Page images

first sight appear. To project daringly is, in diplomatic affairs. But it was known to in those countries, half the battle, and could all the authorities in the presidency that he Rochet have got hold of all the presents had diligently applied himself to the study which the Controller-general, M. Combes, of politics, and what was of far greater imand others, pretended to have brought to portance, concealed great depth of thought, the coast, he would certainly at all events far-seeing sagacity, and the capacity to dehave commenced the drama.

tect and counteract the most cunning deBut this of course was a little episode, vices of political Jesuitism, beneath a laughnot foreseen or contemplated either by M. ing and seemingly careless exterior. We Thiers or by M. Guizot. Their object was saw, therefore, that he was precisely the to extend, along the shores of Eastern Af-man to represent Great Britain in Abysrica, the chain of forts which they had es- sinia. His genius, comprehensive and vertablished ou the north and west, and which satile, was equally adapted to the pursuits it is confidently hoped in France will short- of peace and war, to the intrigues of the ly embrace Egypt. At the outset, com cabinet, and the fierce encounter of wild mercial objects only were ostensibly to be beasts in forest or jungle. His suite was effected by this policy. France was to se- numerous and well selected, including officure to itself a monopoly in all the produc- cers of high ability and scientific men tions of the interior of Africa conveyed by eminent for their attainments. From the caravans towards the Red Sea, through the moment of touching on the African coast, countries of Enarea, Kaffa, Kambat, Shoa, the varied powers of Major Harris's mind Gojam, and Amhara, up to the confines of were called into play. He had sometimes Senaar. What these productions are we to soothe, sometimes to menace and overneed scarcely enumerate in detail. It will awe the subtle and avaricious old sultan of be sufficient to mention the ostrich plumes, Tajúra; he had to bring his diplomatic arts the ivory, the rich dyes, the precious gums, to bear on the owners of mules and camels, the spices, the coffee, the gold, whether in more difficult ofttimes to treat with in the dust or in bars, the peltries, and the slaves, East than the Metternichs of the Durbar; which the lax consciences of our neighbors he had to reconcile hostile chiefs, to subwould have allowed them to smile upon in due the rancor and animosity of jealous their passage

from the land of their birth tribes; now to exercise the forbearance to Asiatic servitude. Upon this part of which the highest civilization teaches, and the subject it is unnecessary to dilate. The now to make an exhibition of those arts of government of India saw at once the great- destruction which repress the insolence of ness of the interests at stake, and after ma- the savage, and accustom his mind to acture deliberation determined upon despatch- quiesce in its own inferiority. In the poring an ambassador to the King of Southern tion of his work, which describes the cirAbyssinia. It should be observed, how- cumstances to which we have alluded. ever, that Sáhila Selássi, the prince in ques- Major Harris displays the skill of a praction, was still more eager to behold such a tised and popular writer. His account of mission set on foot than the Indian govern- the march through the burning deserts of ment itself, and while the idea was under the Adriel, from the Bay of Foulness to the discussion at Bombay, forwarded a letter, foot of the Abyssinian Alps, reports of which earnestly entreating that an ambassador reached us from time to time, is one rapid might be sent to him. The home govern- succession of glowing and gorgeous picment having been consulted upon the sub- tures, such as would be vainly sought for in ject, Lord Palmerston, always alive to the in the work of any other modern traveller. terest of commerce, approved of the de- Many of his landscapes are worthy of Sal. sign, and directed that an embassy should vator Rosa. The fire of the climate approceed without delay to the court of pears to be infused into the language which Shoa.

describes it. He spreads the burning caConsidering the number of able and dis- nopy of a tropical sky over the fancy of his tinguished men ever to be found in the reader, piles around him the rocks and premilitary and civil service of India, the gov- cipices crumbling beneath the rays of the ernment could be at no loss to find an able scorching sun, and renders him the compolitician to conduct the business of the panion of the thirsty caravan toiling in sulembassy. The choice, however, fell upon ien despair through the suffocating ravines Major Cornwallis Harris. This officer had and hollows which constitute the home of not previously, we believe, been engaged the cut-throat Danakil, Isah, and Mudaito

Bedouins. A tame style would have been soon refused the task, and after the first two absurd and offensive in delineating scenes miles they dropped fast in the rear. such as these. They required, to give them

