Printer Friendly

Chapter XI 


The author discovers a passage over the Nile. Is sent into the province of Ligonus, which he gives a description of. His success in his mission. The stratagem of the monks to encourage the soldiers. The author narrowly escapes being burned.

When I was to cross this river at Boad, I durst not venture myself on the floats I have already spoken of, but went up higher in hopes of finding a more commodious passage. I had with me three or four men that were reduced to the same difficulty with myself. In one part seeing people on the other side, and remarking that the water was shallow, and that the rocks and trees which grew very thick there contributed to facilitate the attempt, I leaped from one rock to another, till I reached the opposite bank, to the great amazement of the natives themselves, who never had tried that way; my four companions followed me with the same success: and it hath been called since the passage of Father Jerome.

That province of the kingdom of Damot, which I was assigned to by my superior, is called Ligonus, and is perhaps one of the most beautiful and agreeable places in the world; the air is healthful and temperate, and all the mountains, which are not very high, shaded with cedars. They sow and reap here in every season, the ground is always producing, and the fruits ripen throughout the year; so great, so charming is the variety, that the whole region seems a garden laid out and cultivated only to please. I doubt whether even the imagination of a painter has yet conceived a landscape as beautiful as I have seen. The forests have nothing uncouth or savage, and seem only planted for shade and coolness. Among a prodigious number of trees which fill them, there is one kind which I have seen in no other place, and to which we have none that bears any resemblance. This tree, which the natives call ensete, is wonderfully useful; its leaves, which are so large as to cover a man, make hangings for rooms, and serve the inhabitants instead of linen for their tables and carpets. They grind the branches and the thick parts of the leaves, and when they are mingled with milk, find them a delicious food. The trunk and the roots are even more nourishing than the leaves or branches, and the meaner people, when they go a journey, make no provision of any other victuals. The word ensete signifies the tree against hunger, or the poor's tree, though the most wealthy often eat of it. If it be cut down within half a foot of the ground and several incisions made in the stump, each will put out a new sprout, which, if transplanted, will take root and grow to a tree. The Abyssins report that this tree when it is cut down groans like a man, and, on this account, call cutting down an ensete killing it. On the top grows a bunch of five or six figs, of a taste not very agreeable, which they set in the ground to produce more trees.

I stayed two months in the province of Ligonus, and during that time procured a church to be built of hewn stone, roofed and wainscoted with cedar, which is the most considerable in the whole country. My continual employment was the duties of the mission, which I was always practising in some part of the province, not indeed with any extraordinary success at first, for I found the people inflexibly obstinate in their opinions, even to so great a degree, that when I first published the Emperor's edict requiring all his subjects to renounce their errors, and unite themselves to the Roman Church, there were some monks who, to the number of sixty, chose rather to die by throwing themselves headlong from a precipice than obey their sovereign's commands: and in a battle fought between these people that adhered to the religion of their ancestors, and the troops of Sultan Segued, six hundred religious, placing themselves at the head of their men, marched towards the Catholic army with the stones of the altars upon their heads, assuring their credulous followers that the Emperor's troops would immediately at the sight of those stones fall into disorder and turn their backs; but, as they were some of the first that fell, their death had a great influence upon the people to undeceive them, and make them return to the truth. Many were converted after the battle, and when they had embraced the Catholic faith, adhered to that with the same constancy and firmness with which they had before persisted in their errors.

The Emperor had sent a viceroy into this province, whose firm attachment to the Roman Church, as well as great abilities in military affairs, made him a person very capable of executing the orders of the Emperor, and of suppressing any insurrection that might be raised, to prevent those alterations in religion which they were designed to promote: a farther view in the choice of so warlike a deputy was that a stop might be put to the inroads of the Galles, who had killed one viceroy, and in a little time after killed this.

It was our custom to meet together every year about Christmas, not only that we might comfort and entertain each other, but likewise that we might relate the progress and success of our missions, and concert all measures that might farther the conversion of the inhabitants. This year our place of meeting was the Emperor's camp, where the patriarch and superior of the missions were. I left the place of my abode, and took in my way four fathers, that resided at the distance of two days' journey, so that the company, without reckoning our attendants, was five. There happened nothing remarkable to us till the last night of our journey, when taking up our lodging at a place belonging to the Empress, a declared enemy to all Catholics, and in particular to the missionaries, we met with a kind reception in appearance, and were lodged in a large stone house covered with wood and straw, which had stood uninhabited so long, that great numbers of red ants had taken possession of it; these, as soon as we were laid down, attacked us on all sides, and tormented us so incessantly that we were obliged to call up our domestics. Having burnt a prodigious number of these troublesome animals, we tried to compose ourselves again, but had scarce closed our eyes before we were awakened by the fire that had seized our lodging. Our servants, who were fortunately not all gone to bed, perceived the fire as soon as it began, and informed me, who lay nearest the door. I immediately alarmed all the rest, and nothing was thought of but how to save ourselves and the little goods we had, when, to our great astonishment, we found one of the doors barricaded in such a manner that we could not open it. Nothing now could have prevented our perishing in the flames had not those who kindled them omitted to fasten that door near which I was lodged. We were no longer in doubt that the inhabitants of the town had laid a train, and set fire to a neighbouring house, in order to consume us; their measures were so well laid, that the house was in ashes in an instant, and three of our beds were burnt which the violence of the flame would not allow us to carry away. We spent the rest of the night in the most dismal apprehensions, and found next morning that we had justly charged the inhabitants with the design of destroying us, for the place was entirely abandoned, and those that were conscious of the crime had fled from the punishment. We continued our journey, and came to Gorgora, where we found the fathers met, and the Emperor with them.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters