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This passage is immediately preceded by a grateful tribute to the king's “ usual urbanity,” and followed by the description of a “cordial welcome” to the palace, with a gracious inquiry why the royal guest “ had not brought Mrs. Stern with him, and settled down in Abyssinia."
The Bishop Gobat, in his annual letter for 1860, complains, that, on account of the disturbed state of the country, he had received little news from the seven Crishona brethren in Abyssinia. Two of them had died on the frontiers; of the rest, Flad and Meyer were teaching children and adults, while Mrs. Flad was keeping a girls' school
, chiefly for Galla pupils. The other four, who are not married, were working at different trades for the king, who, says the bishop, "continues to be as a father or brother to them," and "to cherish his love for the Word of God.”
The correspondence between the missionaries and the Society and private friends is copious from the spring of 1864 to the autumn of 1865, but less frequent since. Intelligence of Mr. Stern's imprisonment first came from Haussmann, a Basle missionary, who had received verbal communications from Flad. In October, 1864, a letter came from Flad, dated Gaffat, May 27th, 1864, stating that Stern was still bound, but that Rosenthal was free, and with his wife and child in the camp at Gondar; Flad, with his wife and two children, living three days' journey off, with the two missionaries of the Scotch Society, unchained yet prisoners. On the 29th of March, 1865, another letter was received from Flad, dated Gaffat, November 16th, 1864, stating that the German brethren who were at liberty, besought the king on their knees, three times, to release the captives, but in vain. This letter enclosed one from them to Flad, in which he wrote: “If the British Government act wisely, we may all get out; but, should they adopt harsh and severe measures, the consequences will be serious." On the 5th of June, 1865, the Society heard from them direct, under date of April 6th, 1865, to the effect that, "conciliating letters failed to produce the desired result." A month later Mrs. Stern received a very full letter from her husband, dated Amba Magdala, Southern Abyssinia, April, 1865. He had now been a year and seven months in captivity. After narrating the king's interview with Consul Cameron, and his exceeding dissatisfaction with the letter that M. Bardel had brought from the Emperor of the French, he states the circumstances of his own capture. His work being finished, he had made preparations for return, and reached Gondar, intending to take leave of the king, but, being prevented by his Majesty's sudden departure on a warlike expedition, he bade adieu to the Abuna, and, on October 13th, 1863, quitted, as he thought for
ever, the capital of Abyssinia, Consul Cameron and M. Bardel accompanying him two hours on the road. Falling in with the Royal Court at Woggisa, he stopped to salute his Majesty. The king's brow wore an ominous frown, and, in less than ten minutes, two of Stern's servants lay dead men. The missionary was seen to put his hand to his mouth, and this simple circumstance was construed to his disadvantage, and he was stripped, and beaten till he lay nearly lifeless on the ground.
He was then fastened by the wrist with a hoop and chain to the arm of a soldier; and, while his guardian slept, he passed the night in agony and groans. The king left him in the hands of keepers more pitiful than himself, who told him that he owed his hard lot to his intimacy with the Abuna, who, it was reported by jealous priests, had sold the church lands to Consul Cameron and himself. The appointment of Flad to wait upon him, and other circumstances, inspired him with hopes of speedy release, which were brightened by the king's sending for the European artisans at Gaffat, to come and reconcile the prisoner and his captor. But the king's mind was incensed with new reports to poor Stern's disadvantage. He seized all his papers, and put him under stricter guards, some of whom, snapping their fingers in token that all was over, exclaimed, “We are all but dust, and must die.” length the whole court was summoned to witness his public trial, when, looking round, he beheld Rosenthal in chains. Various crimes were laid to his charge, some without foundation, and others based upon imprudent expressions of opinion which had been found among his books and papers. Mrs. Flad, against whom a similar kind of evidence had been found, was pardoned for the sake of her artisan husband; but both Rosenthal and Stern were pronounced guilty. M. Bardel, who, according to his own expectation, was selected to examine thé seized books and papers, had promised Stern that he would make it out to the king that everything of a compromising nature belonged to somebody in England. Who shall decide how
that Frenchman redeemed his promise of a friendly lie? From this time (November 23) poor Stern and his companions in trouble expected death, and actually experienced the usual fate of those on whom a king has frowned. Stern, however, was promised freedom if he would confess that he had learned the history of the king's divine book from the family of the royal mother-inlaw. Stern had no such acknowledgment to make. On the 4th of December the prisoners were taken before the king, who wished to know why they had insulted him; and, as they could only say that they had not written in the language of the country anything to give him umbrage, they were sent back to prison, stripped almost to the bare skin, and for some hours were in momentary expectation of death.
