Invitation to the Palace at last — Journey to it — Bombay’s Visit to King Kamrasi — Our Reputation as Cannibals — Reception at Court — Acting the Physician again — Royal Mendicancy.
We halted again, but in the evening one of Dr K’yengo’s men came to invite us to the palace. He explained that Kamrasi was in a great rage because we only received seven goats instead of thirty, the number he had ordered Kwibeya to give us, besides pombe and plantains without limitation. I complained that Bombay had been shown more respect than myself, obtaining an immediate admittance to the king’s presence. To this he gave two ready answers — that every distinction shown my subordinate was a distinction to myself, and that we must not expect court etiquette from savages.
9th. — We set off for the palace. This last march differed but little from the others. Putting Dr K’yengo’s men in front, and going on despite all entreaties to stop, we passed the last bit of jungle, sighted the Kidi hills, and, in a sea of swampy grass, at last we stood in front of and overlooked the great king’s palace, situated N. lat. 1° 37’ 43”, and E. long. 32° 19’ 49”, on a low tongue of land between the Kafu and Nile rivers. It was a dumpy, large hut, surrounded by a host of smaller ones, and the worst royal residence we had seen since leaving Uzinza. Here Kajunju, coming from behind, overtook us, and breathless with running, in the most excited manner, abused Dr K’yengo’s men for leading us on, and ordered us to stop until he saw the king, and ascertained the place his majesty wished us to reside in. Recollecting Mtesa’s words that Kamrasi placed his guest on the N’yanza, I declined going to any place but the palace, which I maintained was my right, and waited for the issue, when Kajunju returned with pombe, and showed us to a small, dirty set of huts beyond the Kafu river — the trunk of the Mwerango and N’yanza branches which we crossed in Uganda — and trusted this would do for the present, as better quarters in the palace would be looked for on the morrow. This was a bad beginning, and caused a few of the usual anathemas in which our countrymen give vent to their irritation.
Two loads of flowers, neatly packed in long strips of rushpith, were sent for us “to consume at once,” as more would be given on the morrow. To keep us amused, Kidgwiga informed us that Kamrasi and Mtesa — in fact, all the Wahuma — came originally from a stock of the same tribe dwelling beyond Kidi. All bury their dead in the same way, under ground; but the kings are toasted first for months till they are like sun-dried meat, when the lower jaw is cut out and preserved, covered with beads. The royal tombs are put under the charge of special officers, who occupy huts erected over them. The umbilical cords are preserved from birth, and, at death, those of men are placed within the door-frame, whilst those of women are buried without — this last act corresponding, according to Bombay, with the custom of the Wahiyow. On the death of any of the great officers of state, the finger-bones and hair are also preserved; or if they have died shaven, as sometimes occurs, a bit of their mbugu dress will be preserved in place of the hair. Their families guard their tombs.
The story we heard at Karague, about dogs with horns in Unyoro, was confirmed by Kidgwiga, who positively assured us that he once saw one in the possession of an official person, but it died. The horn then was stuffed with magic powder, and, whenever an army was ordered for war, it was placed on the war-track for the soldiers to step over, in the same way as a child is sacrificed to insure victory in Unyomuezi. Of the Karague story, according to which all the Kidi people sleep in trees, Kidgwiga gave me a modified version. He said the bachelors alone do son, whilst the married folk dwell in houses. As most of these stories have some foundation in fact, we presumed that the people of Kidi sometimes mount a tree to sleep at night when travelling through their forests, where lions are plentiful — but not otherwise.
10th. — I sent Kidgwiga with my compliments to the king, and a request that his majesty would change my residence, which was so filthy that I found it necessary to pitch a tent, and also that he would favour me with an interview after breakfast. The return was a present of twenty cows, ten cocks, two bales of flour, and two pots of pombe, to be equally divided between Grant and myself, as Kamrasi recognised in us two distinct camps, because we approached his country by two different routes — a smart method for expecting two presents from us, which did not succeed, as I thanked for all, Grant being “my son” on this occasion. The king also sent his excuses, and begged pardon for what happened to us on entering his country, saying it could not have taken place had we come from Rumanika direct. His fear of the Waganda gave rise to it, and he trusted we would forget and forgive. To-morrow our residence should be changed, and an interview follow, for he desired being friends with us just as much as we did with him.
At last Bombay came back. He reported that he had not been allowed to leave the palace earlier, though he pleaded hard that I expected his return; and the only excuse he could extract from the king was, that we were coming in charge of many Wakungu, and he had found it necessary to retard our approach in consequence of the famine at Chaguzi. His palace proper was not here, but three marches westward: he had come here and pitched a camp to watch his brothers, who were at war with him. Bombay, doing his best to escape, or to hurry my march, replied that he was very anxious on our account, because the Waganda wished to snatch us away.
It was no doubt this hint that brought the messenger to our relief yesterday; and otherwise we might have been kept in the jungle longer. When told by Bombay of our treatment on the Nile, the king first said he did not think we wished to see him, else we would have come direct from Rumanika; but when asked if Baraka’s coming with Rumanika’s officers was not sufficient to satisfy him on this point, he hung down his head, and evaded the question, saying he had been the making of Mtesa of Uganda; but he had turned out a bad fellow, and now robbed him right and left.23 The Gani letter, supposed to be from Petherick, was now asked for, and a suggestion made about opening a trade with Gani, but all with the provoking result we had been so well accustomed to. No letter like that referred to had ever been received, so that Frij’s interpretation about Grant’s letter-dream was right; and if we wished to go to Gani, the king would send men travelling by night, for his brothers at war with him lay upon the road. As to the Uganda question, and my desiring him to make friends with Mtesa, in hopes that the influence of trade would prevent any plundering in future, he merely tossed his head. He often said he did not know what to think about his guests, now he had got them; to which Bombay, in rather successful imitation of what he had heard me say on like occasions, replied, “If you do not like them after you have seen them, cut their heads off, for they are all in your hands.”
23 This obviously was an allusion to the way in which the first king of Uganda was countenanced by the great king of Kittara, according to the tradition given in Chapter IX.
11th. — With great apparent politeness Kamrasi sent in the morning to inquire how we had slept. He had “heard our cry”— an expression of regal condescension — and begged we would not be alarmed, for next morning he would see us, and after the meeting change our residence, when, should we not approve of wading to his palace, he would bridge all the swamps leading up to it; but for the present he wanted two rounds of ball-cartridge — one to fire before his women, and the other before his officers and a large number of Kidi men who were there on a visit. To please this childish king, Bombay was sent with two other of my men, and no sooner arrived than a cow was placed before them to be shot. Bombay, however, thinking easy compliance would only lead to continued demands on our short store of powder, said he had no order to shoot cows, and declined. A strong debated ensued, which Bombay, by his own account, turned to advantage, by saying, “What use is there in shooting cows? we have lots of meat; what we want is flour to eat with it.” To which the great king retorted, “If you have not got flour, that is not my fault, for I ordered your master to come slowly, and to bring provisions along with him.”
Then getting impatient, as all his visitors wanted sport, he ordered the cow out again, and insisted on my men shooting at it, saying at the same time to his Kidi visitors, boastfully, “Now I will show you what devils these Wanguana are: with firearms they can kill a cow with one bullet; and as they are going to Gani, I advise you not to meddle with them.” The Kidi visitors said, “Nonsense; we don’t believe in their power, but we will see.” Irate at his defeat, Bombay gave orders to the men to fire over the cow, and told Kamrasi why he had done so — Bana would be angry with him. “Well,” said the king of kings, “if that is true, go back to your master, tell him you have disappointed me before these men, and obtain permission to shoot the cow in the morning; after which, should you succeed, your master can come after breakfast to see me — but for the present, take him this pot of pombe.”
12th. — To back Bombay in what he had said, I gave him two more cartridges to shoot the cow with, and orders as well to keep Kamrasi to his word about the oft-promised interview and change of residence. He gave me the following account on his return:— Upwards of a thousand spectators were present when he killed the cow, putting both bullets into her, and all in a voice, as soon as they saw the effect of the shot, shouted in amazement; the Kidi visitors, all terror-stricken, crying out, as they clasped their breasts, “Oh, great king, do allow us to return to our country, for you have indeed got a new specimen of man with you, and we are greatly afraid!”— a lot of humbug and affectation to flatter the king, which pleased him greatly. It was not sufficient, however, to make him forget his regal pride; for though Bombay pleaded hard for our going to see him, and for a change of residence, the immovable king, to maintain the imperial state he had assumed as “king of kings,” only said, “What difference does it make whether your master sees me to-day or to-morrow? If he wants to communicate about the road to Gani, his property at Karague, or the guns at Uganda, he can do so as well through the medium of my officers as with me direct, and I will send men whenever he wishes to do so. Perhaps you don’t know, but I expect men from Gani every day, who took a present of slaves, ivory and monkey-skins to the foreigners residing there, who, in the first instance sent me a necklace of beads [showing them] by some men who wore clothes. They said white men were coming from Karague, and requested the beads might be shown them should they do so. They left this two moons before Baraka arrived here, and I told them the white men would not come here, as I heard they had gone to Uganda.”
Bombay then, finding the king very communicative, went at him for his inhospitality towards us, his turning us back from his country twice, and now, after inviting us, treating us as Suwarora did. On this he gave, by Bombay’s account, the following curious reason for his conduct:—“You don’t understand the matter. At the time the white men were living in Uganda, many of the people who had seen them there came and described them as such monsters, they ate up mountains and drank the N’yanza dry; and although they fed on both beef and mutton, they were not satisfied until they got a dish of the ‘tender parts’ of human beings three times a-day. Now, I was extremely anxious to see men of such wonderful natures. I could have stood their mountain-eating and N’yanzi-drinking capacities, but on no consideration would I submit to sacrifice my subjects to their appetites, and for this reason I first sent to turn them back; but afterwards, on hearing from Dr K’yengo’s men that, although the white men had travelled all through their country, and brought all the pretty and wonderful things of the world there, they had never heard such monstrous imputations cast upon them, I sent a second time to call them on: these are the facts of the case. Now, with regard to your accusation of my treating them badly, it is all their own fault. I ordered them to advance slowly and pick up food by the way, as there is a famine here; but they, instead, hurried on against my wishes. That they want to see and give me presents you have told me repeatedly — so do I them; for I want them to teach me the way to shoot, and when that is accomplished, I will take them to an island near Kidi, where there are some men [his refractory brothers] whom I wish to frighten away with guns; but still there is no hurry — they can come when I choose to call them, and not before.” Bombay to this said, “I cannot deliver such a message to Bana; I have told so many falsehoods about your saying you will have an interview to-morrow, I shall only catch a flogging”; and forthwith departed.
13th. — More disgusted with Kamrasi than ever, I called Kidgwiga up, and told him I was led to expect from Rumanika that I should find his king a good and reasonable man, which I believed, considering it was said by an unprejudiced person. Mtesa, on the contrary, told me Kamrasi treated all his guests with disrespect, sending them to the farther side of the N’yanzi. I now found his enemy more truthful than his friend, and wished him to be told so. “For the future, I should never,” I said, “mention his name again, but wait until his fear of me had vanished; for he quite forgot his true dignity as a host and king in his surprise and fear, merely because we were in a hurry and desired to see him.” He was reported to-day, by the way, to be drunk.
As nothing could be done yesterday, in consequence of the king being in his cups, the Wakungu conveyed my message to-day, but with the usual effect, till a diplomatic idea struck me, and I sent another messenger to say, if our residence was not changed at once, both Grant and myself had made up our minds to cut off our hair and blacken our faces, so that the king of all kings should have no more cause to fear us. Ignoring his claims to imperial rank, I maintained that his reason for ill-treating us must be fear — it could be nothing else. This message acted like magic; for he fully believed we would do as we said, and disappoint him altogether of the strange sight of us as pure white men. The reply was, Kamrasi would not have us disfigured in this way for all the world; men were appointed to convey our traps to the west end at once; and Kidgwiga, Vittagura, and Kajunju rushed over to give us the news in all hast lest we should execute our threat, and they were glad to find us with our faces unchanged. I now gave one cow to the head of Dr K’yengo’s party, and one to the head of Rumanika’s men, because I saw it was through their instrumentality we gained admittance in the country; and we changed residence to the west end of Chaguzi, and found there comfortable huts close to the Kafu, which ran immediately between us and the palace.
Still our position in Unyoro was not a pleasant one. In a long field of grass, as high as the neck, and half under water, so that no walks could be taken, we had nothing to see but Kamrasi’s miserable huts and a few distant conical hills, of which one Udongo, we conceive, represents the Padongo of Brun–Bollet, placed by him in 1° south latitude, and 35° east longitude. We were scarcely inside our new dwelling when Kamrasi sent a cheer of two pots pombe, five fowls, and two bunches of plantains, hoping we were now satisfied with his favour; but he damped the whole in a moment again, by asking for a many-bladed knife which his officers had seen in Grant’s possession. I took what he sent, from fear of giving offence, but replied that I was surprised the great king should wish to see my property before seeing myself, and although I attached no more value to my property than he did to his, I could not demean myself by sending him trifles in that way. However, should he, after hearing my sentiments, still persist in asking for the knife to be sent by the hands of a black man, I would pack it up with all the things I had brought for him, and send them by a black man, judging that he liked black men more than white.
Dr K’yengo’s men then informed us they had been twice sent with an army of Wanyoro to attack the king’s brothers, on a river-island north of this about three days’ journey, but each time it ended in nothing. You fancy yourself, they said, in a magnificent army, but the enemy no sooner turn out than the cowardly Wanyoro fly, and sacrifice their ally as soon as not into the hands of the opponents. They said Kamrasi would not expect us to attack them with our guns. Rionga was the head of the rebels; there were formerly five, but now only two of the brothers remained.
