something of greater value,
which either we must have hidden or the Abyssins must have imposed
on them. They left us the rest of the day at a gentleman's house,
who was our friend, from whence the next day they fetched us to
transport us to the island, where they put us into a kind of prison,
with a view of terrifying us into a confession of the place where we
had hid our gold, in which, however, they found themselves deceived.

But I had here another affair upon my hands which was near costing
me dear. My servant had been taken from me and left at Mazna, to be
sold to the Arabs. Being advertised by him of the danger he was in,
I laid claim to him, without knowing the difficulties which this way
of proceeding would bring upon me. The governor sent me word that
my servant should be restored to me upon payment of sixty piastres;
and being answered by me that I had not a penny for myself, and
therefore could not pay sixty piastres to redeem my servant, he
informed me by a renegade Jew, who negotiated the whole affair, that
either I must produce the money or receive a hundred blows of the
battoon. Knowing that those orders are without appeal, and always
punctually executed, I prepared myself to receive the correction I
was threatened with, but unexpectedly found the people so charitable
as to lend me the money. By several other threats of the same kind
they drew from us about six hundred crowns.

On the 24th of June we embarked in two galleys for Suaquem, where
the bassa resided. His brother, who was his deputy at Mazna, made
us promise before we went that we would not mention the money he had
squeezed from us. The season was not very proper for sailing, and
our provisions were but short. In a little time we began to feel
the want of better stores, and thought ourselves happy in meeting
with a gelve, which, though small, was a much better sailer than our
vessel, in which I was sent to Suaquem to procure camels and
provisions. I was not much at my ease, alone among six Mahometans,
and could not help apprehending that some zealous pilgrim of Mecca
might lay hold on this opportunity, in the heat of his devotion, of
sacrificing me to his prophet.

These apprehensions were without ground. I contracted an
acquaintance, which was soon improved into a friendship, with these
people; they offered me part of their provisions, and I gave them
some of mine. As we were in a place abounding with oysters--some of
which were large and good to eat, others more smooth and shining, in
which pearls are found--they gave me some of those they gathered;
but whether it happened by trifling our time away in oyster-
catching, or whether the wind was not favourable, we came to Suaquem
later than the vessel I had left, in which were seven of my

As they had first landed, they had suffered the first transports of
the bassa's passion, who was a violent, tyrannical man, and would
have killed his own brother for the least advantage--a temper which
made him fly into the utmost rage at seeing us poor, tattered, and
almost naked; he treated us with the most opprobrious language, and
threatened to cut off our heads. We comforted ourselves in this
condition, hoping that all our sufferings would end in shedding our
blood for the name of Jesus Christ. We knew that the bassa had
often made a public declaration before our arrival that he should
die contented if he could have the pleasure of killing us all with
his own hand. This violent resolution was not lasting; his zeal
gave way to his avarice, and he could not think of losing so large a
sum as he knew he might expect for our ransom: he therefore sent us
word that it was in our choice either to die, or to pay him thirty
thousand crowns, and demanded to know our determination.

We knew that his ardent thirst of our blood was now cold, that time
and calm reflection and the advice of his friends had all conspired
to bring him to a milder temper, and therefore willingly began to
treat with him. I told the messenger, being deputed by the rest to
manage the affair, that he could not but observe the wretched
condition we were in, that we had neither money nor revenues, that
what little we had was already taken from us, and that therefore all
we could promise was to set a collection on foot, not much doubting
but that our brethren would afford us such assistance as might
enable us to make him a handsome present according to custom.

This answer was not at all agreeable to the bassa, who returned an
answer that he would be satisfied with twenty thousand crowns,
provided we paid them on the spot, or gave him good securities for
the payment. To this we could only repeat what we had said before:
he then proposed to abate five thousand of his last demand, assuring
us that unless we came to some agreement, there was no torment so
cruel but we should suffer it, and talked of nothing but impaling
and flaying us alive; the terror of these threatenings was much
increased by his domestics, who told us of many of his cruelties.
This is certain, that some time before, he had used some poor pagan
merchants in that manner, and had caused the executioner to begin to
flay them, when some Brahmin, touched with compassion, generously
contributed the sum demanded for their ransom. We had no reason to
hope for so much kindness, and, having nothing of our own, could
promise no certain sum.

