Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile: in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and 1773/Volume 4/Bk7Ch8
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THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 181
King rewards his Officers — The Author again persecuted by Guebra Mascal — Great Displeasure of the King — The Author and Guebra Mascal are reconciled and rewarded - Third Battle of Serbraxos,
AFTER the engagement, as every body had access to the king's presence, I did not choose to force my way through the crowd, but went round through the more private entry, by the bed-chamber, when I placed myself behind the king's chair. As soon as he saw me, he said, with great benignity," I have not inquired nor sent for you, because I knew you would be necessarily busied among those of your friends, who have been wounded to-day; you are yourself, besides, hurt: how are you?" I answered, "that I was not hurt to-day, but, though often in danger, had escaped without any other harm than excessive fatigue occasioned by heat and weight of my coat of mail, and that one of my horses was killed under Ammonios." I then took the red colours from the servant behind me, and going to the carpet spread before the king, laid them at his feet, saying, "So may all your majesty's enemies fall, as this arch rebel (the bearer of this) has fallen to-day;" a great murmur was immediately raised upon seeing these colours, and the king cried out with the utmost impatience, "Has he fallen into your hands, Yagoube? who was he, where did you meet him, or where did you slay him?" "Sir, said I, it was not my fortune to meet him to-day, nor did I slay him. I am no king-killer; it is a sin, I thank God, from which my ancestors are all free; yet, had Providence thrown in my way a king like this, I believe I might have overcome my scruples. He was killed, as I suppose, by a shot of Guebra Mascal, on the flank of our line; a soldier picked up the colours on the field, and brought them to me in hopes of reward, while you was engaged with the troops of Begemder, near the bank; but the merit of his death is with Guebra Mascal. I do him this justice, the rather because he is the only man in your majesty's army who bears me ill-will, or has been my constant enemy, for what reason I know not; but God forbid, that on this, or any personal account, I should not bear witness to the truth: this day, my fortune has been to be near him during the whole of it, and I say it from certain inspection, that to the bravery and activity of Guebra Mascal every man in your left wing owes his life or liberty." — "He is a shame and disgrace to his family, says the king's secretary, who was standing by him, if after this he can be your enemy." — "It must be a mistake, says the king's priest (Kris Hatze), for this should atone for it, though Yagoube had slain his brother." While this conversation was going on, an extraordinary bustle was observed in the crowd, and this unquiet genius pushing through it with great violence, his goat's skin upon his shoulders, and covered with dull and sweat, in the same manner he came from the field; he had heard I was gone to the king's tent with the red flag, and not doubting I was to complain of him, or praise myself at his expence, had directly followed me, without giving himself time to make the least inquiry. He threw himself suddenly, with his face to the ground, before the throne, and rising as quickly, and in violent agitation, he said to the king, or rather bellowed, very indecently, "It is a lie Yagoube is telling; he does not say the truth; I meant him no harm but good to day, and he did not understand my language. I don't say Yagoube is not as good a man as any of us, but it is a lie he has been telling now, and I will prove it."
A general silence followed this wild rhapsody; the king was surprised, and very gravely said, I am sorry, for your sake, if it is a lie; for my part, I was rash enough to believe it was true. Guebra Mascal was still going to make bad worse, by some absurd reply, when the secretary, and one or two of his friends, hauled him out behind, the throne to one of the apartments within, not without some resistance, every one supposing, and many saying, he was drunk; the king was silent, but appeared exceedingly displeased, when I fell upon the ground before him, (a form of asking leave to speak upon any particular subject) and rising said, Sir, with great submission, it is not, I apprehend, true, that Guebra Mascal is drunk, as some have rashly said now in your presence; we have all ate and drank, and changed our cloathing since the battle; but this man, who has been on foot since five in the morning, and engaged all day, has not, I believe, ate or drank as yet; certainly he has not washed himself, or changed his habit, but has been taking care of his wounded men, and has presented himself now as he came from the field, under the unjust suspicion I was doing him wrong. I then repeated what had happened at the bank when the king was pursuing the troops of Begemder. Now I understand him, says the king, but still he is wrong, and this is not the first instance I have seen, when there was no such mistake. At this time a messenger came to call me from within.
