Return from Missionary Tour--Invitation from the King--Feast of St. John--Interview with Theodore--M. Bardel's Account of his Mission--Wounded Pride--Dismissal of M. Lejean--Gloomy Forebodings--Discordant Sounds--Departure from the Capital--Unfavourable Symptoms--Visit to the Royal Camp--Violence of the King--Execution of my Servants--Personal Maltreatment--Feeling of Desolation--Keen Sufferings--Abyssinian Surgery--Honest Tears--My Chains--My Consolation.
It was towards the end of September, 1863, that I returned to our station at Grenda from a missionary tour through the north-western lowland provinces, delighted with all that I had witnessed and experienced. On my arrival, Mrs. Flad told me that she was glad that I had come back in the very nick of time, as on that very day she had received a letter from her husband at Gondar, requesting me in the name of the king to repair thither, as his Majesty wanted to communicate to all the Europeans the answer M. Bardel had brought to the letter he had dispatched by him to the Emperor Napoleon. Captain Cameron received a summons of similar import from the king himself. We immediately made our few necessary preparations, and the following day set out for the capital. The feast of St. John, which was [38/39] then solemnised, imparted a festive aspect to the camp and city. Eating and drinking, singing and dancing, resounded from hut and tent, palace and church. All were plunged in merriment and gaiety. The myriads and myriads of beeves plundered from the Zeelans, and liberally distributed among the hungry broundo-loving gourmands, amazingly enhanced the savage carnival. We had now approached within a respectful distance of the imperial palace, where etiquette warned us to leave our saddles. Hosts of greasy terpsichorean performers met us at every nook and corner of the labyrinthine Etcheque Beit, where the royal domicile stands out in bold and picturesque relief from the midst of a mass of indescribable rickety tenements. Careless of the sweltering fetid throng, we steered, like a ship with sails all spread, through the stormy and boisterous living ocean, up to the precincts of the royal court, in the hopes of meeting a sober courtier who would inform his Majesty of our advent. The bacchanalian votaries were all, however, too much absorbed in their peculiar merriments to pay any attention to two white strangers; and, as we Were too fond of pure air, we tacked our course out of the stifling atmosphere towards the dwelling of a debterah, where we knew a friendly welcome awaited us. On our way we encountered M. Bardel. He did not see me, and this perhaps removed all restraint from his tongue. During the short converse with [39/40] Consul Cameron, the words, "I shall crush them all"--which might have had reference to the missionaries, workmen, or French Consul--fell with appalling impact on my startled ear.
Sunday was undisturbed, but early on Monday morning we were ordered to repair to the royal residence. Of course we instantly obeyed the summons, and hurried to the palace. Two gorgeous tents, which stood conspicuously on the grassy lawn fronting the royal saloon, indicated that some business of import was about to be transacted. In one of these gaudy pavilions was M. Lejean, the French Consul, and in the second, to which we were directed, were already assembled in barbarous state uniform his Majesty's white workmen. A few minutes had only elapsed when half-a-dozen officers of the palace made their appearance, and requested us to follow. An ascent of about fifty broad steps landed us on the vestibule. Here another cluster of officials conducted us into the audience hall, which was still redolent with the odours of the previous day's raw beef banquet. His Majesty was seated in the deep recess of a glassless window, surrounded by books and papers, which merged the savage African into the polite and polished Ethiopian. He was more than usually dignified and polite in his deportment, though it was evident that beneath that assumed blandness and forced condescension there lay an under-current of anger and [40/41] asperity which his best acting--and he was a consummate actor--could with difficulty conceal. All Mag seated on the carpets which, in a crescent form, were spread a few yards from the Negoos, M. Bardel, the royal envoy, received an intimation to rise. The favoured courtier in a trice was on his legs, and like a man who knew what was expected from him, stood with an air of confidence awaiting his master's commands. "Aito Bardel," in subdued accents, the king then said; "how were you received by the Emperor?" Your Majesty," the crafty envoy rejoined, "I met with a most uncourteous reception at the court of Prance." "Did they provide you," returned the king, "with a house, food, and all that you required?" "No, Janehoi," was the response; "I got neither a house to dwell in, nor food nor money to supply my daily wants." "What did the Emperor tell you," continued the king, in the same smooth tone, "when you presented him my letter?" "His Imperial Majesty asked me a variety of questions about Abyssynia," quoth the envoy, "and he seemed favourably disposed to my proposals, when he turned to his adviser, M. d'Abbadie, who was in the reception hall, and consulted him about the matter embodied in your Majesty's despatch. M. d'Abbadie's observations immediately produced a change in the Emperor's conduct towards me, and he dismissed me with the sarcastic sentence, 'I will have no direct intercourse [41/42] with a sovereign who cuts off the hands and feet of his subjects.'" That this whole interview was a fiction of M. Bardel's own inventive genius was palpable, but I could not venture to express such a conjecture, without endangering my life, to any one except Consul Cameron. The Emperor, though unwilling to have any direct intercourse with the court of Abyssinia, the envoy further stated, was not desirous to terminate all future relation with Ethiopia, and this induced him to order his minister to write an answer to the document he had conveyed to France. This letter, which was most courteous, and replete with wise and sensible suggestions, was now handed for perusal to the assembled conclave. Consul Cameron was ordered to read it aloud for the edification of all. When this was done, his Majesty seized the document, and dashing it on the ground, remarked in accents of bitter irony blended with wounded pride, "Is this an answer to my letter? Napoleon may think himself great, but I am greater still; his genealogy is only of yesterday; mine, on the contrary, I trace back to David and Solomon. True he is rich, and I am poor; he is powerful, and I am weak; he has fine palaces, and I only ruins; but"--and he paused a few seconds, whilst his hypocritical eyes were devoutly upturned--"glory, wealth, and renown will yet be my portion!" A few unimportant questions were now interchanged between the Negoos and the [42/43] disgraced French representative. M. Lejean tried and tried hard to convince his Majesty through the delegates (for a personal interview, though urgently solicited, was not granted) that he laboured under an erroneous impression, and misunderstood the sentiments of his master the Emperor, who cherished the highest regard and esteem for the king. To corroborate his statement, he most assiduously craved permission to present to the Negoos the despatches he had received from his government, which positively stated that the Abyssinian embassy would be accepted so soon as the arrangements for their passage through Egypt had been satisfactorily settled. Neither diplomacy nor persuasion could, however, appease the incensed monarch, and M. Lejean and his companion, Dr. Legard, instead of chains, with which they were to have been favoured, had not the Aboona interfered, received peremptory orders to quit the country. The departure of the French Consul; the doubts and suspicions about an answer to his letter from the British Government; the report that a strong Turkish force had taken their position at Matamma, on the northwestern border; the consciousness that he could not cope with a foe whom he had insolently challenged to a combat; together with the fading vision of ever obtaining by diplomacy the coveted possession of Senaar to the north-west, and the isle of Massowah to the north-east, soured his temper, and stimulated [43/44] him to perpetrate deeds which led to the ruin of his country and the loss of his crown and life. Ominous indications of coming events henceforth cast their dismal shadows athwart our serene and hitherto unclouded horizon. No one, of course, had the remotest idea in what shape or form the impending crisis would develop itself. I believed the royal indignation would burst on the missionaries in an order for their immediate expulsion, and on the British Consul in a mandate for a forcible unfettered detention. I communicated the fears I felt to Captain Cameron, but he did not share the dismal forebodings in which I indulged.
