Second Rainy Season ends - Scarcity and Dearness of Provisions - Meshisha and Comfou plot their Escape - They succeed - Theodore is robbed - Damash pursues the Fugitives - The Night Attack - The Galla War-cry and the "Sauve qui peut"...

Another Maskal (Feast of the Cross) had gone by and September ushered in fine, pleasant weather. No important change had taken place in our daily life: it was the same routine over again; only we were beginning to be very anxious about the long delay of our messengers from the coast, as our money was running short: indeed, we had hardly any left, and every necessary of life had risen to fabulous prices. Five oblong pieces of salt were now given in exchange for a Maria Theresa dollar, whilst formerly, at Magdala, during their first captivity, our companions had often got as much as thirty, never less than fifteen or eighteen. Though the value of the salt had so greatly increased, the articles purchased with it had not followed the same proportion, they were, on the contrary, lowered in amount and quality. When the salts were abundant we could buy four old fowls for a salt; now that they were scarce, we could only buy two; and everything in the same ratio; consequently all our expenses had risen 200 per cent. Supplies. in the market were also getting very scarce; and often we could not purchase grain for our Abyssinian servants. The soldiers on the mountain suffered greatly from this scarcity and high prices; they were continually begging, and many, no doubt, were saved from starvation by the generosity of those they kept prisoners. Very fortunately, I had put aside a small sum of money in case of accident, otherwise I believe the Abyssinian difficulty would have been at an end, so far as we were concerned. I kept a little for myself, and handed the rest over to Mr. Rassam, as he usually supplied us with money from the sums forwarded to him by the agent at Massowah. We dismissed as many servants as we possibly could, reduced our expenses to a minimum, and sent messengers after messengers to the coast to bring us up as much money as they could. At that time, if we had fortunately been provided with a large sum of ready cash, I do really believe that we might have bought the mountain; so discouraged and mutinous were the soldiers of the garrison at the long privations and semi-starvation they were enduring for a master of whom they had no reliable information. The agent at the coast did his best. Hosts of messengers had been despatched, but the condition of the country was such that they had to bury the money they were carrying in the house of a friend at Adowa, and abide there for several months, until they could, with great prudence and by travelling only at night, venture to pass through districts infested with thieves, and a prey to the greatest anarchy.

On the morning of the 5th of September, whilst at breakfast, one of our interpreters rushed into the hut, and told us that our friend Afa Negus Meshisha (the lute-player), and Bedjerand Comfou, one of the officers in charge of the godowns, had run away. Theirs was a long-preconcerted and ably managed plan. At the beginning of the rainy season, ground had been allotted to the various, chiefs and soldiers, at Islamgee and at the foot of the mountain. Some of the chiefs made arrangements with the peasants living below for them to till the soil on their account, they supplying the seed grain, and the harvest to be divided between the two; others, who had many servants, did the work themselves. Afa Negus Meshisha's and Bedjerand Comfou's lots happened to be at the foot of the mountain; they themselves undertook the cultivation, occasionally visited their fields, and sent once or twice a week all their male and female servants to pull out the weeds under the superintendence of their wives. The whole of the land they had received had not been put under cultivation, and, a few days before, Comfou spoke to the Ras about it, who advised him to sow some tef, as, with the prevailing scarcity, he would be happy to reap a second harvest. Comfou approved of the idea, and asked the Ras to send him a servant on the morning of the 5th, to allow him to pass the gates. The Ras agreed. On that very morning Meshisha went to the Ras, and told him that he also wanted to sow some tef, and asked him to allow him to go down. The Ras, who had not the slightest suspicion, granted his request. Both had that morning sent down several of their servants to weed the fields, and, not to excite suspicion, had sent their wives by another gate, also under the same pretence. As the Gallas often attacked the soldiers of the garrison at the foot of the mountain, the door-keepers were not surprised to see the two officers well armed and preceded by their mules; nor did they take much notice of the bags their followers carried, when they were told that it was tef they were going to sow, a statement moreover corroborated by the Ras's servant himself. Off they started in open daylight, meeting many of the soldiers of the mountain on the way down. Arrived, at the fields, they told their servants to follow them, and made straight for the Galla plain. Some of the soldiers who were at the time working at their fields suspected that all was not right, and at once returned to the Amba and communicated their suspicions to the Ras. He had but to take a telescope to perceive the two friends winding their way in the distance along the road that led to the Galla plain. All the garrison was at once called out, and an immediate pursuit ordered; but during the interval the fugitives had gained ground, and were at last perceived quietly resting on the plain above, in company with such a respectable-looking body of Galla horsemen that prudence dictated to the braves of Magdala the advisability of not following any further. On their way back they found, hiding herself in the bushes, the wife of Comfou, carrying her infant babe in her arms. It appears that, flurried and excited, that young woman failed to find the place of rendezvous, and was concealing herself until the soldiers had passed by, when the cries of her child attracted their attention. She was triumphantly brought back, chained hand and feet, and cast into the common gaol, "awaiting orders."