The king divined the reason of sending, and said, No, he shall not go to Guebra Mascal; I will not suffer this. Go, says he to one of his servants that stood near him, desire the Ras to call Guebra Mascal, and ask him what this brutality means? I have seen two instances of his misbehaviour already, and wish not to be provoked by a third. At this instant came Kefla Yafous, with his left hand bound up, and a broad leaf like that of a plane upon his forehead. After the usual salutation, and a kind of joke of the king's on his being wounded, I asked him if he would retire and let me dress his forehead? which he shewing inclination to do, the king said. Aye, go, and ask Guebra Mascal why he quarrels with his best friends, and prevents me from rewarding him as he otherwise would have deserved. I went out with Kefla Yasous, being very desirous this affair should not go to the Ras, and we found Guebra Mascal in appearance in extreme agony and despair. The whole story was told distinctly to Kefla Yasous, who took it up in the most judicious manner. He said he had been detained at his tent, but had come to the king's presence expressly to give Guebra Mascal the just praise he deserved for his behaviour that day: that he was very happy that I, who was near him all the action, and was a stranger, and unprejudiced (as he might be thought not to be) had done it so justly and so handsomely. At the fame time he could not help saying, that the quarrel with Yagoube in the palace, the taunting speech made without provocation in the king's presence on the march, his apostrophe in the field, and the abrupt manner in which he ignorantly broke in upon the conversation before the king, interrupting and contradicting his own commendations, shewed a distempered mind, and that he acted from a bad motive, which, if inquired into, would inevitably ruin him, both with King and Ras; and he had heard indeed it already had done with the former.
Guebra Mascal, now crying like a child, condemned himself for a malicious madman in the two first instances: but swore, that on the field he had no intention but to save me, if occasion threw it in his way; for which purpose alone it was he had cried out to me to stand firm, for the troops of Begemder were coming upon us, but that I did not understand his meaning. Guebra Mascal advances nothing but truth, said I, to Kefla Yasous; I did not perfectly understand him to-day in the field, as he spoke in his own language of Tigre, and stammers greatly, nor did I distinctly comprehend what he said across the pool, for the same reason, and the confusion we were in: I shall however most readily confess my obligation to him, for the opportunity he gave me to join the king. I am a stranger, and liable to err, whilst, for the same reason, I am entitled to all your protections and forgivenness. I am, moreover, the king's stranger, and as such, entitled to something more as long as I conduct myself with propriety to every one. I have never spoken a word but in Guebra Mascal's praise, and in this I have done him no more than justice; his impatience perverted what I had said; but the real truth, as I spoke it, remains in the ears of the king and of those that were bystanders, to whom I appeal.
Every thing went after this in the manner that was to be wished. Guebra Mascal and I vowed eternal friendship to each other, of which Kefla Yafous professed himself the guarantee. All this passed while I was binding up his head; he went again to the king. For my own part, tired to death, low in spirits, and cursing the hour that brought me to such a country, I almost regretted I had not died that day in the field of Serbraxos. I went to bed, in Ayto Engedan's tent, refusing to go to Ozoro Esther, who had sent for me. I could not help lamenting how well my apprehensions had been verified, that some of our companions at last night's supper, so anxious for the appearance of morning, should never see its evening. Four of them, all young men, and of great hopes, were then lying dead and mangled on the field; two others besides Engedan had been also wounded. I had, however, a found and refreshing sleep. I think madness would have been the consequence, if this necessary refreshment had failed me; such was the horror I had conceived of my present situation. On the 21st, Engedan was conveyed in a litter to Gondar; and early in the morning of that day arrived an officer from Powussen, together with three or four priests. He brought with him twenty or thirty kettle-drums belonging to the king, with their mules, and as many of the drummers as were alive. The errand was sham proposals of peace, as usual, and great professions of allegiance to the king. As Powussen's attack, however, that day, had something very personal in it, and that the story of Theodorus was founded upon a supposition that the king was to be slain on the field of Serbraxos, little answer was returned, only the red flag was sent back with a message, That perhaps, from the good fortune that had attended it, Powussen might wish to keep it for Theodorus his successor, but it was never after seen or heard of.
Gusho likewise, and Ayabdar, sent a kind of embassy to inquire after the king's health and safety; they wished him, in terms of the greatest respect, not to expose himself in the field as he had done in the last battle, or at least, if he chose to command his troops in person, that he should distinguish himself by some horse, or dress, as his predecessors used to do; and they concluded with severe reflections on Michael, as not sufficiently attentive to the safety of his sovereign. Gracious messages were returned to these two, and they all were dismissed with the usual prefects of clothes and money.
