Continued Diplomatic Difficulties — Negro Chaffing — The King in a New Costume — Adjutant and Heron Shooting at Court — My Residence Changed — Scenes at Court — The Kamraviona, or Commander-in-Chief — Quarrels — Confidential Communications with the King — Court Executions and Executioners — Another Day with the Queen.
7th. — The farce continued, and how to manage these haughty capricious blacks puzzled my brains considerably; but I felt that if I did not stand up now, no one would ever be treated better hereafter. I sent Nasib to the queen, to explain why I had not been to see her. I desired to do so, because I admired her wisdom; but before I went I must first see the king, to provide against any insult being offered to me, such as befell Bombay when I sent him with medicine. Having despatched him, I repaired again to the palace. In the antechamber I found a number of Wakungu, as usual, lounging about on the ground, smoking, chatting, and drinking pombe, whilst Wasoga amused them singing and playing on lap-harps, and little boys kept time on the harmonicon.
These Wakungu are naturally patient attendants, being well trained to the duty; but their very lives depend upon their presenting themselves at court a certain number of months every year, no matter from what distant part of the country they have to come. If they failed, their estates would be confiscated, and their lives taken unless they could escape. I found a messenger who consented to tell the king of my desire to see him. He returned to say that the king was sleeping — a palpable falsehood. In a huff, I walked home to breakfast, leaving my attendants, Maula and Uledi, behind to make explanations. They saw the king, who simply asked, “Where is Bana?” And on being told that I came, but went off again, he said, as I was informed, “That is a lie, for had he come here to see me he would not have returned”; then rising, he walked away and left the men to follow me.
I continued ruminating on these absurd entanglements, and the best way of dealing with them, when lo! to perplex me still more, in ran a bevy of the royal pages to ask for mtende beads — a whole sack of them; for the king wished to go with his women on a pilgrimage to the N’yanza. Thinking myself very lucky to buy the king’s ear so cheaply, I sent Maula as before, adding that I considered my luck very bad, as nobody here knew my position in society, else they would not treat me as they did. My proper sphere was the palace, and unless I got a hut there, I wished to leave the country. My first desire had always been to see the king; and if he went to the N’yanza, I trusted he would allow me to go there also. The boys replied, “How can you go with his women? No one ever is permitted to see them.” “Well,” said I, “if I cannot go to the N’yanza with him” (thinking only of the great lake, whereas they probably meant a pond in the palace enclosures, where Mtesa constantly frolics with his women), “I wish to go to Usoga and Amara, as far as the Masai; for I have no companions here but crows and vultures.” They promised to take the message, but its delivery was quite another thing; for no one can speak at this court till he is spoken to, and a word put in out of season is a life lost.
On Maula’s return, I was told the king would not believe so generous a man as Bana could have sent him so few beads; he believed most of my store must have been stolen on the road, and would ask me about that to-morrow. He intimated that for the future I must fire a gun at the waiting-hut whenever I entered the palace, so that he might hear of my arrival, for he had been up that morning, and would have been glad to see me, only the boys, from fear of entering his cabinet, had forged a lie, and deprived him of any interview with me, which he had long wished to get. This ready cordiality was as perplexing as all the rest. Could it be possible, I thought, I had been fighting with a phantom all this while, and yet the king had not been able to perceive it? At all events, now, as the key to his door had been given, I would make good use of it and watch the result. Meanwhile Nasib returned from the queen-dowager’s palace without having seen her majesty, though he had waited there patiently the whole day long, for she was engaged in festivities, incessantly drumming and playing, in consequence of the birth of twins (Mabassa), which had just taken place in her palace; but he was advised to return on the morrow.
8th. — After breakfast I walked to the palace, thinking I had gained all I wanted; entered, and fired guns, expecting an instant admittance; but, as usual, I was required to sit and wait; the king was expected immediately. All the Wagungu talked in whispers, and nothing was heard but the never-ceasing harps and harmonicons. In a little while I felt tired of the monotony, and wished to hang up a curtain, that I might lie down in privacy and sleep till the king was ready; but the officers in waiting forbade this, as contrary to law, and left me the only alternative of walking up and down the court to kill time, spreading my umbrella against the powerful rays of the sun. A very little of that made me fidgety and impetuous, which the Waganda noticed, and, from fear of the consequences, they began to close the gate to prevent my walking away. I flew out on them, told Bombay to notice the disrespect, and shamed them into opening it again. The king immediately, on hearing of this, sent me pombe to keep me quiet; but as I would not touch it, saying I was sick at heart, another page rushed out to say the king was ready to receive me; and, opening a side gate leading into a small open court without a hut in it, there, to be sure, was his majesty, sitting on an Arab’s donkey run, propped against one page, and encompassed by four others.
On confronting him, he motioned me to sit, which I did upon my bundle of grass, and, finding it warm, asked leave to open my umbrella. He was much struck at the facility with which I could make shade, but wondered still more at my requiring it. I explained to him that my skin was white because I lived in a colder country than his, and therefore was much more sensitive to the heat of the sun than his black skin; adding, at the same time, if it gave no offence, I would prefer sitting in the shade of the court fence. He had no objection, and opened conversation by asking who it was that gave me such offence in taking my guard from me to seize his Wakungu. The boy who had provoked me was then dragged in, tied by his neck and hands, when the king asked him by whose orders he had acted in such a manner, knowing that I objected to it, and wished to speak to him on the subject first. The poor boy, in a dreadful fright, said he had acted under the instructions of the Kamraviona: there was no harm done, for Bana’s men were not hurt. “Well, then,” said the king, “if they were not injured, and you only did as you were ordered, no fault rests with you; but begone out of my sight, for I cannot bear to see you, and the Kamraviona shall be taught a lesson not to meddle with my guests again until I give him authority to do so.”
I now hoped, as I had got the king all by himself, and apparently in a good humour with me, that I might give him a wholesome lesson on the manners and customs of the English nation, to show how much I felt the slights I had received since my residence in Uganda; but he never lost his dignity and fussiness as an Uganda king. My words must pass through his Mkungu, as well as my interpreter’s, before they reached him; and, as he had no patience, everything was lost till he suddenly asked Maula, pretending not to know, where my hut was; why everybody said I lived so far away; and when told, he said, “Oh! that is very far, he must come nearer.” Still I could not say a word, his fussiness and self-importance overcoming his inquisitiveness.
Rain now fell, and the king retired by one gate, whilst I was shown out of another, until the shower was over. As soon as the sky was clear again, we returned to the little court, and this time became more confidential, as he asked many questions about England — such as, Whether the Queen knew anything about medicines? Whether she kept a number of women as he did? and what her palace was like? — which gave me an opportunity of saying I would like to see his ships, for I heard they were very numerous — and also his menagerie, said to be full of wonderful animals. He said the vessels were far off, but he would send for them; and although he once kept a large number of animals, he killed them all in practising with his guns. The Whitworth rifle was then brought in for me to take to pieces and teach him the use of; and then the chronometer. He then inquired if I would like to go shooting? I said, “Yes, if he would accompany me — not otherwise.” “Hippopotami?” “Yes; there is great fun in that, for they knock the boats over when they charge from below.” “Can you swim?” “Yes.” “So can I. And would you like to shoot buffalo?” “Yes, if you will go.” “At night, then, I will send my keepers to look out for them. Here is a leopard-car, with white behind its ears, and a Ndezi porcupine of the short-quilled kind, which my people eat with great relish; and if you are fond of animals, I will give you any number of specimens, for my keepers net and bring in live animals of every kind daily; for the present, you can take this basket of porcupines home for your dinner.” My men n’yanzigged — the king walked away, giving orders for another officer to follow up the first who went to Ukori, and bring Petherick quickly — and I went home.
