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Chapter XV 

Their treatment on board the vessel. Their reception at Diou. The author applies to the viceroy for assistance, but without success; he is sent to solicit in Europe.

Our condition here was not much better than that of the illustrious captives whom we left behind. We were in an Arabian ship, with a crew of pilgrims of Mecca, with whom it was a point of religion to insult us. We were lodged upon the deck, exposed to all the injuries of the weather, nor was there the meanest workman or sailor who did not either kick or strike us. When we went first on board, I perceived a humour in my finger, which I neglected at first, till it spread over my hand and swelled up my arm, afflicting me with the most horrid torture. There was neither surgeon nor medicines to be had, nor could I procure anything to ease my pain but a little oil, with which I anointed my arm, and in time found some relief. The weather was very bad, and the wind almost always against us, and, to increase our perplexity, the whole crew, though Moors, were in the greatest apprehension of meeting any of those vessels which the Turks maintain in the strait of Babelmandel; the ground of their fear was that the captain had neglected the last year to touch at Moca, though he had promised. Thus we were in danger of falling into a captivity perhaps more severe than that we had just escaped from. While we were wholly engaged with these apprehensions, we discovered a Turkish ship and galley were come upon us. It was almost calm--at least, there was not wind enough to give us any prospect of escaping--so that when the galley came up to us, we thought ourselves lost without remedy, and had probably fallen into their hands had not a breeze sprung up just in the instant of danger, which carried us down the channel between the mainland and the isle of Babelmandel. I have already said that this passage is difficult and dangerous, which, nevertheless, we passed in the night, without knowing what course we held, and were transported at finding ourselves next morning out of the Red Sea and half a league from Babelmandel. The currents are here so violent that they carried us against our will to Cape Guardafui, where we sent our boats ashore for fresh water, which we began to be in great want of. The captain refused to give us any when we desired some, and treated us with great insolence, till, coming near the land, I spoke to him in a tone more lofty and resolute than I had ever done, and gave him to understand that when he touched at Diou he might have occasion for our interest. This had some effect upon him, and procured us a greater degree of civility than we had met with before.

At length after forty days' sailing we landed at Diou, where we were met by the whole city, it being reported that the patriarch was one of our number; for there was not a gentleman who was not impatient to have the pleasure of beholding that good man, now made famous by his labours and sufferings. It is not in my power to represent the different passions they were affected with at seeing us pale, meagre, without clothes--in a word, almost naked and almost dead with fatigue and ill-usage. They could not behold us in that miserable condition without reflecting on the hardships we had undergone, and our brethren then underwent, in Suaquem and Abyssinia. Amidst their thanks to God for our deliverance, they could not help lamenting the condition of the patriarch and the other missionaries who were in chains, or, at least, in the hands of professed enemies to our holy religion. All this did not hinder them from testifying in the most obliging manner their joy for our deliverance, and paying such honours as surprised the Moors, and made them repent in a moment of the ill-treatment they had shown us on board. One who had discovered somewhat more humanity than the rest thought himself sufficiently honoured when I took him by the hand and presented him to the chief officer of the custom house, who promised to do all the favours that were in his power.

When we passed by in sight of the fort, they gave us three salutes with their cannon, an honour only paid to generals. The chief men of the city, who waited for us on the shore, accompanied us through a crowd of people, whom curiosity had drawn from all parts of our college. Though our place of residence at Diou is one of the most beautiful in all the Indies, we stayed there only a few days, and as soon as we had recovered our fatigues went on board the ships that were appointed to convoy the northern fleet. I was in the admiral's. We arrived at Goa in some vessels bound for Camberia: here we lost a good old Abyssin convert, a man much valued in his order, and who was actually prior of his convent when he left Abyssinia, choosing rather to forsake all for religion than to leave the way of salvation, which God had so mercifully favoured him with the knowledge of.