Just before Christmas, a tantalising offer of release was sent, if Stern would furnish Flad with letters to England, enabling him to procure men and apparatus for making gunpowder. He assented; but nothing came of it, for, while the affair was pending, Consul Cameron's formal demand of letters of departure for his post at Massowah aroused afresh the king's jealous resentment, and on the 3rd of January, 1864, Cameron, his European servants, and all the missionaries were put in fetters, and clapped, with Stern and Rosenthal, in one immense prison within the royal inclosure. Arrived at this point, it is unnecessary to continue a particular narrative of events already, for the most part, known. Mrs. Flad, Mrs. Rosenthal, and their children, though not imprisoned, were abused, denied food, and harshly treated; yet, under the heaviest trials, maintained a heroic courage which surprised their oppressor. As for the German missionaries, they were soon liberated. Then Rosenthal, having gratified the king with some answer on a point of Scripture, was liberated from chains, and allowed to join his wife in a free captivity, and they have not since been separated. As to the cruelties, indignities, and insults heaped upon the other captives, there would be no end to their narration.
In November, 1864, they were removed to Magdala, their present place of confinement. In August and September of the following year, ample details were received from Mr. Stern of the alternate coaxings and tortures by which it was attempted to extort from him the names of those who were suspected of having furnished him with the facts the publication of which was so offensive to the king. Nearly a year wore away in vain hopes that some means would be found of effecting the deliverance of the captives. In November, 1865, the Committee instructed the secretaries to prepare a statement as to the efforts which had been made for that object. It appeared to them that the action of Theodorus was based upon considerations with which the Queen's Government only could deal. Dr. Beke was, however, sent out simultaneously with Mr. Rassam, whom the English Government had chosen for their agent, to solicit the release of Consul Cameron. Dr. Beke was kept back awhile, as it was feared that his appearance might interfere with Mr. Rassam's success; and while he was waiting at Massowah news came down that all the missionaries were released, and were on their way home. And so, indeed, they were ; but before they had got many steps on the journey they were surrounded again by the king's soldiers, and, by the orders of the capricious despot, once more placed in chains. Mr. Rassam and his friends were also
detained, while the king sent Flad to England with a demand for English machinery and workmen. Dr. Beke, hearing the story of the release, but not of the re-capture, returned to England.
And thus matters remain to the present hour.
Letters continue to arrive from the captives, showing that, though with occasional relaxations in severity of treatment, they are still in durance. On the 10th of December they were in a more spacious prison, being distributed in four brushwood tenements, instead of being huddled in one miserable dungeon, where one could not lie at night unless the rest followed his example. Mr. Rassam had a dwelling somewhat better furnished, and with a few feet of cultivated ground attached to it. Mr. Stern, too, had liberty to pray and preach on Sunday. The prisoners, generally, did not quite despair. More recent letters still from Mr. Stern and Mr. Rosenthal, dated June 10th, describe the king's power as rapidly falling; so that he might, perhaps, not return at all to Magdala to resume and continue his massacre and spoliation. The imprisoned Europeans at Gaffat were deemed to be in hardly less danger than those in chains; for, though the pets of the king, they were obnoxious to the nation; and he had already told them, “If I am to die, you are to die first; do not therefore rejoice yet.” Whether he meant by his own orders, or as victims to popular prey, is a moot point: for, only a few days before Mr. Rosenthal wrote, the maddened oppressor had, for no apparent reason at all, ruthlessly ordered the instant execution of a number of his own silvershield bearers. The effect of this was to cause the desertion of a body of his best and bravest troops, who, to a full half of his whole army, coolly went over to the rebel forces. Mr. Stern also represents the career of the tyrant as drawing towards a close, his only doubt being whether he would first immolate himself and his companions in suffering, or carry them with him to the pestilential jungle, or wait on that rock the utter annihilation of his nearly exhausted power. Meantime, Mr. Flad had arrived from the coast without the artisans expected (for the English Government would not suffer them to put themselves in the despot's power), with a telescope through which, though an excellent glass, the bungling king complained that he could not see, and, in fine, with nothing to satisfy the greed of a barbarous ambition. “Why,” he exclaimed, “ did not England destroy the Turks, and give him their country : let them confront him, and if he did not beat them, call him woman." The next intelligence may probably be crises both of the political fortunes of the king and of the united destinies of his prisoners. In the meantime, they exhibit the courage of heroes and the constancy of martyrs ; while, to Mr. Stern, as the moral leader of the hapless band, it
seems to be compensation for all that he has suffered, that, as Paul, a prisoner, was able to speak of saints in Cæsar's household, so he can mention converts of his among the soldiers of Theodorus, “ several of whom are regular evangelists.”
TRUTH AND MIST.