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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 8: The renowned Island of Bussis, the character and organisation of its people, the richness of the land, and the royal state of its great king,   pp. 1-9

Page 3

3.  i
But they cannot invade this renowned island, the king having ordered such
vigilance to be kept all around it that a bird cannot appear out at sea
or cross the land without it being generally known, by means of the
bambalous. The men who keep watch from the tops of trees are in charge
of these bambalous, so that if there is cause, they sound them in order
to give the whole land warning of what is happening.
This king has a very large compound and within it are all his houses,
which contain over 200 wives. In order to keep the wives at home, he has
given the post of doorkeeper to one of his intimates, though some say that
he uses eunuchs. Only to this man or these persons is given the right to
open fire with arrows on any wife seen by night outside her/his-house.
When these women walk along any road such is their modesty that they do
not raise their eyes from the ground, and anyone who meets them must turn
aside. How this would upset /f.30v/ wives in our Spanish homeland! Wives
who make no pretence of staying at home, and who do not cover their face
or lower their gaze except in order to draw more attention to themselves!
Many of his wives are slaves and have been bought for money. As well as
the large number of houses (for wives) which the king maintains in this
he has his own  (d)
place, he has his own house., which is barred with iron all around.
Within this house he keeps many trunks and boxes full of different articls
of clothing, such as very elaborate smocks, doublets and breeches, (also)
sheets, coverlets and canopies made of different pieces of silk, and items
in gold and silver. These goods, apart from the ones left him by his uncle
and predecessor, he has bought and continues to buy from the Portuguese
who come there with their ships to obtain slavesje a commodity the
tyrant's chains never fail to have available. For he has such cruel laws
that only the person who is truly a slave (at heart) and does not know the
value of life would be willing to live under this king's rule. The
Portuguese come ashore in full security and they are received with all the
signs of friendship, since this king is fond of saying that, without his
permission, only the snakes in the forest can do anyone ill in his land.
And this is the experience of the Portuguese even today, for if they cut
down a hand of bananas his vassals will not accept money for it, on account
of the respect for the whites which they know their king has, albeit only
out of self-interest. On this point, the heathen deserves praise.
(d) This house is for treasure.
(e)  Who are *     t In   h I4t; (2k s1Lk  b            ""i (?


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