About eleven o'clock in the forenoon I received an order from the Ras to attend him, and, as I thought it was about the affair of Guebra Mascal, I went very unwillingly. I was confirmed in this by feeing him waiting with many of his friends without the tent, and still more so upon our being called in together: the Ras was conversing low to two priests, who by their dress seemed to have come lately from Gondar; he paid little regard to either of us, but nodded, and asked in Tigré how we did? Three or four servants, however, brought out new fine cotton clothes, which they put upon us both; and, upon another nod, several officers and priests, and a number of other people, conduced us to the king, though still, as the Ras had scarcely spoken to us, I wondered how this should end. After staying a little we were both introduced; the Likaontes, or judges, Some priests, and my friend the secretary, stood about the king, who sat in the middle of his tent upon the stool Guangoul had sat down upon; the secretary held something in his lap, and, upon Guebra Mascal's first kneeling, bound a white fillet like a ribband round his forehead, upon which were written in black and red ink, Mo amhassa am Nerdet Solomon am Negade Jude, "The lion of the tribe of Judah of the race of Solomon has overcome." The secretary then declared his investiture; the king had given him in fief, or for military service for ever, three large villages in Dembea, which he named, and this was proclaimed afterwards by beat of drum at the door of the tent. The king then likewise presented him with a gold knife, upon which he kissed the ground and arose.
It was my turn next to kneel before the king. whether there was any thing particular in my countenance, or what fancy came into his head I know not, but when I looked him in the face he could scarce refrain from laughing. He had a large chain of gold, with very many links, which he doubled twice, and then put it over my neck, while the secretary said, "Yagoube, the king does you this great honour, not as payment of past services, but as a pledge that he will reward them if you will put it in his power." Upon this I kissed the ground, and we were both reconducted to the Ras, with our insignia; and, having kissed the ground before him, and then his hands, we both had leave to retire. He seemed very busy with people arrived from without; he only lifted up his head, smiled, and said. Well, are you friends now? We both bowed without answer, and left the tent.
The chain consisted of 184 links, each of them weighing 3-hdwts of fine gold. It was with the utmost reluctance that, being in want of every thing, I sold great part of this honourable distinction at Sennaar in my return home; the remaining part is still in my possession. It is hoped my successors will never have the same excuse I had, for further diminishing this honourable monument which I have left them.
About a few hours after this, a much more interesting spectacle appeared before the whole camp. Ayto Tesfos, governor of Samen under Joas, had never laid down his arms, nor paid any allegiance to the present king or his father, but had constantly treated them as usurpers, and the Ras as a rebel and parricide. He had continued in friendship with Fasil, but never would co-operate or join with him, not even when he was at Gondar as Ras. He lived in the inaccessible rock, (called the Jew's Rock) one of the highest of the mountains of Samen, where he maintained a large number of troops, with which he overawed the whole neighbouring country, and made perpetual inroads into Tigré. Ene- my as he was to Ras Michael, he would not venture to take an active part against him, till the king's affairs were plainly going to ruin. I have already mentioned, that the last thing Michael did was to fend Kefla Yasous, Basha Hezekias,and Welleta Michael, to dispossess him of his strong-hold if possible, and in this they had failed. But now that Tesfos saw there was no probability that Michael should be able to retreat to Tigré, he came at last to join Gusho, bringing with him only about a thousand men, having left all his posts guarded against surprise, and strong enough to cut off all recruits arriving from Tigré. Nothing that had yet happened ever had so bad effect upon Michael's men as this appearance of Tesfos. It was a little before mid-day when his army appeared, and from the hills above marched down towards the valley below us, not two musquet-shot from our camp.
Though Samen is really on the west of the Tacazzé, and consequently in the Amharic division of this country, yet, on account of its vicinity to Tigré, the language and customs are mostly the same with those of that province. There is a march peculiar to the troops of Tigré, which, when the drums of Tesfos beat at passing, a despondency seemed to fall on all the Tigran soldiers, greater than if ten thousand men of Amhara had joined the rebels. It was a fine day, and the troops, spread abroad upon the face of the hill, not only shewed more in number than they really were, but also more security than they were, in point of prudence, warranted to do, when at so small a distance from such an army as ours. Tesfos took a post very likely to distress us, as he had more than 300 musquetry with him. He sat down with horse and foot in the middle of the valley before us, with part of his musquetry posted upon the skirts of the mountain Belessen on one side, and part on the top of that long, even hill, dividing the valley from the river Mariam. Over his camp, like a citadel, is the rock that projects into the valley, from which the peasants of Mariam-Ohha had thrown the stones when we were returning to our camp after the last battle. Upon this rock Tesfos had placed a multitude of women and servants, who began to build strawhuts for themselves, as if they intended to stay there for some time, though there was still plenty of the female sex below with the camp. Indeed, I never remember to have seen so many women in proportion to any army whatever, no not even in our own.
If Tesfos had been long in coming, he was resolved, now he was come, to make up for his lost time, as he was not a mile and a half from our camp, and could see our horses go down to water, either at Deg-Ohha or Mariam; that same day at two o'clock, his horse attacked our men at watering, killed some servants, and took several horses. This behaviour of Tesfos was taken as a defiance to Kefla Yasous in particular, and to the army in general.
There was no person in the whole army, of any rank whatever, so generally beloved as Kefla Yasous; he was looked upon by the soldiers as their father. He was named by the Ras to the government of Samen, but had failed, as we have already stated, in dispossessing Ayto Tesfos, whose: disorderly march at broad mid-day, so near our army, the ostentatious beating of the Tigran march upon his kettle-drum as he passed, and his taking post so near, were all considered as meriting chastisement. That general, however, though very sensible of this bravado, did not venture to suggest any thing in the present situation of the army, but all his friends proposed it to him, that some reproof should be given to Tesfos, if it was only to raise the drooping spirits of the troops of Tigré. Accordingly 400 horse, and about 500 foot, armed with lances and shields only, without musquetry for fear of alarm, were ordered to be ready as soon as it was perfectly dark, that is, between seven and eight o'clock.
Tesfos having waited the coming of his baggage, and arranged his little camp to his liking, was seen to mount, with about 100 horse, to go to the camp of Gusho or Powussen a little before sun-set, at which time Kefla Yasous was distributing plenty of meat to the soldiers. About eight o'clock they descended the hill unperceived even by part of our camp. Kefla Yasous was governor of Temben (a province on the S. W. of Tigré) immediately joining to Samen, and the language and dialed was the same. The foot were ordered to take the lead, scattered in a manner not to give alarm, and the horse were to pass by the back of the low, even hill, in the other valley, along the banks of the river Mariam, close to the water, in order to cut off the retreat to the plain. A great part of the Samen soldiers were asleep, whilst a number of the mules that had been loaded were straggling up and down, and some of them returning to the camp. The Temben troops had now insinuated themselves among the tents, especially on the side of the hill. The first circumstance that gave alarm was the appearance of the horse, but they were not taken for an enemy, but for Ayto Tesfos returning. Kefla Yasous now gave the signal to charge, by beating a kettle-drum, and every soldier fell upon the enemy nearest him. It is impossible to describe the confusion that followed, nor was it easy to distinguish enemies from friends, especially for us on horseback; only those that fled were reckoned enemies. The greatest execution done by the horse was breaking the jars of honey, butter, beer, wine, and flour, and gathering as many mules together as possible to drive them away. Few of the enemy came our way towards the plain, but most fled up the hill: in an instant the straw huts upon the rock were set on fire, and Kefla Yasous had ordered rather to destroy the provisions than the men, since there was no resistance. I passed a large tent, which I judged to be that of Ayto Tesfos, which our people immediately cut open; but, instead of an officer of consequence, we saw, by the light of a lamp, three or four naked men and women, totally overpowered with drink and sleep, lying helpless, like so many hogs, upon the ground, utterly unconscious of what was passing about them. Upon a large tin platter, on a bench, lay one of the large horns, perfectly drained of the spirits that it had contained; it was one of the most beautiful, for shape and colour, I ever had seen, though not one of the largest. This horn was all my booty that night. Upon my return to Britain, it was asked of me by Sir Thomas Dundas of Carse, to serve for a bugle-horn to the Fauconberg regiment, to which, as being partem sanguine, it was very properly adapted. That regiment being disbanded soon after, I know not further what came of it; it is probably placed in some public collection, or at least ought to be.
The fire increasing on the hill, and several musquets having been heard, it was plain the enemy, in all the camps, were alarmed, and our further stay became every moment more dangerous. Kefla Yasous now beat a retreat, and sent the horsemen all round to force the foot to make the best of their way back, ordering also all mules taken to be ham-stringed and left, not to retard our return. Trumpets and drums were heard from our camp, to warn us not to stay, as it was not doubted but mischief would follow, and accordingly we were scarce arrived within the limits of our camp when we heard the found of horse in the valley.
Michael, always watchful upon every accident, no sooner saw the fires lighted on the hill, than he ordered Guebra Mascal to place a good body of musqueteers about half way down the hill, as near as possible to the ford of Mariam, thinking it probable that the enemy would enter at both ends of the long hill, in order to surround those who were destroying their camp, which they accordingly did, whilst those of our people, who had taken to drinking, fell into the hands of the troops that came by the lower road, and were all put to death. Those that reached the upper ford served to afford us a severe revenge, for Guebra Mascal, after having seen them pass between him and the river, though it was a dark and very windy night, guessed very luckily their position, and gave them so happy a fire, that most of those who were not slain returned back without feeing Ayto Tesfos's camp, being afraid that some other trap might still be in their way.
In the morning of the 22d, we found that the slain were men of Begemder and Lasta. Tesfos, it seems, had been in Powussen's camp when he saw the fire lighted on the hill, and thence had provided an additional number of troops to attack Kefla Yasous before he had done his business, but in this he miscarried. Tesfos's party was thus totally destroyed and dispersed, his mules slaughtered, and his provisions spoiled. About thirty of Kefla Yasous's infantry, however, lost their lives by staying behind, and intoxicating themselves with liquor. Of the horse, not a man was either killed or wounded. I was the only unfortunate person; and Providence had seemed to warn me of my danger the day before for passing then that rock which projected into the valley, the fire giving perfect light, the multitude assembled above, and prepared for that purpose, poured down upon us such a shower of arrows, stones, billets of wood, and broken jars, as is not to be imagined. Of these a stone gave me a very violent blow upon my left arm, while a small fragment of the bottom of a jar, or pitcher, struck me on the crest of my helmet, and occasioned such a concussion as to deprive me for a time of all recollection, so that, when lying in my tent at no great distance, I did not remember to have heard Guebra Mascal's discharge. I certainly had some presaging that mischief was to happen me, for passing that rock, just before we entered Tesfos's camp, I desired Tecla, when I returned, to allow fifty men to proceed up the hill and cut those people in pieces who had stationed themselves so inconveniently; but he would not content, being desirous to return without loss of time, and before the enemy knew the calamity that had befallen them,
Ayto Tesfos now became a little more humble, retreated to the south end of the long hill, till being joined, next day the 23d, by his neighbours, Samuel Mammo of Tzegade, and Heraclius of Walkayt, who had a very large force, he again removed nearer us, about half a mile farther than his first position, and extended his camp quite across the valley, from the foot of the hill to the river Mariam, keeping his head-quarters on the top of the long, even hill, so often mentioned. Mammo and Heraclius had passed by Gondar, and, being much superior in number, had taken Sanuda, Ayto Confu, and Ayto Engedan prisoners, and, though the two last were wounded, carried them to Gusho's camp.
I need not trouble the reader with the attention shewed me upon my accident; all that was great and noble at court, from the king downwards, seemed to be as sensible of it as if it had happened to one of their own family; the Ras very particularly so; and I must own, above all, Guebra Mascal shewed himself a sincere convert, by a concern and friendship that had every mark of sincerity. Ozoro Esther was several times the next day at my tent, and with her the beautiful Tecla Mariam, whose sympathy and kindness would more than have compensated a greater misfortune; for, saying that it had occasioned an inflammation in my eyes, the hurt was of the slightest kind.
Many people came to-day from the several camps with proposals of peace, which ended in nothing, though it was visible enough to every one that a treaty of some kind was not only on foot, but already far advanced. In the evening a party of 400 foot and 50 horse, which went to Demhoa to forage for the king, was surprised by Coque Abou Barea, and cut to pieces; after which that general encamped with Gusho, and brought with him about 3000 men.
