A voyage to Abyssinia (Salt)/Chapter 6
Journey from the Coast—Arrival at Wéah—At Hamhammo—Description of Shura Hummar, a chief of the Hazorta—Encampment at Leila—Dance of the Hazorta—Dangerous point of the road called Assuba—Singular scene which occurred there—Arrival at the bottom of Taranta—Reasons for preferring the road by Dixan—Unpleasant dispute between the Hazorta and our Abyssinian attendants—Description of a curious scene which ensued—Ascent of Taranta—Views from its summit—Change of seasons—Arrival at Dixan—Friendly conduct of the Baharnegash Yasous—Short description of the Town and its inhabitants—Departure thence—Plain of Zarai—Village of Ambakauto—Murder of one of our attendants—Proceedings thereupon—March to Abha—Inhospitable reception given us by the Baharnegash Subhart—His character—Alarming scene at Logo Seremai—Description of Baharnagash Arkoe and followers—Arrival at Legóte—Remarks respecting the mountain of Devra Damo—Kella—River Anguesh—Mansion of Ayto Nobilis near Adowa—Visit to Ozoro Asquall—Journey to Mugga—Thunder-storm—Rude behaviour of the inhabitants of Mugga—Descent to Gibba—Description of the Sanga or Galla oxen—Departure from Gibba—Arrival at Chelicut—Kind reception given us by the Ras,
BEFORE I enter upon my journey up the country, I shall endeavour to convey to the reader an idea of the party accompanying me, forming probably the largest that has ever left the coast since the time of the Portuguese expeditions in the seventeenth century. It consisted of four Englishmen, who attended me, Mr. Smiths a surgeon, Mr. Pearce, Mr. Coffin, and a servant named Thomas Ingram; three Arabs, Hadjee Belal, Hyder, and Said, and about one hundred Abyssinian followers, among whom were Debib, Hadjee Hamood, Chelika Havea who had charge of the mules and superintendance of the people, the old priest and about sixty bearers belonging to the Ras; most of the latter being wild desperate young men, who had been accustomed to attend him in his various expeditions. The rest consisted of Mr. Pearce's and Debib's servants, and a few people of the country whom we had hired; besides the chiefs of Hazorta tribe; Hummar Omar and Solimaun, about a dozen of the Nayib's rascally camel-drivers. Of this party so formidable in numbers, only fourteen were furnished with fire-arms and spears. The others carrying merely slings, knives, and short heavy sticks. I had known two of the Hazorta chiefs in my former expedition; Hummar, who had stood my friend at the bottom of Taranta, and Omar, who had acted as our guide in the journey from Massowa to Dixan: the latter of these I knew to be an unprincipled villain; the third was an entire stranger.
At half past five, the whole caravan having assembled, we commenced our journey. The plain, which we had to cross, extended in a gradual ascent froth Arkeeko to the first ridge of mountains, and was occasionally covered with a species of mimosa called Girá. We saw great numbers of camels, sheep, asses and goats in the course of the day, and passed two villages; one of which was called Dukona, and the other Dábi. Round these villages several inclosures of kush-kush or juwarry had been formed, which appeared to be in a very flourishing state, and were guarded by boys mounted on stages like those common in Arabia, of which a drawing is given in the Description de l'Arabie, (page 137, Plate XV.) by Niebuhr. At sunset we reached a station on a rising ground, situated at the bottom of the first line of hills, called Shillokee, where we encamped for the night, There was something very exhilarating in the scene we now experienced. The night was clear, and our party soon divided into a variety of groups, each collected round its separate fire; and, at eight o'clock, when the short evening prayer of the Christians, "Jehu-mahar-naxoo," ("Jesus forgive us,") chaunted in very harmonious notes, stole along the camp, an awful sensation of independence and inexpressible delight thrilled through my whole frame, only to be conceived by those, who, like myself, had been just emancipated from the irksome confinement of a ship, and a society equally detestable with that at Arkeeko.
On the 26th, at a quarter before three in the morning, we left our encampment, and at half past six, after travelling over a rugged ridge of low hills, the basis of which appeared to be composed almost entirely of granitic rocks rising over a bed of micaceous earth, we arrived at Wéah. This being a pleasant station, and our camels not having come up, we took shelter under some trees growing in the bed of the torrent, where we found some pits of rain water, and remained there for the day; rejoicing at the opportunity which this delay afforded us of becoming better acquainted with our companions. (Course S. b. W. 8 miles.)
We left Wéah, on the following day, at half past two in the morning, and directed our course nearly south-west, through a complete forest of the girâ trees, towards a break in the mountains, leaving a high hill on our left. At half past four, we began to enter among the mountains themselves, where the road became intersected with deep gullies formed by the passage of the waters during the rainy season, and, soon afterwards, we came to a small pass, which bore somewhat the appearance of having been cut through a rock of iron stone, beyond which commences the country called Samhar. At five we entered into a ravine between two ranges of mountains, rising almost perpendicularly on both sides, up the windings of which the road continues its circuitous course all the way to Taranta. A little further on, we passed two encampments of the Hazorta, who had descended with their cattle from the upper country, from whom we procured with some difficulty three cows for fifteen dollars; and, in about half an hour afterwards, we reached our halting place at Hamhammo, a small circular spot in a nook of the mountains, distant a few hundred yards only from the stream. (Thermometer 81°.) Course about nine miles south-west.
Here we were joined by two Abyssinian chiefs, Baharnegash Isgé and Kantiba Ammon, who had received instructions from the Ras to take charge of our baggage as far up as Taranta; and the former, as he told me, had orders from the Ras to attend us to Antalo. At this station the Nayib's people and the Hazorta began to exercise our patience, but our party was too strong for them to give us any very serious annoyance, and, as I consequently felt assured of our security, I received considerable amusement from the study of their characters. Among the Hazorta, Shum Hummar took the lead. He was a tall raw-boned man, of a loose scrambling gait, and seemed to possess a very strange compound of character. He was obsequious and mean in the extreme, yet occasionally became imperious, overbearing and haughty. He would fawn upon any one, like the basest sycophant, for the sake of a dollar; yet, even among his equals, his conversation consisted almost entirely in an ostentatious display of his own personal merits. "I am a ruler," "a governor," "a king," "a lion in battle," "my strength is equal to that of an elephant," were the phrases he commonly made use of, and these were uttered with wild and insolent gestures, that evinced, at least, his own belief in the assertions. Mr. Pearce bore this behaviour with tolerable patience for the first two days, regarding him generally with a sort of sullen contempt, but, at this place, on his proceeding still further, and comparing himself to Ras Welled Selassé, Mr. Pearce started up, seized his spear and shield, and placing himself in an attitude of defiance, told him, that "he was not equal to the Ras's meanest slave," daring him to a trial of his strength. The menacing aspect which Mr. Pearce assumed on this occasion produced its proper impression; Hummar pretended to bluster for a few moments, but was evidently daunted. He shortly afterwards came to me, and made a terrible complaint respecting "Mr. Pearce's violence," but as I had witnessed the whole affair, and was much delighted with the manly conduct of the latter, I refused all interference in the business: the former became, in consequence, much more humble, and we never again had cause to be dissatisfied with his behaviour.
