Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile: in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and 1773/Volume 4/Bk7Ch7
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THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 159
King offers Battle to the Rebels in the Plain — Description of the second Battle of Serbraxos — Rash Conduct and narrow Escape of the King — Both Armies keep the Ground,
THE whole evening of the 19th of May was spent in festivity and joy; a prophet from some part in Dembea had foretold the defeat of king Theodoras, and what was much more interesting, two large droves of cattle, the one from Belessen, near Mariam-Ohha, the other from Dembea, were driven that day into the camp. Ras Michael, who knew the value of to-morrow, spared nothing that might refresh the troops this day. The king and he, Ozoro Esther, and Ozoro Alrash, Refla Yasous, and the Abuna himself, gave each of them entertainments to the principal officers of the army, and all those who were likely to bear the burden of the ensuing conflict. The soldiers were in great spirit, but it was now very generally known that the officers were mostly disaffected, engaged in private treaties, and in daily expectation of peace.
A very short council was held at the king's tent; all that could be resolved upon had been already fixed the day before, and little had happened since to occasion any alteration. All the young nobility were, as usual, at Ozoro Esther's. It was with infinite pity I heard them thoughtlessly praying for a warm and fair day to-morrow, the evening of which many of them were never to see.
Besides the stores that Ozoro Esther always was provided with, the king had sent her two live cattle, wine, brandy, and hydromel; and what was a very unusual condescension, the Ras, immediately after council, came into the tent, and brought with him a fresh supply. He was very gracious and affable, said a number of kind things to everybody, and asked me particularly how we drank in England?
I explained to him as well as I could the nature of our toasts, and drinking to the health of our mistresses by their names in bumpers; that our soldiers toasts on such a night as that, if the general honoured them as he did us now with his company, would be, A fair morning, and speedy fight of our enemy. He comprehended it all very easily, and when I saw he did so, I asked if I should give my toast? and he and all the company joining in a loud cry of approbation, I filled a horn with wine, and standing up, for he had forced us all to be seated, I drank, Long life to the king, health, happiness, and victory, to you, Sir, and a speedy fight of king Theodorus. A violent shout of applause followed. He himself (the soberest of men) would drink his horn full, which he did, with many interruptions from immoderate fits of laughter; the horn went quickly round, and I ventured to prophecy, that, in the thousand years he is to reign, Theodorus will never again be so chearfully toasted.
The Ras then turning to me said, I wish I had 5000 of your countrymen, Yagoube, to-morrow, such as you are, or such as you have described them. I answered. Would you had one thousand, and I had twenty lives staked upon the issue. Ayto Engedan upon this got up, and passing across the tent in a very graceful manner, kissed the Ras's hand, saying. Do not make us think you undervalue, or distrust your children, by forming such a wish: Yagoube is one of us, he is our brother, and he shall see and judge tomorrow, if we, your own sons, are not able to fight your battle without the aid of any foreigners. Tears, on this, came into the old man's eyes, who took Engedan in his arms, and kissed him; then recommending to us not to sit up late, he withdrew. A great deal of buffoonery followed about toads, and soon after arrived two officers from the king, desiring to know what was the reason of that violent outcry? by which he meant the shout when we drank the toast. Ozoro Esther answered, We were all turned traitors, and were drinking the health of king Theodorus. But it was afterwards thought proper to explain the whole matter before the messengers went back, and make them drink the toast also.
Tecla Mariam had not spoken much, her father having sent for her at that time to the king. Before she departed, I begged Ozoro Esther to apologise for me, that I had absented myself, and had not waited upon her in the morn- ing. I intreated her to continue her kind partiality to me the next day, and to judge for ever of the esteem I had for her by my then behaviour. She promised to do so with the utmost complacency and sweetness, and departed.
Soon after this, a servant arrived from Ras Michael, with a magnificent saddle and bridle as a present to Engedan. This man told us that a messenger had come from Waragna Fasil, desiring a place might be marked out for him to encamp, for he was to join the king early in the morning; but nobody gave any credit to this, nor did he, as far as I ever heard, advance a foot nearer the camp. The messenger commanded us all, moreover, to go to bed, which we immediately complied with. I only went to the king's tent, where the company was dispersing, and kissed his hand, after which I retired. In my way home to my tent, I saw a faggot lying in the way, when the story of the Gurague came presently into my mind. I ordered some soldiers to separate it with their lances; but it had been brought for fuel, at least no Gurague was there.
I was no sooner laid upon my bed, than I fell into a profound deep, which continued uninterrupted till five o'clock in the morning of the 20th. I had spared myself industriously in last night's carousal, for fear of contributing to a relapse into despondency in the morning; but I found all within serene and composed as it should be, and entirely resigned to what was decreed, I was perfectly satisfied, that the advancing or retarding the day of my death was not in the power of the army of Begemder. I then visited all the horses and the black soldiers, and ordered two or three of them, who were not perfectly recovered from their hurts, to stay in the camp. I afterwards went to the king's tent, who was not yet up; and the very instant after, the Ras's first drum beat, and the king rose; soon after which, the second drum was heard for the soldiers to go to breakfast. I went into the king's tent to kiss his hand, and receive his orders. He told me they were speedily then going to breakfast within, to which meal I was engaged at Ozoro Esther's. He answered, Make haste then, for I am resolved to be on the field before king Theodorus to-day. I am his senior, and should shew him the example. He seemed more than ordinary gay and in spirits.
I finished my breakfast in a few minutes, and took a grateful, but chearful leave of Ozoro Esther, and received many acknowledgements, and kind expressions, both from her and Tecla Mariam, who did not fail to be there according to appointment. The day was clear, the sun warm, and the army descended into the plain with great alacrity, in the same order as the day before, Guebra Mascal, with his musqueteers, took possession of the long hill in the valley, and coasted the left flank of our left wing, the river Mariam and its high banks being only between us. The king took his post, with the winding road aforementioned (up the steep banks of the Mariam) close on his left. Guebra Mascal having come to the south end of the hill below, marched briskly up the road, and then advanced about 200 yards, making his men lye down at the brink of the hill next the plain, among bent grass, and thin tall shrubs like Spanish broom, so as to be perfectly out of sight; his line was at right angles with our front, so that his fire must enfilade the whole front of our line. If not very useful, yet it may, however, be thought curious, to know the disposition of a barbarous army ready to engage in a pitched battle as this was. Kefla Yasous, who commanded the left-wing under the king, placed his cavalry in a line to the opening of the road down into the valley; between every two musquets were men armed with lances and shields; then, at a particular distance, close before this line of horse, was a body of lances, and musquets, or sometimes either of them, in several lines, or, as they appeared, a round body of soldiers, standing together without any order at all; then another line of horse, with men between, alternately as before; then another round corps of lances and musquets, advanced just before the line of horse, and so on to the end of the division.
I know nothing of the disposition of the rest of the army, nor the ground they were engaged on; that where we stood was as perfect a plain as that commonly chosen to run races upon, and so I believe was the rest, only sloping more to the lake Tzana.
The king's infantry was drawn up in one line, having a musqueteer between every two men, with lances and shields. Immediately in the center was the black horse, and the Moors of Ras el Feel, with their libits, disposed on each of their flanks. Immediately behind these was the king in person, with a large body of young nobility and great officers of state, about him. On the right and left flank of the line, a little in the rear, were all the rest of the king's horse, divided into two large bodies, Guebra Mascal hid in the bank on our left at right angles with the line, enfilading, as I have
A The king marches from his camp to F by the road D and E.
RR The Begemder horse turn so surround the king at SS, and drive him to the edge of the Bank.
already said, the whole line of our infantry; this will be easily understood by consulting the plan where K H, G G, F, and I, represent the disposition that I have now described.
It was full half an hour after the king had formed before the army of Begemder made any motion. The Ras first saw them from the hill, and made a signal, by beating his drums and blowing his trumpets; this was immediately answered by all the drums and trumpets of the left wing, and for the space of a minute, a thick cloud of dust; (like the smoke of a large city on fire) appeared on the side of Korreva, occasioned, as the day before, by the Begemder troops mounting on horseback; the ground where they were encamped being trodden into powder, by such a number of men and horse passing over it so often, and now raised by the motion of the horses feet, was whirled round by a very moderate breeze, that blew steadily; it every minute increased in darkness, and assumed various shapes and forms, of towers castles, and battlements, as fancy suggested. In the middle, of this great cloud we began to perceive indistinctly part of the horsemen, then a much greater number, and the figure of the horses more accurately defined, which came moving majestically upon us, sometimes partially seen, at other times concealed by being wrapt up in clouds and darkness; the whole made a most extraordinary, but truly picturesque appearance.
I was so struck with this, that I could not help saying to Billetana Gueta Ammonios, who commanded the horse under me, Is not that a glorious fight Ammonios! who, that was a king, would not be fond of war? David, however, curses those that delight in war, says Ammonios. Therefore, replied I, there must be pleasure in it, or else no body would fall into a sin that was disagreeable in itself, and at the same time forbidden by God. Well, well, replied Ammonios, this is not a time for argument, see what a glorious spectacle we shall all be before sunset.
At this time Powussen's whole army was distinctly seen; they came riding backwards and forwards with great violence, more as if they were diverting themselves, than advancing to attack an enemy, of our consequence, that was waiting them. They seemed like two wings, and a main body, each nearly equal in numbers, as far as I could guess, and are described in the plan by the letters L L, but they were sometimes all in one croud together, and in such perpetual motion, that it was impossible to ascertain their precise form.
Four men, upon unruly, high-mettled, or at least ill-broke horses, rode galloping a small space before, conversing together, as if making their observations upon us: they were now arrived at about fix hundred yards distance, but it was not a time to make accurate calculation; they then made a stop, and began extending the left of their line to the westward, as described by M M. I suppose, too, their horses needed to breathe a little, after they had so imprudently blown them to no purpose.
In the middle of their cavalry, or rather a little more towards their right, than opposite to the place where the king was, a large red flag was seen to rise, and was saluted By the drums and trumpets of their whole army. An accident happened at this moment, which endangered the discovery of the hidden part of our disposition, and which would thereby have destroyed the sanguine hopes we had of victory, and endangered the safety of the whole army. Upon displaying the red flag, two musquets were fired from the post in the face of the hill where Guebra Mascal lay in ambush. Luckily, at that very instant, all the king's drums beat, and trumpets founded, a kind of mock alarm, (such as the posture-masters and mountebanks use,) in ridicule of king Theodorus, and his red flag then flying before us.
Immediately upon this, as on a signal for battle, the whole army of Begemder set out full gallop, to charge, as at N N, and a long hundred yards before they joined, they received, through the very depth of their squadron, a close well-directed fire from the whole musquetry of Guebra Mascal, and from the king's line an instant after, which put them into the utmost confusion, so that they in part came reeling down upon our line, half wheeled about to the left, as men that had lost their way, with their right, that is, their naked sides exposed as they turned, their shields being in their left. The fire from Guebra Mascal was the signal for our line to charge, and the heavy-armed horse-men, with their pikes, broke thro' them with little resistance, the line in the mean while, with horse and foot, closed with them, after the musquets had given them their fire, and then staid behind to recharge. Part of their left did not engage at all, but wheeled about, and fled southward over the plain. While their army was thus separated into two divisions, both in great confusion, the king, with his reserve, fell furiously upon them; and being followed by all the rest of the horse, they pushed the right division (where Powussen was in person) along the plain, but these retired, fighting very obstinately, and often rallying. Kefla Yasous saw the great danger to which the king would quickly be exposed by pursuing the troops of Begemder so far at a distance from his foot, and that they would soon turn upon and overpower him with numbers, and then surround him. He therefore, with great presence of mind, provided for his retreat. He drew up the heavy-armed horse which could not gallop, the Moors of Ras el Feel, and the foot which were left behind, and which had now recharged their firelocks before the narrow road, and ordered Guebra Mascal to resume his station. He then twice, with great earnestness, cried in a loud voice to the soldiers. The king's safety depends upon you,--Stand firm, or all is lost. After which, he galloped, with a small body of horse, to join the king, closely engaged at a considerable distance: The foot that had pursued, or were scattered, now came in by tens and twelves, and joined the heavy-armed horse, so that we began again to shew a very good countenance. Among these, a common soldier of the king's household, busied in the vile practice of mangling and spoiling the dead, found the red colours of king Theodorus lying upon the field, which he delivered me, upon promise of a reward, and which I gave a servant of my own to keep till after the engagement.