Provisions were now become scarce in the camp, and there was a prospect that they would be every day scarcer; and, what was still worse, Deg-Ohha, which long had stood in pools, was now almost dry, and, from the frequent use made of it by the number of beasts, began to have both an offensive smell and taste; whilst, every time we attempted to water at the Mariam river, a battle was to be fought with Tesfos's horse in the valley. On the other hand, an epidemical fever raged in the rebels camp on the plain, especially in that of Gusho and Ayabdar. The rain, moreover, was now coming on daily, and something decisive became necessary for all parties.
On the 24th, in the morning, a message arrived from Gusho to the king, desiring I might have liberty to come and bring medicines with me, for his whole family were ill of the fever. The king answered, that I had been wounded in the head, and was ill; nor did he believe I could be able to come; but, if I was, he should send me in the morning.
A little before noon the drums in the plain beat to arms. Heraclius, Mammo, and Tesfos on the side of the valley, Coque Abou Barea and Afahel Woodage on the side of the plain, with fresh troops, had obtained leave from Gusho and Powussen to try to storm our camp, without any assistance from the main army, in order to bring the whole to a speedy conclusion. I here had been a time when such an undertaking would not have been thought a prudent one to much better men than any of those who now were parties in it; but our spirits were greatly fallen, our number, too, much decreased; above all, a relaxation of discipline (and desertion, the consequence of it) began to prevail among us to an alarming degree. This was generally said to be owing to the despondency of the Tigré troops upon the arrival of Tesfos; but it required little penetration to discern, that all forts of men were weary of constant fighting and hardships, for no other end but unjustly maintaining Michael in a post in which he governed at discretion, to the terror of the whole kingdom, and ruin of the constitution.
The hill of Serbraxos, when we first took port on it, was rugged and uneven, full of acacia and other ill-thriving trees, and various stumps of these had been broken by the wind, or undermined by the torrents. The great need the soldiers had of fuel to roast the miserable pittance of barley, (which was all their food) had cleared away these incumbrances from the side of the hill, and the constant resort of men going up and down, had rendered the surface perfectly smooth and slippery; so that our camp did not appear as placed so high, nor nearly fo inaccessible as it was at first. For this reason, Ras Michael had ordered the soldiers to gather all the stones on the hill, and range them in small walls, at proper places, in a kind of zig-zag, under which the soldiers lay concealed, and with their fire-arms protected the mules which went down to drink. Michael
A The center commanded by the king in person.
E Ayto Tesfos of Samen making a lodgement in the bank, or side of the hill, under the van, to favour the attack of Woodage Asahel.
had lined all these little fortifications with musquetry, from the bottom of the hill to the door of his tent and the king's.
About noon the hill was assaulted on all sides that were accessible, and the ancient spirit of the troops seemed to revive upon fcemg the enemy were the aggressors. Without any aid of musquetry, the king's foot repulsed Coque Abou Barea, and drove him from the hill into the plain, without any confiderable stand on his part: the same success followed against Mammo and Heraclius; they were chafed down the hill, and several of their men pursued and slain on the plain; but a large reinforcement coming from the camp, the king's troops were driven up the hill again, and Tesfos, with his musquetry, had made a lodgment in a pit on the low side of one of these stone-walls Ras Michael had built for his own defence, from which he fired with great effect, and the king's troops were obliged to fall back to the brow of the hill immediately below the tent, and that of the Ras's. In a moment appeared Woodage Asahel, with a large body of horse, supported likewise with a considerable number of foot. This was the most accessible part of the hill, and under the cover of Tesfos's continued fire: they mounted it with great gallantry, the troops above expecting them with their irons fixed at a proper elevation in the ground; for it must be here explained, that no Abyssinian soldier in battle rests his gun upon his hand, as every one is provided with a stick about four feet long, which hath hooks, or rests, on alternate intervals on each side, and which he sticks in the ground before him, and rests the muzzle of his gun upon it, according to the height of the object he is to aim at; and here is discovered the fa- tal and most unreasonable effect of fear in these troops, who have not the knowledge or practice of fire-arms, and are about to charge, for as soon as they hear this noise of planting the sticks, (which is somewhat louder than that of our men cocking their mufquets) they halt immediately, and give the fairest opportunity to their enemies to take aim; and, after thus suffering from a well-directed fire, they fall into confusion, and run, leaving the musquetry time to re-charge. This is as if they voluntarily devoted themselves to destruction; for if, either upon hearing the noise of setting the flicks in the ground, or before or after they have received the fire, the horse were to charge these musqueteers, having no bayonets, at the gallop, they mull be cut to pieces every time they were attacked by cavalry; the contrary of which is always the case.
