Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

heads, horns, and hoofs perfectly well-turned; the horns wide, like our Lincolnshire kine; and their hair like silk. Their sheep are large, and all black. I never saw one of any other colour in the province of Tigre. Their heads are large; their ears remarkably short and small; instead of the wool they have hair, as all the sheep within the tropics have; but this is remarkable for its lustre and softness, without any bristly quality, such as those in Beja, or the country of Sennaar; but they are neither so fat, nor is their flesh so good, as that of the sheep in the warmer country. The goats here, too, are of the largest size; but they are not very rough, nor is their hair long.

The plain on the top of the mountain Taranta was, in many places, sown with wheat, which was then ready to be cut down, though the harvest was not yet begun. The grain was clean, and of a good colour, but inferior in size to that of Egypt. It did not, however, grow thick, nor was the stalk above fourteen inches high. The water is very bad on the top of Taranta, being only what remains of the rain in the hollows of the rocks, and in pits prepared for it.

Being very tired, we pitched our tent on the top of the mountain. The night was remarkably cold, at least appeared so to us, whose pores were opened by the excessive heat of Masuah; for at mid-day the thermometer stood 61°, and at six in the evening 59°; the barometer, at the same time, 18, inches French. The dew began to fall strongly, and so continued till an hour after sun-set, though the sky was perfectly clear, and the smallest stars discernible.

I killed a large eagle here this evening, about six feet ten inches from wing to wing. It seemed very tame till shot. The ball having wounded it but slightly, when on the ground it could not be prevented from attacking the men or beasts near it with great

force and fierceness, so that I was obliged to stab it with a bayonet. It was of a dirty white; only the head and upper part of its wings were of a light brown.

On the 22d, at eight in the morning, we left our station on the top of Taranta, and soon after began to descend on the side of Tigre, through a road the most broken and uneven that ever I had seen, always excepting the ascent of Taranta.

After this we began to mount a small hill, from which we had a distinct view of Dixan.

The cedar-trees, so tall and beautiful on the top of Taranta, and also on the east side, were greatly degenerated when we came to the west, and mostly turned into small shrubs and scraggy bushes. We pitched our tent near some marshy ground for the sake of water, at three quarters past ten ; but it was very bad, having been, for several weeks, stagnant. We saw here the people busy at their wheat harvest ; others, who had finished theirs, were treading it out with cows or bullocks. They make no use of their straw; sometimes they burn it, and sometimes leave it on the spot to rot.

We set out from this about ten minutes after three, descending gently through a better road than we had hitherto seen. At half past four in the evening, on the 22d of November, we came to Dixan. Halai was the first village, so is this the first town in Abyssinia, on the side of Taranta. Dixan is built on the top of a hill, perfectly in the form of a sugar loaf; a deep valley surrounds it everywhere like a trench, and the road winds spirally up the hill, till it ends among the houses.

This town, with a large district, and a considerable number of villages, belonged formerly to the Baharnagash, and was one of the strong places under his

command. Afterwards, when his power came to be weakened, and his office in disrepute by his treasonable behaviour in the war of the Turks, and civil war that followed it, during the Portuguese settlement in the reign of Socinios, the Turks possessing the seaports, and being often in intelligence with him, it was thought proper to wink at the usurpations of the

go vernors of Tigre, who, little by little, reduced this office to be dependent on their power.

Dixan, presuming upon its strength, declared for independence; in the time the two parties were contending; and, as it was inhabited mostly by Mahometans, it was secretly supported by the Naybe. Michael Suhul, however, governor of Tigre, in the reign of King Yasous II. invested it with a large army of horse and foot; and, as it had no water but what was in the valley below, the general defect of these lofty situations, he surrounded the town, encamping upon the edge of the valley, and inclosed all the water within his line of circumvallation, making strong posts at every watering place, defended by fire-arms.

He then sent to them a buffoon, or dwarf, desiring them to surrender within two hours. The passions of the inhabitants were, however, raised by expectations of succour from the Naybe ; and they detested Michael above every thing that could be imagined. They, therefore, whipt the dwarf, and inflicted other marks of contumely upon him. Michael bore this with seeming indifference. He sent no more summonses, but strengthened his posts, and ordered them to be continually visited. Several attacks of no consequence were made by the besieged, following large stones, which were rolled down into the trench; but all to no purpose. A general attack, however, from the town, was tried the third day, by which one well was carried, and many relieved their thirst; many

on the

died there, and the rest were forced back into the town. A capitulation was now offered ; but Michael answered, he waited for the coming of the Naybe. About 700 people are said to have died, during the siege, with thirst ; and at last, there being. no prospect of relief, twelve of the leaders were delivered and hanged up at the wells. The town surrendered at discretion, and the soldiers finished those whom thirst had spared.

Michael then farmed Dixan to the Naybe, who repeopled it. There was a high and low town, divided from each other by a considerable space.

In the lower abode Christians, at least so calling themselves;

top of the hill were the Naybe's party, who had dug for themselves a scanty well. Saloome, our guide, was son of the governor for the Naybe. Achmet was the person the Moors in the low town had confided in ; and the Christian chief was a dependent upon Janni, our Greek friend at Adowa, who had direction of all the custom-houses in Tigre, and of that, at Dixan among the rest.

Our baggage had passed the trench, and had reached the low towns through which Saloome had conducted me, under pretence of getting a speedy shelter from the heat : but he overacted his part; and Janni's servant, who spoke Greek, giving me a hint to go no further, I turned short towards the custom-house, and sat down with my firelock upon a stone at the door. Our baggage quickly followed, and all was put safe in a , kind of court, inclosed with a sufficient stone wall.

It was not long till Hagi Abdelcader, Achmet's friend, came to us, inviting me civilly to his house, and declaring to me the friendly orders he had received from Achmet concerning me; bringing along with him also a goat, some butter and honey. I excused myself from leaving Janni's friend, the Chris

7

tian, where I had first alighted; but I recommended Yasine to him, for he had begun to shew great

attachment to me. In about a quarter of an hour came Saloome, with about twenty men, and demanded us, in the name of the Naybe, as his strangers : he said we owed him money for conducting us, and likewise for the customhouse dues. In a moment, near a hundred men were assembled round Hagi Abdelcader, all with shields and lances, and we expected to see a fray of the most serious kind. But Abdelcader, with a switch in his hand, went gravely up to Saloome, and, after chiding his party with great authority, he held up his stick twice over Saloome's head, as if to strike him ; then ordered him, if he had any demands, to come to him in the evening ; upon which both parties dispersed, and left us in peace.

The matter was settled in the evening with Saloome in an amicable manner. It was proved that thir . teen pieces of blue cloth were the hire agreed on, and that it had been paid by his order to Achmet; and, though he deserved nothing for his treacherous inclinations towards us, yet, for Achmet's sake, and our friend Hagi Abdelcalder's, we made him a present of three pieces more.

It is true of Dixan, as, I believe, of most frontier towns, that the bad people of both contiguous countries resort thither. The town, as I before have said, consists of Moors and Christians, and is very well peopled; yet the only trade of either of these sects is a very extraordinary one, that of selling children. The Christians bring such as they have stolen in Abyssinia to Dixan, as to a sure deposit ; and the Moors receive them there, and carry them to a certain market at Masuah, whence they are sent over to Arabia or India. The priests of the province of Tigre, especially those near the rock Damo, are openly concerned in this infamous practice; and some of these have

« FöregåendeFortsätt »