Mahomet continues the war, and is killed. The stratagem of Peter Leon.
Mahomet, that he might make the best use of his victory, ranged over a great part of Abyssinia in search of the Emperor Claudius, who was then in the kingdom of Dambia. All places submitted to the Mahometan, whose insolence increased every day with his power; and nothing after the defeat of the Portuguese was supposed able to put a stop to the progress of his arms.
The soldiers of Portugal, having lost their chief, resorted to the Emperor, who, though young, promised great things, and told them that since their own general was dead, they would accept of none but himself. He received them with great kindness, and hearing of Don Christopher de Gama's misfortune, could not forbear honouring with some tears the memory of a man who had come so far to his succour, and lost his life in his cause.
The Portuguese, resolved at any rate to revenge the fate of their general, desired the Emperor to assign them the post opposite to Mahomet, which was willingly granted them. That King, flushed with his victories, and imagining to fight was undoubtedly to conquer, sought all occasions of giving the Abyssins battle. The Portuguese, who desired nothing more than to re-establish their reputation by revenging the affront put upon them by the late defeat, advised the Emperor to lay hold on the first opportunity of fighting. Both parties joined battle with equal fury. The Portuguese directed all their force against that part where Mahomet was posted. Peter Leon, who had been servant to the general, singled the King out among the crowd, and shot him into the head with his musket. Mahomet, finding himself wounded, would have retired out of the battle, and was followed by Peter Leon, till he fell down dead; the Portuguese, alighting from his horse, cut off one of his ears. The Moors being now without a leader, continued the fight but a little time, and at length fled different ways in the utmost disorder; the Abyssinians pursued them, and made a prodigious slaughter. One of them, seeing the King's body on the ground, cut off his head and presented it to the Emperor. The sight of it filled the whole camp with acclamations; every one applauded the valour and good fortune of the Abyssin, and no reward was thought great enough for so important a service. Peter Leon, having stood by some time, asked whether the King had but one ear? if he had two, says he, it seems likely that the man who killed him cut off one and keeps it as a proof of his exploit. The Abyssin stood confused, and the Portuguese produced the ear out of his pocket. Every one commended the stratagem; and the Emperor commanded the Abyssin to restore all the presents he had received, and delivered them with many more to Peter Leon.
I imagined the reader would not be displeased to be informed who this man was, whose precious remains were searched for by a viceroy of Tigre, at the command of the Emperor himself. The commission was directed to me, nor did I ever receive one that was more welcome on many accounts. I had contracted an intimate friendship with the Count de Vidigueira, viceroy of the Indies, and had been desired by him, when I took my leave of him, upon going to Melinda, to inform myself where his relation was buried, and to send him some of his relics.
The viceroy, son-in-law to the Emperor, with whom I was joined in the commission, gave me many distinguishing proofs of his affection to me, and of his zeal for the Catholic religion. It was a journey of fifteen days through part of the country possessed by the Galles, which made it necessary to take troops with us for our security; yet, notwithstanding this precaution, the hazard of the expedition appeared so great, that our friends bid us farewell with tears, and looked upon us as destined to unavoidable destruction. The viceroy had given orders to some troops to join us on the road, so that our little army grew stronger as we advanced. There is no making long marches in this country; an army here is a great city well peopled and under exact government: they take their wives and children with them, and the camp hath its streets, its market places, its churches, courts of justice, judges, and civil officers.
Before they set forward, they advertise the governors of provinces through which they are to pass, that they may take care to furnish what is necessary for the subsistence of the troops. These governors give notice to the adjacent places that the army is to march that way on such a day, and that they are assessed such a quantity of bread, beer, and cows. The peasants are very exact in supplying their quota, being obliged to pay double the value in case of failure; and very often when they have produced their full share, they are told that they have been deficient, and condemned to buy their peace with a large fine.
When the providore has received these contributions, he divides them according to the number of persons, and the want they are in: the proportion they observe in this distribution is twenty pots of beer, ten of mead, and one cow to a hundred loaves. The chief officers and persons of note carry their own provisions with them, which I did too, though I afterwards found the precaution unnecessary, for I had often two or three cows more than I wanted, which I bestowed on those whose allowance fell short.
The Abyssins are not only obliged to maintain the troops in their march, but to repair the roads, to clear them, especially in the forests, of brambles and thorns, and by all means possible to facilitate the passage of the army. They are, by long custom, extremely ready at encamping. As soon as they come to a place they think convenient to halt at, the officer that commands the vanguard marks out with his pike the place for the King's or viceroy's tent: every one knows his rank, and how much ground he shall take up; so the camp is formed in an instant.Next