Printer Friendly

Chapter IX 

The viceroy is defeated and hanged. The author narrowly escapes being poisoned.

I did not stay long at Fremona, but left that town and the province of Tigre, and soon found that I was very happy in that resolution, for scarce had I left the place before the viceroy came in person to put me to death, who, not finding me, as he expected, resolved to turn all his vengeance against the father Gaspard Paes, a venerable man, who was grown grey in the missions of Aethiopia, and five other missionaries newly arrived from the Indies; his design was to kill them all at one time without suffering any to escape; he therefore sent for them all, but one happily being sick, another stayed to attend him; to this they owed their lives, for the viceroy, finding but four of them, sent them back, telling them he would see them all together. The fathers, having been already told of his revolt, and of the pretences he made use of to give it credit, made no question of his intent to massacre them, and contrived their escape so that they got safely out of his power.

The viceroy, disappointed in his scheme, vented all his rage upon Father James, whom the patriarch had given him as his confessor; the good man was carried, bound hand and foot, into the middle of the camp; the viceroy gave the first stab in the throat, and all the rest struck him with their lances, and dipped their weapons in his blood, promising each other that they would never accept of any act of oblivion or terms of peace by which the Catholic religion was not abolished throughout the empire, and all those who professed it either banished or put to death. They then ordered all the beads, images, crosses, and relics which the Catholics made use of to be thrown into the fire.

The anger of God was now ready to fall upon his head for these daring and complicated crimes; the Emperor had already confiscated all his goods, and given the government of the kingdom of Tigre to Keba Christos, a good Catholic, who was sent with a numerous army to take possession of it. As both armies were in search of each other, it was not long before they came to a battle. The revolted viceroy Tecla Georgis placed all his confidence in the Galles, his auxiliaries. Keba Christos, who had marched with incredible expedition to hinder the enemy from making any intrenchments, would willingly have refreshed his men a few days before the battle, but finding the foe vigilant, thought it not proper to stay till he was attacked, and therefore resolved to make the first onset; then presenting himself before his army without arms and with his head uncovered, assured them that such was his confidence in God's protection of those that engaged in so just a cause, that though he were in that condition and alone, he would attack his enemies.

The battle began immediately, and of all the troops of Tecla Georgis only the Galles made any resistance, the rest abandoned him without striking a blow. The unhappy commander, seeing all his squadrons broken, and three hundred of the Galles, with twelve ecclesiastics, killed on the spot, hid himself in a cave, where he was found three days afterwards, with his favourite and a monk. When they took him, they cut off the heads of his two companions in the field, and carried him to the Emperor; the procedure against him was not long, and he was condemned to be burnt alive. Then imagining that, if he embraced the Catholic faith, the intercession of the missionaries, with the entreaties of his wife and children, might procure him a pardon, he desired a Jesuit to hear his confession, and abjured his errors. The Emperor was inflexible both to the entreaties of his daughter and the tears of his grand-children, and all that could be obtained of him was that the sentence should be mollified, and changed into a condemnation to be hanged. Tecla Georgis renounced his abjuration, and at his death persisted in his errors. Adero, his sister, who had borne the greatest share in his revolt, was hanged on the same tree fifteen days after.

I arrived not long after at the Emperor's court, and had the honour of kissing his hands; but stayed not long in a place where no missionary ought to linger, unless obliged by the most pressing necessity: but being ordered by my superiors into the kingdom of Damote, I set out on my journey, and on the road was in great danger of losing my life by my curiosity of tasting a herb, which I found near a brook, and which, though I had often heard of it, I did not know. It bears a great resemblance to our radishes; the leaf and colour were beautiful, and the taste not unpleasant. It came into my mind when I began to chew it that perhaps it might be that venomous herb against which no antidote had yet been found, but persuading myself afterwards that my fears were merely chimerical, I continued to chew it, till a man accidentally meeting me, and seeing me with a handful of it, cried out to me that I was poisoned; I had happily not swallowed any of it, and throwing out what I had in my mouth, I returned God thanks for this instance of his protection.

I crossed the Nile the first time in my journey to the kingdom of Damote; my passage brought into my mind all that I had read either in ancient or modern writers of this celebrated river; I recollected the great expenses at which some Emperors had endeavoured to gratify their curiosity of knowing the sources of this mighty stream, which nothing but their little acquaintance with the Abyssins made so difficult to be found. I passed the river within two days' journey of its head, near a wide plain, which is entirely laid under water when it begins to overflow the banks. Its channel is even here so wide, that a ball-shot from a musket can scarce reach the farther bank. Here is neither boat nor bridge, and the river is so full of hippopotami, or river-horses, and crocodiles, that it is impossible to swim over without danger of being devoured. The only way of passing it is upon floats, which they guide as well as they can with long poles. Nor is even this way without danger, for these destructive animals overturn the floats, and tear the passengers in pieces. The river horse, which lives only on grass and branches of trees, is satisfied with killing the men, but the crocodile being more voracious, feeds upon the carcases.

But since I am arrived at the banks of this renowned river, which I have passed and repassed so many times; and since all that I have read of the nature of its waters, and the causes of its overflowing, is full of fables, the reader may not be displeased to find here an account of what I saw myself, or was told by the inhabitants.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |