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Lord Palmerston, the British Foreign Secretary, to give him the appointment of consul. In 1849, Ras Ali, an easy man, with whom Mr Plowden was on the best of terms, concluded a treaty with England; but from this no advantage was derived, and Mr Plowden was not, in fact, allowed any privileges as consul. Theodore, on becoming supreme, repudiated the treaty; and the consul, though he had the powerful aid of Mr Bell, an Englishman who was Theodore's closest friend and most influential adviser, never succeeded in getting his official character recognised. In March 1860, Mr Plowden, returning completely disappointed from a prolonged stay at Theodore's camp to his official place of residence, Massowah, was robbed by a rebel named Garrad, the emperor's cousin, and received a wound of which he died. While engaged along with Theodore in avenging the murder, several months later, Mr Bell met his death, through exposing himself to save the emperor from danger. In him the Europeans in Abyssinia lost a protector, the emperor his best and most trusted counsellor. Garrad and his brother had fallen in the fight, the latter by the emperor's own hand ; to discharge the duty of friendship, Theodore put to death their followers, numbering at least 1500, in cold blood. In spite of Mr Plowden's failure, a successor to him was appointed. The new consul, Captain Cameron, did not enter upon his duties till 1862. He first presented himself to Theodore in April of that year, and was received with marked civility. Theodore, though without accepting his mission, gave him a letter for Queen Victoria, in which he proposed to send an embassy to England, and disclosed his hope of getting aid from England in his projected warfare against the Mussulmans. At the same time, he despatched, by a Frenchman named Bardel, whom Captain Cameron had brought into the country, a similar missive to the Emperor of the French. It was not till the autumn of 1863, when Bardel had come back with an answer from the French Foreign Office-while no answer had been returned from England—that Theodore began to maltreat the Europeans who were in his territory. In the meantime, Captain Cameron had made a tour through some of the Turkish provinces adjacent to Abyssinia ; a French consul, M. Lejean, had also arrived in the country.
Besides the consuls and their servants, the Europeans at this time in Abyssinia were the members of the Basle mission, founded in 1855, under the auspices of the Bishop of Jerusalem-artisans who were to have combined missionary with manual labour; the members of the Scottish mission, and of the London Society's mission for the conversion of the Jews-mostly Scripture-readers; and a few adventurers in addition. At the head of the London Society's mission was the Rev. Henry Stern, who first visited Abyssinia in 1860. Going back to England, he had written an interesting work upon the Abyssinian Jews. He returned to Abyssinia, accompanied by the Rev. Mr Rosenthal and his wife, in the
spring of 1863. Theodore had no objection to the conversion of Jews, but did not approve of proselytising among his Christian subjects. He had discouraged the Basle missionaries from teaching. Finding out their value as workmen, he had pressed them into his employment. It was they who made his roads, his gunpowder, and the cannons and mortars with which he was greatly occupied during the last years of his life. They became abjectly submissive to his iron will, and in return they got liberal treatment from him, all of them receiving the silk shirt which denotes nobility. They had, at Theodore's command, married Abyssinian women, and were apparently destined to live and die in the country,
The letter from the French Foreign Office, which Bardel brought back, not being written by the sovereign, gave dire offence to Theodore. He abused M. Lejean, and put him in irons, but the abouna interceding, he allowed him to go away. The non-arrival of an answer from Queen Victoria angered him still more, and he soon began to vent his fury upon British subjects. Mr Stern had fallen into disfavour with the emperor-from what cause is uncertain. In October 1863, he was travelling from Gondar towards the coast, when, by Theodore's order, he was seized, beaten nearly, to death, and then fettered and put in prison. Captain Cameron, though virtually a prisoner, escaped ill-usage till the following January, when he was pressing for permission to return to Massowah; then he also was chained and imprisoned, and with him his five servants, and Mr Rosenthal, with two of the Scripture-readers. The Scripture-readers were soon allowed to join the artisans at Gaffat; and thus the prisoners were eight in number on the 14th of February 1864, the date of the pencil-note from Captain Cameron which first brought tidings of the consul's imprisonment to Massowah. Soon after, the Frenchman, Bardel, was added to the prisoners. The Europeans at this time in Abyssinia numbered twenty-five. The reasons Theodore always gave for his treatment of the consul were, that the British queen had not answered his letter, and (in allusion to Captain Cameron's journey into the Soudan) that the consul had been intriguing against him with the Turks. But Mr Stern's published account of Theodore's origin was the cause of the greatest severities which the prisoners had to endure. More than once they were all tortured, with the view of extracting from Mr Stern a confession that he had got his information from the abouna, with whom Theodore was at enmity. Mr Stern and Mr Rosenthal were tried and convicted of reviling the sovereign, an offence punishable with death. For some time, all the prisoners were treated as common criminals.