Whilst the garrison had been sent on their unsuccessful errand, the chiefs had met together, and as one of the runaways was superintendent of the storehouses and magazines, an immediate search was made, in order to ascertain whether he had helped himself to some of the "treasures" before taking his unceremonious leave. To their horror they soon found out that silks, caps, powder, even the Emperor's gala dress, his favourite pistol and rifle, together with a large sum of money, were missing: in fact, the bags of tef were full of spoils. The Ras felt the gravity of his position; he had not only allowed himself to be grossly duped, but, moreover, some of the most valuable of the Emperor's property intrusted to his care had been carried off by his former friend. He utterly lost his head; he painted to himself Theodore's rage on hearing the news; he saw himself an inmate of the gaol, loaded with fetters, or perhaps condemned to a speedy and cruel death. He assembled the council, and laid the case before the chiefs; the wisest and most experienced were for trusting to his relationship with the Emperor, and to his well-known friendship for him; others proposed an expedition in the Galla country, a night attack on the village where it was supposed the fugitive would spend the nights: a few hundred would start in the evening, they said, surprise the fugitives, bring them back, recover the lost property, and, at the same time, murder a few Gallas, and plunder as much as they could - exploits that would immensely gratify their royal master, and make him forget the easy way the Ras had been imposed upon.

This last advice was carried out; and, though some still dissented, the Ras overruled their objections: he was already so deeply compromised that he clutched at every chance that offered itself of retrieving his position. Bitwaddad Damash, the friend and countryman of Theodore, the brave warrior, was intrusted with the command; under him were, placed Bitwaddad Hailo, Bitwaddad Wassie, and Dedjazmatch Goji, all of them "old friends of ours," and of whom I have given a short description. Two hundred of Damash's gunmen, and two hundred of Goji's spearmen, all picked soldiers, well armed and well mounted, formed the attacking party. Towards sunset they all assembled. Before leaving, Damash, clad in a silk shirt, wearing gallantly over his shoulders a splendid tiger's skin, armed with a pair of pistols and a double-barrelled gun; came to our prison to bid us good-by; or rather to gratify his vanity by our compelled admiration, and to obtain a parting blessing from his friend Mr. Rassam, who courteously performed the ceremony.

Twice before, Damash had, during our stay at Magdala, started for Watat, a village some twelve miles distant from Magdala, not far from where the Bechelo separates the province of Worahaimanoo from the plateau of Dahonte. There the Emperor's cattle were kept, and messengers had been sent to the Amba by the peasants requesting immediate assistance, as a Galla force had made its appearance, and they felt themselves unable to protect Theodore's cows. On these occasions the very sight of Damash and his gunmen had driven the Gallas away: at least so they said on their return; but mauvaises langues asserted that it was only a trick of the country people themselves, who desired to be reported to the Emperor as faithful subjects of his and anxious to protect the cattle they had in charge. Many of the younger and inexperienced soldiers felt confident that on this occasion the result would be the same; the fugitives would be surprised, and the Gallas run away in all directions at the sight of Damash and his valiant companions, leaving their homesteads and property at the mercy of the invaders.

