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a black-silk burnous.
He wore stockings, but no shoes. A tightly drawn turban covered what is said to be a welldeveloped baldness. Menelek is a hardworking ruler, rising at three or four o'clock in the morning to receive reports that have come in by mule courier from various sections of his empire and to dictate responses.
He is said to be unable to write, and perhaps would consider it undignified to use the art if he possessed it. Till nine o'clock in the morning he is busy with his dispatches, and, it may surprise Americans to know, conducts business with Harar, his most important town, about 200 miles away, by a telephone.
There is nothing more bizarre than to find a long-distance telephone line in this kingdom, which is, so far as mechanical arts are concerned, very benighted; yet as one follows the main highway of the kingdom by toiling over mountain trails, which almost defy even the patient mule, one scarcely loses sight for a distance of nearly 200 miles of the familiar telephone pole. This is the work of a few enterprising Frenchmen, the same who are at the head of the Jibuti Railway enterprise, aided by a Swiss, M. Ihlg, who has been the right hand of Menelek for something like twenty years.
How much there is of the commercial, how much of the political element in this extraordinary work of these Frenchmen, I do not venture to say. They undoubtedly appear to Menelek as the chief interpreters of all the glories of our mechanical civilization. His army is supplied with their rifles and cartridges, and may the day be long distant when these French-made bullets shall be directed against European troops of whatever nationality.
After nine o'clock Menelek is ready to receive those of his subjects, great or small, who claim access to him, and also the occasional European who travels to this strange mud-hut capital. He has
learned that there are some costumes appropriate to ceremonial occasions, and out of respect to this knowledge I had been advised by Sir Rennell Rodd to take a dress suit for presentation to the court, and this I donned at nine in the morning and in it rode the mile and a half or two miles separating the British compound from the Gébi.
When these visits have been completed Menelek gives much detailed attention to the buildings and the meager workshops which his East Indian employés have set up for him.
His capital city contains huts, large and small, which may lodge a population of about ten thousand. A considerable part of this city is still of canvas.
The extremely cold nights, with a temperature sometimes as low as forty degrees Fahrenheit, after a day of one hundred degrees in the shade, have caused the Abyssinian on this high plateau to want some shelter.
My Somali servants, who suffered far more than the plateau people, were with difficulty forced to put up tents which I had provided for them, their life-long habit of sleeping in the open air being hard to break.
The difficulty of obtaining firewood will probably necessitate the moving of the capital within the next fifteen or twenty years. As there are no roads, a wheeled vehicle being unknown, firewood must be brought in by hand from the surrounding forests; and as the nearby timber is destroyed, this difficulty will soon become one of great
Several deep ravines cut the town into three or four sections, and in the rainy season these sections are permanently separated from each other, bridges not being attempted.
In the whole kingdom I think there are three permanent bridges. One of these is over the Hawash, which must be crossed in order to reach Harar and the coast. This bridge was built under
the direction of M. Ihlg. Two other bridges, of stone, one of which I crossed north of the Blue Nile, were constructed years ago under the direction of some Greek priest.
The Abyssinian seems quite unable to follow the lead of any such work and is capable of only the most rudimentary accomplishments in mechanical arts; he can work a pretty good saddle of wood, he fashions a fair piece of metal into a sort of spear, and he can make, as already described, a tolerably tight hut, without a chimney, and weave a loose, rather comfortable, cotton or woolen garment.
The paltry ornaments which are found in the market places are not better than many that some of the typical African tribes can make.
Nevertheless the pure-blooded Abyssinian shows his Arabic origin, as, in spite of this very low development in the mechanical arts, he stands head and shoulders above all ordinary African people in the development of his language and his religious ideas.
Except when dealing with the black tribes whom he has subjected, Menelek carries on the business of his govern ment by written orders in the Amharic language, the common spoken medium. It is of Semitic derivation, as is also the language of their holy books, now extinct save in some remote parts of the province of Tigré. This ancient language is known as Geez, and in it those books of the Bible with which they are most familiar are preserved. It is to be remembered that these people were Christians when our forefathers were painted blue and worshipped Thor and Woden. A shipwrecked priest from Alexandria somehow made an easy convert of the reigning king about the year 330 A. D.
The country is dotted with big round mud huts, which are churches. The priestly order, although vastly ignorant, is not without power. They inculcate,
doubtless in good faith, many superstitions, but with it all are firm believers in the principal tenets of the Christian doctrine.
I found by inquiring of a priest in a small far-away village that he was unable to read the sacred books which he sold to me. He said that was the business of the high priest.
Rude paintings are found on the partitions inside the churches, representing various saints, cheek by jowl with such dignitaries of the Abyssinian social order as had contributed to the making of the church. The artists are not typical Abyssinians. In considerable part, so I was told, the work of the churches is done by the Falasha, remnants of a Jewish tribe still stubbornly living apart and maintaining the Jewish creed and considering themselves defiled by conversation with Abyssinians.
No one can doubt that Jewish influence was at one time very great in this territory, and it seems to me highly probable that Frumentius, who converted the Abyssinians to Christianity, may have found his task the easier because of some perverted knowledge of the Jewish prophets.
At a later date, about the year 1000, a Jewish princess, Judith by name, established her family on the throne, which held sway for something like 200 years.
Altogether it may be said that the origin of the Abyssinian people fully warrants the Arabic word "Habeshi," from which we have our word "Abyssinia," and which means mixed.
It is possible that before the Semitic invaders settled in this fertile land some small influence from the great Egyptian civilization around the mouth of the Nile had been pushed up and up along the stream, through the desert, to where it must have been merged with the native element, presumably black, then holding the soil. I feel convinced that this influence must have been small, because of the very great difficulty with which in
tercourse could have been maintained between this upper region and lower Egypt. For a thousand years the Abyssinians were cut off from the rest of the world, and maintained the Christian doctrine as implanted by Frumentius.
Then came a period of contact with the Church of Rome, through the efforts of Portuguese missionaries and soldiers, at a time when that brave little kingdom sent its intrepid sons to every quarter of the globe. This missionary effort, however, added a very bloody chapter to the history of Abyssinia, and finally all white men were expelled, and again the gates were closed, and a period of something like 150 years elapsed before any further knowledge was had of things Abyssinian.
Since that time travelers have given very complete accounts of the country and its people; the touch with Europe has been again made intimate and bloody, through the efforts of the Italians to extend their power over Abyssinia.
This effort closed in the terrible tragedy at Adowa, where the flower of the Italian army was destroyed by Menelek's hosts. In spite of the errors, which it is easy now to mark, in the conduct of the Italian army, I feel very strongly that the Adowa campaign must have more nearly represented the probable outcome of any other European effort against united Abyssinia than did the Magdala campaign which the British conducted in 1867. Theodore, the emperor, after years of factional strife, was bereft of nearly all his followers when a British force, consisting of 13,000 men and 7,000 camp-followers, took, without the loss of a single life in action, the stronghold in which he had been left by his own people.
Attached now to the British agency as a sort of pensioner is a certain Irishman, wholly Abyssinianized, who was one of the servants of these imprisoned officers whom the great army at Magdala released. He was pointed out to
me by Colonel Harrington as representing something like £2.000,000 to the British Government, that being the pro rata cost of saving the lives of Theodore's captives. He cannot be disposed of at cost price.
Due to the trouble which the white man seems to have brought into his country, Menelek has been, for one so eager to tread the path of civilization, rather slow to give permanent hold to white interests. The concession to the railway people was a marked departure, and subsequently the concession to some English mining people for work in western Abyssinia marks another step toward progress and national destruction.
Menelek is indeed at the parting of the ways, and all the while is earnestly seeking the betterment of his people as well as his own glory. I believe he is leading them to the brink of destruction. Such are the ways of the Omnipotent in bringing about the spread of what we call civilization, to drink of whose cup is to the barbarian to drink of poison. What will happen when Menelek dies, nobody knows. If some strong man of the "Abyssinia - for-the-Abyssinians variety can grasp the reins, the autonomy of the country may yet be maintained for a long while, and together with it the ignorance of the people.
Their Christianity sits upon them lightly, as I found, for example, in respect to the institution of polygamy.
Menelek himself sets an example of monogamy, having one wife, who is a woman of considerable influence and of very good heart. But many others have not received that part of the Christian doctrine which forbids more than one wife and live more or less happily with several wives in the same household.
SLAVERY IN WESTERN ABYSSINIA.
In respect to polygamy's monster twin, namely, slavery, many of the Abyssinians are quite ready themselves
to capture slaves from the inferior and more lowly developed tribes as well as to hold them in slavery when caught by some one else. Theoretically, there is no slave trade in Abyssinia, and in fact it is pretty well controlled. In the region which I traversed, where no whites had preceded me, there were still one or two slave markets, and I rather expected to see the trade going on openly; but Menelek's lieutenants know that he has engaged with European powers to put down the slave trade. They were therefore surprised that I had been permitted to enter that part of the kingdom where the traffic is still maintained.
When I asked where I could buy two or three boys, one of the chiefs, who had escorted me for several days, good naturedly said, "You white people have stopped that, but," he said, "there are robbers from whom you may buy on the sly," and indeed at Wombera a small boy was offered at my tent for 37 Maria Theresa dollars, equivalent to about half that sum in our money.
There were, however, no public offerings, although I chanced upon the market day, but the chiefs had, so my interpreter informed me, given orders that no public traffic should take place.
Indeed the presence of a white man on the market ground stampeded the whole performance, not through fear, but through curiosity. There were perhaps three or four hundred people gathered together for bartering, and the whole of them-the last man, woman, and child-arose and followed and pressed upon myself and assistant as we walked about, but apparently with no ill-humor.
The night before the natives had refused to sell us food, but finding no harm come of our presence they changed their tactics and I was able to obtain one chicken and twelve eggs for three blue beads. Eggs are not eaten by the natives. Careful inspection of their stores is therefore necessary.
The next day we met a long caravan of slaves marching up from the country. south of the Nile. The caravan seemed to belong to a rather striking-looking woman, who was the wife of a great Abyssinian personage dwelling far to the north. She and her lieutenants had been in Shankali Land and had obtained (by purchase, let us presume) a goodly number of black fellows. These are offered for sale by some bold neighbor or relative. Where these slaves were seen by me in service around Monkorer, which is a considerable town, and in the smaller villages westward, there was nothing of brutality or special hardship of any kind apparent in their surroundings.
We passed through a section of country not yet thoroughly subdued by the Abyssinians and inhabited sparsely by the very people from whom the slaves were drawn. How far these very low savages prefer the debasement in which nature holds them when free to the conditions created for them by superior masters, I cannot state. The fact is that a wide gap exists between them and their Abyssinian lords, and that the physical surrounding of the Shankali when with the Abyssinian, crude as all that surrounding may seem to us, is far less crude than that which he creates for himself.
Those who finally accept the sovereignty of the Abyssinian are not subject to slave-raiding, but are permitted to live peaceably enough in their own fashion at the expense of some small tribute to the Abyssinian lord.
The dominion of the Abyssinian power is now established as far west as Wombera, where I left the most westerly Abyssinian post and descended to the Nile plains below.
The whole region beyond has been terribly swept by war and slave-trading. It is yet without government, although there is a merely nominal sovereignty claimed by Menelek. As a matter of
fact, each village-and there were two-seemed to stand entirely alone. The people hid away from before my small caravan, and I had very great difficulty in obtaining guides. While in Abyssinian territory these guides had been impressed by force or blows when necessary and at the command of the Abyssinian dignitary who accompanied me.
When I wanted to descend to the gorge of the Nile, the fine old gentleman, who was chief of the region, ordered some of the local natives, Agaa by name, armed only with spears, to go down with me, his own soldiers somehow not wanting to make the venture.
The river bottoms were said to be filled with warlike Shankali, armed with spears and poisoned arrows, and who had been forced to these narrow confines by lack of food, as along the river they could get an occasional hippopotamus and live upon that for a long time. My native escort was absolutely cowardly and got into a blue funk over the few footprints that appeared near the river, and I had to promise to protect them with four of my own men, but insisted that they should show us the way. The Shankali appeared only on the far side of the river, just a few black, naked fellows, who made a great pow-wow, and were evidently wholly unequal to the task of attacking four or five rifles and six or eight spears. Moreover, they were paralyzed, as in every other case in which I met such low people, by the sight of white men.
One village chief, after getting his people around my camp in such numbers as to worry my followers somewhat, but in wholly insufficient numbers to have made any successful trouble with my whole body, which consisted of eighteen well-armed men, finally came down in utmost submission and declared, as nearly as I could make out from the five interpreters arranged in tandem, that I was a god and could eat him up if I chose.
This middle territory will soon be assigned in part to Abyssinia and in part to the Sudan. That part assigned to the Sudanese authority, which means the British, will soon have some new life built out of the remains of a devastation as complete as'anything imaginable. The Abyssinian portion will live along its barbaric fashion with some small development.
The status of the black and naked Shankali will be slightly raised, and at least the country will be so well ordered by the power of Abyssinian soldiers that further investigation by white men may in the future be easily carried on there.
But the Abyssinian himself is not, in my judgment, ready for civilization as we measure civilization, though the upper classes already have much of the manner of the polished eastern people without having the material richness that Asiatic civilizations have produced.
The Abyssinian is individually rather an independent, easy-living, battle-loving, raw-meat-eating, sensual, devilmay-care chap; but one must guard against giving any definition or description which shall be taken as universal in its application. its application. This is rendered particularly inappropriate when one recalls the varying types from the well-chiseled Arabic and Jewish down to the coarse negroid caused by all degrees of miscegenation.
Their laziness, their fondness for backsheesh, their inaccuracy, and their pride, puffed up by the defeat of the Italians; their ignorance of what we know to be our immense superiority-all this for a time irritates the traveler, but in the end there is left rather a pleasant impression of kindness.
As is generally the case, the Abyssinians who have seen most of Europeans are not those whom Europeans would like most to see.
I should be quite willing to trade with bars of salt, which constitute the chief currency from Addis Abeba westward