The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541–1543/Chapter XX

The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541–1543  (1902)  by Miguel de Castanhoso, translated by R. S. Whiteway
Chapter XX

Hakluyt Society second series no. X


Of how some one hundred and twenty Portuguese collected with the Queen, and of how the Preste arrived at the Hill of the Jews, where the Queen, his Mother, and the Portuguese were awaiting him.Edit

It happened, in our flight, that the Queen was escaping in front with her women, very sorrowful, as it may be supposed she would be; the Portuguese were in her rear, wounded and scattered, and behind all were ten or twelve who could hardly travel. Helping them, there went two Portuguese who were less wounded than they, urging them on and remaining in their company. One was called Fernão Cardoso, the other Lopo de Almansa. At nine or ten hours of the next day, they saw following them many Moors on foot and two horsemen. When the pursuers drew near, they determined to die, and try and save their comrades, who were in front of them, wounded. These they told to travel as fast as they could, for they would defend them or perish. So they both turned back against the Moors, and they carried bucklers and pikes. When they came near the two Moorish horsemen, who were the nearest, they tried to attack them; but the Moors drew [71] back, awaiting the footmen to capture them, telling them to give up their arms and surrender, and they would not kill them. When they saw so many opponents, they thought that the Moors could destroy them with arrows and stones only, without coming to push of pike or sword; and, since they could not approach them to do what they wanted, that therefore they should yield. Maybe they [the opponents] would turn back with them [as captives], as the others were not in sight. That, even if the Moors tortured them, they would never confess that the other Portuguese had gone on; that in this way they might save their comrades by dying themselves, for they could not escape that. With this determination, they went up to the horsemen; Lopo de Almanza, who knew somewhat of the language, calling out that they would surrender, and that they should receive their arms. Advancing to surrender, it would seem that Our Lady inspired them, for they called out one to the other and simultaneously, "Holy Mary! they will slay us with our own weapons." With these words, they attacked the horsemen, who were now near, and knocked down both at the first strokes; one dead, the other wounded in the arm. When they fell, their horses stood still without moving, and the footmen, numerous as they were, began to fly: which seems a great and evident miracle. Then the two cavaliers mounted the horses of the Moors, and, after making a feint of following the footmen a short way, went in search of their comrades; and, mounting the worst wounded double, told them what had happened. They were much astonished at this success, and very joyful to see them: for they thought they were already dead or captives. Thus all escaped, these two running the risk of death to save the others. Our Lady, seeing their intention, inspired them at such a time with this courage. In this way they saved their comrades, and also those in front; for if these Moors had followed them they would have slain [72] all, for they had neither arms nor breath. Thus they journeyed with abundant labour until reaching the Queen; and it was very evident in what great tribulation they fled. We did not halt until we reached a very rough hill, and as we could travel no further we rested there. The greater number of the Portuguese who escaped collected here, and the following day came the thirty Portuguese with the horses, who had not heard of our disaster. When they had joined us, and saw our condition, and heard of the loss of D. Christovão, our lamentation was so great as to cause pity, and we could not be comforted. What we all felt most was, not to have news of D. Christovão, beyond how badly he was wounded. The Queen sent several scouts along the roads, and to the thickets, to gather, if possible, any news, and to guide any Portuguese found concealed. We were here for several days, waiting for news to reach us. We assembled round the Queen, to the number of one hundred and twenty men, among whom was the man who escaped when D. Christovão was captured, who told us of what I have already related; and also the one who escaped from the camp of the Moors, who informed us of the martyrdom of D. Christovão, and his death, as already told. Our feelings on hearing this can be believed. There returned a scout of the Queen's, who told us that Manuel da Cunha, with fifty Portuguese, had taken another road, not knowing whither they were going. They reached the country of the Barnaguais, where they were welcomed, and where they remained till they heard news of us and the Queen; she with her women felt the greatest grief at the fate of D. Christovão, whom they lamented as if he had been her son. The following day she sent for us all, and made us a speech, consoling us for our great loss, [73] and for our contrary fortune; and this in very discreet and virtuous words. We asked the patriarch to reply for us all, encouraging her; and she was pleased, saying that the courage of the Portuguese was very great. It was determined at our council to go to the hill of the Jews, and there await the Preste, who had already been informed that the hill was his. We started the next day, and were very well received by the Captain of the hill, and provided with all necessaries. Ten days later, the Preste arrived, bringing very few people; so few that, had not D. Christovão captured the hill, it would have been impossible for us to have joined him, or for the kingdom to have been restored.

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