“To my cousin,” replied the nurse somewhat uncertainly.
After the vegetable products of this country, it seems not improper to mention the animals which are found in it, of which here are as great numbers, of as many different species, as in any country in the world: it is infested with lions of many kinds, among which are many of that which is called the lion royal. I cannot help giving the reader on this occasion a relation of a fact which I was an eye- witness of. A lion having taken his haunt near the place where I lived, killed all the oxen and cows, and did a great deal of other mischief, of which I heard new complaints every day. A servant of mine having taken a resolution to free the country from this destroyer, went out one day with two lances, and after he had been some time in quest of him, found him with his mouth all smeared with the blood of a cow he had just devoured; the man rushed upon him, and thrust his lance into his throat with such violence that it came out between his shoulders; the beast, with one dreadful roar, fell down into a pit, and lay struggling, till my servant despatched him. I measured the body of this lion, and found him twelve feet between the head and the tail.
The animals of Abyssinia; the elephant, unicorn, their horses and cows; with a particular account of the moroc.
There are so great numbers of elephants in Abyssinia that in one evening we met three hundred of them in three troops: as they filled up the whole way, we were in great perplexity a long time what measures to take; at length, having implored the protection of that Providence that superintends the whole creation, we went forwards through the midst of them without any injury. Once we met four young elephants, and an old one that played with them, lifting them up with her trunk; they grew enraged on a sudden, and ran upon us: we had no way of securing ourselves but by flight, which, however, would have been fruitless, had not our pursuers been stopped by a deep ditch. The elephants of Aethiopia are of so stupendous a size, that when I was mounted on a large mule I could not reach with my hand within two spans of the top of their backs. In Abyssinia is likewise found the rhinoceros, a mortal enemy to the elephant. In the province of Agaus has been seen the unicorn, that beast so much talked of, and so little known: the prodigious swiftness with which this creature runs from one wood into another has given me no opportunity of examining it particularly, yet I have had so near a sight of it as to be able to give some description of it. The shape is the same with that of a beautiful horse, exact and nicely proportioned, of a bay colour, with a black tail, which in some provinces is long, in others very short: some have long manes hanging to the ground. They are so timorous that they never feed but surrounded with other beasts that defend them. Deer and other defenceless animals often herd about the elephant, which, contenting himself with roots and leaves, preserves those beasts that place themselves, as it were, under his protection, from the rage and fierceness of others that would devour them.
The horses of Abyssinia are excellent; their mules, oxen, and cows are without number, and in these principally consists the wealth of this country. They have a very particular custom, which obliges every man that hath a thousand cows to save every year one day's milk of all his herd, and make a bath with it for his relations, entertaining them afterwards with a splendid feast. This they do so many days each year, as they have thousands of cattle, so that to express how rich any man is, they tell you he bathes so many times. The tribute paid out of their herds to the King, which is not the most inconsiderable of his revenues, is one cow in ten every three years. The beeves are of several kinds; one sort they have without horns, which are of no other use than to carry burthens, and serve instead of mules. Another twice as big as ours which they breed to kill, fattening them with the milk of three or four cows. Their horns are so large, the inhabitants use them for pitchers, and each will hold about five gallons. One of these oxen, fat and ready to be killed, may be bought at most for two crowns. I have purchased five sheep, or five goats with nine kids, for a piece of calico worth about a crown.
The Abyssins have many sort of fowls both wild and tame; some of the former we are yet unacquainted with: there is one of wonderful beauty, which I have seen in no other place except Peru: it has instead of a comb, a short horn upon its head, which is thick and round, and open at the top. The feitan favez, or devil's horse, looks at a distance like a man dressed in feathers; it walks with abundance of majesty, till it finds itself pursued, and then takes wing, and flies away. But amongst all their birds there is none more remarkable than the moroc, or honey-bird, which is furnished by nature with a peculiar instinct or faculty of discovering honey. They have here multitudes of bees of various kinds; some are tame, like ours, and form their combs in hives. Of the wild ones, some place their honey in hollow trees, others hide it in holes in the ground, which they cover so carefully, that though they are commonly in the highway, they are seldom found, unless by the moroc's help, which, when he has discovered any honey, repairs immediately to the road side, and when he sees a traveller, sings, and claps his wings, making many motions to invite him to follow him, and when he perceives him coming, flies before him from tree to tree, till he comes to the place where the bees have stored their treasure, and then begins to sing melodiously. The Abyssin takes the honey, without failing to leave part of it for the bird, to reward him for his information. This kind of honey I have often tasted, and do not find that it differs from the other sorts in anything but colour; it is somewhat blacker. The great quantity of honey that is gathered, and a prodigious number of cows that is kept here, have often made me call Abyssinia a land of honey and butter.
The manner of eating in Abyssinia, their dress, their hospitality, and traffic.
The great lords, and even the Emperor himself, maintain their tables with no great expense. The vessels they make use of are black earthenware, which, the older it is, they set a greater value on. Their way of dressing their meat, an European, till he hath been long accustomed to it, can hardly be persuaded to like; everything they eat smells strong and swims with butter. They make no use of either linen or plates. The persons of rank never touch what they eat, but have their meat cut by their pages, and put into their mouths. When they feast a friend they kill an ox, and set immediately a quarter of him raw upon the table (for their most elegant treat is raw beef newly killed) with pepper and salt; the gall of the ox serves them for oil and vinegar; some, to heighten the delicacy of the entertainment, add a kind of sauce, which they call manta, made of what they take out of the guts of the ox; this they set on the fire, with butter, salt, pepper, and onion. Raw beef, thus relished, is their nicest dish, and is eaten by them with the same appetite and pleasure as we eat the best partridges. They have often done me the favour of helping me to some of this sauce, and I had no way to decline eating it besides telling them it was too good for a missionary.
The common drink of the Abyssins is beer and mead, which they drink to excess when they visit one another; nor can there be a greater offence against good manners than to let the guests go away sober: their liquor is always presented by a servant, who drinks first himself, and then gives the cup to the company, in the order of their quality.
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