Africa

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.

About this time a servant of Mr. Rassam, whom he had sent to his Majesty some months previously, returned on the 28th of December with a letter from Theodore, in which was inclosed one from our Queen. Theodore informed Mr. Rassam that Mr. Flad had arrived at Massowah, and had sent him the letter which he had forwarded us for perusal; he told Mr. Rassam to await his arrival, as he would be coming before long, and they would consult together about an answer.

Another Maskal (Feast of the Cross) had gone by and September ushered in fine, pleasant weather. No important change had taken place in our daily life: it was the same routine over again; only we were beginning to be very anxious about the long delay of our messengers from the coast, as our money was running short: indeed, we had hardly any left, and every necessary of life had risen to fabulous prices.

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

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

Theodore remained at Aibankab for only a few days after our departure, and returned to Debra Tabor. He had told us once, "You will see what great things I will achieve during the rainy season," and we expected that he would march into Lasta or Tigre before the roads were closed by the rains, to subdue the rebellion that for years he had allowed to pass unnoticed. It is very probable that if he had adopted that course he would have regained his prestige, and easily reduced to obedience those provinces.

Syndicate content