Arrival of Mr. Flad from England - Delivers a Letter and Message from the Queen - The Episode of the Telescope - Our Property taken care of - Theodore will not yield except to force - He Recruits his Army - Ras Adilou and Zallallou desert him...
Soon after the Gaffat people had been sent to Debra Tabor, Mr. Flad arrived from England, and met Theodore in Dembea on the 26th of April. Their first meeting was not very friendly. Mr. Flad handed to his Majesty the Queen's letter, with others from General Merewether, Dr. Beke, and from the relations of the former captives. On presenting General Merewether's letter to Theodore, Flad informed him that he had brought as a present to him from that gentleman, an excellent telescope. Theodore asked to see it. The telescope was rather difficult to arrange so as to suit Theodore's sight, and as it took some time before Flad could put it in order, Theodore got impatient and said, "Take it to the tent, we will try it to-morrow; but I know it is not a good telescope: I know it is not sent to me for good."
Theodore then ordered every one to retire, and having told Flad to sit down, asked him, "Have you seen the Queen?" Flad replied in the affirmative, adding that he had been very graciously received, and that he had a verbal message to deliver to him from her Majesty. "What is it?" Theodore immediately asked. Had replied, "The Queen of England has told me to inform your Majesty, that if you do not at once send out of your country all those you have detained so long against their will, you have no right to expect any further friendship from her." Theodore listened attentively, and even had the message repeated to him several times. After a pause, he said to Flad, "I have asked from them a sign of friendship, but it is refused to me. If they wish to come and fight, let them come, and call me a woman if I do not beat them."
The following day Mr. Flad presented him with the several gifts he had brought with him from Government, Dr. Beke, and others; the supplies he had brought for as he put aside, but everything was sent to the royal tent, and 1,000 dollars he had also conveyed for us, Theodore took, saying the roads were dangerous, and that he would send an order for it to Mr. Rassam at Magdala. On the 29th Theodore sent again for the telescope: one of his officers had examined it, and found it excellent, but Theodore pretended not to be able to see anything with it.
"It is not sent for good," he said; "it is the same story as some years ago when Basha Falaka (Captain Speedy) sent me a carpet by Kerans; but by the power of God I chained the bearer of that carpet. The man who sends me the telescope only wants to annoy me; he wishes to tell me, 'Though you are a king and I send you an excellent telescope, you will not be able to see through it.'" Flad did his best to disabuse his Majesty of this impression, and convince him of the fact that the telescope was sent to him as a token of friendship; but as Theodore only got more violent, Flad thought it prudent to be silent.
On Monday, the 30th, Theodore sent for Flad again and told him that he was going to send him to rejoin his family at Debra Tabor. Flad took advantage of this occasion to give a full account of the dealings of the rebels with France, and their desire to be acknowledged by us; he assured Theodore that if he did not comply with our Queen's request he would certainly involve himself in a disastrous war, etc. Theodore listened with great coolness and indifference, and when Flad ceased talking, quietly said: "Do not be afraid: the victory comes from God. I trust in the Lord and he will help me; I do not trust in my power. I trust in God who says, If you have faith like a mustard seed, you can remove mountains." He said that even if he had not chained Mr. Rassam it would have been all the same; they would not have sent him the workmen. He knew already, at the time of Bell and Plowden, that the English were not his friends, and he only treated these two well out of personal regard for them. He concluded by saying, "I leave it to the Lord: he will decide it when we fight on the battle-field."
Theodore had vented his rage about the telescope to hide his disappointment; he had said to one of his workmen at the time he wrote to Flad to come up with the artisans, "You do not know me yet; but call me a fool, if by my cunning I do not get them." Instead of artisans, white men to be held as hostages, he received a firm message, holding out no hope of friendship unless he set at liberty all those he had so long unlawfully detained. His answers, so full of meekness, he knew would please his followers; they were superstitious and ignorant, and placed a certain credence in his hopeful words.
Desertions had considerably reduced his army. He well knew the influence of numbers in a country like Abyssinia, and to increase his scanty host, after plundering for the fourth or fifth time Dembea and Taccosa, he issued a proclamation to the peasants in the following terms: - "You have no more homes, grain, or cattle. I have not done it: God did it. Come with me, and I will take you where you will find plenty to eat, cattle in abundance, and punish those who are the cause of God's anger upon you." He did the name for the districts of Begemder he had lately destroyed; and many of these poor starving, homeless creatures, not knowing where to go or how to live, were only too glad to accept his offer.