On the 28th, at six o'clock, we left Hamhammo. The pass from this place seldom exceeded a hundred yards in width, the ground continuing to form one irregular ascent, which latter circumstance often occasioned the stream to be lost under ground, but it seldom ran any distance without again making its appearance on the surface. At eight o'clock we halted at Sadoon, on a small verdant spot, under the shelter of some bushy trees. The wilds around us abounded with partridges and other game, in the pursuit of which we passed the day. (At noon the thermometer was 80°, with a few drops of rain.) At one o'clock we again set out, and after a short march passed Tubbo. This spot struck me, as by far the most picturesque on the road; the cliffs and rugged precipices around were covered with vegetation; and the trees and plants being at this time in full verdure rendered it peculiarly beautiful. At three we arrived at Leila, where we pitched our camp for the night.
The Abyssinian mode of forming an encampment is simple and well adapted to journies of this description, where tents might prove too serious an encumbrance. On their arrival at a station, where they intend to stay any time, the men begin to cut down, with the large knives which they carry about them, a number of green boughs, and these they arrange into bowers with so much art, that, when a cloth is thrown over them, they afford not only shelter from the sun in the day time, but complete protection from the cold during the night. Our whole party this evening appeared in high spirits; the Abyssinians from the gratification they felt in having advanced so far on their return homeward; and the Hazorta from the pleasure they experienced in breathing the air of their native wilds. Nothing can be more distinct than the character of the latter people, when shut up in towns, and when residing in the desert; in the former they exhibit a servile and abject demeanour; while in the latter their behaviour takes the opposite turn, and becomes in the highest degree characteristic of an insolent independence. They had been joined in the morning by about a dozen of their comrades, and, when the evening had closed in, they formed themselves into a semicircle, at a short distance from one of the fires, and amused themselves with an exhibition of their native dance. In the absence of better music they were obliged to content themselves with a single tom-tom, the harmony of which was greatly heightened by the clapping of hands and a peculiar kind of hissing that I never before had heard, somewhat resembling the sounds produced by a quick and alternate pronunciation of the consonants p, t, and s. Only one person danced at a time, who came forward in front, keeping up a constant, but not very active motion with his feet, while his whole body, but more particularly his shoulders and breast, was agitated with a writhing gesture, which, as it proceeded, became too violent to be continued. The person thus exhausted retired, and another took his place; but I observed that this exercise was almost exclusively confined to the chiefs, whose proficiency in it appeared far greater than that of their companions, a circumstance owing, no doubt, to their possessing superior strength and activity, qualities extremely requisite for such violent exertions.
To form any correct idea of the scene which surrounded us, the reader must fancy himself stationed on a clear night amidst a grove of lofty trees, standing in a lonely valley and skirted by abrupt mountains, bordered by a winding stream. On such a spot, and under the circumstances in which I was placed, a dance of the above description had a peculiarly wild and fantastic effect, greatly heightened as it was by the gleaming dashes of light thrown on the different objects from a number of scattered fires, round which the natives were clustered in irregular groups. The Abyssinians enjoyed this dance as much as ourselves, probably on account of its striking dissimilarity to their own; and I subsequently observed some of the more lively of our party, when they reached the upper country, mimicking it in a very ridiculous and laughable manner, to the no small amusement of their friends.
On the first of March we left Leila at a quarter before six, and soon reached Assuba; a little beyond, on the left, a pass or gully in the mountains opens into the road, which is considered as by far the most dangerous spot on the passage, owing to a wild set of Bedowee residing there, who are accustomed to make predatory excursions on the cafilas travelling to and from Massowa. Ras Welled Selassé, in the campaign of 1809, sent a party from Zewan Búre, about fifteen miles distant, down to this place. The soldiers composing it met with but few of the natives, as they had retired to their fastnesses; but in one day they plundered them of upwards of two thousand goats, which proved a very serious loss to a people depending entirely upon its herds for support. Mr. Pearce accompanied this expedition, mid he gave me an entertaining account of the wild antics and exultation of the Ras's soldiers when they arrived at the spot where we were standing; mentioning at the same time, that one of their leaders, Ayto Tesfos, was so enthusiastic on the occasion, as to be with difficulty restrained from proceeding onwards, and affording the Nayib a little wholesome instruction at Arkeeko. A little beyond this point we halted, by the advice of our guides, and waited to give protection to our cafila. We took up our position on a steep jutting rock, completely commanding both the ravine and the road by which we had to pass; and, as we stood resting with our arms on its brow, the wildness of the group, together with the straggling parties coming up from among the broken rocks beneath, presented altogether an assemblage of objects worthy the pencil of a Salvator.
It was amusing at this moment to hear the above-mentioned expedition canvassed by the parties concerned in the transaction: Mr. Pearce, Chelika Havea, and others present had been with the assailants; Kantiba Ammon, Baharnegash Isgé, and the Hazorta, among the sufferers; and as Mr. Pearce was giving me his account, Kantiba Ammon, good-naturedly interrupting him, said, "how dare you tell this in the face of those whose brothers and sons you were instrumental in killing?" "And you also were one among them," said Sheik Ummar to the Chelika, "as I recollect seeing you from yonder hill; but you missed the best plunder, for in a deep nook not a mile from this, six hundred oxen were concealed." When this singular conversation had ended and our baggage had passed, we fired a general volley, and then proceeded on our way in the rear of our people, till half past eight, when we arrived at the foot of the mountain Taranta.
Here we encamped, close to two daro trees, in one of the most picturesque situations that I ever beheld, called Tak-kum-ta, under the shelter of a high overhanging rock, forming the angle of meeting to two immense ravines, one of which leads up in a westerly direction to the central summit of Taranta, and the other in a more irregular and winding course, to its northern point. This station, at which all cafilas halt, is furnished with water from a bason, formed by nature in a rock, at a short distance up the northernmost ravine; down which, in the rainy season, a tremendous torrent occasionally rushes. The whole of the rocks consist of a reddish species of granite, which from the repeated action of the stream, have in some places acquired a brilliant polish. A spring which rises about a mile higher, affords a supply of water throughout the year, and falls seventeen feet perpendicular into the bason, over a solid block of granite.
We this evening experienced some difficulty in supplying our followers with provisions. Part of them being Christians, and part Musselmauns, it became necessary, (as neither would eat of the meat slain by the other) to kill two cows each day, and, owing to a trick of one of our Hazorta guides, we had obtained at Hamhammo only three; the last of which was now killed for the Christians: the Musselmauns in consequence grew very clamorous, and, in the course of the altercation which ensued, Solimaun, speaking of the Hazorta, made use of the following strong expression, "Pray supply us with food for your own sake; for, when our stomachs are empty, we go prowling about like hyænas, devouring every thing on which we can lay our hands."
On the following day we remained in our encampment waiting to hear of Baharnegash Yasous from Dixan, as it became necessary, before we proceeded further, to come to some final arrangement respecting our passage over the mountains. About half way up, the road divides into two tracks, one of which leads to Dixan and the other to Halai. The former is situated in a district, through which I had formerly passed, commanded by the chieftain above mentioned, who at this period was at enmity with the Nayib and connected in friendship with Kantiba Socinius and Baharnegash Subhart; and the latter lies in the district of Baharnegash Isgé, leading by a separate route through the territories of Kantiba Ammon and Shum Ayto Woldo, friends of the Nayib, two of whom had come down to attend us to Antalo. A quarrel had recently broken out between these parties which had been suspended for a month only, to wait the decision of some head men, appointed, by joint consent, umpires between them: though, in spite of this variance, both parties considered themselves equally subject to the jurisdiction of the Ras.