This was to be a day of varied success. When I arrived at my hut I found a messenger sent by the queen, with a present of a goat, called “fowls for Bana, my son,” and a load of plantains, called potatoes, waiting for me; so I gave the bearer fundo of mtende beads, and told again the reasons why I had not been able to call upon the queen, but I hoped to do so shortly, as the king had promised me a house near at hand. I doubt, however, whether one word of my message ever reached her. That she wanted me at her palace was evident by the present, though she was either too proud or too cautious to say so.
At night I overheard a chat between Sangizo, a Myamuezi, and Ntalo, a freed man of Zanzibar, very characteristic of their way of chaffing. Sangizo opened the battle by saying, “Ntalo, who are you?” N. “A Mguana” (freed man). S. “A Mguana, indeed! then where is your mother?” N. “She died at Anguja.” S. “Your mother died at Anguja! then where is your father?” N. “He died at Anguja likewise.” S. “Well, that is strange; and where are your brothers and sister?” N. “They all died at Anguja.” S. (then changing the word Anguja for Anguza, says to Ntalo) “I think you said your mother and father both died at Anguza, did you not?” N. “Yes, at Anguza.” S. “Then you had two mothers and two fathers — one set died at Anguja, and the other set at Anguza; you are a humbug; I don’t believe you; you are no Mguana, but a slave who has been snatched from his family, and does not know where any of his family are. Ah! ah! ah!” And all the men of the camp laugh together at the wretched Ntalo’s defeat; but Ntalo won’t be done, so retorts by saying, “Sangizo, you may laugh at me because I am an orphan, but what are you? you are a savage — a Mshezi; you come from the Mashenzi, and you wear skins, not cloths, as men do; so hold your impudent tongue”; — and the camp pealed with merry boisterous laughter again.
9th. — Early in the morning, and whilst I was in bed, the king sent his pages to request me to visit his royal mother, with some specific for the itch, with which her majesty was then afflicted. I said I could not go so far in the sun; I would wait till I received the promised palace near her. In the meanwhile I prepared to call on him. I observed, in fact, that I was an object of jealousy between the two courts, and that, if I acted skilfully and decidedly, I might become master of the situation, and secure my darling object of a passage northwards. The boys returned, bringing a pistol to be cleaned, and a message to say it was no use my thinking of calling on the king — that I must go to the queen immediately, for she was very ill. So far the queen won the day, but I did not obtain my new residence, which I considered the first step to accomplishing the greater object; I therefore put the iron farther in the fire by saying I was no man’s slave, and I should not go until I got a house in the palace — Bombay could teach the boys the way to clean the pistol. The perk monkeys, however, turned up their noses at such menial service, and Uledi was instructed in their stead.
10th. — To surprise the queen, and try another dodge, I called on her with all my dining things and bedding, to make a day of it, and sleep the night. She admitted me at once, when I gave her quinine, on the proviso that I should stop there all day and night to repeat the dose, and tell her the reason why I did not come before. She affected great anger at Mtesa having interfered with my servants when coming to see her — sympathised with me on the distance I had to travel — ordered a hut to be cleared for me ere night — told me to eat my breakfast in the next court — and, rising abruptly, walked away. At noon we heard the king approaching with his drums and rattle-traps, but I still waited on till 5 p.m., when, on summons, I repaired to the throne-hut. Here I heard, in an adjoining court, the boisterous, explosive laughs of both mother and son — royal shouts loud enough to be heard a mile off, and inform the community that their sovereigns were pleased to indulge in hilarity. Immediately afterwards, the gate between us being thrown open, the king, like a very child, stood before us, dressed for the first time, in public, in what Europeans would call clothes. For a cap he wore a Muscat alfia, on his neck a silk Arab turban, fastened with a ring. Then for a coat he had an Indian kizbow, and for trousers a yellow woollen doti; whilst in his hand, in imitation of myself, he kept running his ramrod backwards and forwards through his fingers. As I advanced and doffed my hat, the king, smiling, entered the court, followed by a budding damsel dressed in red bindera, who carried the chair I had presented to him, and two new spears.
He now took his seat for the first time upon the chair, for I had told him, at my last interview, that all kings were expected to bring out some new fashion, or else the world would never make progress; and I was directed to sit before him on my grass throne. Talking, though I longed to enter into conversation, was out of the question; for no one dared speak for me, and I could not talk myself; so we sat and grinned, till in a few minutes the queen, full of smirks and smiles, joined us, and sat on a mbugu. I offered the medicine-chest as a seat, but she dared not take it; in fact, by the constitution of Uganda, no one, however high in rank, not even his mother, can sit before the king. After sundry jokes, whilst we were all bursting with laughter at the theatrical phenomenon, the Wakungu who were present, some twenty in number, threw themselves in line upon their bellies, and wriggling like fish, n’yanzigged, n’goned, and demaned, and uttered other wonderful words of rejoining — as, for instance, “Hai Minange! Hai Mkama wangi!” (O my chief! O my king!)— whilst they continued floundering, kicking about their legs, rubbing their faces, and patting their hands upon the ground, as if the king had performed some act of extraordinary munificence by showing himself to them in that strange and new position — a thing quite enough to date a new Uganda era from.
The king, without deigning to look upon his grovelling subjects, said, “Now, mother, take your medicine”; for he had been called solemnly to witness the medical treatment she was undergoing at my hands. When she had swallowed her quinine with a wry face, two very black virgins appeared on the stage holding up the double red blanket I had given the queen; for nothing, however trifling, can be kept secret from the king. The whole court was in raptures. The king signified his approval by holding his mouth, putting his head on one side, and looking askance at it. The queen looked at me, then at the blanket and her son in turn; whilst my men hung down their heads, fearful lest they should be accused of looking at the ladies of the court; and the Wakungu n’yanzigged again, as if they could not contain the gratification they felt at the favour shown them. Nobody had ever brought such wonderful things to Uganda before, and all loved Bana.
Till now I had expected to vent my wrath on both together for all past grievances, but this childish, merry, homely scene — the mother holding up her pride, her son, before the state officers — melted my heart at once. I laughed as well as they did, and said it pleased me excessively to see them both so happy together. It was well the king had broken through the old-fashioned laws of Uganda, by sitting on an iron chair, and adopting European dresses; for now he was opening a road to cement his own dominions with my country. I should know what things to send that would please him. The king listened, but without replying; and said, at the conclusion, “It is late, now let us move”; and walked away, preserving famously the lion’s gait. The mother also vanished, and I was led away to a hut outside, prepared for my night’s residence. It was a small, newly-built hut, just large enough for my bed, with a corner for one servant; so I turned all my men away, save one — ate my dinner, and hoped to have a quiet cool night of it, when suddenly Maula flounced in with all his boys, lighting a fire, and they spread their mbugus for the night. In vain I pleaded I could not stand the suffocation of so many men, especially of Waganda, who eat raw plantains; and unless they turned out, I should do so, to benefit by the pure air. Maula said he had the queen’s orders to sleep with Bana, and sleep there he would; so rather than kick him out, which I felt inclined to do, I smoked my pipe and drank pombe all night, turning the people out and myself in, in the morning, to prepare for a small house-fight with the queen.
11th. — Early in the morning, as I expected, she demanded my immediate attendance; and so the little diplomatic affair I had anticipated came on. I began the affair by intimating that I am in bed, and have not breakfasted. So at 10 a.m. another messenger arrives, to say her majesty is much surprised at my not coming. What can such conduct mean, when she arranged everything so nicely for me after my own desire, that she might drink her medicine properly? Still I am not up; but nobody will let me rest for fear of the queen; so, to while away the time, I order Bombay to call upon her, give the quinine, and tell her all that has happened; at which she flies into a towering rage, says she will never touch medicine administered by any other hands but mine, and will not believe in one word Bombay says, either about Maula or the hut; for Maula, whose duty necessarily obliged him to take my servants before her majesty, had primed her with a lot of falsehoods on the subject; and she had a fondness for Maula, because he was a clever humbug and exceeding rogue — and sent Bombay back to fetch me, for nobody had ever dared disobey her mandates before.
It had now turned noon, and being ready for the visit, I went to see the queen. Determined to have her turn, she kept me waiting for a long time before she would show herself; and at last, when she came, she flounced up to her curtain, lay down in a huff, and vented her wrath, holding her head very high, and wishing to know how I could expect officers, with large establishments, to be turned out of their homes merely to give me room for one night; I ought to have been content with my fare; it was no fault of Maula’s. I tried to explain through Nasib, but she called Nasib a liar, and listened to Maula who told the lies; then asked for her medicine; drank it, saying it was a small dose; and walked off in ill humour as she had come. I now made up my mind to sit till 3 p.m., hoping to see the queen again, whilst talking with some Kidi officers, who, contrary to the general law of the country, indulged me with some discourses on geography, from which I gathered, though their stories were rather confused, that beyond the Asua river, in the Galla country, there was another lake which was navigated by the inhabitants in very large vessels; and somewhere in the same neighbourhood there was an exceedingly high mountain covered with yellow dust, which the natives collected, etc., etc.
Time was drawing on, and as the queen would not appear of her own accord, I sent to request a friendly conversation with her before I left, endeavouring, as well as I could, to persuade her that the want of cordiality between us was owing to the mistakes of interpreters, who had not conveyed to her my profound sentiments of devotion. This brought her gracious corpulence out all smirks and smiles, preceded by a basket of potatoes for “Bana, my son.” I began conversation with a speech of courtesy, explaining how I had left my brother Grant and my great friend Rumanika at Karague — hastening, in compliance with the invitation of the king, to visit him and herself, with the full hope of making friends in Uganda; but now I had come, I was greatly disappointed; for I neither saw half enough of their majesties, nor did any of their officers ever call upon me to converse and pass away the dreary hours. All seemed highly pleased, and complimented my speech; while the queen, turning to her officers, said, “If that is the case, I will send these men to you”; whereupon the officers, highly delighted at the prospect of coming to see me, and its consequence a present, n’yanzigged until I thought their hands would drop off. Then her majesty to my thorough annoyance, and before I had finished half I had to say, rose from her seat, and, showing her broad stern to the company, walked straight away. The officers then drew near me, and begged I would sleep there another night; but as they had nothing better to offer than the hut of last night, I declined and went my way, begging them to call and make friends with me.
12th. — Immediately after breakfast the king sent his pages in a great hurry to say he was waiting on the hill for me, and begged I would bring all my guns immediately. I prepared, thinking, naturally enough, that some buffaloes had been marked down; for the boys, as usual, were perfectly ignorant of his designs. To my surprise, however, when I mounted the hill half-way to the palace, I found the king standing, dressed in a rich filagreed waistcoat, trimmed with gold embroidery, tweedling the loading-rod in his fingers, and an alfia cap on his head, whilst his pages held his chair and guns, and a number of officers, with dogs and goats for offerings, squatted before him.
When I arrived, hat in hand, he smiled, examined my firearms, and proceeded for sport, leading the way to a high tree, on which some adjutant birds were nesting, and numerous vultures resting. This was the sport; Bana must shoot a nundo (adjutant) for the king’s gratification. I begged him to take a shot himself, as I really could not demean myself by firing at birds sitting on a tree; but it was all of no use — no one could shoot as I could, and they must be shot. I proposed frightening them out with stones, but no stone could reach so high; so, to cut the matter short, I killed an adjutant on the nest, and, as the vultures flew away, brought one down on the wing, which fell in a garden enclosure.
The Waganda were for a minute all spell-bound with astonishment, when the king jumped frantically in the air, clapping his hands above his head, and singing out, “Woh, woh, woh! what wonders! Oh, Bana, Bana! what miracles he performs!”— and all the Wakungu followed in chorus. “Now load, Bana — load, and let us see you do it,” cried the excited king; but before I was half loaded, he said, “Come along, come along, and let us see the bird.” Then directing the officers which way to go — for, by the etiquette of the court of Uganda, every one must precede the king — he sent them through a court where his women, afraid of the gun, had been concealed. Here the rush onward was stopped by newly made fences, but the king roared to the officers to knock them down. This was no sooner said than done, by the attendants in a body shoving on and trampling them under, as an elephant would crush small trees to keep his course. So pushing, floundering through plaintain and shrub, pell-mell one upon the other, that the king’s pace might not be checked, or any one come in for a royal kick or blow, they came upon the prostrate bird. “Woh, woh, woh!” cried the king again, “there he is, sure enough; come here, women — come and look what wonders!” And all the women, in the highest excitement, “woh-wohed” as loud as any of the men. But that was not enough. “Come along, Bana,” said the king, “we must have some more sport;” and, saying this he directed the way towards the queen’s palace, the attendants leading, followed by the pages, then the king, next myself — for I never would walk before him — and finally the women, some forty or fifty, who constantly attended him.
To make the most of the king’s good-humour, while I wanted to screen myself from the blazing sun, I asked him if he would like to enjoy the pleasures of an umbrella; and before he had time to answer, held mine over him as we walked side by side. The Wakungu were astonished, and the women prattled in great delight; whilst the king, hardly able to control himself, sidled and spoke to his flatterers as if he were doubly created monarch of all he surveyed. He then, growing more familiar, said, “Now, Bana, do tell me — did you not shoot that bird with something more than common ammunition? I am sure you did, now; there was magic in it.” And all I said to the contrary would not convince him. “But we will see again.” “At buffaloes?” I said. “No, the buffaloes are too far off now; we will wait to go after then until I have given you a hut close by.” Presently, as some herons were flying overhead, he said, “Now, shoot, shoot!” and I brought a couple down right and left. He stared, and everybody stared, believing me to be a magician, when the king said he would like to have pictures of the birds drawn and hung up in the palace; “but let us go and shoot some more, for it is truly wonderful.” Similar results followed, for the herons were continually whirling round, as they had their nests upon a neighbouring tree; and then the king ordered his pages to carry all the birds, save the vulture — which, for some reason, they did not touch — and show them to the queen.
He then gave the order to move on, and we all repaired to the palace. Arrived at the usual throne-room, he took his seat, dismissed the party of wives who had been following him, as well as the Wakungu, received pombe from his female evil-eye averters, and ordered me, with my men, to sit in the sun facing him, till I complained of the heat, and was allowed to sit by his side. Kites, crows, and sparrows were flying about in all directions, and as they came within shot, nothing would satisfy the excited boy-king but I must shoot them, and his pages take them to the queen, till my ammunition was totally expended. He then wanted me to send for more shot; and as I told him he must wait for more until my brothers come, he contented himself with taking two or three sample grains and ordering his iron-smiths to make some like them.
Cows were now driven in for me to kill two with one bullet; but as the off one jumped away when the gun fired, the bullet passed through the near one, then through all the courts and fences, and away no one knew where. The king was delighted, and said he must keep the rifle to look at for the night. I now asked permission to speak with him on some important matters, when he sent his women away and listened. I said I felt anxious about the road on which Mabruki was travelling, to which I added that I had ordered him to tell Petherick to come here or else to send property to the value of one thousand dollars; and I felt anxious because some of the queen’s officers felt doubtful about Waganda being able to penetrate Kidi. He said I need not concern myself on that score; he was much more anxious for the white men to come here than even I was, and he would not send my men into any danger; but it was highly improper for any of his people to speak about such subjects. Then, assembling the women again, he asked me to load Whitworth for him, when he shot the remaining cow, holding the rifle in both hands close to his thigh. The feat, of course, brought forth great and uproarious congratulations from his women. The day thus ended, and I was dismissed.
13th. — Mabriki and Bilal come into camp: they returned last night; but the Waganda escort, afraid of my obtaining information of them before the king received it, kept them concealed. They had been defeated in Usoga, two marches each of Kira, at the residence of Nagozigombi, Mtesa’s border officer, who gave them two bullocks, but advised their returning at once to inform the king that the independent Wasoga had been fighting with his dependent Wasoga subjects for some time, and the battle would not be over for two months or more, unless he sent an army to their assistance.
I now sent Bombay to the king to request an interview, as I had much of importance to tell him; but the could not be seen, as he was deep in the interior of the palace enjoying the society of his wives. The Kamraviona, however, was found there waiting, as usual, on the mere chance of his majesty taking it into his head to come out. He asked Bombay if it was true the woman he gave me ran away; and when Bombay told him, he said, “Oh, he should have chained her for two or three days, until she became accustomed to her residence; for women often take fright and run away in that way, believing strangers to be cannibals.” But Bombay replied, “She was not good enough for Bana; he let her go off like a dog; he wants a young and beautiful Mhuma, or none at all.” “Ah, well, then, if he is so particular, he must wait a bit, for we have none on hand. What I gave him is the sort of creature we give all our guests.” A Msoga was sent by the king to take the dead adjutant of yesterday out of the nest — for all Wasoga are expert climbers, which is not the case with the Waganda; but the man was attacked half-way up the tree by a swarm of bees, and driven down again.
14th. — After all the vexatious haggling for a house, I gained my object to-day by a judicious piece of bribery which I had intended to accomplish whenever I could. I now succeeded in sending — for I could not, under the jealous eyes in Uganda, get it done earlier — a present of fifteen pints mixed beads, twenty blue eggs, and five copper bracelets, to the commander-in-chief, as a mark of friendship. At the same time I hinted that I should like him to use his influence in obtaining for me a near and respectable residence, where I hoped he, as well as all the Waganda nobility, would call upon me; for my life in Uganda was utterly miserable, being shut up like a hermit by myself every day. The result was, that a number of huts in a large plantain garden were at once assigned to me, on the face of a hill, immediately overlooking and close to the main road. It was considered the “West End.” It had never before been occupied by any visitors excepting Wahinda ambassadors; and being near, and in full view of the palace, was pleasant and advantageous, as I could both hear the constant music, and see the throngs of people ever wending their way to and from the royal abodes. I lost no time in moving all my property, turning out the original occupants — in selecting the best hut for myself, giving the rest to my three officers — and ordering my men to build barracks for themselves, in street form, from my hut to the main road. There was one thing only left to be done; the sanitary orders of Uganda required every man to build himself a house of parliament, such being the neat and cleanly nature of the Waganda — a pattern to all other negro tribes.
15th. — As nobody could obtain an interview with the king yesterday, I went to the palace to-day, and fired three shots — a signal which was at once answered from within by a double discharge of a gun I had just lent him on his returning my rifle. In a little while, as soon as he had time to dress, the king, walking like a lion, sallied forth, leading his white dog, and beckoned me to follow him to the state hut, the court of which was filled with squatting men as usual, well dressed, and keeping perfect order. He planted himself on his throne, and begged me to sit by his side. Then took place the usual scene of a court levee, as described in Chapter X., with the specialty, in this instance, that the son of the chief executioner — one of the highest officers of state — was led off for execution, for some omission or informality in his n’yanzigs, or salutes.
At this levee sundry Wakungu of rank complained that the Wanyambo plundered their houses at night, and rough-handled their women, without any respect for their greatness, and, when caught, said they were Bana’s men. Bombay, who was present, heard the complaint, and declared these were Suwarora’s men, who made use of the proximity of my camp to cover their own transgressions. Then Suwarora’s deputation, who were also present, cringed forward, n’yanzigging like Waganda, and denied the accusation, when the king gave all warning that he would find out the truth by placing guards on the look-out at night.
Till this time the king had not heard one word about the defeat of the party sent for Petherick. His kingdom might have been lost, and he would have been no wiser; when the officer who led Mabruki came forward and told him all that had happened, stating, in addition to what I heard before, that they took eighty men with them, and went into battle three times successfully. Dismissing business, however, the king turned to me, and said he never saw anything so wonderful as my shooting in his life; he was sure it was done by magic, as my gun never missed, and he wished I would instruct him in the art. When I denied there was any art in shooting, further than holding the gun straight, he shook his head, and getting me to load his revolving pistol for him, he fired all five barrels into two cows before the multitude. He then thought of adjutant-shooting with ball, left the court sitting, desired me to follow him, and leading the way, went into the interior of the palace, where only a few select officers were permitted to follow us. The birds were wild, and as nothing was done, I instructed him in the way to fire from his shoulder, placing the gun in position. He was shy at first, and all the people laughed at my handling royalty like a schoolboy; but he soon took to it very good-naturedly, when I gave him my silk necktie and gold crest-ring, explaining their value, which he could not comprehend, and telling him we gentlemen prided ourselves on never wearing brass or copper.
He now begged hard for shot; but I told him again his only chance of getting any lay in opening the road onwards; it was on this account, I said, I had come to see him to-day. He answered, “I am going to send an army to Usoga to force the way from where your men were turned back.” But this, I said, would not do for me, as I saw his people travelled like geese, not knowing the direction of Gani, or where they were going to when sent. I proposed that if he would call all his travelling men of experience together, I would explain matters to them by a map I had brought; for I should never be content till I saw Petherick.
The map was then produced. He seemed to comprehend it immediately, and assembled the desired Wakungu; but, to my mortification, he kept all the conversation to himself, Waganda fashion; spoke a lot of nonsense; and then asked his men what they thought had better be done. The sages replied, “Oh, make friends, and do the matter gently.” But the king proudly raised his head, laughed them to scorn, and said, “Make friends with men who have crossed their spears with us already! Nonsense! they would only laugh at us; the Uganda spear alone shall do it.” Hearing this bravado, the Kamraviona, the pages, and the elders, all rose to a man, with their sticks, and came charging at their king, swearing they would carry out his wished with their lives. The meeting now broke up in the usual unsatisfactory, unfinished manner, by the king rising and walking away, whilst I returned with the Kamraviona, who begged for ten more blue eggs in addition to my present to make a full necklace, and told my men to call upon him in the morning, when he would give me anything I wished to eat. Bombay was then ordered to describe what sort of food I lived on usually; when, Mganda fashion, he broke a stick into ten bits, each representing a differing article, and said, “Bana eat mixed food always”; and explained that stick No. 1 represented beef; No. 2, mutton; No. 3, fowl; No. 4, eggs; No. 5, fish; No. 6, potatoes; No. 7, plantains; No. 8, pombe; No. 9, butter; No. 10, flour.
16th. — To-day the king was amusing himself among his women again, and not to be seen. I sent Bombay with ten blue eggs as a present for the Kamraviona, intimating my desire to call upon him. He sent me a goat and ten fowls’ eggs, saying he was not visible to strangers on business to-day. I inferred that he required the king’s permission to receive me. This double failure was a more serious affair then a mere slight; for my cows were eaten up, and my men clamouring incessantly for food; and though they might by orders help themselves “ku n’yangania”— by seizing — from the Waganda, it hurt my feelings so much to witness this, that I tried from the first to dispense with it, telling the king I had always flogged my men for stealing, and now he turned them into a pack of thieves. I urged that he should either allow me to purchase rations, or else feed them from the palace as Rumanika did; but he always turned a deaf ear, or said that what Sunna his father had introduced it ill became him to subvert; and unless my men helped themselves they would die of starvation.