15th. — Kamrasi, after inquiring after our health, and how we had slept, through a large deputation of head men, alluded to the knife question of yesterday, thinking it very strange that after giving me such nice food I should deny him the gratification of simply looking at a knife; he did not intend to keep it if it was not brought for him, but merely to look at and return it. To my reply of yesterday I added, I had been led, before entering Unyoro, to regard Kamrasi as the king of all kings — the greatest king that ever was, and one worthy to be my father; but now, as he expected me to amuse him with toys, he had lowered himself in my estimation to the position of being my child. To this the sages said, “Bana speaks beautifully, feelingly, and moderately. Of course he is displeased at seeing his property preferred before himself; all the right is on his side: we will now return and see what can be done — though none but white men in their greatest dare send such messages to our king.”
Dr K’yengo’s men were now attacked by Kidgwiga for having taken a cow from me yesterday, and told they should not eat it, because both they and myself were the king’s guests, and it ill became one to eat that which was given as a dinner for the other. Fortunately, foreseeing this kind of policy, as Kamrasi had been watching our actions, I invariably gave in presents those cows which came with us from Uganda, and therefore defied any one to meddle with them. This elicited the true facts of the case. Dr K’yengo’s men had been sent out to our camp to observe if anybody received presents from us, as Kamrasi feared his subjects would have the fleecing of us before his turn came; and these men had reported the two cows given by me as mentioned above. Kamrasi no sooner heard of this than he took the cows and kept them himself. In their justification, Dr K’yengo’s men said that had they not been in the country before us, Kamrasi would not have had such guests at all; for when he asked them if the Waganda reports about our cannibalism and other monstrosities were true, their head man denied it all, offered to stand security for our actions, and told the king if he found us cannibals he might make a Mohammedan of him, and sealed the statement with his oath by throwing down his shield and bow and walking over them. To this Kamrasi was said to have replied, “I will accept your statements, but you must remain with me until they come.”
Kajunju came with orders to say Kamrasi would seize anybody found staring at us. I requested a definite answer would be given as regards Kamrasi’s seeing us. Dr K’yengo’s men then said they were kept a week waiting before they could obtain an interview, whilst Kajunju excused his king by saying, “At present the court is full of Kidi, Chopi, Gani, and other visitors, who he does not wish should see you, as some may be enemies in disguise. They are all now taking presents of cows from Kamrasi, and going to their homes, and, as soon as they are disposed of, your turn will come.”
16th. — We kept quiet all day, to see what effect that would have upon the king. Kidgwiga told us that, when he was a lad, Kamrasi sent him with a large party of Wanyoro to visit a king who lived close to a high mountain, two months’ journey distant, to the east or south-east of this, and beg for a magic horn, as that king’s doctor was peculiarly famed for his skill as a magician. The party carried with them 600 majembe (iron spades), two of which expended daily paid for their board and lodgings on the way. The horn applied for was sent by a special messenger to Kamrasi, who, in return, sent one of his horns; from which date, the two kings, whenever one of them wishes to communicate with the other, sends, on the messenger’s neck, the horn that had been given him, which both serves for credentials and security, as no one dare touch a Mbakka with one of these horns upon his neck.
A common source of conversation among our men now was the desertion of their comrades, all fancying how bitterly they would repent it when they heard how we had succeeded, eating beef every day; and Uledi now, in a joking manner, abused Mektub for having urged him to desert. He would not leave Bana, and if he had not stopped, Mektub would have gone, for they both served one master at Zanzibar, and therefore were like brothers; whilst Mektub, laughing over the matter as if it were a good joke, said, “I packed up my things to go, it is true; but I reflected if I got back to the coast Said Majid would only make a slave of me again.” M’yinzuggi, the head of Rumanika’s party, gave me to-day a tippet monkey-skin in return for the cow I had given him on the 14th. These men, taking their natures from their king Rumanika, are by far the most gentle, polite, and attentive of any black men we have travelled amongst.
17th. — Tired and out of patience with our prison — a river of crocodiles on one side, and swamps in every other direction, while we could not go out shooting without a specific order from the king — I sent Kidgwiga and Kajunju to inform Kamrasi that we could bear this life no longer. As he did not wish to see white men, our residing here could be of no earthly use. I hoped he would accept our present from Bombay, and give us leave to depart for Gani. The Wakungu, who thought, as well as ourselves, that we were in nothing better than a prison, hurried off with the message, and soon returned with a message from their king that he was busily engaged decorating his palace to give us a triumphant reception; for he was anxious to pay us more respect than anybody who had ever visited him before. We should have seen him yesterday, only that it rained; and, as a precaution against our meeting being broken up, a shed was being built. He could not hear of our leaving the country without seeing him.
