« ElőzőTovább »
Menelect, have so many wives and children, that the question of the right line is generally determined rather by might than by right.
The common enemy of all the Abyssinian princes are the Galla, a race of negroes who occupy the southern provinces of the country, extending as far as the land of the Caffres, and a very numerous, though not as it would seem a very warlike nation. Their plans are generally so badly combined that they make no impression ; they appear upon the confines like a cloud, and are dispersed by a very slight show of resistance. A single instance of the kind of war which they wage, will be sufficient to show that Abyssinia has but little to fear from such a foe.
• April 5th (1812). Just as the Ras had arrived at the Chelicut, from Antàlo, and was feasting with many chiefs, news was brought from the villages of Derger Aggerzeen, the frontiers of the Galla, ihat Kecty, a powerful chief of that nation, had crossed the plain below them on his way to Wassermer, for the purpose of cutting off the arro, or salt caravan.
The old Ras, on hearing this intelligence, never took another mouthful, but jumping up immediately, called out the word “ Churn!” which signifies“ saddle, and be ready." I and Mr. Coffin instantly ran home, and were mounted and out, with some of our soldiers, as soon as the Ras himself; the rest of our men being absent on leave. We were soon afterwards joined by some of the Ras's soldiers, and we acted the part of Fit-aurari in this inconsiderable division, riding on with all speed until sunset, when we stopped that the Ras might have time to come up with us and give his orders. On his arrival, he directed us to go still forward, although it was quite dark, about which time we reached Armunteller ; where, before daylight, a great number of men and women came to us with bread, maize, &c. Many of the Enderta troops had also by this time joined us, together with Bashaw Dingerze of Tigré, who happened to arrive on business, and who expressed himself greatly concerned at the imprudence of the Ras, in venturing himself, with such a handful of men, against the Galla; on which the old man, looking at me and laughing, said, “ see how frightened these Tigré fellows are at the Galla !” adding contemptuously to them, “Why look at Pearce, who went down throughout Arrata by himself !”
* After taking a little bread and maize, the day began to break; we were then upon the high mountain, covered with woods, exactly over Wassermer; and the Ras immediately gave orders for every one to be as silent as possible, and not to attempt to shoot or hunt the deer or game, with which the place abounds. After this caution, we began to march down the mountain, ard, in about half an hour, being clear of the woody part, and the sun just rising, we could see the Galla encamped below; they had also observed us, and were soon mounted and at the foot of the mountain, before we could lead our horses down the rocks, which we did with great difficulty. During this time several of the Ras's foot soldiers had descended, and were giving battle to the advanced foot of the Galla. At length, the cry of Goverser Badinsah! being heard in all quarters, as well as a loud volley of musketry, the Galla immediately became sensible of the Ras's presence, turned their horses to the plain, and rode off at full speed : scarcely any of our horses had got down in time, so that, after a
three hours' chace, we could not come up with their horse, but of the foot very few escaped.'-vol. i. pp. 116–118.
Pearce mentions, without being able to account for or explain, a severe illness, with which he was attacked upon his return from this ludicrous expedition, affecting him chiefly in the eyes and forehead, and producing an intolerable swelling in his face, from which he at first obtained relief by separating the large bone that forms the bridge of the nose. During the period he was confined by this malady, which is common in the country, he was frequently visited by the friendly Ras, who dosed him abundantly with brandy, a remedy to which Pearce was rather too much inclined; but the brandy had no healing effect. Four pieces of thin white bone, he tells us, came from the roof of his mouth, and twelve pieces and all the gristle from his nose, and he became lock-jawed, The native doctors exhausted all their skill and their charms in vain ; he derived much more benefit from the medical experience of his wife Tringo, who poulticed him with herbs, but he was reduced almost to the last extremity, though he still retained his senses and memory as perfectly as if he had been in the best health. He received the sacrament as a preparation for death, with as much pomp as if he had been a king, after which he recovered gradually, though he does not say any thing about the restoration of his nose.
The reader need hardly be told that a very corrupt species of christianity prevails in Abyssinia, more akin to the Greek church than to any other form of faith with which we are acquainted. With this religion many pagan practices are still incorporated, among which is that of the worship of the snake, which in Abyssinia is held to be so sacred, that he who kills a reptile of that kind forfeits his life, and the penalty is generally exacted, in case of conviction, with the most rigorous severity. It is often otherwise with respect to murder; the ingenuity with which the law is in this case evaded, is not more remarkable than the indulgence with which the murderer is treated, even by the nearest relatives of the deceased.