On the present emergency I resolved to call upon the queen. On reaching the palace, I sent an officer in to announce my arrival, and sat waiting for the reply fully half an hour, smoking my pipe, and listening to her in the adjoining court, where music was playing, and her voice occasionally rent the air with merry boisterous laughing.
The messenger returned to say no one could approach her sanctuary or disturb her pleasure at this hour; I must wait and bide my time, as the Uganda officers do. Whew! Here was another diplomatic crisis, which had to be dealt with in the usual way. “I bide my time!” I said, rising in a towering passion, and thrashing the air with my ramrod walking-stick, before all the visiting Wakungu, “when the queen has assured me her door would always be open to me! I shall leave this court at once, and I solemnly swear I shall never set foot in it again, unless some apology be made for treating me like a dog.” Then, returning home, I tied up all the presents her majesty had given me in a bundle, and calling Maula and my men together, told them to take them where they came from; for it ill became me to keep tokens of friendship when no friendship existed between us. I came to make friends with the queen, not to trade or take things from her — and so forth. The blackguard Maula, laughing, said, “Bana does not know what he is doing; it is a heinous offence in Uganda sending presents back; nobody for their lives dare do so to the queen; her wrath would know no bounds. She will say, ‘I took a few trifles from Bana as specimens of his country, but they shall all go back, and the things the king has received shall go back also, for we are all of one family’; and then won’t Bana be very sorry? Moreover, Wakungu will be killed by dozens, and lamentations will reign throughout the court to propitiate the devils who brought such disasters on them.” Bombay, also in a fright, said, “Pray don’t do so; you don’t know these savages as we do; there is no knowing what will happen; it may defeat our journey altogether. Further, we have had no food these four days, because row succeeds row. If we steal, you flog us; and if we ask the Waganda for food, they beat us. We don’t know what to do.” I was imperative, however, and said, “Maula must take back these things in the morning, or stand the consequences.” In fact, I found that, like the organ-grinders in London, to get myself moved on I must make myself troublesome.
17th. — The queen’s presents were taken back by Maula and Nasib, whilst I went to see the Kamraviona. Even this gentleman kept me waiting for some time to show his own importance, and then admitted me into one of his interior courts, where I found him sitting on the ground with several elders; whilst Wasoga minstrels played on their lap-harps, and sang songs in praise of their king, and the noble stranger who wore fine clothes and eclipsed all previous visitors. At first, on my approach, the haughty young chief, very handsome, and twenty years of age, did not raise his head; then he begged me to be seated, and even enquired after my health, in a listless, condescending kind of manner, as if the exertion of talking was too much for his constitution or his rank; but he soon gave up this nonsense as I began to talk, inquired, amongst other things, why I did not see the Waganda at my house, when I said I should so much like to make acquaintance with them, and begged to be introduced to the company who were present.
I was now enabled to enlarge the list of topics on which it is prohibited to the Waganda to speak or act under pain of death. No one even dare ever talk about the royal pedigree of the countries that have been conquered, or even of any neighbouring countries; no one dare visit the king’s guests, or be visited by them, without leave, else the king, fearing sharers in his plunder, would say, What are you plucking our goose for? Neither can any one cast his eye for a moment on the women of the palace, whether out walking or at home, lest he should be accused of amorous intentions. Beads and brass wire, exchanged for ivory or slaves, are the only articles of foreign manufacture any Mganda can hold in his possession. Should anything else be seen in his house — for instance, cloth — his property would be confiscated and his life taken.
I was now introduced to the company present, of whom one Mgema, an elderly gentleman of great dignity, had the honour to carry Sunna the late king; Mpungu, who cooked for Sunna, also ranks high in court; then Usungu and Kunza, executioners, rank very high, enjoying the greatest confidence with the king; and, finally, Jumba and Natigo, who traced their pedigree to the age of the first Uganda king. As I took down a note of their several names, each seemed delighted at finding his name written down by me; and Kunza, the executioner, begged as a great favour that I would plead to the king to spare his son’s life, who, as I have mentioned, was ordered out to execution on the last levee day. At first I thought it necessary, for the sake of maintaining my dignity, to raise objections, and said it would ill become one of my rank to make any request that might possibly be rejected; but as the Kamraviona assured me there would be no chance of failure, and everybody else agreed with him, I said it would give me intense satisfaction to serve him; and the old man squeezed my hand as if overpowered with joy.
This meeting, as might be imagined, was a very dull one, because the company, being tongue-tied as regards everything of external interest, occupied themselves solely on matters of home business, or indulged their busy tongues, Waganda fashion, in gross flattery of their “illustrious visitor.” In imitation of the king, the Kamraviona now went from one hut to another, requesting us to follow that we might see all his greatness, and then took me alone into a separate court, to show me his women, some five-and-twenty of the ugliest in Uganda. This, he added, was a mark of respect he had never conferred on any person before; but, fearing lest I should misunderstand his meaning and covet any of them, he said, “Mind they are only to be looked at.”
As we retired to the other visitors, the Kamraviona, in return for some courteous remarks of mine, said all the Waganda were immensely pleased with my having come to visit them; and as he heard my country is governed by a woman, what would I say if he made the Waganda dethrone her, and create me king instead? Without specially replying, I showed him a map, marking off the comparative sizes of British and Waganda possessions, and shut him up. The great Kamraviona, or commander-in-chief, with all his wives, has no children, and was eager to know if my skill could avail to remove this cloud in his fortunes. He generously gave me a goat and eggs, telling my men they might help themselves to plantains from any gardens they liked beyond certain limits, provided they did not enter houses or take anything else. He then said he was tired and walked away without another word.
On returning home I found Nasib and Maula waiting for me, with all the articles that had been returned to the queen very neatly tied together. They had seen her majesty, who, on receiving my message, pretended excessive anger with her doorkeeper for not announcing my arrival yesterday — flogged him severely — inspected all the things returned — folded them up again very neatly with her own hands — said she felt much hurt at the mistake which had arisen, and hoped I would forgive and forget it, as her doors would always be open to me.
I now had a laugh at my friends Maula and Bombay for their misgivings of yesterday, telling them I knew more of human nature than they did; but they shook their heads, and said it was all very well Bana having done it, but if Arabs or any other person had tried the same trick, it would have been another affair. “Just so,” said I; “but then, don’t you see, I know my value here, which makes all the difference you speak of.”
18th. — Whilst walking towards the palace to pay the king a friendly visit, I met two of my men speared on the head, and streaming with blood; they had been trying to help themselves to plantains carried on the heads of Waganda; but the latter proving too strong, my people seized a boy and woman from their party as witnesses, according to Uganda law, and ran away with them, tied hand and neck together. With this addition to my attendance I first called in at the Kamraviona’s for justice; but as he was too proud to appear at once, I went on to the king’s fired three shots as usual, and obtained admittance at once, when I found him standing in a yard dressed in cloth, with his iron chair behind him, and my double-gun loaded with half charges of powder and a few grains of iron shot, looking eagerly about for kites to fly over. His quick eye, however, readily detected my wounded men and prisoners, as also some Wazinza prisoners led in by Waganda police, who had been taken in the act of entering Waganda houses and assailing their women. Thus my men were cleared of a false stigma; and the king, whilst praising them, ordered all the Wazinza to leave his dominions on the morrow.
The other case was easily settled by my wounded men receiving orders to keep their prisoners till claimed, when, should any people come forward, they would be punished, otherwise their loss in human stock would be enough. The Wanguana had done quite right to seize on the highway, else they would have starved; such was the old law, and such is the present one. It was no use our applying for a change of system. At this stage of the business, the birds he was watching having appeared, the king, in a great state of excitement, said, “Shoot that kite,” and then “Shoot that other”; but the charges were too light; and the birds flew away, kicking with their claws as if merely stung a little.