At this instant Guebra Maacal came up from below the bank, leaping and flourishing his gun about his head, and crying, just before my horse, "Now, Yagoube,stand firm, if you are a man." "Look at me, you drunken slave, said I, armed, or unarmed, and say, it is not a boast if I count myself at all times a better man than you. Away to your hiding-hole again, and for your life appear within my reach. Away! you are not now, as the other day, before the king." The man cried out in a transport of impatience, "By G--d, you don't know what I mean; but here they all come, stand firm, if you are men;" and saying this, he ran nimbly off, and hid himself below the bank, with his lighted match in one hand, and all ready.
It is proper, for connexion's sake, though I did not myself see it, to relate what had happened to the king, who had pursued the Begemder horse to a very considerable distance, and was then at S S in the plan, when the whole army of the rebels that had not engaged, observing the resistance made by Powussen, and part of the division which they had left, turned suddenly back from their flight, and at R R nearly surrounded the king and his cavalry, whom they had now driven to the very edge of the steepest part of the bank of the Mariam. Kefla Yasous's arrival, indeed, and his exerting himself to the utmost, fighting with his own hand like any common soldier, had brought some relief; yet as fresh horse came in, there can be little doubt at the end, that the king must have been either slain or taken prisoner, if Sertza Denghel, a young man of Amhara, a relation of Gusho, and who had a small post in the palace, had not dismounted, and offered to lead the king's horse down the steepest of the banks into the river. To this, however, he received an absolute refusal. "I shall die here this day, says the king, but while I have a man left, will never turn my back upon the rebels." Sertza Denghel hearing this vain discourse, and seeing no time was to be lost, took hold of the bridle by force, at T, and happily led the horse along one of the sheep-paths, slanting down the declivity of the bank. The king having in vain threatened displeasure and even death, with the butt-end of his lance, in despair, struck Sertza Denghel in the mouth, and beat out all his fore-teeth. A bank of gravel, like a bridge, separated two deep pools, in the river Mariam, over which the king escaped, though with difficulty, the ground being foul with quick sand.
All the foot that had remained about the king ran down the bank, where the Begemder horse could not pursue them, and joined him in the valley, where he made the bed of his way towards the south side of the long low hill, by the winding road, on the side of which, and just above him, was placed Guebra Mascal. Ras Michael, who saw the dangerous situation and escape of the king, and who had kept Ayto Engedan near for some such purposes, dispatched him with a considerable body of horse, along the low hill, ordering him immediately to join the king, and cover his retreat; he likewise detached a considerable body of musqueteers, and mounted for the greater speed upon mules, who were directed to take post upon the south end of the round hill, below the winding road, while another party possessed themselves of some rocky ground on the south side of the valley. This command was as soon executed as given. Ayto Engedan joined the king, who had lost all his kettle-drums but one, now beating before him, and upon his arrival at the entrance of the valley, the king, at V, turned his face to the enemy, having the musquetry, at X and Y, newly arrived from the camp on his right and left. Kefla Yasous was immediately acquainted with the king's escape, and, knowing the consequence of protracting time, renewed the engagement with so much vigour, that he pushed the horse of Begemder to some small distance back into the plain. Powussen, whose only view was to take the king prisoner, and wrest the possession of his person, and with that his authority from Ras Michael, was much disconcerted at the unexpected way by which the king escaped; he after this halted a little for council, then divided his troops, with one part of which he resolved to go down the winding road, and with the other to pass at the junction of the rivers, and enter the valley in that direction, in order to overtake the king, and intercept him in his way to the camp, in case any thing obstructed his passing the winding road. Kefla Yasous took advantage of this movement, and with his horse made his way to join the heavy-armed troops, and those who had joined the line, standing closely and firmly where they were stationed.