At length some of his favourites whom he most confided in, knowing
his cruelty and our inability to pay what he demanded, and
apprehending that, if he should put us to the death he threatened,
they should soon see the fleets of Portugal in the Red Sea, laying
their towns in ashes to revenge it, endeavoured to soften his
passion and preserve our lives, offering to advance the sum we
should agree for, without any other security than our words. By
this assistance, after many interviews with the bassa's agents, we
agreed to pay four thousand three hundred crowns, which were
accepted on condition that they should be paid down, and we should
go on board within two hours: but, changing his resolution on a
sudden, he sent us word by his treasurer that two of the most
considerable among us should stay behind for security, while the
rest went to procure the money they promised. They kept the
patriarch and two more fathers, one of which was above fourscore
years old, in whose place I chose to remain prisoner, and
represented to the bassa that, being worn out with age, he perhaps
might die in his hands, which would lose the part of the ransom
which was due on his account; that therefore it would be better to
choose a younger in his place, offering to stay myself with him,
that the good old man might be set at liberty.

The bassa agreed to another Jesuit, and it pleased Heaven that the
lot fell upon Father Francis Marquez. I imagined that I might with
the same ease get the patriarch out of his hand, but no sooner had I
begun to speak but the anger flashed in his eyes, and his look was
sufficient to make me stop and despair of success. We parted
immediately, leaving the patriarch and two fathers in prison, whom
we embraced with tears, and went to take up our lodging on board the

Chapter XV

Their treatment on board the vessel. Their reception at Diou. The
author applies to the viceroy for assistance, but without success;
he is sent to solicit in Europe.

Our condition here was not much better than that of the illustrious
captives whom we left behind. We were in an Arabian ship, with a
crew of pilgrims of Mecca, with whom it was a point of religion to
insult us. We were lodged upon the deck, exposed to all the
injuries of the weather, nor was there the meanest workman or sailor
who did not either kick or strike us. When we went first on board,
I perceived a humour in my finger, which I neglected at first, till
it spread over my hand and swelled up my arm, afflicting me with the
most horrid torture. There was neither surgeon nor medicines to be
had, nor could I procure anything to ease my pain but a little oil,
with which I anointed my arm, and in time found some relief. The
weather was very bad, and the wind almost always against us, and, to
increase our perplexity, the whole crew, though Moors, were in the
greatest apprehension of meeting any of those vessels which the
Turks maintain in the strait of Babelmandel; the ground of their
fear was that the captain had neglected the last year to touch at
Moca, though he had promised. Thus we were in danger of falling
into a captivity perhaps more severe than that we had just escaped
from. While we were wholly engaged with these apprehensions, we
discovered a Turkish ship and galley were come upon us. It was
almost calm--at least, there was not wind enough to give us any
prospect of escaping--so that when the galley came up to us, we
thought ourselves lost without remedy, and had probably fallen into
their hands had not a breeze sprung up just in the instant of
danger, which carried us down the channel between the mainland and
the isle of Babelmandel. I have already said that this passage is
difficult and dangerous, which, nevertheless, we passed in the
night, without knowing what course we held, and were transported at
finding ourselves next morning out of the Red Sea and half a league
from Babelmandel. The currents are here so violent that they
carried us against our will to Cape Guardafui, where we sent our
boats ashore for fresh water, which we began to be in great want of.
The captain refused to give us any when we desired some, and treated
us with great insolence, till, coming near the land, I spoke to him
in a tone more lofty and resolute than I had ever done, and gave him
to understand that when he touched at Diou he might have occasion
for our interest. This had some effect upon him, and procured us a
greater degree of civility than we had met with before.

At length after forty days' sailing we landed at Diou, where we were
met by the whole city, it being reported that the patriarch was one
of our number; for there was not a gentleman who was not impatient
to have the pleasure of beholding that good man, now made famous by
his labours and sufferings. It is not in my power to represent the
different passions they were affected with at seeing us pale,
meagre, without clothes--in a word, almost naked and almost dead
with fatigue and ill-usage. They could not behold us in that
miserable condition without reflecting on the hardships we had
undergone, and our brethren then underwent, in Suaquem and
Abyssinia. Amidst their thanks to God for our deliverance, they
could not help lamenting the condition of the patriarch and the
other missionaries who were in chains, or, at least, in the hands of
professed enemies to our holy religion. All this did not hinder
them from testifying in the most obliging manner their joy for our
deliverance, and paying such honours as surprised the Moors, and
made them repent in a moment of the ill-treatment they had shown us
on board. One who had discovered somewhat more humanity than the
rest thought himself sufficiently honoured when I took him by the
hand and presented him to the chief officer of the custom house, who
promised to do all the favours that were in his power.