18th. — At last we were summoned to attend the king’s levee; but the suspicious creature wished his officers to inspect the things we had brought for him before we went there. Here was another hitch. I could not submit to such disrespectful suspicions, but if he wished Bombay to convey my present to him, I saw no harm in the proposition. The king waived the point, and we all started, carrying as a present the things enumerated in the note. 24 The Union Jack led the way. At the ferry three shots were fired, when, stepping into two large canoes, we all went across the Kafu together, and found, to our surprise, a small hut built for the reception, low down on the opposite bank, where no strange eyes could see us.
24 1 double rifle, 1 block-tin box, 1 red blanket, 1 brown do., 10 copper wire, 4 socks full of different-coloured minute beads, 2 socks full of blue and white pigeon eggs, 1 Rodgers’s pen-knife, 2 books, 1 elastic circle, 1 red handkerchief, 1 bag gun-caps, 1 pair scissors, 1 pomatum-pot, 1 quart bottle, 1 powder flask, 7 lb. powder, 1 dressing-case, 1 blacking-box, 1 brass lock and key, 4 brass handles, 8 brass sockets, 7 chintz, 7 binders, 1 red bag, 1 pair glass spectacles, 1 lucifer-box.
Within this, sitting on a low wooden stool placed upon a double matting of skins — cows’ below and leopards’ above — on an elevated platform of grass, was the great king Kamrasi, looking, enshrouded in his mbugu dress, for all the world like a pope in state — calm and actionless. One bracelet of fine-twisted brass wire adorned his left wrist, and his hair, half an inch long, was worked up into small peppercorn-like knobs by rubbing the hand circularly over the crown of the head. His eyes were long, face narrow, and nose prominent, after the true fashion of his breed; and though a finely-made man, considerably above six feet high, he was not so large as Rumanika. A cow-skin, stretched out and fastened to the roof, acted as a canopy to prevent dust falling, and a curtain of mbugu concealed the lower parts of the hut, in front of which, on both sides of the king, sat about a dozen head men.
This was all. We entered and took seats on our own iron stools, whilst Bombay placed all the presents upon the ground before the throne. As no greetings were exchanged, and all at first remained as silent as death, I commenced, after asking about his health, by saying I had journeyed six long years (by the African computation of five months in the year) for the pleasure of this meeting, coming by Karague instead of by the Nile, because the “Wanya Beri” (Bari people at Gondokoro) had defeated the projects of all former attempts made by white men to reach Unyoro. The purpose of my coming was to ascertain whether his majesty would like to trade with our country, exchanging ivory for articles of European manufacture; as, should he do so, merchants would come here in the same way as they went from Zanzibar to Karague. Rumanika and Mtesa were both anxious for trade, and I felt sorry he would not listen to my advice and make friend with Mtesa; for unless the influence of trade was brought in to check the Waganda from pillaging the country, nothing would do so.
Kamrasi, in a very quiet, mild manner, instead of answering the questions, told us of the absurd stories which he had heard from the Waganda, said he did not believe them, else his rivers, deprived of their fountains, would have run dry; and he thought, if we did eat hills and the tender parts of mankind, we should have had enough to satisfy our appetites before we reached Unyoro. Now, however, he was glad to see that, although our hair was straight and our faces white, we still possessed hands and feel like other men.
The present was then opened, and everything in turn placed upon the red blanket. The goggles created some mirth; so did the scissors, as Bombay, to show their use, clipped his beard, and the lucifers were considered a wonder; but the king scarcely moved or uttered any remarks till all was over, when, at the instigation of the courtiers, my chronometer was asked for and shown. This wonderful instrument, said the officers (mistaking it for my compass), was the magic horn by which the white men found their way everywhere. Kamrasi said he must have it, for, besides it, the gun was the only thing new to him. The chronometer, however, I said, was the only one left, and could not possibly be parted with; though, if Kamrasi liked to send men to Gani, a new one could be obtained for him.
Then, changing the subject, much to my relief, Kamrasi asked Bombay, “Who governs England?” “A woman.” “Has she any children?” “Yes,” said Bombay, with ready impudence; “these are two of them” (pointing to Grant and myself). That settled, Kamrasi wished to know if we had any specked cows, or cows of any peculiar colour, and would we like to change four large cows for four small ones, as he coveted some of ours. This was a staggerer. We had totally failed, then, in conveying to this stupid king the impression that we were not mere traders, ready to bargain with him. We would present him with cows if we had such as he wanted, but we could not bargain. The meeting then broke up in the same chilling manner as it began, and we returned as we came, but no sooner reached home than four pots of pombe were sent us, with a hope that we had arrived all safely. The present gave great satisfaction. The Wanguana accused Frij of having “unclean hands,” because the beef had not lasted so long as it should do — it being a notable fact in Mussulman creed, that unless the man’s hands are pure who cuts the throat of an animal, its flesh will not last fresh half the ordinary time.