Whilst this was going on, the Kamraviona, taking advantage of my having opened the door with the gun, walked in to make his salutations. A blacksmith produced two very handsome spears, and a fisherman a basket of fish, from which two fish were taken out and given to me. The king then sat on his iron chair, and I on a wooden box which I had contrived to stuff with the royal grass he gave me, and so made a complete miniature imitation of his throne. The folly in now allowing me to sit upon my portable iron stool, as an ingenious device for carrying out my determination to sit before him like an Englishman. I wished to be communicative, and, giving him a purse of money, told him the use and value of the several coins; but he paid little regard to them, and soon put them down. The small-talk of Uganda had much more attractions to his mind than the wonders of the outer world, and he kept it up with his Kamraviona until rain fell and dispersed the company.
19th. — As the queen, to avoid future difficulties, desired my officers to acquaint her beforehand whenever I wished to call upon her, I sent Nasib early to say I would call in the afternoon; but he had to wait till the evening before he could deliver the message, though she had been drumming and playing all the day. She then complained against my men for robbing her gardeners on the highway, wished to know why I didn’t call upon her oftener, appointed the following morning for an interview, and begged I would bring her some liver medicines, as she suffered from constant twinges in her right side, sealing her “letter” with a present of a nest of eggs and one fowl.
Whilst Nasib was away, I went to the Kamraviona to treat him as I had the king. He appeared a little more affable to-day, yet still delighted in nothing but what was frivolous. My beard, for instance, engrossed the major part of the conversation; all the Waganda would come out in future with hairy faces; but when I told them that, to produce such a growth, they must wash their faces with milk, and allow a cat to lick it off, they turned up their noses in utter contempt.
20th. — I became dead tired of living all alone, with nothing else to occupy my time save making these notes every day in my office letter-book, as my store of stationery was left at Karague. I had no chance of seeing any visitors, save the tiresome pages, who asked me to give or to do something for the king every day; and my prospect was cheerless, as I had been flatly refused a visit to Usoga until Grant should come. For want of better amusement, I made a page of Lugoi, a sharp little lad, son of the late Beluch, but adopted by Uledi, and treated him as a son, which he declared he wished to be, for he liked me better than Uledi as a father. He said he disliked Uganda, where people’s lives are taken like those of fowls; and wished to live at the coast, the only place he ever heard of, where all the Wanguana come from — great swells in Lugoi’s estimation. Now, with Lugoi dressed in a new white pillow-case, with holes trimmed with black tape for his head and arms to go through, a dagger tied with red bindera round his waist, and a square of red blanket rolled on his shoulder as a napkin, for my gun to rest on, or in place of a goat-skin run when he wished to sit down, I walked off to inquire how the Kamraviona was, and took my pictures with me.
Lugoi’s dress, however, absorbed all their thoughts, and he was made to take it off and put it on again as often as any fresh visitor came to call. Hardly a word was said about anything else; even the pictures, which generally are in such demand, attracted but little notice. I asked the Kamraviona to allow me to draw his pet dog; when the king’s sister Miengo came in and sat down, laughing and joking with me immoderately.
At first there was a demur about my drawing the dog — whether from fear of bewitching the animal or not, I cannot say; but instead of producing the pet — a beautifully-formed cream-coloured dog — a common black one was brought in, which I tied in front of Miengo, and then drew both woman and dog together. After this unlawful act was discovered, of drawing the king’s sister without his consent, the whole company roared with laughter, and pretended nervous excitement lest I should book them likewise. One of my men, Sangoro, did not return to camp last night from foraging; and as my men suspect the Waganda must have murdered him, I told the Kamraviona, requesting him to find out; but he coolly said, “Look for him yourselves two days more, for Wanguana often make friends with our people, and so slip away from their masters; but as they are also often murdered, provided you cannot find him in that time, we will have the Mganga out.”
21st. — Last night I was turned out of my bed by a terrible hue and cry from the quarter allotted to Rozaro and his Wanyambo companions; for the Waganda had threatened to demolish my men, one by one, for seizing their pombe and plaintains, though done according to the orders of the king; and now, finding the Wanyambo nearest to the road, they set on them by moonlight, with spear and club, maltreating them severely, till, with reinforcements, the Wanyambo gained the ascendancy, seized two spears and one shield as a trophy, and drove their enemies off. In the morning, I sent the Wakungu off with the trophies to the king, again complaining that he had turned my men into a pack of highwaymen, and, as I foresaw, had thus created enmity between the Waganda and them, much to my annoyance. I therefore begged he would institute some means to prevent any further occurrence of such scenes, otherwise I would use firearms in self-defence.
Whilst these men were on this mission, I went on a like errand to the queen, taking my page Lugoi with the liver medicine. The first object of remark was Lugoi, as indeed it was everywhere; for, as I walked along, crowds ran after the little phenomenon. Then came the liver questions; and, finally what I wanted — her complaint against my men for robbing on the road, as it gave me the opportunity of telling her the king was doing what I had been trying to undo with my stick ever since I left the coast; and I begged she would use influence to correct these disagreeables. She told me for the future to send my men to her palace for food, and rob no more; in the meanwhile, here were some plantains for them. She then rose and walked away, leaving me extremely disappointed that I could not make some more tangible arrangement with her — such as, if my men came and found the gate shut, what were they to do then? there were forty-five of them; how much would she allow; etc. etc. But this was a true specimen of the method of transacting business among the royal family of Uganda. They gave orders without knowing how they are to be carried out, and treat all practical arrangements as trifling details not worth attending to.
After this unsatisfactory interview, I repaired to the king’s, knowing the power of my gun to obtain an interview, whilst doubting the ability of the Wakungu to gain an audience for me. Such was the case. These men had been sitting all day without seeing the king, and three shots opened his gate immediately to me. He was sitting on the iron chair in the shade of the court, attended by some eighty women, tweedling the loading rod in his fingers; but as my rod appeared a better one than his, they were exchanged. I then gave him a tortoise-shell comb to comb his hair straight with, as he invariably remarked on the beautiful manner in which I dressed my hair, making my uncap to show it to his women, and afterwards asked my men to bring on the affair of last night. They feared, they said, to speak on such subjects whilst the women were present. I begged for a private audience; still they would not speak until encouraged and urged beyond all patience. I said, in Kisuahili, “Kbakka” (king), “my men are afraid to tell you what I want to say”; when Maula, taking advantage of my having engaged his attention, though the king did not understand one word I said, said of himself, by way of currying favour, “I saw a wonderful gun in Rumankika’s hands, with six barrells; not a short one like your fiver” (meaning the revolving pistol) “but a long one, as long as my arm.” “Indeed,” says the king, “we must have that.” A page was then sent for by Maula, who, giving him a bit of stick representing the gun required, told him to fetch it immediately.
The king then said to me, “What is powder made of?” I began with sulphur (kibriti), intending to explain everything; but the word kibriti was enough for him, and a second stick was sent for kibriti, the bearer being told to hurry for his life and fetch it. The king now ordered some high officers who were in waiting to approach. They come, almost crouching to their knees, with eyes averted from the women, and n’yanzigged for the favour of being called, till they streamed with perspiration. Four young women, virgins, the daughters of these high officers, nicely dressed, were shown in as brides, and ordered to sit with the other women. A gamekeeper brought in baskets small antelopes, called mpeo — with straight horns resembling those of the saltiana, but with coats like the hog-deer of India — intended for the royal kitchen. Elderly gentlemen led in goats as commutation for offences, and went through the ceremonies due for the favour of being relieved of so much property. Ten cows were then driven in, plundered from Unyoro, and outside, the voices of the brave army who captured them were heard n’yanzigging vehemently. Lastly, some beautifully made shields were presented, and, because extolled, n’yanzigged over; when the king rose abruptly and walked straight away, leaving my fools of men no better off for food, no reparation for their broken heads, than if I had never gone there.
