chapter  VI
Pages 19

I HAD now been several d.ays in the camp, and should probably have been condemned to a life of inactivity for several days longer without being able to find a plausible excuse for craving the royal sanction to nlY departure before the orgies of Easter, had not Mr. Bell, on account of illness, proposed an excursion to the hot springs on the banks of the Gumurah, which lay on the very road I had to traverse on my ,yay to Debra Tabor, whither Mr. Bronkhorst was conveying our luggage. The following day, whilst at breakfast in the royal tent, I communicated my request to His Majesty, and, in a tone which the moustached European passport functionaries have still to acquire, he promptly replied, "G·o in peace, my SOD. I will give orders that your wants and safety shall be ensured." During the repast which, owing to the

fast, consisted simply of teff cakes, dilli1c,· and an abundance of fermented hydromel, I nearly lost the esteem and regard I had hitherto enjoyed, and that, too, through an unconscious offence against the etiquette of aristocratic life. According to the Abyssinian notion, every man who claims to be of patrician descent and noble lineage, must possess a fine shama, lined with a deep red border, and be enabled to emulate the noise of a certain unclean animal whilst eating his meals. This elegant acquirement, which I had unfortunately not yet attained, drew upon me the frowns as well as the whispering censures of the guests. Unconscious of the cause of this unexpected notoriety, I asked Mr. Bell whether there was anything peculiar in ITIy appearance or deportment that provoked criticism, "Certainly," was the rejoinder; "your conduct is so ungentlemanly, that all the guests think you must be a very low fellow, and quite unaccustomed to move in genteel society." "And to what am I indebted for this good opinion?" returned I. " To the mode in which you eat; for if you were a gentleman, you would show by the smacking of your lips the exalted station to which you belong; but since you masticate your food in this inaudible manner, everyone believes that you are a beggar, and accustomed to eat in that unostentatious quietness which pretended poverty prompts individuals of that class to adopt." I assured them that my breach of

etiquette ought to be attributed to the difference of the customs in Iny own country, and not to the low motive they assigned, an apology which amply satisfied the most accomplished courtier in the royal tent.