The object of my mission was by this time completely attained, and, to avoid all unnecessary delays which might perhaps have retarded my return, I mounted my mule, and bade farewell to scenes and associations that, I still faintly trusted, would prove centres of light and truth to irradiate far and wide the thick darkness of Abyssinia's superstitious gloom. It was on the memorable October 13, 1863, that I entered on my disastrous and fatal journey. The sun on that ill-omened day rose in its wonted tropical splendour; hills and valleys, fields and meadows, all sparkled and glittered in the lovely splendour of a tropical morn. To the north rose, in bold relief against the azure sky, massive rocks, which, for many hours per day, cast a deep shadow over the sacred [44/45] quarter of Kudus Gabriel. Opposite, on a verdant sloping ground, lay in peaceful repose the large division of the town called Etcheque Beit, intersected by churches embosomed in the shady foliage of the juniper. Beyond these, in a south-west direction, extended, as far as the eye could reach, the tents of the king's army; whilst due south and west, at the extremity of the lovely plain, lay, like a sheet of burnished gold, the isle-dotted lake of Dembea. The silence of death, broken only by the chants of the officiating priests, which, till now, fell in melancholy cadences on the ear, was gradually superseded by less harmonious strains. Bleating flocks, accompanied by the jarring notes of the shepherd's shrill reed-pipe, here scaled a steep ascent towards an upland plateau; there a peasant, cracking his terrible giraff, lazily followed his beeves to an upland field. From one house resounded the harsh voice of a virago, who poured forth volumes of unmentionable epithets on a truant daughter or indolent husband; from another were heard the oaths of a drunken soldier who refused to pay for his libations, intermingled with the shouts and imprecations of a merchant who would not yield his property to the spoiler. This din and confusion, as if not enough to stun the ear, was now and then heightened by the sharp rattle of a rusty musket, which, as it floated across the plain, gathered strength m the distant rocks, where it reverberated for miles [45/46] with a deep crawling echo, or by a savage war-whoop, that reminded one forcibly of a large travelling menagerie. In my own domicile all was in harmony with its dignified occupant. Servants and slaves noiselessly performed their various duties; even the beggars, who beleaguered the doorway, in subdued accents solicited their alms, quite contrary to their wonted boisterous clamour. My mind, excited by the anticipation of the journey, the fears and doubts of its successful termination, and a variety of distracting reveries--the prelude of coming troubles--forbade repose, and I rose exhausted and feverish. The bustle of packing, the hurrying to and fro of domestics, and the excitement of leave-taking, relieved my spirit, and banished those dismal visions which, in defiance of all resistance, presented themselves to my imagination. My host, the bishop, in the retirement and sanctity of an inner court, which it was sacrilegious to cross without previous sanction, promised me, the preceding evening, an early interview; but, forgetful of his engagement, and wrapt in sweet daylight slumber, he tested my patience not a little by his unreasonable hours. Unwilling to delay longer, I had the temerity to penetrate his sanctum. On seeing me he stretched out his hand, and observed, "I am later than usual; but this," he added, smilingly, "must be attributed to the holy Georgis, who, like myself, does not want you to desecrate [46/47] the day devoted to him by travelling." I expressed a different opinion, but he ridiculed my secret surmises. I then discussed again various unimportant matters, partook of a substantial breakfast, arranged some business affairs, and then, followed by his own and Father Joseph's (his confessor's) best wishes, took my departure out of the hospitable episcopal residence. My animals being loaded and already on the march, I at once mounted my mule, and, accompanied by my Armenian servant and some natives, rode up to the Etcheque Beit, to bid farewell to Consul Cameron. He had already anticipated this parting visit, for his mule stood saddled in the court. To avoid the noonday's sun, we bestrode our animals, and trotting through rugged narrow lanes and over hills impregnated with all sorts of unmentionable odours, hurried on towards the foaming and dashing Gaha. Bardel joined us near the river, and he and the consul, with their numerous followers, formed quite a respectable cavalcade. As the king was on the march, masses of soldiers, with their ragged followers, were in a confused motley, forcing their course in the same direction, in order to join their respective chiefs. The panting and gasping, hungry and tattered multitude, formed a host whose very appearance augured desolation and misery to any province they might have to traverse. To us they were tolerably civil, though, [47/48] as I afterwards recollected, there was not that deference which had hitherto been evinced towards the white man. Had I been less engaged with my own thoughts and more with the rabble host, I might have divined, from the coarse jests and gibes, the rude gaze, and impertinent throng of the semi-savages between whom we denied, that the white man had sunk in position, and that there were already indistinct murmurs which prognosticated his impending doom.