As no positive direction had been given to our guides which road they were to pursue, it became somewhat difficult to form our decision on the subject. Mr. Pearce and Debib were inclined to the road by Halai, which was to be readily accounted for from the latter possessing a district adjoining Shum Woldo; while on my own part, I felt a strong predilection in favour of the way by Dixan, owing to the high opinion I entertained of Baharnegash Yasous, and the friendship which existed between us during my former journey. The latter, on inquiry, proved the more prudent plan, as the party commanding the route was admitted to be the stronger, and our going the other way would have embroiled us in the consequences of an unpardonable offence; besides, as the Chelika Havea judiciously observed, "it could not be pleasant for the people to pass through the other district, with the inhabitants of which they had so recently been engaged in decided hostility." For these reasons, after a long conference, it was amicably settled that we should take the route by Dixan, and Kantiba Ammon himself confessed that my determination was right.
About mid-day Guebra Michael, the son of the Baharnegash, arrived, and, at my desire, made the necessary preparations for our passage over the mountain. As the camels left us at this station, a number of additional bearers was hired from among the Hazorta and other natives who had joined our party; in engaging which a serious disturbance took place that appeared likely to have produced very alarming consequences. We had offered two of the Hazorta a dollar to carry a box to Dixan, which they hesitated to accept, when two Abyssinians came up and expressed their inclination to take it for the sum proposed. This gave rise to a warm altercation between the parties, in which Omar (the rascal I have before described) petulantly interfered, and so provoked one of the Abyssinians, a youth about nineteen years of age, by his conduct, that he imprudently lifted up his hand to strike; a violent scuffle in consequence ensued between them, and they both fell struggling to the ground. Mr. Pearce instantly rushed forwards and rescued the Abyssinian, and the Hazorta drew back their companion.
Never did I see savage fury so strongly depicted as in the whole frame of the latter: every limb trembled with passion; his teeth were locked, and his eyes appeared ready to start out of their sockets. We were all anxious to put the dispute to arbitration, but, while this was arranging, the infuriated madman broke loose from those who held him, seized a shield and a spear, sprang forwards like a tiger and struck a desperate blow at his unarmed antagonist. Most luckily it did not take effect, and with the violence of the plunge the assailant fell forwards. The whole of the Abyssinians in an instant flew to arms; Omar was seized, and it was with some difficulty we could prevent his being torn to pieces. The dread of our fire-arms at last restored order; and the cry for arbitration, "Waaz, waaz," once again re-echoed throughout the camp. Mr. Pearce, became on this occasion, surety for the Christian, and one of the Hazorta for his countryman; the Baharnegash Isgé, Guebra Michael, and Shum Ummar were chosen arbitrators.
We immediately proceeded to trial; the judges took their seat on a projecting rock, silence was proclaimed, and the parties pleaded their respective causes; when, after many long harangues, it was at last finally arranged, that, as there had been provocation on both sides, and no blood spilt, the past should be forgiven, and the business made up as among friends. This decision being delivered with great solemnity by Shum Hummar, one of the judges, (whose bushy hair dressed out in the true Hazorta fashion, added no slight ridicule to the scene) the affair was amicably settled, and peace once more happily re-established. On this occasion Shum Hummar behaved with great propriety, and evinced a degree of feeling which greatly raised him in our estimation. As to Omar, he was so much alarmed by what had happened when he came to his senses, that he begged my permission to leave us, as he did not dare to venture up Taranta in company with our bearers. I gave him two dollars, and was glad to get rid of him at so cheap a rate.
During the night I was awakened by a general uproar in the camp, and the howling of a small terrier, which had been given me at the Cape by Admiral Bertie. One of the wild beasts which abound in the neighbourhood, had seized it across the breast, and was in the act of carrying it off, when its cries and the shouts of our people, who continued always on the alert during the night, induced the animal to loose its hold, and the dog came howling back to my tent. From the form of the wounds which it had received on each side of the body, it appeared to me, that the animal which had attacked it must have been a species of leopard. The dog afterwards recovered, but died subsequently at Chelicut, of a disease greatly resembling the distemper.
While we continued in our encampment at Tak-kum-ta, a number of small parties passed by on their way to the coast with merchandize, chiefly consisting of slaves, elephants' teeth, and grain; the natives secure the latter from the weather by enclosing it in kid-skins, which being stripped off almost entire from the animal, are afterwards tanned, and made up into the shape of the goat skins commonly used to carry water on the coast. Thermometer at this station 81°.
On Saturday the 3d of March, at ten minutes before six in the morning, we commenced our journey up the mountain of Taranta. The first part of the road, called Tellimenná, forms for about a mile a gradual ascent, which is much incumbered with loose stones and fragments of rock. We passed over this at a brisk rate, in a west by south direction, when we arrived at a steep and rugged part of the mountain thickly covered with the kolquall, which at this season bore a beautiful appearance, owing to the crimson colour of its seeds, which were closely set on the ends of every branch. This continued for about two miles, when we reached a very precipitous ascent, which shortly afterwards conducted us to a station called Mijdevella, where travellers often stay during the night, on account of the convenience attached to a spring of water in the neighbourhood. It was on this spot that Mr. Bruce slept on his way up the mountain, and, as he asserts, "in one of the many caves which served for houses to the old inhabitants, the Troglodytes;" these, however, we were not fortunate enough to discover; nor do I believe that they ever existed, except in the imagination of the author; for in spite of the censure passed upon me for what I mentioned on this subject in my former journal, it does not appear to me any argument in favour of the existence of caves on one side of the mountain, that "the houses at Dixan and Halai, on the other side, are formed in a manner somewhat to resemble caves;" but situation and distance seldom stand in the way of these minor candidates for public fame.
From Mijdevella the road takes a south-west direction, and becomes in parts so extremely steep, that though Mr. Pearce and others of our party continued to ride, yet the rest found themselves compelled to dismount, as one false step of the mule might have precipitated his rider into the depths below. To walk, however, or rather to climb, required no trifling effort, for people so long unaccustomed to exertions of this nature, and we consequently felt ourselves obliged every few minutes to rest. Meantime our attendants, who were habituated from their youth to such expeditions, passed merrily on with their burthens, and some of the more light-hearted among them amused themselves and companions by singing extempore verses, in a manner somewhat similar to that, which, I have been informed, German soldiers frequently practise on a march. The person who composed each distich first sang it alone, when it was immediately taken up and repeated in chorus by the rest of the company. One of the songs, composed on the present occasion, was translated literally to me as we proceeded by Mr. Pearce, which I shall here insert, as a characteristic specimen of the very rude poetry in which the Abyssinians delight.
Our fathers are soldiers of the Bandinsáh,
Each of them has killed his foe.
We are young and carry his burthens,
But shall in time fight as well as our fathers.
We now are journeying in a desert country,
Surrounded by wild beasts and savages,
But it is in the service of the Bandinsáh,
And who would not die for him?
The sharp air of the morning, and the wild landscape through which we were passing, together with the shrill cries of partridges and guinea-fowl, that rose up, at every instant, startled by our approach, greatly contributed to enhance the effect of this novel and interesting scene.
