Africa

In the spring of 1864 it was vaguely rumoured that an African potentate had imprisoned a British consul; the fact appeared so strange, that few credited the assertion. It was soon ascertained, however, that a certain Emperor of Abyssinia, calling himself Theodore, had cast into prison and loaded with chains, Captain Cameron, the consul accredited to his court, and several missionaries stationed in his dominions. A small pencil note from Captain Cameron at last reached Mr.

On the evening of the 7th of April we heard indirectly that the next morning all the prisoners, ourselves included, would be called before his Majesty, who was at the time encamped at the foot of Selassie, and that in all probability we should not return to the Amba. At day-dawn a messenger came from Theodore ordering us to go down, and take with, us our tents and anything else we might require. As was our wont on such occasions, we put on our uniforms, and proceeded to the Emperor's camp accompanied by the former captives.

On the afternoon of the 15th October, all our preparations being apparently complete, the mission, composed of Mr. H. Rassam, Lieut. W.F. Prideaux, of her Majesty's Bombay Staff Corps, and myself, started on its dangerous enterprise. We were accompanied by a nephew of the Naib of Arkiko; and an escort of Turkish Irregulars had been graciously sent by the Pasha to protect our sixty camels, laden with our personal luggage, stores, and presents for the Ethiopian monarch. We also took with us several Portuguese and other Indian servants, and a few natives of Massowah as muleteers.

On the afternoon of the 10th November we started for Kedaref. Our route now lay in a more southerly direction. On the 13th we crossed the Atbara, a tributary of the Nile, bringing to the father of rivers the waters of Northern Abyssinia. On the 17th we entered Sheik Abu Sin, the capital of the province of Kedaref. [Footnote: From Kassala to Kedaref is about 120 miles.] Our cameleers belonged to the Shukrie-Arabs.

Heartily sick of Metemma, and longing to climb the high range so long a forbidden barrier to our hopes and wishes, we soon made our preparations, but were delayed a few days on account of the camels. Sheik Jumma, probably proud of his late achievements seemed to take his orders pretty coolly, and, had we not been more anxious ourselves to penetrate into the tiger's den than the Sheik to comply with the King's request, we should no doubt have remained many a day longer at the court of that negro potentate.

On the 13th of April we made our third experiment of the bulrush boats, as the Emperor desired once more to see his dear friends before they left. The European workmen of Gaffat accompanied us. All the Magdala and Gaffat prisoners started the same day, but by another route; the whole party was to rendezvous at Tankal, near the north-west extremity of the lake, where the luggage was also to be conveyed by boats.

At Kourata a few empty houses were put at our disposal, and we went to work to make these dirty native dwellings inhabitable. It was rumoured that Theodore intended to spend the rainy season in the neighbourhood, and on the 4th he made a sudden visit; he was only accompanied by a few of his chiefs. He came and returned by water. Ras Engeddah arrived about an hour before him. I was advised to go and meet him on the beach; I therefore accompanied the Gaffat people, who also went to present him their respects. His Majesty, on seeing me, asked me how I was, if I liked the place, &c.

It was already dark when we had arrived the evening before. Our first thought in the morning was to examine our new abode. It consisted of two circular huts, surrounded by a strong thorny fence, adjoining the Emperor's Enclosure. The largest hut was in a bad state of repair; and as the roof, instead of being supported by a central pole, had about a dozen of lateral ones forming as many separate divisions, we made it over to our servants and to our balderaba Samuel.

Amba Magdala, distant about 320 [Footnote: According to Mr. C. Markham.] miles from Zulla, and about 180 from Gondar, arises in the province of Worahaimanoo, on the border of the Wallo Galla country. The approach is difficult on account of the steep ascent and narrow precipitous ravines that separate it from the rivers Bechelo and Jiddah and from the table-land of Wallo. It stands almost isolated - amongst gigantic surrounding masses, and viewed from the western side possesses the appearance of a crescent.

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