“ Fanned by the fiery blast of the midnight verisimilitude, words analogous to them- sirocco, the cry for waier, uttered feebly and

with difficulty by numbers of parched throats

, selves, bold, picturesque, and strange, cal

now became incessant; and the supply of that culated to excite powerful emotions, to give precious element brought for the whole party birth to new associations, to raise and trans- Talling short of one gallon and a half, it was port the mind from the tranquil beauties of not long to be answered. A tiny cup of dilua temperate climate into the wild and terri- ted vinegar for a moment assuaging the burnble volcanic creations of that particular ing thirst which raged in the vitals, and consection of the torrid zone. To illustrate

sumed some of the more down-hearted, again

raised their drooping souls; but its effects our meaning we shall here introduce Major were transient

, and after struggling a few Harris's account of his passage along the steps, overwhelmed, they sunk again, with Great Salt Lake, which our friends the husky voice declaring their days to be numArabs ironically denominate Bahr Assal, bered, and their resolution to rise up no more. or the 'Sea of Honey.'

Dogs incontinently expired upon ihe road;

horses and mules that once lay down, being “'Twas midnight when the thirsty party unable from exhaustion to rally, were reluccommenced the steep ascent of the ridge of tantly abandoned to their fate, whilst the lionvolcanic hills, which frown above the south hearted soldier, who had braved death at the eastern boundary of the fiery lake. The cannon's mouth, subdued and unmanned by searching north-east wind had scarcely dimin- thirst, finally abandoning his resolution, lay ished in its parching fierceness, and in hot suf-gasping by the way-side, and heedless of the focating gusts swept fitfully over the broad exhortation of his officers, hailed approaching glittering expanse of water and salt, whereon dissolution with delight, as bringing the terThe moon shone brightly-each deadly puffmination of tortures which were not to be ensucceeded by the stillness that foretells a trop- dured. ical hurricane-an absolute absence even of the “ Whilst many of the escort and followers smallest ruffling of the close atmosphere. were then unavoidably left streiched with Around the prospect was wild, gloomy, and open mouths along the road, in a state of utter unearthly, beetling basaltic cones and jagged insensibility, and apparently yielding up the slabs of shattered lava—the children of some ghost, others pressing, on to arrive at water, mighty trouble-forming scenery the most becanie bewildered in the intricate mazes of shadowry and extravagant. A chaos of ruined the wide wilderness, and recovered it with the churches and cathedrals, eedgahs, towers, mon- utmost difficulty. As another day dawned, uments, and ninareis, like ihe ruins of a de and the round red sun again rose in wrath over molished world, appeared to have been confu- the Lake of Salt, towards the hateful shores sedly tossed together by the same volcanic of which the tortuous path was fast leading, throes, that, when the earth was in labor, had ihe courage of all who had hiiherlo borne up produced the phenomenon below; and they against fatigue and anxiety began to flag. A shot their dilapidated spires into the molten dimness came before the drowsy eye, giddivault of heaven, in a fantastic medley, which, ness seized the brain, and the prospect ever under so uncertain a light, bewildered and per- held out by the guides, of quenching thirst implexed the heated brain. The path, winding mediately in advance, seeming like the tantalalong the crest of the ridge, over sheets of izing delusion of a dream, had well nigh lost broken lava, was rarely of more than sufficientiis magical effect; when, as the spirits of the width to admit of progress in single file; and niost sanguine fainted within them, a wild the livelong hours, each seeming in itself a Bedouin was perceived, like a delivering angel century, were spent in scrambling up the face from above, hurrying forward with a large of steep, rugged precipices, where the moon skin filled with muddy water. This most wellgleamed upon the bleaching skeleton of some timed supply, obtained by Mohammed Ali camel that had proved unequal to the task; from the small pool at Hanlelánta, of which, thence again to descend at the imminent peril with the promised guard of his own tribe, by of life and limb, into yawning chasms and whom he had been mel, he had taken forcible dark abysses, the forbidding vestiges of bygone possession in defiance of the impotent threats volcanic agency.

of the ruthless - red man,' was sent to the rear. “The horrors of that dismal night set the It admitted of a sufficient quantity being pourefforts of description at defiance. An unlim- ed over the face and down the parched throat, ited supply of water in prospect, at the distance to revive every prostrate and perishing sufferof only sixteen miles, had for the briet moment er; and at a late hour. ghastly, haggard, and buoyed up the drooping spirit which tenanted exhausted, like men who had escaped from the each way-worn frame; and when an exhaust- jaws of death, the whole had continued 10 ed mule was unable to totter farther, his rider struggle into a camp, which, but for the forecontrived manfully to breast the steep hill on sight and firmness if the son of Ali Abi, few foot. But owing to the long fasting and pri- individuals indeed of the whole pary would vation endured by all, the limbs of the weaker I have reached alive.

“A low range of limestone hillocks, inter-/ly, perhaps, the thing might not have been spersed with strange masses of coral, and beyond the bounds of possibility. Most marked by a pillar like that of Lot, encloses the well of Hanlefánta, where each"mule ob- assuredly, however, our object was not to tained a shell full of water. From the glitter-try the experiment, but to deliver those ing shore of the broad lake, the road crosses unhappy savages from their ignorance and the saline incrustation, which extends about prejudice, and raise them in the scale of two miles to the opposite brink. Soiled and nations. It is unnecessary to dwell on the mossy near the margin, the dull crystalized numerous obstacles and difficulties which salt appears to rest upon an earthy bottom; originated in the stupid fables above alluded but it soon becomes lustrous and of' a purer


They were, in a short time, completely color, and floating on the surface of the dense water, like a rough coarse sheet of ice, irregu

overcome, and at the very first interview larly cracked, is crusted with a white yielding that took place between Major Harris and efforescence, resembling snow which has the king of Shoa, a wound was inflicted been thawed and refrozen, but which still

, as upon French influence which it only rehere, with a crisp sound, receives the impress quired the continuance of Lord Palmerston of the foot. A well trodden path extends in office to render mortal. The description through the prismatic colors of the rainbow: of this scene, which took place at Machalby the longitudinal axis of the ellipse to the north-eastern extremity of the gigantic bowl, Wans, a country palace of Sáhila Selássi, whence the purest salt is obtainable in the vi- will serve at once to throw light on the cinity of several cold springs, said to cast up manners of the country, and show the high large pebbles on their jet, through the ethe-consideration in which the British embassy real blue water."

was held.

But, however magnificent this portion of “ The last peal of ordnance was rattling in the work may be--and it has seldom, as broken echoes along the mountain chain, as we have said, been equalled-our business the British embassy stepped at length over the lying with the politics of the undertaking, bigh threshold of the reception-hall. Circular we transport ourselves at once to Abys in form, and destitute of the wonted Abyssinian sinia. Upon the arrival of the embassy on walls of the chamber glittered with a profusion

pillar in the centre, the massive and lofty clay the frontier, it began to taste the fruits of of silver ornaments, emblazoned shields, matchFrench intrigue. It is one of the charac-locks, and double-barrelled guns. Persian teristics of barbarians—as all who have carpets, and rugs of all sizes, colors and pathad experience in this part of world can terns, covered the floor, and crowds of alakas, testify-to be utterly ignorant of the boun- governors, chiefs, and principal officers of the dary line which separates the possible from court arrayed in their holiday attire, stood

around in a posture of respect uncovered to the impossible. Of this our Gallic rivals

the girdle. Two wide alcoves receded on were well aware, and therefore, they labor- either side, in one of which blazed a cheerful ed, not wholly without success, to implant wood fire, engrossed by indolent cats, whilst in the minds of the Abyssinians the most in the other, on a flowered satin ottoman, surextravagant suspicions and apprehensions rounded by withered eunuchs and juvenile of the English. In their reports, we were pages of honor, and supported by gay velvet elevated or degraded into a nation of potent cushions, reclined in Æthiopic state his nost magicians, capable of setting all the laws of Agafari, or state door-keeper, as master of the

Christian majesty Sahila Selássi. The Dech nature at defiance. We could, it was said, ceremonies, stood with a rod of green rushes topple down mountains, bring up gold or to preserve the exact distance of approach to hidden

gems from the bowels of the earth, royalıy; and as the British guests entered the depopulate whole kingdoms by the force of hall

, and made their bows to the throne, mospells and medicines, or, if need were, could tioned them to be seated upon chairs that had transport into the region we designed to previously been sent in; which done, it was subdue, an overwhelming array of infantry commanded that all might be covered.

“ The king was attired in a silken Arab vest and cavalry in boxes! But that which ap- of green brocade, partially shrouded under the pears to have wrought most powerfully on ample folds of a white cotton rohe of Abyssinthe imagination of the African highlanders, ian manufacture, adorned with sundry broad was the idea that Major Harris carried crimson stripes and borders. Forty summers, along with him the Queen of England, no whereof eight-and-twenty had been passed gentle lady rustling in silks and satins, slightly furrowed his dark brow, and some

under the uneasy cares of the crown, had But a monstrous and terrific ghoul, who, what grizzled a full bushy head of hair, arbeing let loose, would eat up Sáhila Selássi ranged in elaborate curls after the fashion of and all his subjects at a tiftin! Figurative-1 George I.; and although considerably dis

figured by the loss of the left eye, the expres- It may perhaps be useful to glance again sion of his manly features, open, pleasing, and in this place at some few of the details concommanding, did not, in their tout ensemble, nected with the French system of intrigue be ie the character for impartial justice which in Eastern Africa. M. Combes and the the despot has obtained far and wide ; even the Danakil comparing him to a 'fine balance two D'Abadies, who sometimes represented of gold!

themselves as simple travellers, sometimes "All those manifold salutations and inqui- assumed the airs of political agents, and ries, which overwrought politeness here en-threatened all who offended them with the forces, duly concluded, the letters with which vengeance of their government, had been the embassy had been charged-enveloped in for a considerable period in the Red Sea, Powered muslin and rich guld kimkhab-were fitting about from port to port, for the purpresented in a sandal-wood casket, minutely inlaid with ivory; and the contents having pose of spreading alarining rumors conbeen read and expounded, costly presents from cerning the designs of the English in Africa. the British Government were introduced in At Tajúra M. Combes tried at first the efsuccession, to be spread out before the gļisten- fect of soft words, but these failing, he ating eyes of the court. The rich Brussels car- tempted to land by force, upon which 'ce pei, which completely covered the hall, lo- brave homme Mohammed Ibn Mohammed gether with Cashmere shawds and embroidered collected his people together, assailed the Delhi scarts of resplendent hues, attracted universal attention; and some of the choicest Controller-general, and finally drove him

In this rencontre our St. specimens were, from time to time, handed to from the harbor. the alcove by the chief of the eunuchs. On Simonian politican, who was seeking to rethe introduction of each new curiosity, the new his relations with 'La Femme Libre' surprise of the king became more and more of Abyssinia, and also to enact the part of unfeigned. Bursts of merriment followed the a spy, gave the old_sultan to understand magic revolutions of a group of Chinese danc

that his devotion to English interests would ing figures; and when the European escort in full unitorm, with the sergeant at their head, cost him dear, since he would infallibly remarched into the centre of the hall-faced in turn with a number of ships of war and front of the throne, and performed the manual blow him to the devil. He had scarcely and platoon exercises amidst jewelry glittering disappeared from the scene when the Meson the rugs, gay shawls and silver cloths which sieurs D'Abadies came forward, and by the strewed the floor, ornamented clocks chiming hints and suggestions which skilful political and musical boxes playing 'God save the emissaries know how to frame, sought to Queen'— his majesiy appeared quite en

awaken in the minds of the natives the tranced, and declared that he possessed no words to express his gratitude. But many most alarming apprehensions of the English. and bright were the smiles that lighted up the Nor were their efforts aliogether without royal features, as three hundred muskets, with success. Our recent purchase of the islands bayonets fixed, were piled in front of the foot of Musshahh affording them a handle, they stool. A buzz of mingled wonder and ap- labored so skilfully that they contrived to plause, which half drowned the music, arose set the Sultan of Tajúra and several neighfrom the crowded courtiers; and the measure of the warlike monarch's satisfaction now

boring chiefs completely by the ears. The filled to overflowing, 'God will reward you, malecontents retired to the mountains full he exclaimed, for I cannot !

of wrath against the English, but the peo“But astonishment and admiration knew ple of Tajúra liking the chink of our dolno bounds, as the populace next spread over lars, proceeded to the ultima ratio with the the face of the hills to witness the artillery D'Abadies, and treated them to a taste of practice, which formed the sequel to the pre- lapidation. Fortunately for them they posattached to the opposite face of the ravine. sessed the means of light, and escaping to The green valley again rung to the unwonted Hodeida on the Arabian coast, from thence roar of ordnance; and as the white cloth flew fulminated their scientific anathemas against in shreds to the wind, under a rapid discharge perfidious Albion, and her still more perof round shot, canister, and grape, amidst the fidious allies the worthy Danakil of Tajúra. crumbling of the rock, and the rush of the In this quarter, therefore, the sun of France falling

stones, the before despised sponge stave appeared for a time to be set ; for with an well as to the gaping peasant. A shout rose, obduracy never enough to be reprehended, long and loud, over the pealing echoes which the English authorities refused to further rattled from hill to hill; and far along the ser- the designs of their persevering rivals, and rated chain was proclaimed the arrival of left them to fight it out as they best might foreign guests, and the royal acquisition with the rough diplomatists of the coast. through their means, of potent engines of In the interior, meanwhile, French intrigue




wore a somewhat brighter aspect. An offi- Sáhila Selássi, who knew not until now cer,

it is said, had arrived in Amhara with that he was a king of cannibals, very clearly numerous camel-loads of presents, contain- perceived that there was no further hope of ing perhaps among other things additional rich presents from France, and looked upon portraits of Louis Philippe, for the King of the catastrophe described by his naked Shoa, and through the agency of a native guest as a clever little drama, got up by the messenger despatched, it was said, from the ingenious M. Combes for his entertainment. seacoast of Tigré, certain trinkets of gold However, it did not entertain him, and by of French manufacture were forwarded to the treatment he received M. Evan was Sáhila Selássi, as an earnest of the fine soon made to understand that the bearer of things that were in store for him if he monstrous lies is sometimes less welcome would only consent to break off his medi- than the bearer of gifts. Though supplied tated relations with the English. The with food, he was compelled to trudge along Shoan despot could never be accused of the highway barefoot, until, on his arrival inattention to his own interests. Accord- at the capital, he was intrusted with the ingly, so long as the English with their honorable and lucrative employment of putpresents were a distance, while the ting flints into the king's muskets. This French were supposed to be pushing for- occupation he carried on in one of the ward post haste to adorn his person and courts of the palace, where, half-naked, enrich his coffers, he regretted that he had shivering, and hungry, he day after day, as sent to solicit an embassy from our presi- Mr. Krapf observes, knocked the skin from dency, and fancied that the conquerors of his knuckles, until his hands were covered Algeria might be more desirable and profit- with blood. But he was pitilessly compelled able allies. He was prepared therefore to to persevere in order to purchase exemption turn a cold shoulder to Major Harris, and from starving. A shrewd man nevertheless for some time after his arrival treated the was M. Evan. He soon formed a plan of embassy with marked disrespect. An event escape, attended however in the execution trifling, perhaps, in itself, soon occurred, with considerable risk. He desired to be which occasioned a revolution in the mind thought a monomaniac, but at the same of the Shoan king. A Frenchman naked, time so to temper the suspicions he excited wounded, and destitute, suddenly made his that he should not be taken for a dangerappearance in his dominions, declaring that ous madman, and knocked in the head. he was the only survivor of the escort and His course lay between Scylla and Chaembassy which had been charged with the rybdis, but being no less dexterous than presents of inestimable value, sent by the bold, he confidently reckoned upon success. King of All the French to his Majesty Sá- The little culinary project of the governor hila Selássi. The story of this individual of Efrata suggested to M. Evan his proper was strange and marvellous. He had set cue. To every person he met he declared out, he said, from Tigre in company with that he was detained in a sort of slavery, M. Combes, the St. Simonian Controller- and that immediately after the feast of the general, and forty other persons; they had Holy Virgin the king and his family depassed through the provinces of Argobba signed to eat him, the royal Besabesh unand Lasta, and were already beginning to dertaking, we suppose, the picking of his felicitate themselves upon being almost in bones. This crotchet he circulated so sight of their journey's end, when they widely, that it at length, as was intended, were set upon by a tribe of Galla, who, reached the king's ears. Sáhila Selássi like the Chaldeans in the Book of Job, put did not exactly know what to make of his them all to the sword, 'While I,' exclaimed guest, but it was only when the accusation M. Alexandre Evan, 'am escaped alone to was formally repeated, through an intertell thee.' But it was not by the Wollo preter, in his own presence, that he became Galla alone that M. Evan was endangered. convinced of the Frenchman's madness. The governor of Efrata, through whose Of course, he had simply to do with a spy, country he passed, cast wolfish eyes upon sent thither to watch the progress of his nehis plump haunches, and endeavored to kill gotiations with the British embassy, but and eat him. How he escaped from the this idea not suggesting itself to the royal clutches of this anthropophagite M. Evan mind, M. Evan was not only suffered to could not explain, but escape he did, and depart, but supplied liberally with the carried, as we have seen, the tale of his means of proceeding to Gondar. disasters to the court at Debrà Berhan. The business of the treaty meanwhile

« PreviousContinue »