chapter  XVI
Pages 18

DURING our stay at Gondar we witnessed the celebration of Mascal-a grand feast devoted to the discovery of the Holy Cross by the mother of Constantine. The ceremonies commenced early in the evening by a merry procession of boys and girls, who traversed the streets begging wood and fagots for the midnight bonfires. A numerous gay party, of both sexes, also waited on me, not, as they artfully hinted to solicit my contribution towards the illumination, but to assure me that in honour of my visit, they would encircle Kudu» Gabriel with a belt of fire that should blaze up to the heaven and eclipse the very stars ill the firmament. Such a flaming demonstration in my favour, required a substantial acknowledgment in return, and to their delight, I emptied my whole stock of small IIloney among them, which just amounted to ten pounds-not of gold, but of tile Imperial currency-dirty black salt. As an expression of their gratitude they struck up an

Ethiopian Hallelujah chorus that Sl100k the very "valls of our dwelling, and they would probably have favoured me with another grand performance, had I not urged them to collect more wood for the promised illumination. An hour past midnight the festivities began. The debierahs, who are the leaders in all religious solemnities, initiated the gaieties of the fete by open-air chants in praise of the Cross. Their voices, which are a torture when heard in the church, were not devoid of harmony on the hills, in the perfect stillness of the night. Roused from their slumbers by the strains of the singers, the whole population quitted their lairs, and ill pious fervour mingled their own execrable screams with the voices of the trained choristers of the capital. Curious to witness the firing of the piles, I also left my couch of untanned hide and sallied forth to join the nocturnal assemblage. At the gate, a dazzling glare of torches and the shouts of a wild and tumultuous mob, clrove 111e back to my domicile. The crowd, which could not have numbered less than four hundred persons, out of respect to the Aboona, inflicted on me, during an interminable half-hour, all the agonies of their abominable music, I might, it is true, have put the wall of the archiepiscopal palace between myself and these genuine Ethiopian serenaders, but as such an act would have been esteemed an unpardonable sin against the Cross, I was forced to submit, as gracefully as IllY ears permitted, to this hideous din. From the Aboona's residence the crowd rushed up the acclivities on which the beacons had been reared, and

at a given signal over the heights ill the rear of Kudus Gabriel, the torches were thrust into the heaps of wood, and, amidst tile clashing of swords, the beating of neIJareets, and the crackling of the flames, the auspicious event of the finding of the .Mascal was appropriately proclaimed.