The first person that appeared was Kefla Yasous, and the horse with him, stretching out his hand, (his face being all besmeared with blood, for he was wounded in his forehead) he cried as loud as he could, Stand firm, the king is safe in the valley. He had scarce faced about, and joined the line, when the enemy approached at a brisk gallop. The Begemder horse were closer than usual, and deeper than the front was broad; they resembled therefore an oblong square, if they resembled any thing; but the truth is, they were all in disorder, and their figure, never regular, changed every moment; the right of their front (which was not equal to ours) was finally placed against the road, being close by Guebra Mascal's post, whose men were much increased in number; they received the discharge of his whole musquetry in two vollies, so near that I scarce believe there was one shot that did not take place on man or horse. A great cry from the bank at the fame time added to their panic, which was answered by the king's troops, who immediately charged them as before, as they wheeled half round to the left. They were pursued, for a small distance, by some of the troops that had not engaged in the morning, and it was easy to perceive their disorder was real, and thus they were not likely to rally. By this last discharge, Powussen was slightly wounded, and his men were plainly seen hurrying him off the field. In the very instant the rebels turned their, backs, Kefla Yasous ordered all the troops, horse and foot, to file off down the narrow road into the valley, behind the heavy, armed horse, who kept their ground before the road, and there to join the king.
For my part, I thought the affair was over, when, last of all, we, too, with our heavy horses, descended the road, where we found Guebra Mascal, (whose activity was above all praise) drawn up on our right along the foot of the bank, (with a large pool of water in his front) flanking the valley, the king drawn up in the narrowest part of it, and just engaged with the troops of Lasta and Begemder, that had gone round by the junction of the rivers. These had lost, as we afterwards heard, much time in giving their horses water. They were, however, the more refreshed when they did come, and though they had received a fire from the troops on the round hill, and from those posted on the rocky ground, on the other side of the valley, they had beat the king and Engedan back, and wounded him in the thigh. At this time the Koccob horse, and Yasine with his Moors (who had the charge of the road above till all the troops were gone) arrived, being as it were shut out from the army, who were engaged at the other side of the hill. Kefla Yasous, after descending through the winding road into the valley, ordered Guebra Mascal to pass the pool, and land at the bottom of the winding road, for fear the enemy should enter at the valley on the king's right, where the river ran, and so cut us off from our camp.
This space he was then occupying when Yasine, first, and afterwards, our black horse, arrived. He had, it seems, cried out to me before from the side of the pool, but I had not then heard him. He now, however, repeated. Where are you going, Yagoube? To die, said I, surlily; it is the business of the day. He then added, Kefla Yasous has crossed over behind Basha Hezekias, and fallen into the king's rear. You know well, said I, our post is in his front. Then follow me, cried Mascal, for by G--d I say you shall not take one step to-day, but I will go five before you. So saying, he advanced very hastily, and when he saw the Begemder colours retreating before the king, he poured in a volley, which, though at a considerable distance, turned all to a perfect flight.
We entered upon the smoke, just before the Shoa horse, with no loss, and very little resistance, and came just into the place which we occupied in the morning. Though the flight of the rebels was apparently real, Kefla Yasous would not suffer a pursuit into the plain, but advancing singly before us, began to form immediately; the musquetry were planted on each side of the valley as far up the hill as to be out of reach of the horse, and the rest of the infantry in the plain; Basha Hezekias was on the round hill just behind the center, where the king had placed himself, and Guebra Mascal nearly where he stood before.
The army now made an appearance of a large section of an amphitheatre. I observed the king had pulled off the diadem, or white fillet he wears for distinction, and was very intent upon renewing the engagement: the Begemder troops were forming, with great alertness, about half a mile below, being reinforced from time to time. The king ordered his drums to beat, and his trumpets to found, to inform the enemy he was ready; but they did not answer, or advance: soon after (it being near three o'clock) the weather became overcast, and cold, on which the troops of Begemder beat a retreat; the king, very soon after, did the same, and returned to the camp without further molestation; only that coming near a rock which projected into the valley, (not far distant from the camp) a multitude of peasants belonging to Mariam-Ohha, threw down a shower of stones from their hands and flings, which him several. The king ordered them to be fired at, though they were a great distance off, and passed on: but Guebra Mascal commanding about fifty men to run briskly up the hill, on each fide of the rock, gave them two discharges at a less distance, which killed or wounded many, and made the rest disappear in a moment.
I doubt that my reader will be more than sufficiently tired with the detail of this second battle of Serbraxos; but, as it was a very remarkable incident in my life, I could not omit it as far as I saw it myself, and suppressing any one part of it would have involved the rest in a confusion, with which I fear it may be still too justly charged. I therefore shall only say for connexion's sake, that Gusho and Guebra Christos, in the center, were but partially engaged, and Kasmati Tesfos of Sire, second commander for the king, in that division, wounded, and taken prisoner. Guebra Christos, the king's uncle, was slain, (as it was believed) by a shot of his own men; few other lives of note were lost on either side, in that division. The king's troops fell back under the hill of Serbraxos, where Michael was, and, though followed by Gusho, were no further attacked by him. But on the right, Billetana Gueta Tecla, and Welleta Michael, after a very obstinate and bloody engagement, were beaten by Kasmati Ayabdar, and forced across the river Mogetch, where, having rallied and posted themselves strongly, it was not thought proper to attempt to force them, and they all joined the camp soon after the king, but with very great loss.
This battle, though it was rather a victory than a defeat. had, however, upon the king's affairs, all the bad consequences of the latter, nor was there any thinking man who had confidence in them from that day forward. Near 3000 men perished on the king's side, a great proportion of whom was of the left wing, which he commanded; near 180 young men, of the greatest hopes and noblest families in the kingdom, were among that number; Guebra Christos was in all respects a truly national loss. Kefla Yasous was twice wounded, but not dangerously, besides a multitude of others of the first rank, among whom was Ayto Engedan, who by proper care soon recovered also, but in the mean time was sent to Gondar, to his cousin Ayto Corfu. On our side, too, a son of Lika Netcho, and a son of Nebrit Tecla, were both slain. — Providence seemed now to have begun to require satisfaction for the blood of the late king Joas, in the shedding of which these two were particularly concerned. Among the slain were our friends the Baharnagash and his son, who died valiantly fighting before the king at the time he escaped down the bank into the valley,
But what served as comfort to the king, was the still heavier loss sustained by the enemy, who, by their own accounts that day, lost above 9000 men, seven thousand of whom were from the troops of Begemder and Lasta, with which the king was engaged. For my own part, I cannot believe, but that both these accounts are much exaggerated; the great proportion that died of those that were wounded must have greatly swelled the loss of the rebels, because most gun-shot wounds, especially if bones are broken, mortify, and prove mortal. Among the slain, on the part of Begemder, were two chiefs of Lasta, and two relations of Powussen, (a brother-in-law and his son) they were both shot, bearing the banner of king Theodorus. The unworthy Confu, brother to Guebra Mehedin, and nephew to the Iteghé, whom I have often mentioned, had escaped, indeed, from Kasmati Ayabdar, who had given orders to confine him, to die a rebel this day among the troops of Begemder.
The king being washed and dressed, and having dined, received a compliment from Ras Michael, who sent him a present of fruit, and a thousand ounces of gold. There began then the filthiest of all ceremonies that ever disgraced any nation stiling themselves Christians; a ceremony that cannot be put in terms sufficiently decent for modest ears, without adapting the chaste language of scripture, which, when necessity obliges to treat of gross fubjects, always makes choice of the least offensive language.
All those, whether women or men, who have fiefs of the crown, are obliged to furnish certain numbers of horse and foot. The women were feldom obliged to personal attendance, till Ras Michael made it a rule, in order to compose a court or company for Ozoro Esther. At the end of a day of battle each chief is obliged to sit at the door of his tent, and each of his followers, who has slain a man, presents himself in his turn, armed as in fight, with the bloody foreskin of the man whom he has slain hanging upon the wrist of his right hand. In this, too, he holds his lance, brandishing it over his master, or mistress, as if he intended to strike; and repeating in a seeming rage, a rant of nonsense, which admits of no variation, "I am John the son of George, the son of William, the son of Thomas; I am the rider upon the brown horse; I saved your father's life at such a battle; where would you have been if I had not fought for you to-day? you give me no encouragement, no cloaths, nor money; you do not deserve such a servant as I;" and with that he throws his bloody spoils upon the ground before his superior. Another comes afterwards, in his turn, and does the same; and, if he has killed more than one man, so many more times he returns, always repeating the same nonsense, with the same gestures. I believe there was a heap of above 400 that day, before Ozoro Esther; and it was monstrous to see the young and beautiful Tecla Mariam fitting upon a stool presiding at so filthy a ceremony; nor was she without surprise, such is the force of custom, that no compliment of that kind was paid on my part; and still more so, that I could not be even present at so horrid and bloody an exhibition.
