A Voyage to Abyssinia by Father Jerome Lobo





 -   At length youth and a happy constitution surmounted
the malignity, and I recovered my former health.

I continued two years - Page 33
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At Length Youth And A Happy Constitution Surmounted The Malignity, And I Recovered My Former Health.

I continued two years at my residence in Tigre, entirely taken up with the duties of the mission - preaching, confessing, baptising - and enjoyed a longer quiet and repose than I had ever done since I left Portugal.

During this time one of our fathers, being always sick and of a constitution which the air of Abyssinia was very hurtful to, obtained a permission from our superiors to return to the Indies; I was willing to accompany him through part of his way, and went with him over a desert, at no great distance from my residence, where I found many trees loaded with a kind of fruit, called by the natives anchoy, about the bigness of an apricot, and very yellow, which is much eaten without any ill effect. I therefore made no scruple of gathering and eating it, without knowing that the inhabitants always peeled it, the rind being a violent purgative; so that, eating the fruit and skin together, I fell into such a disorder as almost brought me to my end. The ordinary dose is six of these rinds, and I had devoured twenty.

I removed from thence to Debaroa, fifty-four miles nearer the sea, and crossed in my way the desert of the province of Saraoe. The country is fruitful, pleasant, and populous; there are greater numbers of Moors in these parts than in any other province of Abyssinia, and the Abyssins of this country are not much better than the Moors.

I was at Debaroa when the prosecution was first set on foot against the Catholics. Sultan Segued, who had been so great a favourer of us, was grown old, and his spirit and authority decreased with his strength. His son, who was arrived at manhood, being weary of waiting so long for the crown he was to inherit, took occasion to blame his father's conduct, and found some reason for censuring all his actions; he even proceeded so far as to give orders sometimes contrary to the Emperor's. He had embraced the Catholic religion, rather through complaisance than conviction or inclination; and many of the Abyssins who had done the same, waited only for an opportunity of making public profession of the ancient erroneous opinions, and of re-uniting themselves to the Church of Alexandria. So artfully can this people dissemble their sentiments that we had not been able hitherto to distinguish our real from our pretended favourers; but as soon as this Prince began to give evident tokens of his hatred, even in the lifetime of the Emperor, we saw all the courtiers and governors who had treated us with such a show of friendship declare against us, and persecute us as disturbers of the public tranquillity, who had come into Aethiopia with no other intention than to abolish the ancient laws and customs of the country, to sow divisions between father and son, and preach up a revolution.

After having borne all sorts of affronts and ill-treatments, we retired to our house at Fremona, in the midst of our countrymen, who had been settling round about us a long time, imagining we should be more secure there, and that, at least during the life of the Emperor, they would not come to extremities, or proceed to open force. I laid some stress upon the kindness which the viceroy of Tigre had shown to us, and in particular to me; but was soon convinced that those hopes had no real foundation, for he was one of the most violent of our persecutors. He seized upon all our lands, and, advancing with his troops to Fremona, blocked up the town. The army had not been stationed there long before they committed all sorts of disorders; so that one day a Portuguese, provoked beyond his temper at the insolence of some of them, went out with his four sons, and, wounding several of them, forced the rest back to their camp.

We thought we had good reason to apprehend an attack; their troops were increasing, our town was surrounded, and on the point of being forced. Our Portuguese therefore thought that, without staying till the last extremities, they might lawfully repel one violence by another, and sallying out to the number of fifty, wounded about three score of the Abyssins, and had put them to the sword but that they feared it might bring too great an odium upon our cause. The Portuguese were some of them wounded, but happily none died on either side.

Though the times were by no means favourable to us, every one blamed the conduct of the viceroy; and those who did not commend our action made the necessity we were reduced to of self-defence an excuse for it. The viceroy's principal design was to get my person into his possession, imagining that if I was once in his power, all the Portuguese would pay him a blind obedience. Having been unsuccessful in his attempt by open force, he made use of the arts of negotiation, but with an event not more to his satisfaction. This viceroy being recalled, a son-in-law of the Emperor's succeeded, who treated us even worse than his predecessor had done.

When he entered upon his command, he loaded us with kindnesses, giving us so many assurances of his protection that, while the Emperor lived, we thought him one of our friends; but no sooner was our protector dead than this man pulled off his mask, and, quitting all shame, let us see that neither the fear of God nor any other consideration was capable of restraining him when we were to be distressed. The persecution then becoming general, there was no longer any place of security for us in Abyssinia, where we were looked upon by all as the authors of all the civil commotions, and many councils were held to determine in what manner they should dispose of us.

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