Woodage Asahel had now advanced within about thirty yards of the musquetry that were expecting him, when unluckily the hill became more steep, and Ayto Tesfos (for some reason not then known) ceased firing. The king was now close to the very brow of the hill, nor could any one persuade him to keep at a greater distance. I was not far from him, and had no fort of doubt but that I should presently fee the whole body of the enemy destroyed by the fire awaiting them, and blown into the air. Woodage Asahel was very conspicuous by a red fillet, or bandage, wrapt about his head, the two ends hanging over his ears, whilst he was waving with his hands for the troops below to follow briskly, and support those near him, who were impeded by the roughness and mossy quality of the ground. At this instant the king's troops fired, and I expected to see the enemy strewed dead along the face of the hill. Indeed we saw them speedily disappear, but like living men, riding and running down the declivity so as even to excite laughter. Woodage Afahel, with two men only, bravely gained the top of the mountain, and, as he passed the king's tent, pulled off his red fillet, making a sign as of saluting it, and then galloped through the middle of the camp. He was now descending unhurt upon the left, where Abou Barea had been engaged and beaten, when Sebastos, a Greek, the king's cook, seventy-five years of age, of whom I have already spoken in the campaign of Maitsha, lying behind a stone, with his gun in his hand, seeing the troops engage below, fired at him as he passed; the ball took place in the left side of his belly. He was seen stooping forward upon the tore of his saddle, with some men supporting him on each side, in his way to his tent, where he died in the evening, having, by his behaviour that day, deserved a better fate. Sebastos reported this feat of his to the king, but it was not believed, till a confirmation of the facts came in the evening, when Sebastos was cloathed, and received a reward from, the king.
Tesfos had been observed not to fire since Woodage Asahel gained the steep part of the hill, and it was thought it was from fear of galling his friends; but it was soon known to be owing to another cause. Kefla Yasous had ordered two of his nephews to take a body of troops, with lances and shields only, and these were to go round the Ras's tent, and down the side of the hill, till they were even with Tesfos behind the screen where he lay. These two young men, proud of the sole command which they had then received for the first time, executed it with great alacrity; and tho' they were ordered by their uncle to watch the time when. Tesfos had fired, and then to run in upon him, they disdained that precaution, but coming speedily upon him, part of them threw down the stones under which he was concealed, and part attacked him in the hollow, and, while much intent upon the success of Woodage Asahel, he was in a moment overpowered and dislodged; and, being twice wounded, with great difficulty he escaped. Seventeen of his match-locks were brought into the camp, and with them a man of great family in Samen, a relation or friend of Kefla Yasous. This person, after having been regaled with the best that was in the camp, and cloathed anew after their custom, was sent back the same night to Ayto Tesfos, with this short message, "Tesfos had better be upon his rock again, if my boys can beat him upon the plain at broad noon-day!"
Coque Abou Barea, after having attempted several times to ascend the hill, was beaten back as often, and obliged to desist. On the king's side only eleven men were killed. The loss of the enemy was variously reported. Sixty-three men only, and several horses of those with Woodage Asahel, were left upon the side of the hill, after the fire of near 1000 musquets — so contemptible is the most dangerous weapon in an ignorant and timid hand. That night the body of musqueteers called Lasta, part of the king's household, (in number about 300 men) deserted in a body. One of the worst consequences of that day's engagement was, that the enemy, when in possession of the foot of the hill, had thrown a great number of dead bodies, both of men and beasts, into Deg-Ohha, which therefore now was abandoned altogether by our troops. To make up for this, Ras Michael, that very evening, advanced 2000 men upon the end of the long hill, immediately below him, which post was never molested after, so that our beasts had water in greater plenty and safety than when they were at a less considerable distance. Below the north-west side of the hill, where it was a steep precipice, two or three pools of water were found retaining all their original purity, out of the reach or knowledge of the enemy, in the bed of the torrent which surrounded the north side of the mountain: the descent was very difficult for beasts, but thither I went several times on foot, and bathed myself, especially my head, in very cold water, which greatly strengthened my eyes, much weakened from the blow I had received.