We continued our voyage, and almost without stopping sailed by Surate and Damam, where the rector of the college came to see us, but so sea-sick that the interview was without any satisfaction on either side. Then landing at Bazaim we were received by our fathers with their accustomed charity, and nothing was thought of but how to put the unpleasing remembrance of our past labours out of our minds. Finding here an order of the Father Provineta to forbid those who returned from the missions to go any farther, it was thought necessary to send an agent to Goa with an account of the revolutions that had happened in Abyssinia and of the imprisonment of the patriarch. For this commission I was made choice of; and, I know not by what hidden degree of Providence, almost all affairs, whatever the success of them was, were transacted by me. All the coasts were beset by Dutch cruisers, which made it difficult to sail without running the hazard of being taken. I went therefore by land from Bazaim to Tana, where we had another college, and from thence to our house of Chaul. Here I hired a narrow light vessel, and, placing eighteen oars on a side, went close by the shore from Chaul to Goa, almost eighty leagues. We were often in danger of being taken, and particularly when we touched at Dabal, where a cruiser blocked up one of the channels through which ships usually sail; but our vessel requiring no great depth of water, and the sea running high, we went through the little channel, and fortunately escaped the cruiser. Though we were yet far from Goa, we expected to arrive there on the next morning, and rowed forward with all the diligence we could. The sea was calm and delightful, and our minds were at ease, for we imagined ourselves past danger; but soon found we had flattered ourselves too soon with security, for we came within sight of several barks of Malabar, which had been hid behind a point of land which we were going to double. Here we had been inevitably taken had not a man called to us from the shore and informed us that among those fishing-boats there, some crusiers would make us a prize. We rewarded our kind informer for the service he had done us, and lay by till night came to shelter us from our enemies. Then putting out our oars we landed at Goa next morning about ten, and were received at our college. It being there a festival day, each had something extraordinary allowed him; the choicest part of our entertainments was two pilchers, which were admired because they came from Portugal.

The quiet I began to enjoy did not make me lose the remembrance of my brethren whom I had left languishing among the rocks of Abyssinia, or groaning in the prisons of Suaquem, whom since I could not set at liberty without the viceroy's assistance, I went to implore it, and did not fail to make use of every motive which could have any influence.

I described in the most pathetic manner I could the miserable state to which the Catholic religion was reduced in a country where it had lately flourished so much by the labours of the Portuguese; I gave him in the strongest terms a representation of all that we had suffered since the death of Sultan Segued, how we had been driven out of Abyssinia, how many times they had attempted to take away our lives, in what manner we had been betrayed and given up to the Turks, the menaces we had been terrified with, the insults we had endured; I laid before him the danger the patriarch was in of being either impaled or flayed alive; the cruelty, insolence and avarice of the Bassa of Suaquem, and the persecution that the Catholics suffered in Aethiopia. I exhorted, I implored him by everything I thought might move him, to make some attempt for the preservation of those who had voluntarily sacrificed their lives for the sake of God. I made it appear with how much ease the Turks might be driven out of the Red Sea, and the Portuguese enjoy all the trade of those countries. I informed him of the navigation of that sea, and the situation of its ports; told him which it would be necessary to make ourselves masters of first, that we might upon any unfortunate encounter retreat to them. I cannot deny that some degree of resentment might appear in my discourse; for, though revenge be prohibited to Christians, I should not have been displeased to have had the Bassa of Suaquem and his brother in my hands, that I might have reproached them with the ill-treatment we had met with from them. This was the reason of my advising to make the first attack upon Mazna, to drive the Turks from thence, to build a citadel, and garrison it with Portuguese.

The viceroy listened with great attention to all I had to say, gave me a long audience, and asked me many questions. He was well pleased with the design of sending a fleet into that sea, and, to give a greater reputation to the enterprise, proposed making his son commander-in-chief, but could by no means be brought to think of fixing garrisons and building fortresses there; all he intended was to plunder all they could, and lay the towns in ashes.

I left no art of persuasion untried to convince him that such a resolution would injure the interests of Christianity, that to enter the Red Sea only to ravage the coasts would so enrage the Turks that they would certainly massacre all the Christian captives, and for ever shut the passage into Abyssinia, and hinder all communication with that empire. It was my opinion that the Portuguese should first establish themselves at Mazna, and that a hundred of them would be sufficient to keep the fort that should be built. He made an offer of only fifty, and proposed that we should collect those few Portuguese who were scattered over Abyssinia. These measures I could not approve.

At length, when it appeared that the viceroy had neither forces nor authority sufficient for this undertaking, it was agreed that I should go immediately into Europe, and represent at Rome and Madrid the miserable condition of the missions of Abyssinia. The viceroy promised that if I could procure any assistance, he would command in person the fleet and forces raised for the expedition, assuring that he thought he could not employ his life better than in a war so holy, and of so great an importance, to the propagation of the Catholic faith.

Encouraged by this discourse of the viceroy, I immediately prepared myself for a voyage to Lisbon, not doubting to obtain upon the least solicitation everything that was necessary to re-establish our mission.

Never had any man a voyage so troublesome as mine, or interrupted with such variety of unhappy accidents; I was shipwrecked on the coast of Natal, I was taken by the Hollanders, and it is not easy to mention the danger which I was exposed to both by land and sea before I arrived at Portugal.

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