Second Residence in Kourata - Cholera and Typhus break out in the Camp - The Emperor resolves to march to Debra Tabor - Arrival at Gaffat - The Foundry transformed into a Palace - Political Trial at Debra Tabor - The Black Tent...
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. No one ever knew why he came. I believe, to judge for himself if the cholera was raging there at the time or not, as he made many inquiries on the subject.
On the 6th of June Theodore left Zage with his army; Mr. Rassam and the other prisoners accompanied him; all the heavy baggage had been sent by boat to Kourata. On the 9th, his Majesty encamped on a low promontory south of Kourata. Cholera had by this time broken out in the camp, and hundreds were dying daily. In the hope of improving the sanitary condition of the army, the Emperor moved his camp to some high ground a mile or so north of the town; but the epidemic continued to rage with great virulence both in the camp and in the town. The church was so completely choked up with dead bodies that no more could be admitted, and the adjoining streets offered the sad sight of countless corpses, surrounded by the sorrowful relatives, awaiting for days and nights the hallowed grave in the now crowded cemetery. Small-pox and typhus fever also made their appearance, and claimed the victims cholera had spared.
On the 12th June we received orders to join the camp, as Theodore intended to leave on the following day for the higher and more healthy province of Begemder. On the 13th, at early morning, the camp was struck, and we encamped in the evening on the banks of the Gumare, a tributary of the Nile. The next day the march was resumed. We had been more or less ascending since our departure from Kourata, and Outoo (a beautiful plateau, our halting-place of the 14th) must have been several thousand feet higher than the lake; nevertheless, cholera, small-pox, and typhus fever continued unabated. His Majesty inquired what was usually done in our country under similar circumstances. We advised him to proceed at once to the higher plateau of Begemder, to leave his sick at some distance from Debra Tabor, to break up as far as possible his army, and distribute it over the whole province, selecting a few healthy and isolated localities where every fresh case that broke out should be sent. He acted upon this advice, and before long had the satisfaction of seeing the several epidemics lose their virulence, and, before many weeks, disappear entirely.
On the 16th we made a very long march. We started at about 6 A.M. and never halted once until we arrived at Debra Tabor at about 2 P.M. As soon as we reached the foot of the hill on which the Imperial houses arise, we received a message from his Majesty telling us not to dismount, and shortly afterwards he rode towards us, accompanied by a few of his bodyguard. We all started for Gaffat, the European station, about three miles east of Debra Tabor. En route we were overtaken by the most severe hailstorm I have ever seen or experienced; such was its violence, that Theodore was several times obliged to halt. The hail poured down in such thick masses, and the stones were of such an enormous size, that it was indeed quite painful to bear. At last we reached Gaffat, frozen and drenched to the skin; but the Emperor, seemingly quite unaffected by the recent shower, acted as our cicerone, and took us about the place, explaining to us the foundry, workshops, water-wheels, &c. A few planks were transformed into seats, and a fire lighted by his order, and we remained with him alone for more than three hours, discussing the laws and customs of England. Some carpets and cushions had been left behind at Debra Tabor, and he sent back Ras Engeddah to have them conveyed. As soon as he returned with the bearers, Theodore led the way up the hill to Gaffat, and with his own hands spread the carpets, and placed the throne in the house selected for Mr. Rassam. Other houses were distributed to the other Europeans, after which his Majesty left.