Theodore in the vicinity of Magdala - Our Feelings at the Time - An Amnesty granted to Dalanta - The Garrison of Magdala join the Emperor - Mrs. Rosenthal and other Europeans are sent to the Fortress - Theodore's Conversations with Flad...
We have now followed the Emperor's career from the day of our departure from Debra Tabor to his arrival in our neighbourhood. During that time, apart from the letters he addressed to Mr. Rassam relative to the one from the Queen, and about Mr. Flad and the artisans, we had but little intercourse with him. For a long time messengers passed with the greatest difficulty, and, afraid lest his written communications with the chiefs on the Amba might fall into the hands of the rebels, he had of late sent only verbal messages. Every messenger usually brought us compliments, and when any were sent from the Amba they always came to us by order of the chief before they left, so that Mr. Rassam might return a civil message in answer to the one he had received.
The ordinary staff of messengers were too well known on the road to be able to pass through the districts in rebellion; and for a long time we rejoiced at the idea that all communications were for ever interrupted between the camp and the fort, when one day a young Galla, servant of one of the political prisoners, reached the Amba, bringing a letter from his Majesty. The lad went forwards and backwards many times; but, apart from the presents be received from us, I do not believe he ever even got a salt for so constantly exposing his life; a few more men, who had friends and acquaintances on the road, managed also to pass through. All of them were very useful to us, as they also carried the correspondence between us and Mr. Flad, and, beings well rewarded, could be trusted with the most dangerous letters. We thought it even good fun to make the King's messenger our medium of communication between our friends in his camp and ourselves, often on treasonable matters.
Soon after reaching Bet Hor, Theodore issued a proclamation to the rebel districts of Dahonte and Dalanta, offering full amnesty for the past, and pledging himself, "by the death of Christ," that he would neither plunder nor ill-use them, should they return to their allegiance. For some days both districts refused, as Gobaze had promised to come and defend them; but the people of Dalanta, on seeing that, far from giving them any help, Gobaze was himself getting out of the way of Theodore, thought that, after all, it was perhaps better to accept the latter's offer, and, as they could not help themselves, trust to his pledged word. Dahonte, however, remained in its rebellion, and proposed to resist by force of arms any attempt on the part of Theodore to plunder the province. As the Emperor had spoken in very friendly terms to his workmen and others about Mr. Rassam, that gentleman was advised by the chiefs to write to the King, congratulating him on his safe arrival. This he repeated on several similar occasions; and the messengers he sent with these letters were very cordially treated by his Majesty. Theodore also wrote to Mr. Rassam on one or two occasions; and we had a ludicrous repetition of the courteous and edifying correspondence that had passed formerly between the two in the sunny days of Kourata.
January, 1868, ushered in a period of great mental excitement for us, which lasted until the very end; increasing in intensity as we approached the last days, as we well knew that then our fate would be decided. But there is something in the constant repetition of stimulants, be they moral or physical, which blunts the feelings, hardens the heart, and at last allows the person long submitted to their influence to look upon everything with indifference and impassiveness. We had had so many "shocks" during the last three months - so many times we expected to be tortured or killed - that when the day arrived that we were in reality placed almost beyond hope, the crisis did not affect us much, and once passed, we never thought of the matter again.
Having become "reconciled" with his children of Dalanta, Theodore's task was much easier. Several thousand peasants helped him in his road-making, others carried part of his property to Magdala, and now that the brave garrison of the Amba could cross the Dalanta plateau without fear, he sent for them, leaving only a few old men on the mountain beyond the ordinary number of prisoners' guards. On the 8th of January Bitwaddad Damash, in command, with the "brave" Goji as his lieutenant, and accompanied by seven or eight hundred men, started for Wadela. Many left with beating hearts, trembling at the prospect of meeting the Emperor. He was worshipped at a distance, but dreaded on his approach. His Majesty, however, received them very well; but was not over civil to all. Damash he treated rather coolly; but as he wanted them a little time longer, he did not say much, nor give them any cause to believe that he was greatly displeased with them.
A few days after Theodore had reached Dalanta he sent back the Magdala garrison to the Amba, to accompany thither the prisoners he had brought, with him, - the Europeans included, - and forwarded by them some powder, shot, and the instruments belonging to his workmen. Mrs. Rosenthal was also allowed to accompany the party, and all arrived on the Amba on the afternoon of the 26th of January. The five Europeans were sent to us; and on the interpreter's hut being given to Mr. and Mrs. Rosenthal, the larger one that gentleman had previously occupied was made over to the other five. We were well pleased to be all together. The new comers had much to tell us, and we in return gave them an account of our doings. We were, above all things, rejoiced at the arrival of Mrs. Rosenthal; our morbid idea having been for months, almost up to the end, that some flying column would be detached from the main body of our army to cut off Theodore from the mountain; and our anxiety had been great on account of Mrs. Rosenthal and her child, as Theodore, according to his system of hostages, had kept her near him as a security to prevent the Magdala prisoners from running away.