We are counted by the new Ras, and condemned to sleep in One Hut - Theodore's Second Visit to the Amba - Sends for Mr. Rassam and gives orders that Prideaux and myself should have our Chains taken off - The Operation described - Our Reception...
On the 28th of March, all of us, with the exception of Mr. Rassam, were called out and made to stand in a line to be counted by the new Ras; then at about ten at night, as we were undressing, Samuel came to inform us that he had received orders to put us all, with the exception of Mr. Rassam, in one hut for that night, but that as none of our huts was large enough, he had obtained leave that we should be distributed into two. Cameron, Mr. Rosenthal, and Mr. Kerans were made to join us company, and four villanous-looking rascals, with lighted candles burning all night, were posted inside the door to prevent our going out. Samuel and two chiefs slept in Mr. Rassam's room, and I strongly suspect that Samuel was on that occasion more in the position of a prisoner than a guardian.
We slept but little, expecting that the morning would bring some change for the worse. To our day guards some ten or fifteen of the greatest scoundrels of the camp had been recently added, and we felt rather anxious when we learnt early the next morning that Theodore had sent word he would come up in the course of the day to muster the garrison.
At about three in the afternoon some of our servants came rushing into our hut to tell us that Theodore had arrived on the Amba, and that he appeared to be a little drunk. Shortly afterwards Mr. Flad came with a message to Mr. Rassam from the Emperor, to the effect that if his Majesty had time he would send for him after his return from the church. A red-flannel tent, the sign of royalty, was, in the meanwhile, pitched in the plain, and all around carpets were spread. When Theodore issued from the church he was in a great passion, seized a priest by the beard, and said to him, "You say that I want to change my religion; before any one could force me to do so I would cut my throat." He then thrust his spear with violence into the ground, "fakered," cursed the Bishop, - in a word, acted in all respects as if drunk or mad. He called Mr. Meyer, who was standing at a short distance from him, and told him to go to Mr. Rassam with the message, "Your people are coming. I put you in chains for that purpose. I have not obtained what I wanted. Come to me, and in the same dress you used to wear before."
We all felt very nervous about the interview, as Theodore seemed in a bad disposition; however, all went on well. As soon as Mr. Rassam approached the tent, Theodore advanced a few steps to meet him, shook hands with him, and asked him to sit down. He then said, "I cannot say that I could not bring my throne today, as you are aware that it is at Magdala; but out of respect for my friend the Queen, whom you represent here, I desire to sit on the same carpet as yourself." After a while, he said to Mr. Rassam, "Those two persons who came with you are neither my friends nor my enemies, but if you consent to become their security, I will have their chains opened." On that Mr. Rassam rose, and said, "Not only will I become their security, but should they do anything displeasing to your Majesty, do not say it is Blanc or Prideaux, but that Rassam did it." Theodore then asked Mr. Rassam to send two persons to have our chains taken off, and as his Majesty insisted upon it, Mr. Rassam mentioned Mr. Flad and Samuel.
The servants had heard the good news and rushed in before Flad came to us with the welcome intelligence. On the arrival of Flad and Samuel, we were taken to Mr. Rassam's house, where Mr. Flad delivered to us from his Majesty the following message: - "You are neither my friends nor my enemies. I do not know who you are. I chained you because I chained Mr. Rassam: now I open your chains because he promised to be your security. If you run away it will be a shame for you and for me."
On that we were told to sit down; an iron wedge was first hammered in where the ring was joined, and when the intervening space was considered sufficient, three or four loops of strong leather rope were passed inside the irons, and we were told to put one leg on a large stone brought in for the purpose. On each side a long pole was then fixed in the leather loops, and five or six men pulled on them with all their strength, using the stone as a "point d'appui" for the lever. As the leather thongs acted on the iron ring, little by little it gave way and stretched out, until at last it was wide enough to pass over the foot: the operation was then performed on the other leg. It took at least half an hour to take mine off, and even more to open Prideaux's. Though we were delighted at the prospect of having again the free use of our limbs, we did not enjoy the rude operation at all; and although (as we were in favour) the soldiers did their best not to hurt us, still the pain was at times quite unbearable, as the "point d'appui" now and then slipped from the stone to the chain itself, and pressing on the shin it seemed to us as if the leg would be crushed to pieces.
At first we could hardly walk. Our legs seemed to us as light as feathers; we could not guide them, and we staggered very much like drunken men: if we met with a small stone in our way, we involuntarily lifted up the foot to a ridiculous height. For days the limb was painful, and the slightest exertion was followed by great fatigue.