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Chapter VIII 


The viceroy is offended by his wife. He complains to the Emperor, but without redress. He meditates a revolt, raises an army, and makes an attempt to seize upon the author.

We continued our march, and the viceroy having been advertised that some troops had appeared in a hostile manner on the frontiers, went against them. I parted from him, and arrived at Fremona, where the Portuguese expected me with great impatience. I reposited the bones of Don Christopher de Gama in a decent place, and sent them the May following to the viceroy of the Indies, together with his arms, which had been presented me by a gentleman of Abyssinia, and a picture of the Virgin Mary, which that gallant Portuguese always carried about him.

The viceroy, during all the time he was engaged in this expedition, heard very provoking accounts of the bad conduct of his wife, and complained of it to the Emperor, entreating him either to punish his daughter himself, or to permit him to deliver her over to justice, that, if she was falsely accused, she might have an opportunity of putting her own honour and her husband's out of dispute. The Emperor took little notice of his son-in-law's remonstrances; and, the truth is, the viceroy was somewhat more nice in that matter than the people of rank in this country generally are. There are laws, it is true, against adultery, but they seem to have been only for the meaner people, and the women of quality, especially the ouzoros, or ladies of the blood royal, are so much above them, that their husbands have not even the liberty of complaining; and certainly to support injuries of this kind without complaining requires a degree of patience which few men can boast of. The viceroy's virtue was not proof against this temptation. He fell into a deep melancholy, and resolved to be revenged on his father-in-law. He knew the present temper of the people, that those of the greatest interest and power were by no means pleased with the changes of religion, and only waited for a fair opportunity to revolt; and that these discontents were everywhere heightened by the monks and clergy. Encouraged by these reflections, he was always talking of the just reasons he had to complain of the Emperor, and gave them sufficient room to understand that if they would appear in his party, he would declare himself for the ancient religion, and put himself at the head of those who should take arms in the defence of it. The chief and almost the only thing that hindered him from raising a formidable rebellion, was the mutual distrust they entertained of one another, each fearing that as soon as the Emperor should publish an act of grace, or general amnesty, the greatest part would lay down their arms and embrace it; and this suspicion was imagined more reasonable of the viceroy than of any other. Notwithstanding this difficulty, the priests, who interested themselves much in this revolt, ran with the utmost earnestness from church to church, levelling their sermons against the Emperor and the Catholic religion; and that they might have the better success in putting a stop to all ecclesiastical innovations, they came to a resolution of putting all the missionaries to the sword; and that the viceroy might have no room to hope for a pardon, they obliged him to give the first wound to him that should fall into his hands.

As I was the nearest, and by consequence the most exposed, an order was immediately issued out for apprehending me, it being thought a good expedient to seize me, and force me to build a citadel, into which they might retreat if they should happen to meet with a defeat. The viceroy wrote to me to desire that I would come to him, he having, as he said, an affair of the highest importance to communicate.

The frequent assemblies which the viceroy held had already been much talked of; and I had received advice that he was ready for a revolt, and that my death was to be the first signal of an open war. Knowing that the viceroy had made many complaints of the treatment he received from his father-in-law, I made no doubt that he had some ill design in hand; and yet could scarce persuade myself that after all the tokens of friendship I had received from him he would enter into any measures for destroying me. While I was yet in suspense, I despatched a faithful servant to the viceroy with my excuse for disobeying him; and gave the messenger strict orders to observe all that passed, and bring me an exact account.

This affair was of too great moment not to engage my utmost endeavours to arrive at the most certain knowledge of it, and to advertise the court of the danger. I wrote, therefore, to one of our fathers, who was then near the Emperor, the best intelligence I could obtain of all that had passed, of the reports that were spread through all this part of the empire, and of the disposition which I discovered in the people to a general defection; telling him, however, that I could not yet believe that the viceroy, who had honoured me with his friendship, and of whom I never had any thought but how to oblige him, could now have so far changed his sentiments as to take away my life.

The letters which I received by my servant, and the assurances he gave that I need fear nothing, for that I was never mentioned by the viceroy without great marks of esteem, so far confirmed me in my error, that I went from Fremona with a resolution to see him. I did not reflect that a man who could fail in his duty to his King, his father-in-law, and his benefactor, might, without scruple, do the same to a stranger, though distinguished as his friend; and thus sanguine and unsuspecting continued my journey, still receiving intimation from all parts to take care of myself. At length, when I was within a few days' journey of the viceroy, I received a billet in more plain and express terms than anything I had been told yet, charging me with extreme imprudence in putting myself into the hands of those men who had undoubtedly sworn to cut me off.

I began, upon this, to distrust the sincerity of the viceroy's professions, and resolved, upon the receipt of another letter from the viceroy, to return directly. In this letter, having excused himself for not waiting for my arrival, he desired me in terms very strong and pressing to come forward, and stay for him at his own house, assuring me that he had given such orders for my entertainment as should prevent my being tired with living there. I imagined at first that he had left some servants to provide for my reception, but being advertised at the same time that there was no longer any doubt of the certainty of his revolt, that the Galles were engaged to come to his assistance, and that he was gone to sign a treaty with them, I was no longer in suspense what measures to take, but returned to Fremona.

Here I found a letter from the Emperor, which prohibited me to go out, and the orders which he had sent through all these parts, directing them to arrest me wherever I was found, and to hinder me from proceeding on my journey. These orders came too late to contribute to my preservation, and this prince's goodness had been in vain, if God, whose protection I have often had experience of in my travels, had not been my conductor in this emergency.

The viceroy, hearing that I was returned to my residence, did not discover any concern or chagrin as at a disappointment, for such was his privacy and dissimulation that the most penetrating could never form any conjecture that could be depended on, about his designs, till everything was ready for the execution of them. My servant, a man of wit, was surprised as well as everybody else; and I can ascribe to nothing but a miracle my escape from so many snares as he laid to entrap me.

There happened during this perplexity of my affairs an accident of small consequence in itself, which yet I think deserves to be mentioned, as it shows the credulity and ignorance of the Abyssins. I received a visit from a religious, who passed, though he was blind, for the most learned person in all that country. He had the whole Scriptures in his memory, but seemed to have been at more pains to retain them than understand them; as he talked much he often took occasion to quote them, and did it almost always improperly. Having invited him to sup and pass the night with me, I set before him some excellent mead, which he liked so well as to drink somewhat beyond the bounds of exact temperance. Next day, to make some return for his entertainment, he took upon him to divert me with some of those stories which the monks amuse simple people with, and told me of a devil that haunted a fountain, and used to make it his employment to plague the monks that came thither to fetch water, and continued his malice till he was converted by the founder of their order, who found him no very stubborn proselyte till they came to the point of circumcision; the devil was unhappily prepossessed with a strong aversion from being circumcised, which, however, by much persuasion, he at last agreed to, and afterwards taking a religious habit, died ten years after with great signs of sanctity. He added another history of a famous Abyssinian monk, who killed a devil two hundred feet high, and only four feet thick, that ravaged all the country; the peasants had a great desire to throw the dead carcase from the top of a rock, but could not with all their force remove it from the place, but the monk drew it after him with all imaginable ease and pushed it down. This story was followed by another, of a young devil that became a religious of the famous monastery of Aba Gatima. The good father would have favoured me with more relations of the same kind, if I had been in the humour to have heard them, but, interrupting him, I told him that all these relations confirmed what we had found by experience, that the monks of Abyssinia were no improper company for the devil.

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