Some servants of Consul Cameron and Messrs. Staiger and Brandeis, who, with despatches and letters for the coast, had on the previous day, by order of the king, been plundered and maltreated, confirmed my suspicions. Al Tassab, one of the party, and who was delighted to find a refuge among my people, lost twelve dollars, all his earthly possessions. The packets were conveyed to Gondar, and there Samuel, as I heard from his own lips, concealed, but did not destroy them. His object was to keep on good terms with the favourite Chrishona artisans and their missionary brethren, Staiger and Brandeis, till he had wreaked his vengeance on Consul Cameron and those whom, like myself, he considered more directly connected with England. [Samuel had a most inveterate hatred against Consul Cameron. In his capacity as "baldaraba"--viz., spy--he watched all his movements, which he reported to the king. The letters he sent from Boghos when he accompanied him down the coasts with the royal despatches were dipped in venom, and contributed materially to our misfortunes. He admitted that he wrote letters, but denied that they exaggerated or misrepresented any fact.]
 Two hours' ride was beguiled by pleasant converse about the future destiny of the country, of whose beauties and capabilities we could judge by the surrounding scenery, and then we bade each other a cordial farewell. Followed by my Egyptian servant, I sped my way through the ever-increasing crowd up a regular succession of steeps, and about mid-day landed on the verdant plateau of Woggera. Here, to my disagreeable surprise, I saw, about ten minutes' ride to the left, the camp of the king. Immediately I consulted with my people, who had been waiting, for me, whether we should encamp. They unanimously declared that it was my duty to halt till I had paid my respects to the king. I did not particularly admire this advice, but as a deviation from the established etiquette might have been misinterpreted into rudeness or contempt, I accepted with the best grace a not very pleasant suggestion.
A fair, green spot, abounding with fragrant shrubs and shady trees, invited us to alight. The royal camp, though near, was not near enough to attract the inquisitive and curious, the lazy beggar and the proud military chief, to our halting-place. My tent was soon erected, and on a bed of sweet herbs I [49/50] enjoyed a happy and calm repose after the fatigue and toils of the journey.
The idea of visiting the white tent of royalty, which shone brightly in the clear atmosphere on a hill about half an hour's distance, depressed my spirits with a melancholy I could not explain. I tried to dispel this ceaseless gloom by writing and jotting down notes, but, notwithstanding my utmost effort, I found it impossible to banish the presentiment of an impending disaster. Conscious that, neither by word nor deed, I had merited the king's ill will, I strove against the warning of the internal monitor, and, throwing my shama around me, like a man anxious to get over an unpleasant task, I went, accompanied by two of my people, towards the hill, on whose summit stood conspicuously the imperial pavilion. As I approached, all previous surmises and misgivings vanished, and, confiding in the consciousness of my integrity, which I thought would be a shield strong enough to guard me against the machinations and malice of insidious foes, if I had any, I boldly advanced till I stood within a respectful and becoming distance of the never-to-be-forgotten spot.
Whilst waiting for the approach of an officer or domestic of the royal household who would announce my visit, groups of drunken military chiefs and district governors came staggering, in [50/51] most unseemly attitudes, out of the royal banqueting tent. Many gazed at me in stupid bewilderment; others, with heavy tongues, bawled forth a compliment or abuse on the white men, who had brought into disrepute the faithful lance and trusty sword by the introduction of heavy muskets and unwieldy cannons. I felt disposed to retreat, but to this, for sapient reasons, my companions justly objected. I then suggested that we should seek the shelter of a shady tree or bush till the banquet was over and his Majesty visible. This proposal was equally rejected as incompatible with Abyssinian rule. The last jar of hydromel had at last, as a royal page, en passant, assured me, been quaffed, the last reeking joint had been devoured, the last batch of rioters had at last vanished, when the folds of the tent were thrown aside, and his Majesty, surrounded by half-a-dozen officers and several pages, strutted out into the open air. My companions quickly prostrated themselves into the dust; whilst I, without imitating their servile obeisance, made a humble and deferential bow. "Come nearer," shouted the attendants. I obeyed, and advanced a few steps. "Still nearer," reiterated several stentorian voices. I complied, and made another forward movement. "What do you want?" sharply demanded the flushed and drink-excited Negoos. "I saw your Majesty's tent," was the [51/52] response, "and came hither to offer my humble salutations and respects to your Majesty." "Where are you going?" "I am, with your Majesty's sanction, about to proceed to Massorah." "And why did you come to Abyssinia?" "A desire to circulate the Word of God among your Majesty's subjects prompted the enterprise," I rejoined. "Can you make cannons?" "No," was the reply. "You lie," was the laconic retort; and then, turning with a withering glance towards Negusee, one of my companions, and a servant of Consul Cameron, he imperatively demanded to know the name of his province. "I am from Tigré," tremulously responded the poor man. "And you are the servant or interpreter of this white man?" "No, your Majesty; I am in the employ of Consul Cameron, and only accompany him down to Adowa, whither I am bound to see my family." "You vile carcass! you base dog! you rotten donkey! you dare to bandy words with your king. Down with the villain, and bemouti (by my death), beat him till there is not a breath in his worthless carcass." The order was promptly obeyed, and the poor, inoffensive man, without a struggle, ejaculation, or groan, was dashed on the ground, where, amidst the shouts of the savage monarch, that the executioners should vigorously ply their sticks, the animated and robust frame was, in less than a minute, [52/53] a torn and mangled corpse. "There's another man yonder," vociferated the savage king; "kill him also." The poor fellow, who stood at a considerable distance, was immediately dragged to the side of his motionless companion, and, without having breathed a word or syllable that could possibly have irritated the sanguinary tyrant, doomed to share the same unhappy fate. I was amazed, bewildered, and surprised. In my agitation I might, unconsciously, have put my hand or finger to my lips. This the cruel tyrant construed into an act of defiance, and, without one warning or reproof, he rushed upon me with a drawn pistol, like a lion balked of his prey. For an instant I saw the glittering weapon sparkling in the rays of the sinking sun, and then, as if checked in his fell design by an invisible power, it disappeared again in the case suspended round his waist. "Knock him down! brain him! kill him!" were the words which rung appallingly on my ear. In the twinkle of an eye I was stripped, on the ground, and insensible. Stunned, unconscious, and almost lifeless, with the blood oozing out of scores of gashes, I was dragged into the camp, not, as my guards were commanded, to bind me in fetters, but, as they thought--and I heard it from their own lips--to bury me. [The six chiefs who administered the sticks subsequently became my best friends.]
 A stifling sensation, I well remember, roused me to something approaching consciousness. I tried to speak, but my throat and mouth, full of clotted blood, forbade the attempt. I sought to look around me, but my eyes were glued, and I did not dare to open them. I endeavoured to recollect the events of the last few hours, but my swimming and giddy head rendered the effort abortive. Rousing myself from this state of painful lassitude and stupefaction, my mind, though sadly confused, retained some faint recollection of the last hour's terrible scene. The soldier to whom I was fastened, and whose shama my bleeding wounds had thoroughly saturated, noticed that I was in great agony and distress. The gentle touch with which he lifted the chain convinced me that he was not one of Theodore's hardened ruffians. "What do you want?" he kindly inquired. I pointed to my parched and feverish lips. "Woha" (water). "Tenisu" (get up), "and you shall have some." With difficulty I raised my cold, shivering, and stiff limbs, and, together with my kind guardian, crept to a watch-fire, where there was a party who had a skin full of water. "Hit (go), Turk," they shouted, "for our Christian cups shall not touch a Moslem's lips." "I am not a Mahomedan," I mournfully sighed, "but a Christian, and a believer in a [54/55] blessed Trinity." These faintly-breathed words acted like a galvanic battery on their insensible hearts. Promptly the water cup was raised to my quivering lips, and a place vacated for me near the fire. A good, cold draught roused me to a knowledge of my misery and wretchedness, loneliness and desolation. I was alone; a stranger in a strange country. No bosom was open to my sorrow; no heart shared my grief. The world around me was dead to a white man's anguish, and indifferent to his woes: but though far removed from the sight of those whose words might have soothed the aching, lacerated, and bleeding missionary; whose hands might have bathed his throbbing temples, stanched his bleeding wounds, and protected him from the chill morning blast, there was One present who, in the utter despondency and despair of the storm-tossed heart, could point to His own solemn and touching words: "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness."