22d. — I called on the queen to inquire after her health, and to know how my men were to be fed; but, without giving me time to speak, she flew at me again about my men plundering. The old story was repeated; I had forty-five hungry men, who must have food, and unless either she or the king would make some proper provision for them, I could not help it. Again she promised to feed them, but she objected to them bearing swords, “for of what use are swords? If the Waganda don’t like the Wanguana, can swords prevail in our country?” And, saying this, she walked away. I thought to myself that she must have directed the attack upon my camp last night and is angry at the Wanguana swords driving her men away. At 3 p.m. I visited the king, to have a private chat, and state my grievances; but the three shots fired brought him out to levee, when animals and sundry other things were presented; and appointments of Wakungu were made for the late gallant services of some of the men in plundering Unyoro.
The old executioner, Kunza, being present, I asked the king to pardon his son. Surprised, at first Mtesa said, “Can it be possible Bana has asked for this?” And when assured, in great glee he ordered the lad’s release, amidst shouts of laughter from everybody but the agitated father, who n’yanzigged, cried, and fell at my feet, making a host of powerful signs as a token of his gratitude; for his heart was too full of emotion to give utterance to his feelings. The king them, in high good-humour, said, “You have called on me many times without broaching the subject of Usoga, and perhaps you may fancy we are not exerting ourselves in the matter; but my army is only now returning from war” (meaning plundering in Unyoro), “and I am collecting another one, which will open Usoga effectually.” Before I could say anything, the king started up in his usual manner, inviting a select few to follow him to another court, when my medicine-chest was inspected, and I was asked to operate for fistula on one of the royal executioners. I had no opportunity of incurring this responsibility; for while professing to prepare for the operation, the king went off it a fling.
When I got home I found Sangoro, whom we thought lost or murdered, quietly ensconced in camp. He had been foraging by himself a long way from camp, in a neighbourhood where many of the king’s women are kept; and it being forbidden ground, he was taken up by the keepers, placed in the stocks, and fed, until to-day, when he extricated his legs by means of his sword, and ran away. My ever-grumbling men mobbed me again, clamouring for food, saying, as they eyed my goats, I lived at ease and overlooked their wants. In vain I told them they had fared more abundantly than I had since we entered Uganda; whilst I spared my goats to have a little flesh of their cows as rapidly as possible, selling the skins for pombe, which I seldom tasted; they robbed me as long as I had cloth or beads, and now they had all become as fat as hogs by lifting food off the Waganda lands. As I could not quiet them, I directed that, early next morning, Maula should go to the king and Nasib to the queen, while I proposed going to Kamraviona’s to work them all three about this affair of food.
23d. — According to the plan of last night, I called early on the Kamraviona. He promised me assistance, but with an air which seemed to say, What are the sufferings of other men to me? So I went home to breakfast, doubting if anything ever would be done. As Kaggo, however, the second officer of importance, had expressed a wish to see me, I sent Bombay to him for food, and waited the upshot. Presently the king sent to say he wished to see me with my compass; for the blackguard Maula had told him I possessed a wonderful instrument, by looking at which I could find my way all over the world. I went as requested, and found the king sitting outside the palace on my chair dressed in cloths, with my silk neckerchief and crest-ring, playing his flute in concert with his brothers, some thirty-odd young men and boys, one half of them manacled, the other half free, with an officer watching over them to see that they committed no intrigues.
We then both sat side by side in the shade of the courtwalls, conversed and had music by turns; for the king had invited his brothers here to please me, the first step towards winning the coveted compass. My hair must now be shown and admired, then my shoes taken off and inspected, and my trousers tucked up to show that I am white all over. Just at this time Bombay, who had been in great request, came before us laden with plantains. This was most opportune; for the king asked what he had been about, and then the true state of the case as regards my difficulties in obtaining food were, I fancy, for the first time, made known to him. In a great fit of indignation he said, “I once killed a hundred Wakungu in a single day, and now, if they won’t feed my guests, I will kill a hundred more; for I know the physic for bumptiousness.” Then, sending his brothers away, he asked me to follow him into the back part of the palace, as he loved me so much he must show me everything. We walked along under the umbrella, first looking down one street of huts, then up another, and, finally, passing the sleeping-chamber, stopped at one adjoining it. “That hut,” said the king, “is the one I sleep in; no one of my wives dare venture within it unless I call her.” He let me feel immediately that for the distinction conferred on me in showing me this sacred hut a return was expected. Could I after that refuse him such a mere trifle as a compass? I told him he might as well put my eyes out and ask me to walk home, as take away that little instrument, which could be of no use to him, as he could not read or understand it. But this only excited his cupidity; he watched it twirling round and pointing to the north, and looked and begged again, until, tired of his importunities, I told him I must wait until the Usoga road was open before I could part with it, and then the compass would be nothing to what I would give him. Hearing this, “That is all on my shoulders; as sure as I live it shall be done; for that country has no king, and I have long been desirous of taking it.” I declined, however, to give him the instrument on the security of his promise, and he went to breakfast.
I walked off to Usungu to see what I could do for him in his misery. I found that he had a complication of evils entirely beyond my healing power, and among them inveterate forms of the diseases which are generally associated with civilisation and its social evils. I could do nothing to cure him, but promised to do whatever was in my power to alleviate his sufferings.
24th. — Before breakfast I called on poor Usungu, prescribing hot coffee to be drunk with milk every morning, which astonished him not a little, as the negroes only use coffee for chewing. He gave my men pombe and plantains. On my return I met a page sent to invite me to the palace. I found the king sitting with a number of women. He was dressed in European clothes, part of them being a pair of trousers he begged for yesterday, that he might appear like Bana. This was his first appearance in trousers, and his whole attire, contrasting strangely with his native habiliments, was in his opinion very becoming, though to me a little ridiculous; for the legs of the trousers, as well as the sleeves of the waistcoat, were much too short, so that his black feet and hands stuck out at the extremities as an organ-player’s monkey’s do, whilst the cockscomb on his head prevented a fez cap, which was part of his special costume for the occasion, from sitting properly. This display over, the women were sent away, and I saw shown into a court, where a large number of plantains were placed in a line upon the ground for my men to take away, and we were promised the same treat every day. From this we proceeded to another court, where we sat in the shade together, when the women returned again, but were all dumb, because my interpreters dared not for their lives say anything, even on my account, to the king’s women. Getting tired, I took out my sketch-book and drew Lubuga, the pet, which amused the king immensely as he recognised her cockscomb.
Then twenty naked virgins, the daughters of Wakungu, all smeared and shining with grease, each holding a small square of mbugu for a fig-leaf, marched in a line before us, as a fresh addition to the harem, whilst the happy fathers floundered n’yanzigging on the ground, delighted to find their darlings appreciated by the king. Seeing this done in such a quiet mild way before all my men, who dared not lift their heads to see it, made me burst into a roar of laughter, and the king, catching the infection from me, laughed as well: but the laughing did not end there — for the pages, for once giving way to nature, kept bursting — my men chuckled in sudden gusts — while even the women, holding their mouths for fear of detection, responded — and we all laughed together. Then a sedate old dame rose from the squatting mass, ordered the virgins to right-about, and marched them off, showing their still more naked reverses. I now obtained permission for the Wakungu to call upon me, and fancied I only required my interpreters to speak out like men when I had anything to say, to make my residence in Uganda both amusing and instructive; but though the king, carried off by the prevailing good-humour of the scene we had both witnessed, supported me, I found that he had counter-ordered what he had said as soon as I had gone, and, in fact, no Mkungu ever dared come near me.
25th. — To-day I visited Usungu again, and found him better. He gave pombe and plantains for my people, but would not talk to me, though I told him he had permission to call on me.