The Ras passed an anxious, sleepless night; at day-dawn he and his friends went upon the small hillock near the prison, and telescope in hand anxiously watched the Galla plain. Hours passed away, and they saw nothing. What had occurred? why had not Damash and his men come back? such were the questions every, one asked: the old men shook their heads; they had fought in their days in the Galla country, and knew the valour of these savage horsemen. Even our old spy, Abu Falek, probably to see what we would say exclaimed, "That fool Damash had the impudence to make a raid in the Galla country, when even Theodore himself could not go there now." At last the welcome intelligence that Damash and his men were coming back, spread like wild-fire all over the mountain: they had been seen descending a steep ravine, not the road they had taken on going, but a shorter one. Soon afterwards horses and men were perceived on the plain; and something like confusion, and cattle being hurried down could be made out by the glasses. The party from the garrison were seen to halt at a short distance from the ravine they had descended, and march on very slowly. Something was wrong evidently; horsemen were at once despatched by the Ras to ascertain the result of the expedition. They returned with a doleful tale, and the Amba soon rang with the wailing of widows and orphans; eleven dead, thirty wounded, scores of fire-arms lost, the fugitives at large, was in sum the intelligence they brought back to the desponding Ras.

A Galla renegade had the night before led Damash and his men straight to the village of the chief in whose company they had been seen in the morning, and under whose hospitable roof he justly surmised that they would spend the night. At first all succeeded as they had expected. They reached the doomed village an hour before day-dawn, and surrounded at once the house of the chief, whilst a small body was sent to search and plunder the village itself. A fearful massacre took place; surprised in their sleep, the men were murdered before they were aware of the presence of the enemy; only a few were spared, together with some women and children, by the less blood-thirsty of these midnight assassins. Before retiring to rest, Meshisha and Comfou, thinking that perhaps an attempt might be made to capture them, advised the chief to be on his guard, and proposed to sleep with him in a small broken-down hut at some distance from his house. Fortunately for them and the chief, they adopted that prudent course; awoke by the cries and shouts in the village, they bridled their ready-saddled steeds, and were off before even their presence had been suspected.

Damash collected his men, and with his prisoners and plunder at once retraced his steps, glorying in his great deed and rejoicing in his success; it is true he had not caught the fugitives, but after all that was the Ras's business. He had planned the expedition, carried fire and sword into the Galla country; and without the loss of a single man was returning to the Amba with prisoners, horses, cows, mules, and other spoils of war. He knew how pleased Theodore would be, and he fancied himself already the fortunate successor of the disgraced Ras. He was within a few hundred yards of the short road he intended to take on his way back, leading from the Tanta plateau to the valley below Magdala, when he saw on the distant horizon a few horsemen riding towards him at full speed. The cattle and prisoners under charge of Goji and a few men were already engaged in the narrow road, and retreat was impossible. He placed his gunmen so as to face the horsemen, only a dozen, hoping to scare that handful off by the very sight of his large force; but he was mistaken. Brave Mahomed Hamza had the blood of his relations to avenge, and, though at the head of only twelve men, he bravely charged the 400 Amhara soldiers. A shot struck him in the forehead, and he fell dead from his horse. His companions, however, before the Amharas could reload, made a second brilliant charge, avenged their chief, and carried away the body all were anxious to mutilate. More horsemen came pouring in from all directions; the war-cry was echoed far and wide; men, women, and children assailed the Amharas with lances and stones. Mahomed's brothers, now supported by fifty lances, charged again and again the affrighted enemy, and drove them like sheep to the very brink of the precipice.

Damash, however, had not come to fight but to slay; he was only brave when he had prisoners to bully, defenceless men to murder, and children to reduce to slavery: the cattle had reached the valley below and the road was clear, so throwing away his tiger's skin, his shield, his pistols, his gun, and abandoning his horses, he gave the example of the sauve qui peut, and rolled rather than ran down the steep descent. His example was followed by all the Amharas. A complete rout followed; the ground was strewed with matchlocks, spears, and shields; wounded and dead were alike abandoned on the battlefield. The Gallas did not follow them down the ravine as they could not charge on the broken ground below; they, however, killed several with sharp stones - a dreadful weapon in a Galla's hand - as their terrified foe hurried down the narrow pass and tumbled one over the other in their eagerness to reach the valley, where these cowards knew well that they would be safe.