“ The day before we left Chelicut, a woman had brought in chains a poor miserable object, whom she accused of having killed her husband ; the witnesses also arrived from the small village of Gibba, to which they belonged. When the Ras had heard the whole story and examined the witnesses, he found the man guilty of murder, though apparently without malice, and told the woman, agreeably to the law, to do as she pleased with him. She replied, “ I have no one but myself; I have no relation ; neither have I a spear or knife.” The Ras said, “ then you must hang him.” She again replied, “ how can I do that myself? I have got a mushcharn, [a leather rope] it is true, but I cannot hang him alone.” The Ras then ordered some of the groom-boys about the house to assist her in hanging the man to the darrow-tree, on the green before the house. “God preserve you a thousand years !” said the woman, adding, in an under-tone, « his relations are all here, and they will not have far to carry
his body, as he belongs to the church.” Mariam Guddervittee Takly, one of the Rass's stable-grooms, and some other of the slaves, had the management of the affair. When they came to the darrow-tree, which is as easily climbed as a ladder, they helped the woman up with one end of the mushcharn in her hand, shewing her which was the best bough to tie it to. Takly, notwithstanding the woman had promised to give him plenty of butter for his trouble, now put the poor object's two hands within the mushcharn, while they would lift him from off the large stone they had made him stand upon. Accordingly she did this, and made it well fast, and then came down to behold him hanging, at the same time exclaiming, “ Blessed be Mary Ann, the mother of God, who has given me revenge for my
husband ! bad as he was, I have stood true to him.” After he had hung for some time, the crowd that stood to look on cried often to her, “ why woman he has been dead long ago!” “Thank God for that!' said she, “but they shall not have my mushcharn to bury with him.” Accordingly she, with the help of Takly, climbed up the tree and loosed the mushcharn, while Takly took it from his neck. The relations immediately came to take up the body, which they were allowed to do; but before they had got ten yards, the dead man set off, without being carried, and ran into the Trinity church-yard, where he was safe, even though he had killed a thousand persons. The woman seeing this was enraged, and ran to the Ras's gateway, crying, “ Abbate, Abbate !” She obtained admittance, and told the Ras that the man had not been hung long enough ; the Ras, who had already heard the story, laughed and said to the woman, " would
you wish to kill a man that God will not permit to die. He hung long enough to have killed a cat.” She answered, 6 let me have him up again, and I will pull at his legs till I break his neck.” 6. You foolish woman,” replied the Ras, “would you oppose the will of God?” Seeing the old Ras looked grave when he said this, she believed it was God's will that the man should not die, and her spirit failed her, as she said, in a very low and sorrowful tone, “ though he is such an ill-formed creature, I have seen him do things that nobody else could do. The locust never touched the little corn he had behind his house; and though he used to make a fire to smoke them away, we could not save ours as he did.” She immediately went to the church, and begged his forgiveness, and they afterwards lived good neighbours as usual; indeed, I heard subsequently that he became her husband.'-vol. i.
142–145, Messrs. Pearce and Coffin generally attended the Ras on gala days dressed in English uniforms, which Mr. Salt had given them, and which were universally admired. The Ras paid on one occasion a visit of ceremony to King Tecla Gorgis at Axum, and was followed by a splendid retinue of chieftains, the two Englishmen being mounted on each side ; when his great delight was to hear them discharge their blunderbusses and pistols as frequently as possible, on their approach towards the king's tent. The noise created, as might be supposed, no slight confusion amongst the horses of the barbarous chieftains; they all pranced wildly, while the Ras still whispered to the Englishmen, " put in plenty of powder, put in three or four cartridges,” which they did, firing away, and causing their own horses also to plunge furiously. The king,
who beheld the spectacle from his tent, was captivated. “They are angels,” he cried, " those Feringees, they are not mortal!”
The opinions of Tecla Gorgis upon the subject of toleration in religion, will not, perhaps, be deemed altogether peculiar. Enquiring of Pearce what could be the motive of the king of our country for sending presents to Itsa Guarlu, whom he had never seen in his life, Pearce replied, “our king is great and charitable to all poor Christians.” Great!” said he, " is he so powerful as Welled Selasse ?” At this the old Ras laughed, and observed, “ he tells me that all Ethiopia is nothing to compare to hin, and that I am not so powerful as one of his Allicars,” meaning a governor or commander. “If so," said the king, “why does he not put an end to all followers of Mahomet.” “Ganvar,” (Ganvar and Itsa are titles of kings), Pearce replied, “the English never compel people to religion by force, but by pointing out to them the true religion from the holy scriptures; persons thus converted can be depended upon, while those who are forced would only watch an opportunity of revenging themselves on their oppressors.”
