An account of Dancali. The conduct of Chec Furt. The author wounded. They arrive at the court of the King of Dancali. A description of his pavilion, and the reception they met with.
Our goods were no sooner landed than we were surrounded with a crowd of officers, all gaping for presents; we were forced to gratify their avarice by opening our bales, and distributing among them some pieces of calico. What we gave to the chec might be worth about a pistole, and the rest in proportion.
The kingdom of Dancali, to which this belongs, is barren, and thinly peopled; the king is tributary to the Emperor of Abyssinia, and very faithful to his sovereign. The emperor had not only written to him, but had sent a Moor and Portuguese as his ambassadors, to secure us a kind reception; these in their way to this prince had come through the countries of Chumo-Salamay and Senaa, the utmost confines of Abyssinia, and had carried thither the emperor's orders concerning our passage.
On Ascension Day we left Baylur, having procured some camels and asses to carry our baggage. The first day's march was not above a league, and the others not much longer. Our guides performed their office very ill, being influenced, as we imagined, by the Chec Furt, an officer, whom, though unwilling, we were forced to take with us. This man, who might have brought us to the king in three days, led us out of the way through horrid deserts destitute of water, or where what we found was so foul, nauseous, and offensive, that it excited a loathing and aversion which nothing but extreme necessity could have overcome.
Having travelled some days, we were met by the King's brother, to whom, by the advice of Chec Furt, whose intent in following us was to squeeze all he could from us; we presented some pieces of Chinese workmanship, such as cases of boxes, a standish, and some earthenware, together with several pieces of painted calico, which were so much more agreeable, that he desired some other pieces instead of our Chinese curiosities; we willingly made the exchange. Yet some time afterwards he asked again for those Chinese goods which he had returned us, nor was it in our power to refuse them. I was here in danger of losing my life by a compliment which the Portuguese paid the prince of a discharge of twelve muskets; one being unskilfully charged too high, flew out of the soldier's hand, and falling against my leg, wounded it very much; we had no surgeon with us, so that all I could do was to bind it hard with some cloth. I was obliged by this accident to make use of the Chec Furt's horse, which was the greatest service we received from him in all our journey.
When we came within two leagues and a half of the King's court, he sent some messengers with his compliments, and five mules for the chief of our company. Our road lay through a wood, where we found the ground covered over with young locusts, a plague intolerably afflictive in a country so barren of itself. We arrived at length at the bank of a small river, near which the King usually keeps his residence, and found his palace at the foot of a little mountain. It consisted of about six tents and twenty cabins, erected amongst some thorns and wild trees, which afforded a shelter from the heat of the weather. He received us the first time in a cabin about a musket shot distant from the rest, furnished out with a throne in the middle built of clay and stones, and covered with tapestry and two velvet cushions. Over against him stood his horse with his saddle and other furniture hanging by him, for in this country, the master and his horse make use of the same apartment, nor doth the King in this respect affect more grandeur than his subjects. When we entered, we seated ourselves on the ground with our legs crossed, in imitation of the rest, whom we found in the same posture. After we had waited some time, the King came in, attended by his domestics and his officers. He held a small lance in his hand, and was dressed in a silk robe, with a turban on his head, to which were fastened some rings of very neat workmanship, which fell down upon his forehead. All kept silence for some time, and the King told us by his interpreter that we were welcome to his dominions, that he had been informed we were to come by the Emperor his father, and that he condoled the hardships we had undergone at sea. He desired us not to be under any concern at finding ourselves in a country so distant from our own, for those dominions were ours, and he and the Emperor his father would give us all the proofs we could desire of the sincerest affection. We returned him thanks for this promise of his favour, and after a short conversation went away. Immediately we were teazed by those who brought us the mules, and demanded to be paid the hire of them; and had advice given us at the same time that we should get a present ready for the King. The Chec Furt, who was extremely ready to undertake any commission of this kind, would needs direct us in the affair, and told us that our gifts ought to be of greater value, because we had neglected making any such offer at our first audience, contrary to the custom of that country. By these pretences he obliged us to make a present to the value of about twenty pounds, with which he seemed to be pleased, and told us we had nothing to do but prepare to make our entry.Next