The long, interminable night of suffering and trial, with its dew and cold and darkness, at length drew to a close, and the dawn revealed, in its dim, pale light, the mountain-tops that guarded, like impregnable ramparts, the south-eastern [55/56] confines of the wide-spreading Woggera plain. Twilight in those latitudes speedily yields to the full blaze of sunlight, and cold night to the warmth, if not heat, of day. The camp was now full of life, activity, and bustle. Tents were struck, mules loaded, and horses saddled. Women and men, chiefs in silken shirts, and common soldiers in greasy shamas, vied with each other in clearing the camp and road before the approach of the royal cavalcade. In the midst of that hum and din I alone was most indifferent and unconcerned. Many of my wounds had, indeed, ceased to bleed, but that did not mitigate my excruciating suffering. During the cold and damp of night the inflammation, if not subdued, was at least checked, but the wind and sun, acting on the unswathed and exposed gashes, produced the most exquisite and indescribable torture. Death, the dreaded intruder on many a happy home, would then to me have been an angel of mercy; but though I yearned most impatiently for his visit, he would not come. The fetters fastened around my native companion's wrist were unriveted, and my swollen, palsied arms, instead of being held in irons, were pitilessly grasped by two savage ruffians in the service of a notorious villain, Ali Woobeshat, the governor of [56/57] Woggera. [This man, like many others who had a share in my sufferings, perished under most excruciating tortures.] Excited to a pitch almost verging on frenzy, I tried to shake off the dastardly poltroons, but the exertion exceeded my energy, and I sank prostrate at their feet. Forced to get up, I was partly carried and partly dragged out of the detested camp. The physical effort was too much for my [failing strength, so that, despite the goading of the zealous myrmidons of Ali Woobeshat, I had to rest again and again. Water! water! was my entreaty. This mournful cry several parties of soldiers who passed by heard; but although they cast many a pitiful glance on the disfigured and woe-begone stranger, not one had compassion enough to allay the maddening thirst of my burning tongue. At last I saw a chief, a native of Grenda, strutting along, who had formerly been in Egypt on an errand of his royal master, where, as I heard from his own lips, he had been most hospitably entertained. That man, I felt persuaded, would act the part of the good Samaritan, and relieve my distress. He halted, looked at me, listened to my pathetic appeal, and, with the withering scowl of a demon on his lean, ugly face, rode quietly away. Ah! tell me not that there is a hidden fount of kindness in every heart, which needs only to be touched, and it will gush forth in streams of love, tenderness, and mercy! This be the case--nay, I believe it is the case, in [57/58] countries where, as in this happy isle, the Gospel has refined the asperities of a selfish nature; but such was not my experience in Abyssinia, and in the camp of the crime-stained Theodore. Pushed on by the cowardly savages, who imagined that a man who could not stand might yet be able to run, I crawled forward, and at length, to the satisfaction of the custodians, was safely housed in a peasant's reed-built cabin. Two chiefs, Hassan Ali, the nominal governor of Yedshou, and Basha Medeka, a noble of Woggera, who had the previous evening broken their sticks on my head, received me. Whether my wretched and almost dying condition moved their pity, or whether they thought that my decease might draw upon them the wrath of their master, I cannot positively assert. I know that they were attentive to my wants, and, together with the villagers, did everything in their power to mitigate my sufferings. Hassan Ali, an amateur dabbler in the chirurgical art, kindly examined the depth of my wounds. The operation, though well intended, was very painful, for the instrument--a hard stalk of straw--was not the best probe for a white man's skull. The swarthy amateur doctor was evidently displeased with his patient's condition, and, to convince himself thoroughly of the state of my cranium, he ordered me to press firmly a piece of [58/59] which he put between my teeth. I tried to obey, but the swollen and aching gums refused to perform the imposed task. By dint of perseverance I at last succeeded. The kind physician watched the operation with intense interest, and then, like a wise man, without expressing his opinion, probably not to compromise his reputation, he gave a sapient shake to his butter-besmeared wig, and squatted down.
