Death of Abouna Salama - Sketch of his Life and Career - Grievances of Theodore against him - His Imprisonment at Magdala - The Wallo Gallas - Their Habits and Customs - Menilek appears with an Army in the Galla Country - His Policy...
In some parts of the Galla country the family exists in the old patriarchal form. The father is in his humble hut as absolute as the chief is over the tribe. If a man marries and is afterwards obliged to leave his village on a distant foray, his wife is immediately taken under the close protection of his brother, who is her husband until the elder's return. This custom was for many years very prevalent; now it is more limited: it is most common in the plateau arising from the Bechelo to Dalanta or Dahonte, where Galla families, almost isolated from the general tribe, have preserved many of the institutions of their forefathers. The stranger invited under the roof of a Galla chief will find in the same large smoky hut individuals of several generations. The heavy straw roof rests on some ten or twelve wooden pillars, having in the centre an open space, where the matrons, sitting near the fire, prepare the evening meal, while a swarm of children play around them. Opposite the rude door of small twigs, held together by nothing but a few branches cut from the nearest tree, stands the simple alga of the "lord of the manor." Near his bed neighs his favourite horse, the pet of young and old. In other partitioned places are his stores of barley or wheat. When the evening meal is over, and the children sleep where they last fell in their romping games, the chief first sees that the companion of his forays is well littered; he then conducts his guest to the spot where some sweet-smelling straw has been spread under a dried cow-hide. Nor is that the end of his hospitality, which at this point becomes rather embarrassing to the married traveller. But the strange way in which the guest is honoured must not be set down to licentiousness; it really is simplicity.
Every Galla is a horseman, every horseman a soldier; and thus is formed a perfect militia, an always ready army, where no discipline is required, no drill but to follow the chief. As soon as the war-cry is heard, or the signal fire is seen on the summit of the distant peak, the ever-ready steed is saddled, the young son jumps up behind his father to hold his second lance, and from every hamlet, from every apparently peaceful homestead, brave soldiers rush to the rendezvous. When Theodore himself, at the head of his thousands, invaded their land, then farewell to their homes. His revengeful hand burnt forms and villages far and wide wherever he was opposed, and the defenceless peasants fled in order to save their lives, knowing well how futile were their hopes of safety, should they fall into his power.
The Wallos are divided into seven tribes. Presenting no differences amongst themselves, they were simply separated by civil wars. Could these brave horsemen only understand the motto "Union is strength," they could make as easy a conquest of the whole of Abyssinia as their fathers did of the plains they now dwell upon. When united, they have always carried their arms successfully into an enemy's country. Children of their race, the Gooksas, the Maries, the Alis, have held the Emperor in their sway, and governed the land for years. Unfortunately during the days of our captivity, as had been but too frequently the case before, petty jealousies, unworthy rivalries, weakened to such an extent their power that, far from being able to impose their laws on others, they in turn became but tools in the hands of the Christian kings and rulers. With Abusheer died the last vestige of union. If not at actual war, one party was always working against another; and no distant campaign could be thought of when their enemies in their own country dwelt.
Abusheer, the last Imam of the Wallo Gallas, left two sons by different wives, Workite [Footnote: Fine gold.] and Mastiate. [Footnote: Looking-glass.] The son of the former, as we mentioned in a previous chapter, was killed by Theodore on the escape of Menilek to Shoa, and Workite had no option left but to seek the hospitality of the young king for whom she had sacrificed so much.
Thus for more than two years Mastiate was left in undisturbed possession of the supremacy vested in her by the unanimous consent of the chiefs, a regent for her son until he attained his majority.
Menilek, after his escape, had no easy task before him: the chief who had headed the rebellion in the name of his king, after the gallant repulse and the check he inflicted upon Theodore, declared himself independent - became the Cromwell instead of the Monk of Abyssinia. Menilek was, however, well received by a small party of faithful adherents; Workite had also been accompanied by a small force of trusty followers; and on a large number of the chiefs abandoning the usurper and joining the standard of Menilek, he marched against the powerful rebel, who still held the capital and many strong places, utterly defeated his army and made him a prisoner.