Shortly after we reached a point, where a road branches off on the left, leading to Halai. A little beyond, stands a high rock, or overhanging pinnacle, called Gorézo, respecting which, the Abyssinians entertain the tradition of "a young maiden having leapt from it, to avoid a marriage into which her father threatened to force her." The abyss below the rock is frightful to behold. Above this part of the mountain the vegetation begins to change its character, and instead of kolqualls and kantuffa, clumps of trees are found, called Wàra, of a moderate height, bearing leaves resembling those of a willow, the branches of which were profusely covered with lichens. Further on for a short distance, the road appeared to have been cut through a bed of chalk-stone, and, wherever this prevailed, an extensive grove of a hardy kind of cedar, called Túd, flourished in abundance. After having passed over another moderate ascent, we arrived at a lofty height called Sarar. On looking back from this spot, the view over the country we had passed became exceedingly grand; ranges of mountains, one below the other, the tops of which seemed to rise from what might be termed a sea of clouds, extending far into the horizon, where we fancied we could discern the line of the ocean bounding the distant prospect.
From this point we had a considerable descent to make before we again mounted; when, in about half an hour, we reached one of the summits of the mountain, near a station bordering on a small pool of water, described in my former journey, called Turabo. By this time it was twenty minutes past eight o'clock; so that no more than two hours and a half had been occupied in the ascent since we left our station in the morning at Tak-kum-ta. To refresh ourselves after this exertion we encamped in the plain, enjoying one of the finest mornings that can be imagined, the thermometer standing at 61°.
Soon afterwards we had the pleasure of seeing the greater part of our baggage safely arrive. The heavy packages had been slung on poles by means of ropes, fortunately provided at Mocha, and from ten to sixteen bearers had been allotted to each load, so that they had managed, by relieving each other at intervals, to get up the ascent with tolerable facility. As our situation was now considered perfectly secure, from having reached the territory subject to the Baharnegash, the guns and some of the more cumbrous articles were placed under the care of Guebra Michael, (his son,) with orders to follow us as expeditiously as possible, whilst we ourselves proceeded forward with a detachment carrying the lighter portion of our baggage to Dixan. The view that bursts upon the traveller, as he begins to descend the southern side of Taranta, is one of the most magnificent that human imagination can conceive, extending over the abrupt mountains of Tigré to the pinnacled and distant heights of Adowa, which, though singularly diversified with patches of vegetation, extensive forests of kolquall, and numberless intersecting vallies, were so harmoniously blended together by a luminous atmosphere, as to form one vast and unbroken expanse. On my former journey we descended this mountain in the midst of a heavy and incessant storm. We were then entering upon an unknown country, with dubious steps and no very certain assurance of the reception that we were likely to encounter. The recollection of our feelings on that occasion formed a pleasing contrast to our present sensations; for now every thing promised success, the sun shone bright on the landscape before us, and we were surrounded with tried and faithful followers.
As the steepness of the path we had to descend rendered riding unsafe, we dismounted from our mules, threw the reins over their necks, and left them to make the best of their way down the mountain, as is customary with travellers in Abyssinia. An hour's walk carried us down the worst part of the road, and we then re-mounted and proceeded forward through a wild and rocky district, along a winding path-way, towards Dixan. The change of climate here began to be very apparent. The heat of the sun became intense and scorching, compared with what we had experienced on the other side of Taranta. The vegetation looked parched, the brooks were dry, and the cattle had all been driven across the mountain in search of pasture. This remarkable and sudden change of the seasons is noticed in one of the earliest accounts respecting Abyssinia; for Nonnosus, an ambassador from the Emperor Justinian to the ruling sovereign of the Axomites, remarks, that, from Ave to the coast he experienced summer and harvest time; while the winter prevailed from Ave to Axum, and vicê-versâ.
At one o'clock we arrived near Dixan, and rode up immediately to my former habitation, situated at the bottom of the hill on which the town is built. Here the Baharnegash Yasous came out to receive us, and greeted us with the hearty welcome of an old acquaintance. The venerable aspect of this respectable chief, his mild and agreeable manners, and the remembrance of the services he had rendered us on a former occasion, added a peculiar gratification to our meeting, and the plentiful stock of maiz and other good cheer hospitality provided for our entertainment, after the hard fare we had been obliged to rest satisfied with on our journey, raised the whole party before evening into very exhilarating spirits.
March 4.—At the break of day the well known sound of the Baharnegash's voice calling his family to prayers excited my attention, when I immediately arose and joined his party. At this moment, the interval of four years, which had elapsed since my former visit, appeared like a mere dream.—The prayers which he recited consisted of the same words, were pronounced in the same tone and were offered up with the same fervour of devotion which I had before so often listened to with delight: and, when the ceremony was concluded, the good old man delivered out his orders for the day with a patriarchal simplicity and dignity of manner that was really affecting to contemplate. With this impression, still warm on my mind, we ascended one of the hills in the neighbourhood, and, from the top of it, beheld a scene that, as one of my companions remarked, was alone a sufficient recompense for the trouble of passing Taranta. A thousand different shaped hills were presented to the view, which bore the appearance of having been dropped on an irregular plain; and the different shades and depths which the varied aspect of these hills presented, as the sun emerged from the horizon, rendered the scene truly magnificent.
From this point the following set of bearings was taken with a theodolite:
|Mountains of Adowa,||Nonus||— S. 26½° W.|
|Extreme of the same mountains,||9° 4′||— S. 35¾° W.|
|Computed direction of Massowa,||17519|
|Pass of Taranta,||21834|
|Esse nearly on a line with the first bearing,||— S. 26° W.|
I have before given a view of the town of Dixan in my larger publication, and no great changes appeared to have taken place since the time that it was sketched, except that a few additional huts or caves had been constructed in the lower town. In the course of the morning I observed some labourers busily engaged in excavating and forming one of these singular habitations, and, as the only tools employed consisted of a small kind of adze, to shape the stones, and the blade-bone of a bullock to dig out the earth and temper the mortar, it was somewhat surprising to remark the facility with which the work was executed. The inhabitants, who came in crowds to look at us, did not seem to be overburthened with clothing. The men wore a short pair of drawers and a loose cloth over their shoulders; and the women had a tanned skin, ornamented with shells, tied round their waists; while the children, both boys and girls, went entirely naked. The country round Dixan at this season of the year wore a scorched and desolate aspect. The only cattle left for the supply of the inhabitants were milch-goats and kids. Large herds of which were brought in by the shepherds every evening and folded near the skirts of the town, to protect them from the hyænas and other wild beasts which prowl about in the neighbourhood. Our rest during the two nights we stayed at Dixan was much disturbed by the howling of these ferocious animals, and the incessant barking of dogs which their approach occasioned. The howling of the hyæna is very peculiar, consisting of three distinct deep-toned cries; after which intervenes, a few minutes interval of silence, when the three cries are again repeated. The nights at Dixan were exceedingly fine; and from the heighth of our situation the stars appeared more brilliant, and consequently nearer to the eye than on the coast.
March 5th.—Having parted from our Hazorta friends, whose company we were not sorry to get rid of, we left Dixan, at six o'clock in the morning, attended by the Baharnegash; and proceeded with recruited spirits on our journey. Our course lay westward, and in about an hour we reached the lofty hill, on which stands the village of Hadehadid, where the women as we passed greeted us with the usual acclamation heli, li li li li li li li, which, as was observed in my former journal, resembles the ziroleet of the Syrians. We journeyed hence, nearly due south, across the plain of Zarai, which at this time looked very bare of verdure, the stream passing through being completely dried up. The whole country, indeed, had the appearance of being scorched, and we did not meet with water until we had passed the high rock of Addicota. At no great distance beyond, we came to a large daro, standing in the bed of a torrent, where we found some pits of water, a circumstance which determined us to rest there during the heat of the day.
A debate at this place ensued between our guides, whether we should continue in the encampment for the night, or proceed to the village of Ambakauko, which lay about two miles distant on our right. The latter plan was considered by Mr. Pearce as strongly objectionable, owing to the place having been put under contribution, only the year before, by the Ras's troops, in effecting which, as is usual, several lives had been lost; but our people confident in their strength, unfortunately over-ruled this objection, and at their unanimous wish, I was induced to give orders for our proceeding in the afternoon up the steep hill on which the village stands. The reception we met with on our first arrival proved very satisfactory. A house and provisions were supplied by the Shum of the district, and the people behaved with remarkable civility.
After such treatment, the reader may readily conceive our astonishment and horror in the morning, at finding that one of our party, whom I had hired at Massowa, had been barbarously murdered during the night. He had gone out of the inclosure to seek for a draught of water, when he had been set upon by a gang of the villagers, and, being overpowered, had fallen a sacrifice to their revenge. The brave fellow, undaunted by their numbers, had evidently fought with much desperation, and had wounded several of his antagonists, as appeared by the tracks of blood which were found in the morning, leading from the spot where he had been killed, to the town.
The Shum of the district, a respectable old man in appearance, denied all knowledge of the transaction, yet, as the perpetrators could not be found, he was immediately tied to one of our boys by Debib, according to a singular practice which is universal throughout the country, and carried forward with us to answer for the death, before his superior the Baharnegash Subhart. In the mean time, while we proceeded on our journey, Debib rode across the country to visit his friend Shum Woldo, and to acquaint him with the occurrence; and this chief, though himself a notorious marauder, not only expressed great abhorrence at the treachery of the act, but sent forward immediately a messenger to Baharnegash Subhart, to declare, that if the murderers were not discovered and sent to the Ras, he would himself, before the moon changed, set fire to the town.
Though the day was very fine, this event gave a gloomy complexion to our feelings, which made us not very observant of the scenery through which we passed. Our course lay to the south, and after passing Asceriah, we descended a steep declivity, that brought us into the eastern end of the fine plain of Serawé, which is thickly interspersed with tombo-trees, and seems to extend westward, on a low flat, to Hamazen. This plain may be considered as part of the western boundary of the mountains of Taranta. The country through which we had hitherto descended constituting only the lower ridge of that extensive range. Soon afterwards, we arrived at the picturesque village of Abha, where the Baharnegash Subhart generally resides.
The reception he gave us was very obliging; but there appeared in his conversation, as Ayto Debib observed, using an expressive, though not very polite, English phrase, which he had learned from Mr. Pearce, "so much blarney," in which some of the Abyssinians are great adepts, that it gave us very strong reason to doubt his sincerity. This suspicion, unluckily, did not turn out to be ill-founded; for instead of laying a repast before us, which is always customary on the arrival of strangers, he sent out to me, from an inner room to which he had retired, only a single horn of maiz. This partial distribution of his bounty, being considered by our party as an absolute affront, I refused to receive, and having in vain sent to remonstrate on the subject by three or four messengers, to whom his servants behaved very insolently, we rose up in a body, left the village, and pitched a tent in the valley below.
This decisive step brought the old man, as was expected, to a sense of the impropriety of his conduct, and he presently afterwards came down the hill, attended by the head men of the place and fell down, cringing abjectly at my feet, until I reluctantly promised to forgive the transaction; but all their solicitations could not induce us to return to a house, where so little respect had been shewn to the laws of hospitality.
In the afternoon a bullock was brought, as a present from the village, and a profusion of maiz and bread. The old man himself returned to partake our good cheer in the evening, when, though he affected to be unwell and to have lost his appetite, he ate about two pounds of brind, and drank a proportionable quantity of maiz. This man possessed throughout the country the character of being particularly crafty, penurious and subtle; which qualities, together with his numerous family connexions, had contributed, more than his courage, towards raising him to the rank which he at that time enjoyed. His own family consisted of twenty-six sons, and about the same number of daughters. One of the former, a very acute and intelligent young man, had paid great attention, in the absence of the Baharnegash, to Mr. Pearce and Mr. Coffin, on their way down to the coast: in consequence, at parting, I gave him the present which had been intended for his father.
March 7th.—We struck our tents at five in the morning, and after proceeding about a mile southward, brought the hill of Cashaat to bear due east of us, at which point, instead of passing over the mountain which leads to Agamé, we turned off a little to the west, and travelled about eight miles through a wild 'barraka' or 'forest,' until we reached an agreeable station, by the side of a river called Seremai. This river shapes its course through the bottom of a small secluded valley, surrounded on every side by steep and rugged hills, in a nook of which, about a mile to the eastward, lay a large town called Logo, whence the surrounding district takes its name. It was at this time commanded by a rebellious chieftain, styled Baharnegash Arkoe, who in the campaign of the preceding year had been reduced to obedience by the Ras.
We had not long enjoyed our encampment, when some of the shepherds passing by, with droves of cattle, began to quarrel with our people; of this little notice was at first taken, until about an hour afterwards, when we were surprised at observing several bands of armed men starting out, one after the other from different points of the hills, with the apparent intention of gradually encircling us. In this situation, whatever might prove to be the object of our visitors, it became necessary for us to stand on our guard, and be prepared for the worst consequences that might ensue. Accordingly, Mr. Coffin was directed to take charge of our fire-arms, among which, two small brass guns (given me by Captain Street of the Staunch,) made a conspicuous figure, and these were placed on a rising ground, close by the side of Chelika Havea, who, with his people, were ordered to look after our baggage; while, at the request of Mr. Pearce and Debib, on whose experience I placed much reliance, I seated myself with them at a short distance nearer the river, and pretended to be engaged, with apparent unconcern, in smoking a hookah. At this time it became a picturesque, though somewhat alarming, sight, to see the parties winding down from among the hills; and, as they descended into the valley, we could clearly distinguish that they were all armed either with spears or matchlocks. At length, after about a quarter of an hour's suspense, one of the parties came forward, consisting of Baharnegash Arkoe and about twenty of his soldiers, and it was followed up by about one hundred and fifty more of the most desperate and rascally looking fellows I ever beheld, many of them being scarred with wounds received in former adventures. The chief, equally unpolished in his appearance, accosted us at first without the slightest ceremony, taking us, probably, for a cafila of traders; but on recognising Mr. Pearce and Debib, he expressed much surprise at seeing them, became somewhat more civil in his deportment, and shewed evident marks of being disconcerted, when he found that we were the Ras's strangers, and under his immediate protection. Shortly afterwards he turned to me, and asked rather peremptorily for my hookah, holding out his hand at the same time to lay hold of it. This I immediately refused, on a private hint given me by Mr. Pearce; and Ayto Debib, on this occasion, assuming all the consequence which his situation conferred, reprimanded the Baharnegash for his boldness, explaining to him, that I was "the messenger of a sovereign whom the Ras considered as his own equal." All this made its due impression, and the chief shortly afterwards rose up hastily, calling out to his soldiers to follow him, adding in a lower tone, "it won't do, we had better let them alone." With these injunctions, his followers, after loitering about for a short time, complied, though on their going away they seemed to regard our packages, as I thought, with a wishful eye, that very evidently spoke their regret at being compelled to leave them unexamined.
Having thus happily got rid of these intruders, we ordered our mules to be prepared, and determined, notwithstanding the intense heat of the day, to proceed on our journey, as we felt that it would be by no means safe to pass the night in so unsettled a neighbourhood. Our road now lay to the S.S.W. through a wild and uncultivated country. We crossed the stream called Mai Belessan. Left the high hill of Amba Anvas on our right, and, after mounting a steep ascent, reached the village of Legóte, which in appearance somewhat resembled Dixan, where we procured accommodations for the night. The distance we had travelled from our last station may be computed at about eight miles; and from the top of the hill on which Legóte stands, we took in the evening a regular set of bearings.
March 8th.—At five in the morning we descended from Legóte, and soon afterwards crossed an extensive and well cultivated plain, to the left of which, as we proceeded southward, lay the mountain of Devra Damo, one of those distinguished fastnesses, which in the earliest periods of the Abyssinian history, served as a place of confinement for the younger branches of the family of the reigning sovereign. The reader will easily conceive, from the circumstance of my being a native of Lichfield, that my thoughts immediately recurred to the beautiful and instructive romance, founded on this custom by Dr. Johnson, whose character, from a rare union of ability and feeling, was impressed on my mind by local connexion, as an object of admiration, from my childhood; and I feel assured, that I shall stand excused for observing, that the reflections which his interesting tale gave rise to, on this, as well as on many other occasions, added greatly, from a natural association of ideas, to the pleasure which I experienced in traversing the wild regions of Ethiopia.
The mountain of Devra Damo appears to be completely scarped on every side, and, as I was informed, is very difficult of access, having only one path leading up to it; resembling in this respect many of the hill forts in India, as well as in its general character. As soon as I had completed a sketch of it, we proceeded on our journey, and, after travelling a few miles, came to a pass in the mountains, called Kella, which takes its name from the castellated appearance of the rocks in its neighbourhood: 'Kella' in the Abyssinian, as well as Arabic language, signifying a 'castle.' It still continues to be a place where duties are collected from the cafilas. About a mile farther on, we came to a beautiful glen, where a large daro tree stood by the side of a winding stream, the banks of which were richly covered with verdure, and here we stopped to refresh ourselves during the heat of the day.
At this time I conceive we must have arrived at a great height above the level of the sea, for notwithstanding our journey had hitherto tended towards the south, at a time when the sun was proceeding northward, yet we every day found the climate more temperate, and the vegetation backwarder in its progress. It was a subject of continual regret to me, that we could not ascertain this fact; but, unfortunately, the barometer which I had taken from England for this service proved perfectly useless, owing to a great part of the quicksilver having escaped through the cork, which on examination proved to be actually saturated with this penetrating metal. I have been, since my return, informed, that there exists a much simpler mode of ascertaining the heights of mountains; by means of immersing a thermometer, graduated for the purpose, in boiling water: if this should be a correct method, it will prove a very valuable discovery for travellers.
While we continued at our station under the daro tree, I saw several species of birds which I had never before met with: one of these proved to be the Waalia of Mr. Bruce, (Columba Abyssinica of Dr. Latham;) its colour is a most beautiful yellow, shaded off into purple. I also shot a new and elegant species of Musicapa.
At three o'clock we again started; and, after a considerable descent, came to the river Angueah, which runs through a bed of granite, and shapes its course in a north-west direction till it joins the Maleg. Beyond this we had several steep and rugged precipices to mount, when we arrived at the house of Ayto Nobilis, a young chief on whom the Ras had lately conferred this district, as a reward for military service. Here we passed a pleasant day in the enjoyment of the unconstrained freedom, attendant on Abyssinian hospitality.
On the 9th of March we quitted the house of Ayto Nobilis in the afternoon, and proceeded across a fertile valley towards a range of hills lying to the south, leaving the mountains of Adowa about twelve miles on our right. Very extravagant descriptions have been given respecting the shapes of the mountains of Tigré. Mr. Bruce ventures to assert even, that "some of them are flat and thin, and square, in the shape of a hearth stone or slab, that scarce would seem to have been sufficient to resist the winds. Some are like pyramids. Others like obelisks or prisms; and some, the most extraordinary of all the rest, pyramids pitched upon their points with their base uppermost." The reader will readily believe me, when I state, that I did not see a single one which answered to the latter part of the description. With respect to their true forms, a more correct notion may be obtained from the views which I have before published, than from any verbal account that I can attempt to furnish.
We had not proceeded far on our journey when Mr. Pearce, Ayto Debib and myself separated by some accident from our company, when it was determined that we should make a short excursion, out of our way, to pay a visit to the Ozoro Asquall, the lady in command of the district. She was one of the daughters of Ayto Manasseh, who had been given in marriage by her friends, when very young, to Fit-Aurari Zogo, a gallant chieftain whom I had seen at the celebration of the Maskal in 1805. After his death, which happened in 1808, she had proved a kind protector to Mr. Pearce, until she had again been forced into a marriage by the Ras with one of the chiefs of Temben, with whom she had since seldom resided. Rather choosing to remain on her own estates, which, it may be here observed, ladies of rank always retain after marriage, together with their maiden names. On our road we had to traverse a steep pass which led us into a fertile valley, and soon afterwards into a fertile valley and soon afterwards to lofty hill on which stood the mansion of the Ozoro.
Though our arrival was quite unexpected she received us with great attention; and, on our entrance, introduced us to her husband, who happened at this time to be on a visit to her: he appeared to be a young man of mild and agreeable manners, but was said to possess no very extraordinary ability. The lady herself was tolerably handsome, but was seen to great disadvantage, owing to the family being in deep mourning, on account of the death of Ayto Manasseh. It being usual on such occasions to disfigure the person as much as possible, in proof of the sincerity of their grief. In fact, it may be considered as a sort of scriptural mourning which is practised in this country, both men and women clothing themselves, literally, in "sackcloth and ashes." Our hostess was, at the time of our ontroduction, engaged in giving a fast dinner to some of her dependants, as is customary during the season of Lent, which the higher classes of Abyssinians observe with strict and scrupulous attention.
In the evening a second repast was prepared for our party, and the lady, as well as the husband, partook freely with us of the maiz. The former appeared to be of a remarkably gay and cheerful disposition, and not particularly reserved in her manners; frequently interchanging cups with her friend, Mr. Pearce, across the table, and evidently expressing regret at the restraint imposed by her husband's presence. The whole scene, indeed, though not uncommon in other countries, afforded a striking instance of the superiority which ladies of rank in Abyssinia are accustomed to assume over their husbands. A trifling circumstance that took place in the course of our conviviality contributed much to my amusement. I had given a ring to our hostess and another to her spouse, but the lady not being satisfied with the one she possessed, managed by artful endearments to coax her husband out of the other, telling him, among other reasons to induce him to comply, that, "if he would not part with it, it would be plain he loved the ring better than herself!"