Almost all the wounded came to me; and for twelve hours I was busy bandaging and dressing their wounds. In several cases, where I knew that recovery was impossible, I informed the relations of the fact; as otherwise their death would have been laid to me, a rather serious matter in our critical position. Those thus warned always sought native advice, but they found out very soon that charms and amulets were of no avail, and that my prognostic had been but too true. I remember one case: a chief who had often been on guard at night over our prison had his left leg completely smashed by a stone; without entering into professional details, suffice it to say that I at once pronounced amputation as the only possible remedy; but to please the chiefs, who took a great interest in him, I agreed to dress his wound for a week, and after that time, should I be still of the same opinion to inform them of it. He had a small godjo built in our inclosure, and remained there until I gave for the second time as my opinion that nothing could save his life but immediate amputation. He was on that taken to his house and made over to a Shoa doctor, who promised not only to save his life but also the limb. The poor man was tortured by that ignorant quack for a week or ten days, until death put an end to his misery.

Two days after, on a female spy reporting that in the ravine where the Amharas had been slaughtered, she had seen two wounded men hidden among the bushes, and still alive; an old chief, also a Galla renegade, with a few hundred men, was ordered to proceed to the spot, and endeavour to bring them back and bury the dead; they were on no account to engage in any action with the Gallas, but to retreat at once should he meet with resistance. He saw no enemy except his old comrade Comfou, who, from a rock above, fired at them with his rifle, without wounding or killing any one; they returned his fire, but to no purpose, and, having fulfilled their instructions, brought in the two wounded men: both, however, died shortly afterwards. One of them had his right arm and left leg broken; moreover, a spear had cut open the abdominal integuments, and the bowels protruded: he said that he had suffered greatly from thirst, but that his greatest trouble was, with his left hand, to keep off the vultures from tearing his intestines.

The Ras, it is true, was now in a worse plight than before; but this time not alone. Damash had abandoned his men, run away, and lost the gun, pistols, and horse the Emperor had given, or rather lent, him. Many of the petty chiefs and soldiers had followed Damash's example, and some twenty-five matchlocks could not he accounted for, and of spears and shields the number missing was still greater. By-the-by, Damash pretended to be wounded, and for a long time we saw nothing of him, a circumstance at which we rejoiced extremely, but his friends told us that he was only suffering from a few excoriations due to his rather too rapid retreat.

If force had failed, perhaps negotiations might succeed. It was known that the two fugitives were still living in some of the villages belonging to the relations of Mahomed, awaiting the return of a messenger they had sent to the Galla Queen Mastiate, whose camp was a few days distant. The Magdala chiefs, therefore, proposed to the Gallas in their power that if they could induce their relations to give up the two fugitives, with the things they had taken away with them, they would set them all - men, women, and children - free, and restore the cattle that had been plundered. A woman, the wife of one of the principal men captured, volunteered to go. To the honour of the Gallas, they proudly and with scorn refused to give up their guests: they preferred to allow their relatives to linger in chains at Magdala, and abandon them to tortures and death, rather than obtain their release by a dishonourable action.

The Magdala magnates had now to give up all hope of redeeming their conduct in the eyes of Theodore; the good understanding between them was much shaken: they taxed one another, when in their cups, with cowardice, sent messengers separately to the Emperor, accusing one another, and lived in as much dread of the arrival of an Imperial messenger as we did ourselves. But Theodore, surrounded by difficulties, almost cut off from his amba, was far too cunning to show his displeasure: his letter on the subject was perfect. What if two of his servants had run away? they were unfaithful, and he was only too glad that they had left his amba; as for the arms lost, what did it matter? he had more to give them; and when he came they should take their revenge. A few, not many, were taken in, but all pretended to be so, and several only awaited a favourable opportunity to follow the example of those they had endeavoured to capture.