That the negotiations for the release of Captain Cameron and his fellow-sufferers, which were immediately begun, ended in 1866 in the addition of three more to their number, and that all subsequent attempts to induce Theodore to part with his prisoners proved ineffectual, are circumstances fresh in every one's memory. Of the
agents to whom the first negotiations were intrusted, Mr Hormuzd Rassam, assistant political agent at Aden, was the chief; the others were Dr Blanc of the Bombay medical service, and Lieutenant W. F. Prideaux, of the Bombay staff corps. They were furnished by the British government with presents for Theodore, and with the royal letter, the absence of which had first provoked his displeasure. It was the autumn of 1865 before Theodore deigned to give any answer to their communications; then he rather commanded than invited them to come to him at his camp; and as the captives now saw in this their only hope, it was decided that they should go. They first met Theodore on the 25th of January 1866, and were delighted with his courteous behaviour to them. The release of the prisoners was promised, and it does seem as if Theodore, pleased with the Queen's letter, and greatly taken with the supple manners of the principal envoy, did for some time think of letting envoys and prisoners go in peace. If so, he could not at last bring himself to give up his power over them. He kept them, as he said, to insure that artisans whom he needed should be sent to him from England ; but it is evident that he hoped to entrap the artisans, as he had already done the envoys. In July 1866, the old prisoners and the new were sent to Magdala, an almost impregnable mountain-fort in Worihaimanoo, on the borders of the Wollo Galla country, which, to quote Dr Blanc, was at once Theodore's most famous fortress, his treasury, and his jail. There they were not treated like ordinary prisoners. They were indeed lightly fettered about the ankles, and closely watched; but though poorly housed, and left to find themselves in provisions with the money which from time to time reached them from the coast, in other respects they were not badly used. Theodore occasionally sent them presents, more frequently civil messages ; between him and Mr Rassam a correspondence full of friendship and kindness on both sides was kept up to the very last. Bad as Theodore's conduc to the Europeans was, it must be classed with the more venial of his misdeeds. It was, however, destined to bring on him the punishment of his career.
As time wore on without the prisoners being released, it began to be felt that the honour of the British name, and its prestige in the East (to say nothing of humanity), required that their deliverance should be attempted by force. in August 1867, it was announced that an expedition would be sent into Abyssinia. General Sir Robert Napier, then commander-in-chief at Bombay, one of the most distinguished of Indian officers, was appointed commander; to him, conjointly with the Bombay government, the preparations were mainly intrusted ; and they were made with a carefulness and completeness seldom paralleled in military history. The difficulties that had to be overcome in Abyssinia were enormous—the mere difficulties of landing an army, its munitions, and stores, in an inconvenient harbour, and transporting them 320 miles inland, over
a country of perpendicular mountains and precipitous ravines, in which the roads were mere mule-tracks. Had the resistance of a warlike people been added, they would probably have been insurmountable. But in Abyssinia, Theodore was now every one's enemy, and the people found out that they could make more of the invaders by trading with them than by fighting them. With energy, a friendly demeanour, and brand-new Austrian dollars, Sir Robert Napier was able to make practicable roads, and bring his troops before Magdala. The expedition consisted of nearly 10,000 soldiers, mostly Indian troops, with about five times as many camp-followers. The pioneers of the force began to land early in October; about the end of January 1868, the army began to move forward; in the second week of April, it was in the neighbourhood of Theodore's fortress. Theodore, by making great exertions, had arrived there about three weeks before.