I have now been for some time within the court precincts, and have consequently had an opportunity of witnessing court customs. Among these, nearly every day since I have changed my residence, incredible as it may appear to be, I have seen one, two, or three of the wretched palace women led away to execution, tied by the hand, and dragged along by one of the body-guard, crying out, as she went to premature death, “Hai Minange!” (O my lord!) “Kbakka!” (My king!) “Hai N’yawo!” (My mother!) at the top of her voice, in the utmost despair and lamentation; and yet there was not a soul who dared lift hand to save any of them, though many might be heard privately commenting on their beauty.
26th. — To-day, to amuse the king, I drew a picture of himself holding a levee, and proceeded to visit him. On the way I found the highroad thronged with cattle captured in Unyoro; and on arrival at the ante-chamber, amongst the officers in waiting, Masimbi (Mr Cowries or Shells), the queen’s uncle, and Congow, a young general, who once led an army into Unyoro, past Kamrasi’s palace. They said they had obtained leave for me to visit them, and were eagerly looking out for the happy event. At once, on firing, I was admitted to the king’s favourite place, which, now that the king had a movable chair to sit upon, was the shade of the court screen. We had a chat; the picture was shown to the women; the king would like to have some more, and gave me leave to draw in the palace any time I liked. At the same time he asked for my paint-box, merely to look at it. Though I repeatedly dunned him for it, I could never get it back from him until I was preparing to leave Uganda.
27th. — After breakfast I started on a visit to Congow; but finding he had gone to the king as usual, called at Masimbi’s and he being absent also, I took advantage of my proximity to the queen’s palace to call on her majesty. For hours I was kept waiting; firstly, because she was at breakfast; secondly, because she was “putting on medicine”; and, thirdly, because the sun was too powerful for her complexion; when I became tired of her nonsense, and said, “If she does not wish to see me, she had better say so at once, else I shall walk away; for the last time I came I saw her but for a minute, when she rudely turned her back upon me, and left me sitting by myself.” I was told not to be in a hurry — she would see me in the evening. This promise might probably be fulfilled six blessed hours from the time when it was made; but I thought to myself, every place in Uganda is alike when there is no company at home, and so I resolved to sit the time out, like Patience on a monument, hoping something funny might turn up after all.
At last her majesty stumps out, squats behind my red blanket, which is converted into a permanent screen, and says hastily, or rather testily, “Can’t Bana perceive the angry state of the weather? — clouds flying about, and the wind blowing half a gale? Whenever that is the case, I cannot venture out.” Taking her lie without an answer, I said, I had now been fifty days or so doing nothing in Uganda — not one single visitor of my own rank ever came near me, and I could not associated with people far below her condition and mine — in fact, all I had to amuse me at home now was watching a hen lay her eggs upon my spare bed. Her majesty became genial, as she had been before, and promised to provide me with suitable society. I then told her I had desired my officers several times to ask the king how marriages were conducted in this country, as they appeared so different from ours, but they always said they dared not put such a question to him, and now I hoped she would explain it to me. To tell her I could not get anything from the king, I knew would be the surest way of eliciting what I wanted from her, because of the jealousy between the two courts; and in this instance it was fully proved, for she brightened up at once, and, when I got her to understand something of what I meant by a marriage ceremony, in high good humour entered on a long explanation, to the following effect:—
There are no such things as marriages in Uganda; there are no ceremonies attached to it. If any Mkungu possessed of a pretty daughter committed an offence, he might give her to the king as a peace-offering; if any neighbouring king had a pretty daughter, and the king of Uganda wanted her, she might be demanded as a fitting tribute. The Wakungu in Uganda are supplied with women by the king, according to their merits, from seizures in battle abroad, or seizures from refractory officers at home. The women are not regarded as property according to the Wanyamuezi practice, though many exchange their daughters; and some women, for misdemeanours, are sold into slavery; whilst others are flogged, or are degraded to do all the menial services of the house.
The Wakungu then changed the subject by asking, if I married a black woman, would there be any offspring, and what would be their colour? The company now became jovial, when the queen improved it by making a significant gesture, and with roars of laughter asking me if I would like to be her son-in-law, for she had some beautiful daughters, either of the Wahuma, or Waganda breed. Rather staggered at first by this awful proposal, I consulted Bombay what I should do with one if I got her. He, looking more to number one than my convenience, said, “By all means accept the offer, for if YOU don’t like her, WE should, and it would be a good means of getting her out of this land of death, for all black people love Zanzibar.” The rest need not be told; as a matter of course I had to appear very much gratified, and as the bowl went round, all became uproarious. I must wait a day or two, however, that a proper selection might be made; and when the marriage came off, I was to chain the fair one two or three days, until she became used to me, else, from mere fright, she might run away.
To keep up the spirits of the queen, though her frequent potions of pombe had wellnigh done enough, I admired her neck-ring, composed of copper wire, with a running inlaid twist of iron, and asked her why she wore such a wreath of vine-leaves, as I had often seen on some of the Wakungu. On this she produced a number of rings similar to the one she wore, and taking off her own, placed it round my neck. Then, pointing to her wreath, she said, “This is the badge of a kidnapper’s office — whoever wears it, catches little children.” I inferred that its possession, as an insignia of royalty, conferred on the bearer the power of seizure, as the great seal in this country confers power on public officers.
The queen’s dinner was now announced; and, desiring me to remain where I was for a short time, she went to it. She sent me several dishes (plantain-leaves), with well-cooked beef and mutton, and a variety of vegetables, from her table, as well as a number of round moist napkins, made in the shape of wafers, from the freshly-drawn plantain fibres, to wash the hands and face with. There was no doubt now about her culinary accomplishments. I told her so when she returned, and that I enjoyed her parties all the more because they ended with a dinner. “More pombe, more pombe,” cried the queen, full of mirth and glee, helping everybody round in turn, and shouting and laughing at their Kiganda witticisms — making, though I knew not a word said, an amusing scene to behold — till the sun sank; and her majesty remarking it, turned to her court and said, “If I get up, will Bana also rise, and not accuse me of deserting him?” With this speech a general rising took place, and, watching the queen’s retiring, I stood with my hat in hand, whilst all the Wakungu fell upon their knees, and then all separated.
28th. — I went to the palace, and found, as usual, a large levee waiting the king’s pleasure to appear; amongst whom were the Kamraviona, Masimbi, and the king’s sister Miengo. I fired my gun, and admitted at once, but none of the others could follow me save Miengo. The king, sitting on the chair with his women by his side, ordered twelve cloths, the presents of former Arab visitors, to be brought before him; and all of these I was desired to turn into European garments, like my own coats, trousers, and waistcoats. It was no use saying I had no tailors — the thing must be done somehow; for he admired my costume exceedingly, and wished to imitate it now he had cloth enough for ever to dispense with the mbugu.
As I had often begged the king to induce his men, who are all wonderfully clever artisans, to imitate the chair and other things I gave him, I now told him if he would order some of his sempsters, who are far cleverer with the needle than my men, to my camp, I would cut up some old clothes, and so teach them how to work. This was agreed to, and five cows were offered as a reward; but as his men never came, mine had to do the job.
Maula then engaged the king’s attention for fully an hour, relating what wonderful things Bana kept in his house, if his majesty would only deign to see them; and for this humbug got rewarded by a present of three women. Just at this juncture an adjutant flew overhead, and, by way of fun, I presented my gun, when the excited king, like a boy from school, jumped up, forgetting his company, and cried, “Come, Bana, and shoot the nundo; I know where he has gone — follow me.” And away we went, first through one court, then through another, till we found the nundo perched on a tree, looking like a sedate old gentleman with a bald head, and very sharp, long nose. Politeness lost the bird; for whilst I wished the king to shoot, he wished me to do so, from fear of missing it himself. He did not care about vultures — he could practise at them at any time; but he wanted a nundo above all things. The bird, however, took the hint, and flew away.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55