On Saturday morning we left the Ozoro's mansion about ten o'clock, and followed a southern course down a highly cultivated valley, through which a stream runs called Mai Feras. The land hereabouts appeared to be highly productive. The first crop of peas had not been gathered in, though the second crop of wheat and barley was making a rapid progress and seemed to promise a very abundant harvest. This productiveness of the soil must be considered, in a great measure, as owing to the industry of the inhabitants and their skill in irrigating the land, the effects of which, where a constant supply of water can be procured, proves highly beneficial. The common mode, practised here, consists in digging small channels from the higher parts of the stream, and conducting them across the plain, which is thus divided into square compartments according to the general practice adopted in India. In the course of the morning the rest of our party re-joined us, and we proceeded to a village situated, as usual, at the top of a lofty hill, where we took up our residence for the night. Here it was determined, for the convenience of the party, that we should divide; and accordingly I proceeded with Mr. Smith and Mr. Pearce in advance, while Debib and the others had orders to follow, by slower marches, with our baggage in the rear.
On the 10th of March we started at day light and travelled for about three hours through a rugged and mountainous district, where the path was often so steep as to compel us to dismount from our mules. This path, at length, brought us to an open country wearing a distinct character from the one we had already passed; exhibiting an extensive plain which stretches down from the hills of Agamé and Haramat, (lying at this time about twenty miles on our left) in a westerly direction as far as the river Tacazze, through the rich districts of Gullibudda and Temben. This plain divides the mountainous district of 'Tigré' (properly so called) from the no less elevated districts of Giralta and Enderta. The former is peculiarly distinguished from the others, by the soil being, in general, sandy, and the rocks rising in perpendicular strata, consisting of slate over schistus and granite. Whereas in the two latter the strata are more inclined to the horizontal direction, and the surface of the vallies consists of a rich black loam, particularly well calculated for the cultivation of barley.
After crossing the above-mentioned plain, we came to a steep ghaut, or pass, which leads up to the same range of country as the one of Atbara, of which a view is given in my larger publication, and this brought us at once into the district of Giralta. Here, after gaining the summit, one of those grand scenes burst upon us, which often occur in mountainous countries, occasioned by the approach of a thunder storm. A heavy mass of clouds, obscuring the horizon, came sweeping over our heads from the south-east, emitting every moment vivid flashes of lightning, while, in every other direction, the sky was perfectly clear and serene, and the landscape lighted up with a brilliant sun; but this stupendous scene was only of momentary duration, for the storm every instant came nearer, the thunder seemed to roll beneath our feet, and a heavy shower of rain at once closed the prospect from our view.
This storm, was fortunately of short continuance only, and proved a suitable prelude to the inhospitable treatment which we soon afterwards experienced, in the neighbouring town of Mugga. The Shum of the district being absent, neither house, nor any other accommodations were offered us, and we were at length compelled to have recourse for shelter to some stacks of straw which stood in its vicinity. Mr. Pearce, indignant at this treatment, obtained my permission to go forward to Chelicut, to acquaint the Ras with the difficulties we had to encounter, and to prepare him for our approach. He had not been long gone, when the head-priest of the place came out and offered us a small house adjoining to the church, which we gladly accepted, and he afterwards was kind enough to provide us with a few cakes of bread. This, with a kid which we bought from one of the town's-people, and two jars of soué or bouza, that we got in exchange for its skin, constituted the whole of our provisions, and the night was passed away as well as the incessant annoyance from swarms of vermin, and the continual howling of hyænas, which seemed to be more than usually numerous in the neighbourhood, would permit.
On Monday 11th, we quitted Mugga with great satisfaction, at the break of day, determining to make a long march forward to Gibba, a residence belonging to the Ras, where we had reason to expect more decent treatment. Though the people at the former place have a bad name, yet the district which they inhabit is one of the finest eastward of the Tacazze. The vale, through which the first part of the road conducted us, wore a beautiful aspect, and was interspersed with groves of trees, a circumstance rarely met with in Abyssinia. In about two hours we arrived at a point where another road turns off, towards the pass of Atbara. The route we had taken by Mugga saves this very difficult ascent, but, owing to the incivility of its inhabitants, is rarely frequented by cafilas. I could almost be led to suspect, that Mugga is the district to which Aeizana sent a tribe of the Boja, a set of barbarians whom he had subdued, a circumstance recorded in the inscription which I discovered at Axum. The name of the country there mentioned, is extremely indistinct, but begins with an M, and ends with an A; so that it might, at a much less expense of conjecture than is usual on such occasions, be easily converted by an ingenious antiquarian into Mugga.
At twelve we rested at a village called Ademaza, where we were received with great attention by the head-man, who provided us with the usual refreshments; and after partaking of this good cheer, we again proceeded on our journey. At four o'clock we arrived at a very steep declivity, which we had to descend, down which our mules were led with considerable difficulty; this brought us into a deep ravine, which extends in a direct line to the valley of Gibba. A broad and limpid stream runs down the middle of this ravine, which fell murmuring from rock to rock, (resembling some of the most beautiful parts of the Wye, in the neighbourhood of Builth;) and on each side of the stream extended groves of flowering shrubs and trees, so thickly entangled together, as scarcely to admit of a passage through them. The wild country is extremely picturesque, abounds with game, and is frequented, as it is said, by lions and other wild beasts, which at night resort to the river for water. When we emerged from this ravine it was nearly dark, and shortly after we arrived at Gibba.
This place is situated in a small secluded valley, surrounded by woody hills, and almost encircled by a stream, abundantly supplied with fish and wild fowl. The Ras for many years was in the habit of spending the season of Lent on this delightful spot; but unfortunately, in 1801, his house was burnt down, through the negligence of a servant, and it has never since been rebuilt. A comfortable shed, however, was provided for us among the ruins, and we received every possible attention from the chief Aristi, or bailiff, left in charge of the estate.
Here, for the first time, I was gratified by the sight of the Galla oxen, or Sanga, celebrated throughout Abyssinia for the remarkable size of their horns: three of these animals were grazing among the other cattle, in perfect health, which circumstance, together with the testimony of the natives, "that the size of the horns is in no instance occasioned by disease," completely refutes the fanciful theory given by Mr. Bruce respecting this creature. It appears by the papers annexed to the last edition of Mr. Bruce's work, that he never met with the Sanga, but that he made many attempts to procure specimens of the horns, through Yanni, a Greek, residing at Adowa. This old man very correctly speaks of them, in his letters, as being brought only by the cafilas from Antálo, and I have now ascertained, that they are sent to this country as valuable presents, by the chiefs of the Galla, whose tribes are spread to the southward of Enderta. So far then, as to the description of the horns and the purposes to which they are applied by the Abyssinians, Mr. Bruce's statements may be considered as correct; but with respect to "the disease which occasions their size, probably derived from their pasture and climate;" "the care taken of them to encourage the progress of this disease;" "the emaciation of the animal," and the "extending of the disorder to the spine of the neck, which at last becomes callous, so that it is not any longer in the power of the animal to lift its head," they all prove to be merely ingenious conjectures, thrown out by the author solely for the exercise of his own ingenuity.
