網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

FOR FRESH QUARTERS.

201

three ahmulahs a-week, about seven-pence halfpenny, and, in fact, my whole expenditure, by his making out, was to be a dollar a-month, one-half for his wages during that time, and the remainder for the purchase of poultry and sheep.

Tinta, in two or three days, brought a reply from the Negoos, that I was to look out what house would suit me, and if I were well enough to visit him at Ankobar, where he was coming to from Angolahlah, in the course of the week, he would then give the necessary directions to put me in possession of my choice.

Night and morning we were now to be seen, Walderheros and myself, slowly walking along the narrow confined lanes in search of a house that would suit us. I leaning upon him on one hand, and in the other, to assist in supporting my weakened frame, I carried a slender rod, about seven feet long, called a “zank,” in common use, as an aid when walking, by the people of Shoa. We visited every vacant house in the town to examine their condition and character, and occupied ourselves entirely by suggesting alterations and repairs, or devising sundry projects of domestic comfort, in connexion with the expected grant by the Negoos of the one which I should prefer. For five or six days we thus amused ourselves, and when the eve of the day came on which I was to see the Negoos at Ankobar, we were as far from having come to a decisive choice, as upon the first day we com202

A DIFFICULT CHOICE.

menced the search. Some were too old, some stood in a crowded neighbourhood, the repairs of others would have required an outlay of five or six dollars, here the thatch was nearly all gone, and there the garden was too small, and the last was worse than all, for, by a curious accident, the roof settled down on the top of us as we entered, the wattled wall on the outside giving way as we pushed open the dilapidated door to get in. There was not one, in fact, that I could fix my mind upon, and Walderheros being equally difficult to please, we might have continued a long time without coming to a decision, had not the next day's visit to the Negoos rendered it necessary to fix upon some one, that I might be prepared to answer the Negoos's usual question, “ What is it you desire?” in return for the memolagee or offering I had prepared for his acceptance, and which, as it was of a peculiar kind, it shall be treated of in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XIII.

Custom of giving Memolagee.-Sugar boiling.--Success-Gratify

the Negoos.-Receive house.—Claims of kindred.—Remarks upon intestate property.—The two brothers of late owner.Removal to new residence.

A custom exists in every Abyssinian court, which requires that no one shall go empty handed into the presence of royalty. Every visitor to the Negoos of Shoa in this manner brings with him some present, which, after having been registered by an officer appointed for that purpose, is deposited at the feet of the monarch. In return, it is expected that some request on the part of the inferior is to be graciously acceded to, and if what is asserted be true, the Negoos is obliged by the law of custom to consent to whatever is asked, should he accept, in the first instance, the proffered gift. A monstrous exaggeration of this system of presenting gifts, to be returned by some greater amount of property, is, at all events, practised very considerably, by the Abyssinians, upon ignorant strangers, for the custom is not confined to an interchange of favours with royalty, but is general also among all classes. I have myself frequently

[blocks in formation]

been imposed upon, or at least have had attempts made to impose upon me in this manner, when ridiculously small presents were offered, and then on my acceptance followed some exorbitant request. A memolagee of eggs, for example, would usher in a modest demand for as many dollars ; when, from a calculation I have frequently made, one of the latter would purchase one thousand eggs, at the rate of five eggs for a needle, of which two hundred could be bought for a dollar. Again, a jar of ale, containing about five gallons, which would cost the third of an ahmulah, or saltpiece, or the third of two-pence halfpenny, would be deemed quite a sufficient gift to ask in return a slave girl, or a mule. To prevent all mistakes, after I had discovered that I had given considerable offence, in some cases, by refusing what had been demanded, I made it a rule to know previously to my accepting it, what was the object for which the memolagee was offered, and even then it was very seldom I would consent to give more than the market value of the pumpkins, water melons, and smuggled honey, which generally constituted these propitiatory offerings.

The memolagee I had prepared for this visit to the Negoos, at Ankobar, was about two pounds of sugar which I had managed to manufacture from cane growing in the neighbourhood of Aliu Amba. I calculated upon the effect that such a present would have upon the naturally sagacious mind of

[blocks in formation]

the gifted monarch of Shoa, and that the usefulness of such an article, introduced as a manufactured product of his own country, would strike him as being of more importance than many richer presents, the use and value of which he could not, from the circumstances of his situation, have any idea of.

On my arrival in Shoa, I found that the Wallasmah Mahomed cultivated sugar-cane in a valley, at the foot of the prison hill of Guancho, and that he supplied the table of the Negoos with it as a sweetmeat, small pieces being cut off with a knife, and masticated as I have seen the inhabitants of Ceylon enjoying it. Whilst staying at Miriam's house, I conceived the project of boiling down some sugar as a mode of employing myself when confined indoors by the fever, or the wet weather. For this purpose I sent Walderheros to the Wallasmah with a canister of gunpowder as a memolagee for some sugar-cane, and got in return as much as my zealous servant could stand under, considering that he had to carry the bundle upon his head and shoulders for nearly six miles, along roads of no ordinary kind in the wet season, for that rich, greasy, slipperiness of surface, where toes well stuck into the mud, alone admits of any chance of the barefooted wayfarer, pulling himself up the steep“ banks and braes” he has to surmount.

Possessing no means of crushing the cane properly, I was obliged to have resort to simply pounding it in a large wooden mortar, two or three of which,

« 上一頁繼續 »