He had spent the greater part of 1867 in Begemdar, plundering that province and neighbouring districts, and chiefly occupied in his hours of sobriety in superintending his European artisans, who were busy making cannons and mortars. His army had dwindled rapidly-famine and pestilence had both been in his camp; his savage temper had had play upon his followers ; at last he had hardly 5000 soldiers, and of these many were peasants who had joined him out of despair. With this force, accompanied by nearly ten times its number of camp-followers, towards the end of the year he started for Magdala. He had lost most of his horses and mules, and besides baggage, he had with him fourteen or fifteen guns or mortars-of which one, an enormous mortar, weighed 15,000 or 16,000 pounds. His artillery had to be dragged, his baggage to be carried, by his followers; and he had to cross a country without roads, the difficulties of which seem to have even exceeded those which the British commander had to contend against. His success, with insignificant means at his command, is an extraordinary illustration of his energy and strength of will, and it is not without reason that this journey has been considered the most remarkable feat of his career. His roads were scarcely inferior to those of European engineers. They raised him greatly in the estimation of the British troops, by whom they were used in the last stages of their march. In December, Theodore seems to have heard that British troops were landing: The news only made him redouble his efforts that he might get before them to Magdala. At this place were his family, his treasures, his European prisoners, the Abyssinians whom he kept shut up to secure his power or glut his revenge. Nevertheless, the spectacle of Theodore, by tremendous efforts, pushing on to a fate which he could easily have avoided, is not without an element of pathos. He seems to have been drawn as by a charm to the place where he was certain to encounter the British troops. His superstition may have had much to do with this, for there was an old prophecy that an Ethiopian king should meet a white king, and that the former should
rule longer than any king before him. He arrived at Magdala on the 25th of March. Mr Rassam, who, as he approached, had by letters been congratulating him on his successful journey, had been freed from his fetters a week before; a few days after his arrival, Theodore extended the same amount of favour to Lieutenant Prideaux and Dr Blanc. As the British troops drew near, every hour of every day the fate of the prisoners was trembling in the balance. Several times when Theodore sent for them, they prepared themselves for death; but he was invariably friendly and courteous. A multitude of his Abyssinian 'captives fared differently. On the 7th of April, in a fit of good-humour, he had liberated seventy-five of them. On the evening of that day, the others, presuming upon his mood, ventured to clamour for their prison fare, which, amid the bustle prevailing, had not been supplied them; and Theodore, in a drunken fit, caused 307 of them to be put to death-killing several with his own hand.
On the 10th of April, the garrison of Magdala descried in the valley below them a long baggage-train but slightly guarded ; they rushed out pell-mell to sack it, but a portion of the British
army was near, and there ensued what has been called the battle of Fahla. It was scarcely more than a skirmish, but it decided the fate of the fortress. The Abyssinians fought with great gallantry; but with their wretched weapons they were no match for soldiers armed with the breech-loader, backed by batteries firing shells and rockets, while Theodore's artillery, which was on a plateau beneath the fortress, was so badly served as to be useless. The loss on the Abyssinian side has been estimated at 2000 killed and wounded, and a majority of those who escaped did not succeed in retreating to Magdala ; while the British had only twenty men wounded, of whom two subsequently died. On the night of the ioth, Theodore acknowledged himself overcome. Sending for Mr Rassam, he desired him to act as mediator for him with Sir Robert Napier; and next day, on Mr Rassam's recommendation, Lieutenant Prideaux and Mr Flad were sent to the British camp. They returned with a demand that all the Europeans should be surrendered, and a promise of honourable treatment for Theodore and his family. Theodore sent them back to find out what honourable treatment meant. They bore from him an incoherent letter-a cry of despair—in which he said he had intended, if God had so decreed, to conquer the whole world ; that it had been his desire to die if his purpose could not be accomplished; and that a warrior who had dandled strong men in his arms, would never suffer himself to be dandled in the arms of others. Sir Robert Napier did not feel at liberty to modify his terms; and the two messengers were returning, as it seemed, to certain death, when they were met by the news that the prisoners were set free, and were on their way to the British camp. Theodore had been urged by his chiefs to burn the prisoners, but he seems for the time to have been sated with bloodshed, and he placed some hope in Mr Rassam