19th. — As the presents given yesterday occupied the king’s mind too much for other business, I now sent to offer him one-third of the guns left in Uganda, provided he would send some messengers with one of my men to ask Mtesa for them, and also the same proportion of the sixty loads of property left in charge of Rumanika at Karague, if he would send the requisite number of porters for its removal. But of all things, I said, I most wished to send a letter to Petherick at Gani, to apprise him of our whereabouts, for he must have been four years waiting our arrival there, and by the same opportunity I would get a watch for the king. He sent us to-day two pots of pombe, one sack of salt, and what might be called a screw of butter, with an assurance that the half of everything that came to his house — and everything was brought from great distances in boats — he would give me; but for the present the only thing he was in need of was some medicine or stimulants. Further, I need be under no apprehension if I did not find men at once to go on the three respective journeys; it should be all done in good time, for he loved me much, and desired to show us so much respect that his name should be celebrated for it in songs of praise until he was bowed down by years, and even after death it should be remembered.
I ascertained then that the salt, which was very white and pure, came from an island on the Little Luta Nzige, about sixty miles west from the Chaguzi palace, where the lake is said to be forty or fifty miles wide. It is the same piece of water we heard of in Karague as the Little Luta Nzige, beyond Utumbi; and the same story of Unyoro being an island circumscribed by it and the Victoria N’yanza connected by the Nile, is related here, showing that both the Karague and Unyoro people, as indeed all negroes and Arabs, have the common defect in their language, of using the same word for a peninsula and an island. The Waijasi — of whom we saw a specimen in the shape of an old woman, with her upper lip edged with a row of small holes, at Karague — occupy a large island on this lake named Gasi, and sometimes come to visit Kamrasi. Ugungu, a dependency of Kamrasi’s, occupies this side, the lake, and on the opposite side is Ulegga; beyond which, in about 2° N. lat. And 28° E. long., is the country of Namachi; and further west still about 2°, the Wilyanwantu, or cannibals, who, according to the report both here and at Karague, “bury cows but eat men.” These distant people pay their homage to Kamrasi, though they have six degrees of longitude to travel over. They are, I believe, a portion of the N’yam N’yams — another name for cannibal — whose country Petherick said he entered in 1857–58. Among the other wild legends about this people, it was said that the Wilyanwantu, in making brotherhood, exchanged their blood by drinking at one another’s veins; and, in lieu of butter with their porridge, they smear it with the fat of fried human flesh.
20th. — I had intended for to-day an expedition to the lake; but Kamrasi, harbouring a wicked design that we should help in an attack on his brothers, said there was plenty of time to think of that; we would only find that all the waters united go to Gani, and he wished us to be his guests for three or four months at least. Fifty Gani men had just arrived to inform him that Rionga had lately sent ten slaves and ten ivory tusks to Petherick’s post, to purchase a gun; but the answer was, that a thousand times as much would not purchase a weapon that might be used against us; for our arrival with Kamrasi had been heard of, and nothing would be done to jeopardise our road.
To talk over this matter, the king invited us to meet him. We went as before, minus the flag and firing, and met a similar reception. The Gani news was talked over, and we proposed sending Bombay with a letter at once. I could get no answer; so, to pass the time, we wished to know from the king’s own lips if he had prevented Baraka from going to Gani, as he had carried orders from Rumanika as well as from myself to visit Kamrasi, to give him fifty egg-beads, seventy necklaces of mtende, and seventy necklaces of kutuamnazi beads, and then to pass on to Gani and give its chief fifty egg-beads and forty necklaces of kutuamnazi. Kamrasi replied, “I did not allow him to go, because I heard you had gone to Uganda”; and Dr K’yengo’s men happening to be present, added, “Baraka used up all the beads save forty which he gave to Kamrasi, living upon goats all the way; and when he left, took back a tusk of ivory.”
