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Chapter XIV 


They are betrayed into the hands of the Turks; are detained awhile at Mazna; are threatened by the Bassa of Suaquem. They agree for their ransom, and are part of them dismissed.

Some time after, we received news that we should prepare ourselves to serve the Turks--a message which filled us with surprise, it having never been known that one of these lords had ever abandoned any whom he had taken under his protection; and it is, on the contrary, one of the highest points of honour amongst them to risk their fortunes and their lives in the defence of their dependants who have implored their protection. But neither law nor justice was of any advantage to us, and the customs of the country were doomed to be broken when they would have contributed to our security.

We were obliged to march in the extremity of the hot season, and had certainly perished by the fatigue had we not entered the woods, which shaded us from the scorching sun. The day before our arrival at the place where we were to be delivered to the Turks, we met with five elephants, that pursued us, and if they could have come to us would have prevented the miseries we afterwards endured, but God had decreed otherwise.

On the morrow we came to the banks of a river, where we found fourscore Turks that waited for us, armed with muskets. They let us rest awhile, and then put us into the hands of our new masters, who, setting us upon camels, conducted us to Mazna. Their commander, seeming to be touched with our misfortunes, treated us with much gentleness and humanity; he offered us coffee, which we drank, but with little relish. We came next day to Mazna, in so wretched a condition that we were not surprised at being hooted by the boys, but thought ourselves well used that they threw no stones at us.

As soon as we were brought hither, all we had was taken from us, and we were carried to the governor, who is placed there by the Bassa of Suaquem. Having been told by the Abyssins that we had carried all the gold out of Aethiopia, they searched us with great exactness, but found nothing except two chalices, and some relics of so little value that we redeemed them for six sequins. As I had given them my chalice upon their first demand, they did not search me, but gave us to understand that they expected to find something of greater value, which either we must have hidden or the Abyssins must have imposed on them. They left us the rest of the day at a gentleman's house, who was our friend, from whence the next day they fetched us to transport us to the island, where they put us into a kind of prison, with a view of terrifying us into a confession of the place where we had hid our gold, in which, however, they found themselves deceived.

But I had here another affair upon my hands which was near costing me dear. My servant had been taken from me and left at Mazna, to be sold to the Arabs. Being advertised by him of the danger he was in, I laid claim to him, without knowing the difficulties which this way of proceeding would bring upon me. The governor sent me word that my servant should be restored to me upon payment of sixty piastres; and being answered by me that I had not a penny for myself, and therefore could not pay sixty piastres to redeem my servant, he informed me by a renegade Jew, who negotiated the whole affair, that either I must produce the money or receive a hundred blows of the battoon. Knowing that those orders are without appeal, and always punctually executed, I prepared myself to receive the correction I was threatened with, but unexpectedly found the people so charitable as to lend me the money. By several other threats of the same kind they drew from us about six hundred crowns.

On the 24th of June we embarked in two galleys for Suaquem, where the bassa resided. His brother, who was his deputy at Mazna, made us promise before we went that we would not mention the money he had squeezed from us. The season was not very proper for sailing, and our provisions were but short. In a little time we began to feel the want of better stores, and thought ourselves happy in meeting with a gelve, which, though small, was a much better sailer than our vessel, in which I was sent to Suaquem to procure camels and provisions. I was not much at my ease, alone among six Mahometans, and could not help apprehending that some zealous pilgrim of Mecca might lay hold on this opportunity, in the heat of his devotion, of sacrificing me to his prophet.

These apprehensions were without ground. I contracted an acquaintance, which was soon improved into a friendship, with these people; they offered me part of their provisions, and I gave them some of mine. As we were in a place abounding with oysters--some of which were large and good to eat, others more smooth and shining, in which pearls are found--they gave me some of those they gathered; but whether it happened by trifling our time away in oyster- catching, or whether the wind was not favourable, we came to Suaquem later than the vessel I had left, in which were seven of my companions.

As they had first landed, they had suffered the first transports of the bassa's passion, who was a violent, tyrannical man, and would have killed his own brother for the least advantage--a temper which made him fly into the utmost rage at seeing us poor, tattered, and almost naked; he treated us with the most opprobrious language, and threatened to cut off our heads. We comforted ourselves in this condition, hoping that all our sufferings would end in shedding our blood for the name of Jesus Christ. We knew that the bassa had often made a public declaration before our arrival that he should die contented if he could have the pleasure of killing us all with his own hand. This violent resolution was not lasting; his zeal gave way to his avarice, and he could not think of losing so large a sum as he knew he might expect for our ransom: he therefore sent us word that it was in our choice either to die, or to pay him thirty thousand crowns, and demanded to know our determination.

We knew that his ardent thirst of our blood was now cold, that time and calm reflection and the advice of his friends had all conspired to bring him to a milder temper, and therefore willingly began to treat with him. I told the messenger, being deputed by the rest to manage the affair, that he could not but observe the wretched condition we were in, that we had neither money nor revenues, that what little we had was already taken from us, and that therefore all we could promise was to set a collection on foot, not much doubting but that our brethren would afford us such assistance as might enable us to make him a handsome present according to custom.

This answer was not at all agreeable to the bassa, who returned an answer that he would be satisfied with twenty thousand crowns, provided we paid them on the spot, or gave him good securities for the payment. To this we could only repeat what we had said before: he then proposed to abate five thousand of his last demand, assuring us that unless we came to some agreement, there was no torment so cruel but we should suffer it, and talked of nothing but impaling and flaying us alive; the terror of these threatenings was much increased by his domestics, who told us of many of his cruelties. This is certain, that some time before, he had used some poor pagan merchants in that manner, and had caused the executioner to begin to flay them, when some Brahmin, touched with compassion, generously contributed the sum demanded for their ransom. We had no reason to hope for so much kindness, and, having nothing of our own, could promise no certain sum.

At length some of his favourites whom he most confided in, knowing his cruelty and our inability to pay what he demanded, and apprehending that, if he should put us to the death he threatened, they should soon see the fleets of Portugal in the Red Sea, laying their towns in ashes to revenge it, endeavoured to soften his passion and preserve our lives, offering to advance the sum we should agree for, without any other security than our words. By this assistance, after many interviews with the bassa's agents, we agreed to pay four thousand three hundred crowns, which were accepted on condition that they should be paid down, and we should go on board within two hours: but, changing his resolution on a sudden, he sent us word by his treasurer that two of the most considerable among us should stay behind for security, while the rest went to procure the money they promised. They kept the patriarch and two more fathers, one of which was above fourscore years old, in whose place I chose to remain prisoner, and represented to the bassa that, being worn out with age, he perhaps might die in his hands, which would lose the part of the ransom which was due on his account; that therefore it would be better to choose a younger in his place, offering to stay myself with him, that the good old man might be set at liberty.

The bassa agreed to another Jesuit, and it pleased Heaven that the lot fell upon Father Francis Marquez. I imagined that I might with the same ease get the patriarch out of his hand, but no sooner had I begun to speak but the anger flashed in his eyes, and his look was sufficient to make me stop and despair of success. We parted immediately, leaving the patriarch and two fathers in prison, whom we embraced with tears, and went to take up our lodging on board the vessel.

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