Theodore writes to Mr. Rassam about Mr. Flad and the Artisans - His two Letters contrasted - General Merewether arrives at Massowah - Danger of sending Letters to the Coast - Ras Engeddah brings us a few Stores - Our Garden...
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. We were greatly rejoiced at the tenor of the Queen's letter: it was plain that at last a higher tone had been adopted, that the character of Theodore was better known, and all his futile plans would be frustrated by the attitude our Government had taken.
On the 7th of January, 1867, Ras Engeddah arrived on the Amba, having accompanied thither a batch of prisoners. He sent us his compliments and a letter from Theodore. Theodore's letter was rather a boastful and imperious one: he, first gave a summary of Flad's letter to himself, in which he had been informed by that gentleman that everything he had required had been consented to, but that in the meanwhile he had changed his behaviour towards us. Theodore also gave us his intended reply: he said Ethiopia and England had formerly been on a footing of friendship; and for that reason he had loved the English exceedingly. But since then (to use his own words), "having heard that they have calumniated and hated me with the Turks, I said to myself, Can this be true? and I felt some misgiving in my heart." He evidently wanted to ignore the ill treatment he had inflicted upon us, as he said: "Mr. Rassam and his party you sent to me I have placed in my house in my capital at Magdala, and I will treat them well until I obtain a token of friendship." He concluded his letter by ordering Mr. Rassam to write to the proper authorities, so that the things should be sent a to him; he desired Mr. Rassam's letter to be forwarded to him, and quickly, so that Mr. Flad might come without delay.
This letter must probably have been a post-prandial one; it was not the line of conduct he wanted to adopt: he knew too well that his only chance was to natter, appear humble, meek and ignorant; he might, he knew, enlist England's sympathy by appearing in that light, and that an overbearing tone would not suit his purpose, nor secure him the object he longed for. Early the following day a messenger arrived from the Imperial camp with a letter from General Merewether, and another from Theodore. How different this letter from the one brought by Ras Engeddah! It was insinuating, courteous; he orders no more, he humbly requests; he meekly entreats and begs: he begins by saying: - "Now in order to prove the good relationship between me and yourself, let it be shown by your writing, and by getting the skilful artisans and Mr. Flad to come via Metemma; This will be the sign of our friendship." He quotes the story of Solomon and Hiram on the occasion of the building of the temple; then adds, "And now when I used to fall girded at the feet of the great Queen, her nobles, people; hosts, etc., could it be possible to be more humble?" He then describes his reception of Mr. Rassam, and the way he treated him; how he released the former captives the very day of his arrival, in order to comply with the request of the Queen; he explains the cause of our imprisonment by reproaching Mr. Rassam with having taken away the prisoners without first bringing them to him; and concludes by saying, "As Solomon fell at the feet of Hiram, so I, beneath God, fall at the feet of the Queen, and her Government, and her friends. I wish you to get them (the artisans) via Metemma, in order that they may teach me wisdom, and show me clever arts. When this is done I will make you glad and send you away, by the power of God."
Mr. Rassam replied to his Majesty at once, informing him that he had complied with his request. The messenger, on his arrival at the Emperor's camp, was well received, presented with a mule, and quickly despatched on his errand. For several months we heard nothing more upon the subject.
General Merewether, in his letter to Theodore, informed him that he had arrived at Massowah with the workmen and presents, and that on the captives being made over to him he would allow the workmen to proceed to his Majesty's camp. We were quite overjoyed when we heard that General Merewether was entrusted with the negotiation: we knew his ability, and had full confidence in his tact and discretion. Indeed, he deserves our sincere gratitude; for he was the captives' friend: from the moment he landed at Massowah to the day of our release, he spared himself neither trouble nor pains to effect our deliverance.
Messengers now were despatched more regularly; by them we wrote long accounts of Theodore's proceedings, and urged that force should be employed to obtain our release. We knew the great risk we ran, but we preferred death to a continuance of such a miserable existence. We informed our friends that we had quite made up our minds, and that our safety was not to weigh for one instant in the balance. It was a chance: the only one left to us, and we implored that we might have the advantage of it. We gave all the information in our power as to the resources of the country, the movements of his Majesty, the strength of his army, the course he would probably follow should troops land, how to deal with him, and the means to adopt in order to insure success. We knew that should any of such letters fall into Theodore's hands, we had no mercy, no pity to expect; but we considered it our duty to submit our opinion, and to the best of our ability assist those who were labouring for our release.