It was now about eight o'clock, and as I had not yet heard or seen anything of my servants, I began to be suspicious about their safety. My guards kindly assured me that nothing had happened to them, and that in a short time they would be conducted to my abode. This, for the nonce, proved true, for before noon they all made their appearance. The sight of their disfigured, prostrated, and wounded master, who only a short day before had left them cheerful, strong, and happy, arrested their breath, and, in rapt speech-lessness, they stood gazing at me. Their pent-up grief gathered strength during this brief silent interval, and then gushed forth a flood of tears and convulsive sighs so genuine, honest, and touching as to awaken a responsive sympathetic chord in the bosom of the groups of villagers who had 'collected around my desolate couch.
Past noon there arrived from the infamous [59/60] governor, Ali Woobeshat, a pair of hand and foot chains, which, at the command of royalty, were to be fastened around my swollen limbs. The guards, hardened as they were to every better sentiment, I could perceive from their looks, did not quite approve this fresh infliction of suffering on a dying man. There were many whispers, consultations, and animated debates; but, as I anticipated, it all ended in a unanimous decision that the royal mandate must be obeyed. My poor servant Joseph, a native of Aleppo, on perceiving that his master's lacerated, torn, and bleeding limbs were to be manacled, threw himself before the guards, and, in melting accents, implored that they should not perpetrate such a ruthless deed on a stranger and a Christian. I believe they would gladly have acceded to his prayer, had not the image of their terrible master floated, like a dreaded phantom, before their frightened imagination, and steeled them against another's woes. They still hesitated a little, and not till I told them to do whatever they felt disposed, did they proceed to perform the disagreeable operation. The ring round the wrists was expeditiously hammered on; not so around the ankles. The inflammation, which, had continued to increase and increase till the leg had assumed a most formidable size, rendered it impossible to fasten the hoop so that the foot could [60/61] not slip through. Baffled and perplexed, they at last resolved to rivet the right hand to the left ankle, the least injured--an operation which, I must confess, they performed with a care and tenderness that did honour to their humane feelings.
Utterly unconscious that I had perpetrated any offence or crime to merit this harsh, treatment, I consoled myself in my terrible position with the illusive hope, that after a day or two the tyrant would regret, or at least relax in, his unprovoked severity, and permit me to crawl on as well as I could to Massowah. I had not yet penetrated the depth of Theodore's malice, nor experimentally learnt that man in barbarous, and sometimes also in civilised countries, is most vindictive towards those on whom he has inflicted the deepest wrongs.
The sunny visions in which my enfeebled imagination loved to indulge alleviated my oppressive solitude; and I sank for several hours into what I so much needed--a kind of stupid reverie. Dawn--cold and dismal dawn--had already lit up the rickety stockade walls of my prison, when, chilled by the damp winds that poured in gusts through every hole and crevice, I awoke to the tearful reality of my sad position. A few verses out of the sacred volume, adapted to my circumstances, imparted a peaceful serenity to my chafed harassed mind. "Neither shall there be any [61/62] more pain." I had read these words, pondered over them, and preached about them, but not till that moment did I feel the energy they infuse, the consolation they afford, and the sweet resignation they communicate. Delightful thought!--no more torture to rack the frame--no more fetters to cripple the limbs--no more buffetings to mark with blood the Christian preacher's entangled path--no more oppression and tyranny, scorn and derision such as fell to my lot the day before--but rest, peace, and joy in the home of our God, in the mansions of glory near the centre of creation, where tyranny cannot enter, nor cruel despotism have the sway; where no chastening stroke is felt, and no bitter cup is swallowed; where is the tree of life, beneath whose shadow we shall repose, and the fountain of life, whose water we shall drink.
Such were the thoughts which beguiled my mind, and dissipated the maddening gloom.