When we passed by in sight of the fort, they gave us three salutes
with their cannon, an honour only paid to generals. The chief men
of the city, who waited for us on the shore, accompanied us through
a crowd of people, whom curiosity had drawn from all parts of our
college. Though our place of residence at Diou is one of the most
beautiful in all the Indies, we stayed there only a few days, and as
soon as we had recovered our fatigues went on board the ships that
were appointed to convoy the northern fleet. I was in the
admiral's. We arrived at Goa in some vessels bound for Camberia:
here we lost a good old Abyssin convert, a man much valued in his
order, and who was actually prior of his convent when he left
Abyssinia, choosing rather to forsake all for religion than to leave
the way of salvation, which God had so mercifully favoured him with
the knowledge of.

We continued our voyage, and almost without stopping sailed by
Surate and Damam, where the rector of the college came to see us,
but so sea-sick that the interview was without any satisfaction on
either side. Then landing at Bazaim we were received by our fathers
with their accustomed charity, and nothing was thought of but how to
put the unpleasing remembrance of our past labours out of our minds.
Finding here an order of the Father Provineta to forbid those who
returned from the missions to go any farther, it was thought
necessary to send an agent to Goa with an account of the revolutions
that had happened in Abyssinia and of the imprisonment of the
patriarch. For this commission I was made choice of; and, I know
not by what hidden degree of Providence, almost all affairs,
whatever the success of them was, were transacted by me. All the
coasts were beset by Dutch cruisers, which made it difficult to sail
without running the hazard of being taken. I went therefore by land
from Bazaim to Tana, where we had another college, and from thence
to our house of Chaul. Here I hired a narrow light vessel, and,
placing eighteen oars on a side, went close by the shore from Chaul
to Goa, almost eighty leagues. We were often in danger of being
taken, and particularly when we touched at Dabal, where a cruiser
blocked up one of the channels through which ships usually sail; but
our vessel requiring no great depth of water, and the sea running
high, we went through the little channel, and fortunately escaped
the cruiser. Though we were yet far from Goa, we expected to arrive
there on the next morning, and rowed forward with all the diligence
we could. The sea was calm and delightful, and our minds were at
ease, for we imagined ourselves past danger; but soon found we had
flattered ourselves too soon with security, for we came within sight
of several barks of Malabar, which had been hid behind a point of
land which we were going to double. Here we had been inevitably
taken had not a man called to us from the shore and informed us that
among those fishing-boats there, some crusiers would make us a
prize. We rewarded our kind informer for the service he had done
us, and lay by till night came to shelter us from our enemies. Then
putting out our oars we landed at Goa next morning about ten, and
were received at our college. It being there a festival day, each
had something extraordinary allowed him; the choicest part of our
entertainments was two pilchers, which were admired because they
came from Portugal.

The quiet I began to enjoy did not make me lose the remembrance of
my brethren whom I had left languishing among the rocks of
Abyssinia, or groaning in the prisons of Suaquem, whom since I could
not set at liberty without the viceroy's assistance, I went to
implore it, and did not fail to make use of every motive which could
have any influence.

I described in the most pathetic manner I could the miserable state
to which the Catholic religion was reduced in a country where it had
lately flourished so much by the labours of the Portuguese; I gave
him in the strongest terms a representation of all that we had
suffered since the death of Sultan Segued, how we had been driven
out of Abyssinia, how many times they had attempted to take away our
lives, in what manner we had been betrayed and given up to the
Turks, the menaces we had been terrified with, the insults we had
endured; I laid before him the danger the patriarch was in of being
either impaled or flayed alive; the cruelty, insolence and avarice
of the Bassa of Suaquem, and the persecution that the Catholics
suffered in Aethiopia. I exhorted, I implored him by everything I
thought might move him, to make some attempt for the preservation of
those who had voluntarily sacrificed their lives for the sake of
God. I made it appear with how much ease the Turks might be driven
out of the Red Sea, and the Portuguese enjoy all the trade of those
countries. I informed him of the navigation of that sea, and the
situation of its ports; told him which it would be necessary to make
ourselves masters of first, that we might upon any unfortunate
encounter retreat to them. I cannot deny that some degree of
resentment might appear in my discourse; for, though revenge be
prohibited to Christians, I should not have been displeased to have
had the Bassa of Suaquem and his brother in my hands, that I might
have reproached them with the ill-treatment we had met with from
them. This was the reason of my advising to make the first attack
upon Mazna, to drive the Turks from thence, to build a citadel, and
garrison it with Portuguese.

The viceroy listened with great attention to all I had to say, gave
me a long audience, and asked me many questions. He was well

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