The superiors appear at this time with their heads covered as before their vassals; their mouth, too, is hid, and nothing is seen but their eyes: this does not proceed from modesty, but is a token of superiority, of which, covering or uncovering the head is a very special demonstration. After this ceremony is over each man takes his bloody conquest, and retires to prepare it in the same manner the Indians do their scalps. To conclude this beastly account, the whole army, on their return to Gondar, on a particular day of review, throws them before the king, and leaves them at the gate of the palace. It is in search of these, and the unburied bodies of criminals, that the hyaenas come in such numbers to the streets, where it is dangerous, even when armed, to walk after dark.
This inhuman ceremony being over, also the care of the wounded, which indeed precedes every thing, the king received all those of the nobility who had distinguished themselves that day; the tent was crowded, and he was in great spirits at the slaughter that had been made, which unbecoming pleasure he never could disguise. He mentioned the death of his uncle Guebra Christos with a degree of chearfulness, presuming, that when such a man died on his side, many of that rank and merit must have fallen on the other. Villages, appointments, and promotions, gold, promises, and presents of every kind, had been liberally bestowed upon those who had presented themselves, and who had merited reward that day by their behaviour. The king had been furnished with means from the Ras, and ac- cording to his natural inclination (especially towards soldiers) he had bestowed them liberally, and I believe impartially. Guebra Mascal had not appeared; he was waiting upon his uncle Ras Michael, looking after his own interest, to which no Abyssinian is blind, and exposing those bloody spoils, which I have just mentioned, to the Ras, his uncle and general.
I had been absent from another motive, the attendance on my friend Engedan, to whose tent I had removed my bed, as he complained of great pain in his wound, and I had likewise obtained leave of the Ras to shift my tent near that of his, and leave the care of the king's horse to Laeca Mariam, an old slave and confidential servant of the king.
As these men were the king's menial servants in his palace, a number of them (about a fourth) staid at Gondar with the horses, and few more than 100 to 120 could now be mustered, from about 200 or 204 which they at first were: the arranging of this, attendance upon Ayto Engedan, and several delays in getting access to the Ras, who had all his troops of Tigré round him, made it past eight o'clock in the evening before I could see the king after he entered the camp; he had many times sent in search of Sertza Denghel, but no such person could be found; he had been been bravely fighting by Engedan's side in the entrance of the valley, when that young nobleman was wounded, and he had retired with him from the field, but nobody could give any account of him, and the king, by his repeated inquiries after him, shewed more anxiety, from the supposition he was lost, than he had done for Guebra Christos his uncle, or all the men that had fallen that day; I had seen him in Ayto Engedan's tent, sitting behind his bed, in the darkest place of it; both his lips, nose, and chin were violently cut, his whole fore teeth beat out, and both his cheeks greatly swelled. I had given him what relief I could, nor was there any thing dangerous in his wounds; but the affront of receiving the blow from the king, when he was doing a most meritorious act of duty, (the saving him from death, or the hands of the rebels), had made such an impression upon a noble mind, that as soon as he arrived in Engedan's tent, he had ordered his hair to be cut off, put a white cap, or monk's cowl upon his head, and by a vow dedicated himself to a monastic life. In vain the king flattered, rewarded, and threatened him afterwards, and went so far as to make the Abuna menace him with excommunication if he persisted in his resolution any longer. After this I carried him, as we shall see, by the king's desire, to Gusho, in his camp, and interested him also to persuade Sertza Denghel to renounce his rash vow: no consideration could however prevail, for, like a private monk, he lived at home in the village which belonged to him in patrimony, and, tho' he often came to court, never slept or ate in the palace, the excuse being, when desired to stay dinner, that he had no teeth. He constantly slept at my house, sometimes chearful, but very seldom so. He was a young man of excellent understanding, and particularly turned to the study of religion; he was well read in all the books of his own country, and very desirous of being instructed in ours; he had the very worst opinion of his own priests, and his principal desire (if it had been possible) was to go with me to die, and to be buried in Jerusalem.