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ABOUT A BYSSINI A.
(By the author of “ The Commoner's Daughter".)
When Bruce, the traveller, first gave to the, the rbinoceros, the lion, and the tiger-which world the result of his African explorings, his inhabit the same woods, fly from its approach assertions were viewed as belonging to the in utter terror and dismay. In size it is little Munchausen school. Recent narrations, how larger than a bee, but of thicker proportions. ever, have shown that more credence is due When its buzzing, monotonous sound is heard, tban has hitherto been accorded to this writer. all the cattle forsake their food, and run wildly Unquestionably Bruce threw a doubt over his about the plain till they die, worn out with own veracity by the committal of a fault only fright, fatigue, and hunger; some, with wiser too prevalent among those who, for the first instinct, hasten down to the sands at Atbara, time, visit countries but little known: that and there abide while the rains continue. These fault consisting in the practice of setting down floods set in about the month of May, continuisolated instances, induced by peculiar cir- ing for some length of time, at which period this cumstances, as the every day habits and routine ravaging, noxious insect gives up the pursuit of of the people. Belonging to this mistake, was its victims. Even the camel, with a thick skin Bruce's well-known anecdote of the steak cut and a body defended with strong hair, is incafrom the live cow. There is now little doubt pable of enduring, with impunity, the punctures that this is sometimes done when cattle bave made by the fly with its pointed proboscis. been stolen or taken in foray, for these Abys-Once attacked, the camel's body, head, and sinians in their predatory habits seem strangely legs break out in large abscesses, which swell, to resemble the old reiving Highlanders of Scot- break, and putrcfy, terminating in the animal's land. Thus, when a cow has been obtained by lingering and cruel death. this means, they who drive her, if fasting, have Impenetrable jungles, treacherous and pesbut this choice-either to kill the beast, or act tiferous morasses, perpendicular mountains, as Bruce bas described : if they slay her, they narrow gorges, arid deserts, brackish—or else would have to carry home the remains, or else wells positively poisonous, and, though last not leave the carcase to the animals of prey, ever least, reptiles and insects of a truly diabolical ready to seize on the living or the dead; in power of torture, we are told, form an impassiconsequence they employ an alternative, which ble barrier to an invading army. Food, too, is probably appears no worse to them than our scanty in this country, and but little varied ; fish-vendors' experience in skinning live eels, badly-baked bread and milk appear to be the crimping skate, or boiling living crabs and staple commodities, and travellers tell us they lobsters. Allowing Bruce's truth in this solitary have often been reduced to a diet of bread and instance, other things relating to Abyssinian pepper for whole days. Honey occasionally may practices told by him have since been tested I be purchased, but with difficulty, for it is by modern experience. Exploring, indeed, is so esteemed the choicest of luxuries. fatal in an African climate, that but few Eu- The people of Abyssinia are divided into ropeans survive to give us the fruits of their tribes, and live much in the manner described trials and hazards. Fever commonly attacks in Holy Writ. We are told, moreover, that the adventurer, and boils afflict him, which, if they are descended from Cham or Ham, the son neglected, mortify, and death puts an end of Noah, and that there were sixty-two reigns alike to his tortures and anticipated discoveries. between Cham and Basilides, among whom Even if he recovers from the fever, the constitu- were some remarkable women. Chief among tion rarely surmounts the shock it receives; and these was Sheba, the visitor, and, according to crocodiles and dysentery are evils which even the scandalous tradition, the mistress of Solomon most prudent and cautious are unable to evade. during her sojourn at his Court. From the Then there exists a formidable plague in the issue of this connexion King Theodore, like all tsaltsalya or Abyssinian fly : this apparently his predecessors, pretends to be descended. At contemptible and insignificant insect, has the one time the Abyssinian empire comprised forty power to terrify huge animals—the elephant, I provinces, and extended from Congo to the Red Sea, and from Egypt to the Indian Ocean. It charges his piece hap-bazard. The women has, however, gradually dwindled, till now it is wear a large loose garment to the feet, and when of about the extent of Spain. The country is out of doors a cloak or quarry similar to that capable of producing the same provisions as worn by the men: women of rank and wealth Portugal; but the natives are so inert and idle, wear a profusion of silver ornaments. The wild that these are very small in quantity. They eat and domestic animals comprise leopards, lions, no wild or water fowl, not even the goose, wbich byænas, jackals, monkeys, mules, asses, horses, is deemed a delicacy in Egypt. This may be &c. As for the moral attributes of the Abys. attributed to their having adopted some of the sinians, this people may be said to possess most Mosaic laws, The Abyssinians remain in spots, of the vices of civilization, but are almost destifavourable for pasturage, till the herds have ex- | tute of its advantages. They have scarcely hausted the vegetation, and then migrate to any natural affections. Their cruelties are another. Their villages are built near the sum- atrocious, and if we engage in warfare with mits of hills, to prevent the sudden attack of them, we may expect to hear of deeds similar enemies, or to preserve them from the malaria to those practised in the time of the Indian 80 prevalent in low valleys. The mountains are mutiny. They have not even the savage virtues among the most remarkable features of the of sincerity and courage, and their morality is country; these, almost naturally impregnable, at the lowest ebb. The kings of Abyssinia are are easily converted into fortresses not easily | held to be above all laws, human or divine. approached or taken, save by cunning or strata- Stoning to death is a common form of capital gem; for example, the fortress of Hamarat, punishment among them. Crucifixion and flay. which is considered one of the strongest in ing alive are things also greatly in vogue among Abyssinia. A viceroy of the country, Ras these interesting fellow-Christians. Those of Welda Setassy, laid siege to this mountain, and, the people destined for the priesthood, only unable to obtain it by force, blockaded it for learn to read a part of the Bible; then the seven years,
neophite priest collects (by begging) as much The prevailing religion of the Abyssinians is money as will enable him to make a pilgrimage Christianity, and, it need hardly be added, a Chris. by Massana and Cairo to Jerusalem. From tianity gross and superstitious as the worst form this tour he brings back a vast amount of of Paganism. Frumentius brought the gospel | hypocrisy, seotarianism, and a thorough prointo Abyssinia in the year of our Lord 330. ficiency in destructive vices. We can better The inhabitants relate many legends of the understand some of St. Paul's epistles when Apostles, and, according to the number of their we are well acquainted with the practices of churches, this people ought to be eminently Abyssinian Christians. religious; but they seem rather to verify the The writer has so far endeavoured to give a old proverb of “The nearer the churches the sketch of the nation with whom England is at further from God." Every great chief in the present embroiled-it must be owned, partially country considers he amply atones for all his through the want of courtesy displayed by the sins if he leaves a fund to build a church. | English Government when Queen Victoria re. These churches are round, with thatched roofs ; ceived a missive from King Theodore contain: generally they are placed conspicuously on the ing a proposal, on the part of the Abyssinian top of a hill. They seem to have retained much Monarch, for the hand of Her Majesty. Hop. of the ceremonial law of the Jews. Moham ever preposterous such a proposition may (and medanism also abounds, and the hatred be- | does) seem in English eyes, the true policy tween Abyssinian Christians and Abyssinian would have been to consider the gross bar. followers of Mohomet is intense. The native barism and want of knowledge of the King, dress of the men especially those of high and to have conveyed the Queen's rejection in quality -- though simple, is imposing: the courteous and cautious terms. No answer at drawers, which vary with taste, reach nearly all at that time was sent, and the Consul to the knee : according to their length (Capt. Cameron), his secretary, Capt. Ca. they are called calliss and coumta. A belt meron's three servants, Mr. Bardel (a painter of cotton, containing from fifteen to sixty | Messrs. Schiller and Ester (natural historians yards, and the quarry or mantle, usually of and collectors), and four missionaries, with two fine cotton, sometimes, however, of furs, ladies (the wives of the missionaries) and three or ornamented velvet, completes the Abyssinian children belonging to them, were seized upon dress. The mantle seems to bear some affinity by the King. A missionary, however, was to the ancient Roman toga. The equipments despatched to England to demand ransom for are the spear, the shield, and the sword. The the captives; and Mr. Rassam, who had been obield is usually decorated with a lion's mane sent to Abyssinia to act on behalf of the Queen and tail. The gword is two-edged, like a sickle, of England in obtaining the release of the un. and is worn mostly on the right side. The lance fortunate captiven, was left in his place. Mr. is about six feet six inches in length, and in Rassam had been the bearer of a conciliatory general, an Abyssinian who is the owner of a letter from Queen Victoria, on receipt of which steed must either be a rich man or a distin King Theodore appeared highly gratified, and guished warrior. When the Abyssinian carries immediately ordered the release of his prisoners, a gun, he prefers a large and heavy one, but he making thom handsome presents, and treating is awkward in the use of it, and invariably them in a kind and friendly manner. Presently, however, the royal mind altered; the wily savage pistols and an English sword-over all, the feared if he allowed the poor victims of his in- chama or embroidered toga, is his habitual justice to depart, he should get no ransom. costume. A disdain of luxury governs all his
Captain Cameron had an enemy at Court acts. The furniture of his tent is of the simplest, one Barbel, a Frenchman, formerly the Consul's while his residences at Magdala and Dobrasecretary; and it is supposed that this man put Tabor are loaded with silks and stuffs from into the King's mind the suspicion that the France and India. In the field he wears the English Government were entering into an coarse black infantry buckler, while by his side alliance with the Egyptians hostile to himself. 'trots the page charged with his state-shield, Mr. Flad, the missionary, was desired to go to covered with blue velvet scattered with imperial England to obtain the ransom, the prisoners lilies. That which at first is most striking in being still retained as hostages, Theodore de- Theodore, is a happy combination of suppleness manding that a number of artificers should be vnd force, especially of force. Born proud, sent to him to teach his subjects the way to aiolent, and inclined to pleasure, he commands make guns, rifles, and ammunition. He re- his passions so that they never make him overquired also a small steam-engine, proper tools step the limits he has marked out for himself, and instruments, gunpowder, caps, double. He has been accused of drunkenness, and on barrelled guns and pistols, and a quantity of this subject the late French Consul has collected carpets, silks, tumblers of glass, and goblets. some information. He is very sober, eats little, The English Government acceded to these de- drinks more, but never up to any marked overmands, requiring only that the captives should excitement, far less to coarse drunkenness. be released, on the ground that it was contrary Women have never had the least influence over to the custom of civilized nations to retain as a his public life, excepting his first wife, the good prisoner any person accredited as an ambassador, and regretted Tzeobedje, for whom he had a or any of his attendants. To this the King ob- sort of worship. She had been the faithful jected, writing many letters with specious ex- companion of his days of trial; and when he lost cuses. The accusations he makes against his her, seven or eight years ago, he saw in this prisoners are, that Consul Cameron went to death a chastisement which heaven inflicted on Rasala, to his enemies the Turks, and that he him for having burnt a woman alive at Godjam. had given him a letter addressed to the Queen Tzeobedje had kept him in the simple life and of England, to which no answer bad been re. pious practices of an Abyssinian of the olden turned-against the missionaries and others, time. A second marriage-one of ambition has that they had abused him; and the rest, he been the indirect cause of the irregularities he says, he imprisoned, because they were in com- has since made public. To put an end to the pany with the others. The conduct of the pretensions of the family of Oubie, he married, King towards his prisoners seems to have re-six years ago, the daughter of that chief, sembled that of a cat towards the mice she the young and beautiful Teroneche, who catches. One day the captives were chained throughout Abyssinia had the reputation of in the cruellest manner; the next day he would being an accomplished princess. Witty and order their fetters to be removed, and every charming, she had scarce any defect but kindness lavished on them. Mr. Rassam has the obstinate pride, which is a very general received from the King in money and presents drawback with Abyssinians of high rank. For the value of 25,000 German crowns; Consul two or three years the most perfect union Cameron about that of 3,000 ditto. The latter reigned in the royal household. The King had gentleman's view of the case is, that the King for his graceful partner a tenderness in which will never release them for mere presents, but | pride had no small part; and when she had regards them as valuable capital, and will work given him a son, he assembled all the grandees this new mine as far as possible. If our expe- at a theatrical féte, and showed them the newdition meets with success, there is little doubt born, saying, “ Behold him who will reign over that King Theodore will find his deserts. you!" It is, however, doubtful, whether the A description of this singular monarch, pub- guests took seriously an observation against lished last year by a gentleman who was for which the eldest sons of the king had a right to some time Vice-Consulat Massowah, may protest. One day, on the occasion of the not be amiss by way of conclusion.
Easter fétes, Teroneche asked her husband for “ The man on whose head now rests the lot the pardon of some Tig'nan chiefs, kept in irons of Abyssinia is forty-six years of age : he is of for their attachment to Oubie. This legitimate average stature, of imposing carriage, and of demand excited in the highest degree the susan open and sympathetic physiognomy. His | picions of the irrritable King. What do you features, less regular than those of most Abys- mean?' he asked. “Do you prefer your father sinians, are expressive and changeable, and to me?' " Perhaps I do!' answered the have none of that borrowed dignity which haughty Princess. She had scarcely spoken marks certain oriental faces with solemn insig when a violent blow fell on her cheek. Bell, nificance. The look is lively and piercing; the who wished to intervene, received another. distinct lines of the profile well express the firm Oubie, who since the marriage had been rewill which has enthralled the freest and least stored to favour, was placed in irons, and has docile people of the East. A soldier's coat, a not since recovered his liberty, moreover the pair of trousers, and a belt, from which hang King, to inflict a deadly blow on his wife, took