Every one suspected that Mastiate, the Galla Queen, would resent the foray made in her country, and avenge the death of her subjects so treacherously murdered. She would probably, they feared, destroy their crops at the foot of the Amba, stop the market, and starve out the place. She had, they knew, faithful allies in Comfou and Meshisha, and as the latter had been almost brought up on the mountain, and knew the many paths by which to lead; at night, the Galla host, much anxiety, therefore, prevailed, and great precautions were taken to protect the Amba against a sudden attack.

I believe that it was indeed Mastiate's plan, and that she was on the point of executing it when a serious danger from, another side required her presence. Wakshum Gobaze, at the head of a powerful army, had invaded her dominions.

Our days of calm repose were at an end; if it was not one rebel chief or the other that threatened the Amba, it was the good news from home that at last an expedition for our deliverance had been decided upon, or the less welcome information that the King was about to move in our direction; and one excitement had hardly subsided before we were again a prey to another - one day full of hope, the next, perhaps, desponding and cast down.

Watshum Gobaze's career, had been full of adventure. As a young man he accompanied his father, Wakshum Gabra Medhin, the hereditary chief of Lasta, to the Imperial camp. On Theodore's first campaign in Shoa, which ended in the submission of that country, Gobaze's father fell under Theodore's displeasure, and was on the point of being executed when the Bishop interfered, and, as he was of great use to Theodore at the time, his request was granted. However, not long afterwards, Gobaze and his father seized their opportunity, deserted from Theodore's army, and retired into Lasta. They had not much difficulty in inducing the mountaineers to espouse their cause, and declare themselves independent. Theodore deputed to suppress that insurrection the rebel's own cousin, called Wakshum Teferi, a brave soldier and splendid horseman. He pursued his relative, totally defeated his army, and brought him a chained prisoner to the foot of the throne. Theodore was at the time in Wadela, a high plateau situate between Lasta and Begemder. He condemned the rebel chief to death; and as but few trees are to be found on that elevated plateau, he had him hung on the one near which his tent was pitched, so that the body of his enemy might be seen far and wide. Gobaze had managed to escape; and some time afterwards, Theodore, who was afraid of Wakshum Teferi, as he was beloved and admired by the soldiers, put him in chains, - forgetting that the man had served him so faithfully as even to bring to the scaffold his blood relation, - on the pretext that he had willingly allowed Gobaze to escape.

Gobaze for a while remained hidden in the fastnesses of the high mountains of Lasta, but no sooner did he perceive that the Emperor's power was weakened and that the peasants were discontented with his tyrannical rule, than he came forth from his retreat, and having collected around him some of the former followers of his father, hoisted the standard of rebellion, and loudly proclaimed himself the avenger of his race. All Lasta soon acknowledged him. His rule was mild; and before long Gobaze found himself at the head of a considerable force. He advanced in the direction of Tigre, subdued the provinces of Enderta and Wajjerat, marched into Tigre proper, conquered Theodore's lieutenant, and left there his deputy, Dejatch Kassa. He himself returned to Lasta, having in view the extension of his power towards Yedjow and the Galla country, so as to protect Lasta from being invaded by these tribes during his proposed conquest of the Amhara country. Circumstances were greatly in his favour, and for a while he was the man to whom all Abyssinia looked to as their future ruler. On his return to Lasta he was at once acknowledged by Wadela, and at the same time some runaway chiefs of Yedjow having come to him, he availed himself of their assistance to make himself master of that province. He had some trouble, however, in settling it, as part of it was strongly in favour of an alliance with the Wallo Gallas: he deemed it the wisest course, therefore, to invade the Wallo country after the rainy season, and dictate his terms. He detached a small force, and sent with it one of his relations to receive the submission of Dalanta; and not long afterwards Dahonte was evacuated by the Gallas, and occupied by his troops. In the beginning of September he entered the Wallo Galla country by its north-eastern frontier, not far from Lake Haik. On the intelligence reaching Queen Mastiate she hastened to oppose his march, and encamped a few miles in advance of his army, on a large plain, where her splendid cavalry would have all advantage. For at least a fortnight or three weeks the two armies remained in front of each other; Gobaze awaiting his enemy on the broken ground he had encamped upon, and where the Galla horse could not charge, but where his gunmen would be all-powerful; while the Queen, on her side, would not leave the ground she had chosen, and where she was almost certain of victory.

Gobaze had been long before in communication with the Bishop and with Mr. Rassam. Before the rainy season of 1867, he had sent word to the Bishop that he was coming to Magdala, presented him a few hundred dollars, and asked him to afford all the assistance in his power should he advance towards the place. The Bishop said he would do his utmost, and that as soon as the Amba was invested he would leave no stone, unturned to facilitate his plans. Gobaze sent back word that if the Bishop would secure him the services of Damash, Goji, and the Ras (the three who had all the garrison under their joint command), that he would come at once. This request was simply absurd; if we had been able to gain over these men to our cause, we could have dispensed with the presence of Gobaze altogether. What the Bishop proposed was, that Gobaze should encamp at Islamgee; the moment he appeared below the mountain, the Bishop would supply us and some men upon whom he could depend with fire-arms and ammunition. We should in the meanwhile open our chains with the assistance of our servants, and arm all those amongst them who could be trusted; and on the Bishop being informed, that we were ready, he would come out in full canonicals, carrying the holy cross, and excommunicate Theodore and every one who adhered to him, placing under an irrevocable curse all who attempted to arrest him or us. Our party, including Portuguese, natives of Massowah, and messengers, would have amounted to at least twenty-five; the Bishop could bring fifty men, and surround himself with about 200 priests and defteras, so as to form a mixed sortie; all, however, ready to fight in case of need. Should persuasion or threats fail to force the way to the gate, they were to shoot down any one attempting to molest us in our advance. Arrived at the gate, the Bishop and the priests would stand before the inner door, whilst the armed party would seize upon the outer gate and hold it until the Wakshum and his men, ready at hand, would march in and take possession of the fort.

The plan was a very good one, and no doubt would have succeeded. We knew well, that no pity would have been shown to us had we been recaptured, and we would have fallen one after the other, rather than allow ourselves to be made prisoners again. In presence of even a handful of men, determined to sell their lives dearly, few of the soldiers would have ventured on an open attack; the affair would have been sudden, and the garrison taken by surprise: moreover, we had to deal with bigoted people, and many who might have rushed upon us, would have been kept back by the presence of the Bishop, and would kiss the ground before his feet rather than encounter his dreaded excommunication. The Bishop informed Gobaze of this plan, and for days we lived in a fearful state of excitement, always hoping that the messenger would return with the grateful intelligence that Gobaze had accepted it. However, we were doomed to disappointment: Gobaze did not approve the suggestion; he sent word to the Bishop, "It is better for me to go to Begemder and attack there my blood enemy: only give me your blessing. On the fall of Theodore, the Amba belongs to me; it is far preferable that I should fight him instead of attacking Magdala, as you know well that we cannot take forts." The blessing was duly given; but Gobaze thought better of it: he did not venture to attack the murderer of his father, and a few days afterwards we heard that he had marched into Yedjow. Gobaze behaved always very well towards us; he assisted, as much as lay in his power, our messengers on their way to the coast, and was anxious to effect our deliverance; unfortunately he had not sufficient courage to fight when Theodore was his opponent.

Gobaze and Mastiate after a time got tired of staring at one another. The latter was aware that before long she would have to deal with even a more serious enemy, in the person of her rival Workite, and she would willingly have come to terms. She sent a horse to Gobaze as a peace-offering, but he returned the present, accompanied with a parcel of cotton and a spindle, with a message to the effect that she had nothing to do with horses, and as her occupation was to spin cotton, he had sent her the necessary articles. Gobaze, however, shortly afterwards heard that in Tigre, Dejatch Kassa, who for some months had abandoned his cause, had made himself very powerful, and marched upon Adowa. Supplies also began to run short in his camp, whilst Mastiate being in her own country, could draw them with all facility; he therefore retraced his steps towards Yedjow. Mastiate followed him in the rear, only biding her time to fall upon him when a favourable opportunity presented itself. Gobaze found his position difficult, and made advances. Mastiate saw her advantage and made her own terms. She promised not to interfere in the affairs of Yedjow, on condition that he made over to her the provinces of Dahonte and Dalanta, which he had shortly before occupied. He agreed, and peace was made between the two parties; it was even reported that an offensive and defensive alliance had been concluded between them; but this could hardly have been the case, as soon afterwards, when Mastiate was hard pressed by Menilek, her new ally did not afford her any assistance.

To us these constant changes of rulers was most annoying, more so as we had no money, and were constantly obliged to make presents to the new chiefs appointed by the conqueror of the day. We had hardly made "friends" with the shums (governors) Theodore had left in those provinces, than we had to open communications with the deputies of the Galla Queen, and again with those of Gobaze on the evacuation of those districts by the Gallas, and a fourth time on their reoccupation by the Gallas: we had to ensure their neutrality, at least, - for they had already plundered several of our messengers - by suitable offerings and promises of more, should they favour our cause. In one respect we were very fortunate: on our arrival we were saved from much discomfort, if not from something worse, by the money the Emperor gave to his workmen; who made it over to us. During the rainy season we were again saved from starvation by a few dollars I had kept in reserve; for the third time, everything appeared desperate, and we were so reduced that some sold and others were talking of selling their mules and anything available, when a messenger at last reached us with a few hundred dollars.

Whilst Mastiate was negotiating with Gobaz, her son wrote to Mr. Rassam and to the Bishop. He asked Mr. Rassam to use his influence and give him the mountain, promising in return to treat us honourably if we liked to remain in his country, or enable us to reach the coast if we desired to return to our own native land. To the Bishop he promised all protection; he would allow him to take away his property, and would not injure what he called "his idols."

So long as we could get out of the clutches of Theodore, it did not matter much into whose hands we fell: not that we ever expected, - such, at least, was the opinion of the majority amongst us, - that we should be allowed to leave the country: but, at all events, we should not be in daily fear of our lives, of tortures, and of starvation, as we were then. We should not have liked to fall into the hands of the peasants or of some petty chief: the first would have at once put us to death out of hatred to the white men; the second, most probably would have ill-treated us or have sold us to the highest bidder. The great rebels would have acted differently: we should have been, for a time, at least, comparatively free, and allowed to depart on a suitable ransom being given. Therefore, to Ali, to Gobaz, to Ahmed the son of Mastiate, or to Menilek the King of Shoa, Mr. Rassam's answer was always the same, "Come; invest this place, and then we will see what we can do for you."

It amused us sometimes to watch all these different rivals of Theodore, each of them endeavouring to seize upon Magdala even before Theodore was quite out of the way. Gobaze and Menilek, had both in view to make themselves rulers of Abyssinia, by the possession of Magdala: (indeed the latter had also written before the rainy season, informing the Bishop of his coming to take possession of his amba, and requesting the bishop to take care of his property.) Apart from the great prestige it would confer upon them, they would obtain the three things they rightly judged would most likely insure the fulfilment of their ambitious views: viz., the throne, the Bishop, and the English prisoners. All wanted Mr. Bassam, not merely to help them, but to give them the mountain: they were aware that the chiefs were on friendly terms with us, and supposed that we were in possession of fabulous sums of money, so that, by means of friendship and bribery, we might open the gates to the candidate we selected.

Magdala could only become theirs by treachery: in their immense armies, they could not have found twenty men with sufficient courage to venture on an assault. Magdala had the reputation of being impregnable; and, indeed, against natives badly armed, it was very nearly so. Even Theodore only took possession of it because the Galla garrison, through fear, evacuated the place during the night. He had pitched his camp at the foot of the Amba, and attempted an assault; but soon retired from his hopeless task before the shower of missiles thrown from above. It was not until several days after the Gallas had retired, that one of the chiefs, suspecting the place to be empty, cautiously ventured to ascertain the fact, and returned to inform Theodore that he might quietly walk in as the enemy had disappeared.