I should not venture to speak so positively upon this matter, had I not indisputably ascertained the facts; for the Ras having subsequently made me a present of three of these animals alive, I found them not only in excellent health, but so exceedingly wild, that I was obliged to have them shot. The horns of one of these are now deposited in the Museum of the Surgeon's College, and a still larger pair are placed in the collection of Lord Valentia, at Arley Hall. The length of the largest horn of this description which I met with was nearly four feet, and its circumference at the base, twenty-one inches.
It might have been expected, that the animal, carrying horns of so extraordinary a magnitude, would have proved larger than others belonging to the same genus; but in every instance which came under my observation, this was by no means the case. I shall only further observe, that its colour appeared to vary as much as in the other species of its genus, and that the peculiarity in the size of the horns was not confined to the male; the female being very amply provided with this ornamental appendage to her forehead.
On the 13th, Mr. Pearce returned from Chelicut, charged with many kind expressions of friendship from the Ras. Another messenger soon afterwards arrived, with a mule richly caparisoned, sent by the Ras, as a present, for my own riding; and by the same conveyance an order was forwarded to the Aristi, at Gibba, to provide a cow daily for the consumption of our party, and afford us every other accommodation we might stand in need of. In the afternoon of the 14th, Ayto Debib and Chelika Havea came up with the greater part of our baggage; and, on the 15th, we proceeded in a body towards Chelicut, which place the Ras had appointed for the reception of the mission.
Before I left England I had prepared a suitable dress for the occasion, the most important article of which was a dark red velvet pelisse bordered with fur, which, being folded round the body, served to conceal the rest of the dress, and to give that kind of appearance which I knew the Abyssinians would look up to with respect; for, as to the common European costume, I had formerly observed that it tended to excite a species of contempt and ridicule that occasionally became very unpleasant in its effects. The rest of our party were clothed also as neatly as possible, for the purpose of making, on our first visit, a favourable impression. The country from Gibba was very hilly, and the road, for a considerable distance, lay along the edge of a steep precipice, from which extended, on our right, a fine view of the adjacent country. The descent from these heights conducted us into the rich and fertile plain of Gambéla, and on the left stood the hill and town of Moculla, one of the favourite residences of the Ras, which I had formerly visited in his company. Since that time, however, the church, which makes a conspicuous figure in one of the larger views which I published, had been burnt to the ground by lightning, and another constructed in its place, with a circular dome resembling that of a mosque, and by no means so well suited to the character of the landscape. The mules having been refreshed during our stay at Gibba, carried us briskly forward, and, at ten o'clock, we gained the summit of a hill overlooking the vale of Chelicut.
Here we waited, by appointment, for a deputation from the Ras, and, in a short time afterwards, two horsemen were seen galloping up the plain with a large troop of armed attendants. On their approach we descended into the valley, and were met by the two chiefs, Shalaka Selassé and Ayto Shiho, who, in honour of the mission, dismounted from their horses, and uncovered themselves to the waist as they came up to pay their compliments. The number of attendants increased every moment as we advanced to Chelicut, and, before we reached the gateway of the Ras's mansion, we found some difficulty in making our way. At length, with a great bustle and a confused clamour, which, on such occasions, is reckoned honourable to the guests, we were ushered into the presence of the Ras. All the chiefs who were present stood up uncovered on our entrance. The old man himself, who was seated on his couch, rose up with eagerness to receive me, like a man suddenly meeting with a long lost friend, and, when I made my salutation, joy seemed to glisten in his eyes, while he welcomed me with an honest warmth and cordiality that nothing but genuine and undisguised feeling could inspire. A seat was immediately pointed out for me on his left hand, which is considered as the second place of distinction. The one on his right hand being occupied by Kasimaj Yasous, a brother of the reigning Emperor. This prince was fairer than the generality of his countrymen, the features of his face were very regular and handsome, and he appeared to be extremely courteous in his manners. The Ras himself did not seem to have been much altered during my absence, and the pleasure which he evidently manifested at our meeting was exceedingly gratifying to the whole of our party. He inquired with great anxiety respecting my health, and declared, that he had always felt a kind of presentiment that he should see me once again before he died. After a few more compliments, customary on a first meeting, had been interchanged, a repast was set before us, which had been prepared for the occasion; and we were then conducted to a house fitted up for my reception, which had for some time before been inhabited by Mr. Pearce, and possessed better accommodations than are generally to be met with in an Abyssinian habitation. Here, feeling ourselves perfectly at home, we enjoyed a degree of comfort which the fatigues of our journey had not permitted us, for some time before, to partake of. Ayto Debib still continuing to attend me for the purpose of communicating my wishes to the Ras, and every other attention being enjoined to be paid me, that was shewn to the Ras himself.
- Mr. Stuart subsequently observed, in passing this point, that the compass was sensibly effected, the rock containing a considerable portion of iron.
- This was the name of a horse belonging to the Ras Welled Selassé, on which he fought many of his battles, and it is now become among his followers, a favourite war-appellation for this celebrated chief.
- De cœli quoque constitutione dicere oportet quæ est ab Ave ad Auxumin, contra enim æstas illic et hiems accidit. Nam sole Cancrum, Leonem et Virginem obeunte, ad Aven usque uti et nobis æstas est summaque cœli siccitas, et ab Ave Auxumin versus et reliquam Ethiopiam hiems est vehemens non integro quidem illa die, sed quæ, a meridie semper et ubique incipiens, coactis nubibus aerem obducat, oram illam inundat. Quo etiam tempore Nilus late Egyptum pervadens, maris in modum, terram irrigat. Cum autem sol, Capricornum, Aquarium et Pisces perambulat, aer vicê versâ Adulitis in Aven usque imbribus regionem inundat; in iis vero qui ab Ave Auxumin cæteramque Ethiopiam versus jacent æstas est, et maturos jam fructus terra præbet. Vide Nonnosus in Photii Bibliothecà.
- Vol. IV. p. 317.
- At this time, to the north-west, rose the peaked mountains of Adowa. To the west, the loftier, but more distant ones of Samen. To the east, the flat table lands of Haramat, gamé, and Devra Damo; and beyond these, extended ranges of distant hills, scarcely perceptible to the eye; while close to us, on the south, lay the large town of Mugga, backed by a high, steep, and craggy mountain, which towered above it like a castle into the air.
- That I may not interrupt the subsequent course of the narrative, I shall here give the result of the affair at Mugga. The Ras, on being informed of the treatment we had received was exceedingly enraged, and sent off a messenger immediately to take the head-men of the place into custody. In consequence, they were brought up to Antálo while I was residing there, and were ushered as culprits, during a public assembly, into the presence of the Ras. On entering they fell down prostrate on the ground, and solicited for mercy. The Ras, with a stern look, rejected their supplication, and turning to me, declared that their punishment rested in my hands. As I was aware that they had been fined twelve cows, and had otherwise suffered in no trifling degree from the journey, I thought it right to request that they might be forgiven: and the grateful manner in which the poor fellows received this decision, amply repaid me for my forbearance on the occasion.
- Vide Appendix to Vol. I. letters 9 and 10, from Badjerund Yanni to Mr. Bruce at Gondar.
- Vide Mr. Bruce's Travels, Vol. IV. p. 50-51.