Very true,” rejoined he, “but it would be a good thing to give them a sound beating, and knock their towns down or burn them, to let them see that the followers of Christ are more powerful under Amlac Hill (the Supreme Being) than the followers of Mahomet."
Upon Pearce's return to his house at Chelicut, he found both his gatekeeper and gardener dead. It appeared that they had died suddenly; the people endeavoured to persuade him that they had been killed by evil spirits. His son, his only child, he was also destined to lose about the same time. His account of his loss is affecting; we shall add to it that of the funeral ceremonies practised on the occasion.
* Being informed that Ito Debbib, the Ras's only brother living, was very ill, I went every morning to see him, and returned about noon, it being a long ride, but over a level plain, after getting over the mountain of Comfu. One day he prevailed on me to remain all night, but in the morning I begged to leave him to go and see my son, who was very ill also, and I promised him to return the same day. Upon my arrival at home I found my boy very ill, a great deal worse than he was when I left him; he brought this illness from Antalo, where I had sent him with his mother, a Galla slave, to live with a friend until we should return from camp. On this occasion a very extraordinary circumstance happened : while I was sitting by the poor boy, a servant of Ito Dimsu entered the house with the blood running down his cheeks, crying bitterly, Guity! Guity! [master! master!] Hearing this, I ordered my horse to be saddled, knowing before he spoke that his master was dead. As I was going to mount, and had got one foot in the stirrup, I heard a cry all of a sudden from the people whom I had left in the house, in the Amhara language, “ Ligho! Ligho ! [your son! your son !] I returned into the house, and perceived that the breath had departed from my poor boy, the only child God had been pleased to bestow upon me. Never in my life did I experience such a
shock, though I strove to refrain from sorrow, but to no purpose. The sight of the poor dead boy I loved so dearly, and the disappointment of the expectations I had formed of his proving on a future day the only comfort I should have, afflicted me so much that I really wished to die with bim.
• Ito Dimsu's servant saw the whole melancholy affair, and went off without saying a word, and the townspeople came flocking in crowds, until both the house and yard were full; for my own part I could not bear the sight of any one; I would have rather been left by myself, but that was impossible. The priests came, and the customary prayers were read, and my poor child was carried away to be buried, his mother following in a distracted manner.
. After the funeral, the people returned to my house; and after they had cried for about half an hour, I begged they would leave off, and let me have a little rest, as I found myself unwell. They complied, and left me with only a few friends; but, in a few minutes, the people of Antàlo, my acquaintances, hearing of my misfortunes, came flocking and began their
cry, and I was obliged to sit and hear the name of my dead boy repeated a thousand times, with cries that are inexpressible, whether feigned or real. Though no one had so much reason to lament as myself, I could never have shown my grief in so affected a manner, though my heart felt much more.
• Before the cry was over, the people with devves were standing in erowds about my house, striving who should get in first, and the door was entirely stopped up, till at last my people were obliged to keep the entrance clear by force, and let only one at a time into the house. Some brought twenty or thirty cakes of bread, some a jar of maize, some cooked victuals, fowls, and bread, some a sheep, &c.; and in this manner I had my
house filled so full that I was obliged to go out into the yard, until things were put in order and supper was ready. The head priest came with a jar of maize and a cow.
What neighbours and acquaintances bring in the manner above-mentioned is called devves ; the bringers are all invited to eat with you ; they talk and tell stories to divert your thoughts from the sorrowful subject; they force you to drink a great deal; but I have remarked that at these cries, when the relatives of the deceased become a little tranquil in their minds, some old woman, or some person who can find no one to talk to, will make a sudden dismal cry, saying, “Oh what a fine child ! and is he already forgotten ?” This puts the company into confusion, and all join in the cry, which perhaps will last half an hour, during which the servants and common people, standing about, drink' out all the maize, and when well drunk, will form themselves into a gang at the door and begin their ery; and if their masters want another jar of maize to drink, they must pour it out themselves, their servants being so intoxicated that they cannot stand. In this manner they pass away a day without taking rest.
• I must say, however, that the first part of the funeral is very affecting, and the only fault I can find is, that they bury their dead the instant they expire. If a grown person of either sex, or a priest, is by them when they expire, the moment the breath departs, the cries and shouts, which have been kept up for hours before, are recommenced with fury; the priests read prayers of forgiveness, while the body is washed, and the hands put