This little controversy was amusing, but did not suit Kamrasi, who had his eye on a certain valuable possession of mine. He made his approach towards it by degrees, beginning with a truly royal speech thus: “I am the king of all these countries, even including Uganda and Kidi — though the Kidi people are such savages they obey no man’s orders — and you are great men also, sitting on chairs before kings; it therefore ill becomes us to talk of such trifles as beads, especially as I know if you ever return this way I shall get more from you.” “Begging your majesty’s pardon,” I said, “the mention of beads only fell in the way of our talk like stones in a walk; our motive being to get at the truth of what Baraka did and said here, as his conduct in returning after receiving strict orders from Rumanika and ourselves to open the road, is a perfect enigma to us. We could not have entered Unyoro at all excepting through Uganda, and we could not have put foot in Uganda without visiting its king.” Without deigning to answer, Kamrasi, in the metaphorical language of a black man, said, “It would be unbecoming of me to keep secrets from you, and therefore I will tell you at once; I am sadly afflicted with a disorder which you alone can cure.” “What is it, your majesty? I can see nothing in your face; it may perhaps require a private inspection.” “My heart,” he said, “is troubled, because you will not give me your magic horn — the thing, I mean, in your pocket, which you pulled out one day when Budja and Vittagura were discussing the way; and you no sooner looked at it than you said, ‘That is the way to the palace.’”
So! the sly fellow has been angling for the chronometer all this time, and I can get nothing out of him until he has got it — the road to the lake, the road to Gani, everything seemed risked on his getting my watch — a chronometer worth £50, which would be spoilt in his hands in one day. To undeceive him, and tell him it was the compass which I looked at and not the watch, I knew would only end with my losing that instrument as well; so I told him it was not my guide, but a time-keeper, made for the purpose of knowing what time to eat my dinner by. It was the only chronometer I had with me; and I begged he would have patience until Bombay returned from Gani with another, when he should have the option to taking this or the new one. “No; I must have the one in your pocket; pull it out and show it.” This was done, and I placed it on the ground, saying, “The instrument is yours, but I must keep it until another one comes.” “No; I must have it now, and will send it you three times every day to look at.”
The watch went, gold chain and all, without any blessings following it; and the horrid king asked if I could make up another magic horn, for he hoped he had deprived us of the power of travelling, and plumed himself on the notion that the glory of opening the road would devolve upon himself. When I told him that to purchase another would cost five hundred cows, the whole party were more confirmed than ever as to its magical powers; for who in his sense would give five hundred cows for the mere gratification of seeing at what time his dinner should be eaten? Thus ended the second meeting. Kamrasi now said the Gani men would feast on beef to-morrow, and the next day be ready to start with my men for Petherick’s camp. He then accompanies us to the boats, spear in hand, and saw us cross the water. Long tail-hairs of the giraffe surrounded his neck, on which little balls and other ornaments of minute beads, after the Uganda fashion, were worked. In the evening four pots of pombe and a pack of flour were brought, together with the chronometer, which was sent to be wound up — damaged of course — the seconds-hand had been dislodged.
21st. — I heard from Kidgwiga that some of those Gani men now ordered to go with Bombay had actually been visiting here when the latter shot his first cow at the palace, but had gone to their homes to give information of us, and had returned again. Eager to get on with my journey, and see European faces again, I besought the king to let us depart, as our work was all finished here, since he had assured us he would like to trade with England. The N’yanswenge — meaning Petherick’s party — who have hitherto been afraid to come here, would do so now, when they had seen us pass safely down, and could receive my guns and property left to come from Uganda and Karague, which we ourselves could not wait for. Kamrasi, thinking me angry for his having taken the watch so rudely out of my pocket, took fright at the message, sent some of his attendants quickly back to me, requesting me to keep the instrument until another arrived, and begged I would never say I wished to leave his house again.
22d. — Kamrasi sent to say Bombay was not to start to-day, but to-morrow, so we put the screw on again, and said we must go at once; if he would give us guides to Gani, we would return him his twenty cows and seven goats with pleasure. I let him understand we suspected he was keeping us here to fight his brothers, and told him he must at once know we would never lift hand against them. It was contrary to the laws of our land. “I have got no orders to enter into black men’s quarrels, and my mother” (the Queen), “whom I see every night in my sleep calling me home, would be very angry if she heard of it. Rumanika once asked me to fight his brothers Rogero and M’yongo, but my only reply to all had been the same — I have no orders to fight with, only to make friends of, the great kings of Africa.”
The game seemed now to be won. At once Kamrasi ordered Bombay to prepare for the journey. Five Wanyoro, five Chopi men, and five Gani men, were to escort him. There was no objection to his carrying arms. The moment he returned, which ought to be in little more than a fortnight, we would all go together. An earnest request was at the same time made that I would not bully him in the mean time with any more applications to depart. So Bombay and Mabruki, carrying there muskets, and a map and letter for Petherick, departed.
23d and 24th. — Kamrasi, presuming he had gained favour in our eyes, sent, begging to know how we had slept, and said he would like us to inform him what part of his journey Bombay had this morning reached — a fact which he had no doubt must be divinable through the medium of our books. The reply was, that Bombay’s luck was so good we had no doubt regarding his success; but now he had gone, and our days here were numbered, we should like to see the palace, his fat wives and children, as well as the Wanyoro’s dances, and all the gaiety of the place. We did not think our reception-hut by the river sufficiently dignified, and our residence here was altogether like that of prisoners — seeing no one, knowing no one. In answer to this, Kamrasi sent one pot of pombe and five fowls, begging we would not be alarmed; we should see everything in good time, if we would but have patience, for he considered us very great men, as he was a great man himself, and we had come at his invitation. He must request, in the mean time, that we would send no more messages by his officers, as such messages are never conveyed properly. At present there was a great deal of business in the palace.
We asked for some butter, but could get none, as all the milk in the palace was consumed by the wives and children, drinking all day long, to make themselves immovably fat.
25th. — In the morning, the commander-in-chief wished us to cast a horoscope, and see where Bombay was, and if he were getting on well. That being negatived, he told us to put our hut in order, as Kamrasi was coming to see us. Accordingly we made everything as smart as possible, hanging the room round with maps, horns, and skins of animals, and places a large box covered with a red blanket, as a throne for the king to set upon. As he advanced, my men, forming a guard of honour fired three shots immediately on his setting foot upon our side the river; whilst Frij, with his boatswain’s whistle, piped the ‘Rogue’s March,’ to prepare us for his majesty’s approach. We saluted him, hat in hand, and, leading the way, showed him in. He was pleased to be complimentary, remarking, what Waseja (fine men) we were, and took his seat. We sat on smaller boxes, to appear humble, whilst his escort of black “swells” filled the doorway, squatting on the ground, so as to stop the light and interfere with our decorations.
After the first salutations, the king remarked the head of a nsamma buck, and handled it; then noticed my mosquito-curtains hanging over the bed, and begged for them. He was told they could not be given until Bombay returned, as the mosquitoes would eat us up. “But there were two,” said the escort, “for we have seen one in the other hut.” That was true; but were there not two white men? However, if the king wanted gauze, here was a smart gauze veil — and the veil vanished at once. The iron camp-bed was next inspected, and admired; then the sextant, which was coveted and begged for, but without success, much to the astonishment of the king, as his attendants had led him to expect he would get anything he asked for. Then the thermometers were wanted and refused; also table-knives, spoons, forks, and even cooking-pots, for we had no others, and could not part with them. The books of birds and animals had next to be seen, and being admired were coveted, the king offering one of the books I first gave him in exchange for one of these. In fact, he wanted to fleece us of everything; so, to shut him up, I said I would not part with one bird for one hundred tusks of ivory; they were all the collections I had made in Africa, and if I parted with them my journey would go for nothing; but if he wanted a few drawings of birds I would do some for him — at present I wished to speak to him. “Well, what is it? we are all attention.” “I wish to know positively if you would like English traders to come here regularly, as the Arabs do to trade at Karague? and if so, would you give me a pembe (magic horn) as a warrant, that everybody may know Kamrasi, king of Unyoro, desires it?”
Kamrasi replied, “I like your proposition very much; you shall have the horn you ask for, either large or small, just as you please; and after you have gone, should we hear any English are at Gani wishing to come here, as my brothers are in the way we will advance with spears whilst they approach with guns, and between us both, my brothers must fly — for I myself will head the expedition. But now you have had your say I will have mine if you will listen.” “All right, your majesty; what is it?” “I am constantly stricken with fever and pains, for which I know no remedy but cautery; my children die young; my family is not large enough to uphold my dignity and station in life; in fact, I am infirm and want stimulants, and I wish you to prescribe for me, which considering you have found your way to this, where nobody came before, must be easy to you.” Two pills and a draught for the morning were given as a preliminary measure, argument being of no avail; and to our delight the king said it was time to go.
We jumped off our seats to show him the way, hoping our persecutions were over; but still he sat, and sat, until at length, finding we did not take the hint to give him a parting present, he said, “I never visited any big man’s house without taking home some trifle to show my wife and children.” “Indeed, great king! then you did not come to visit us, but to beg, eh? You shall have nothing, positively nothing; for we will not have it said the king did not come to see us, but to beg.” Kamrasi’s face changed colour; he angrily said, “Irokh togend” (let us rise and go), and forthwith walked straight out of the hut. Frij piped, but no guns fired; and as he asked the reason why he was told it would be offensive to say we were glad he was going. The king was evidently not pleased for no pombe came to-day.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00