Taxation recommenced — A Great Doctor — Suwarora pillaging — The Arabs — Conference with an Ambassador from Uganda — Disputes in Camp — Rivalry of Bombay and Baraka — Departure from the Inhospitable Districts.
We were now in Usui, and so the mace-bearers, being on their own ground forgot their manners, and peremptorily demanded their pay before they would allow us to move one step farther. At first I tried to stave the matter off, promising great rewards if they took us quickly on to Suwarora; but they would take no alternative — their rights were four wires each. I could not afford such a sum, and tried to beat them down, but without effect; for they said, they had it in their power to detain us here a whole month, and they could get us bullied at every stage by the officers of the stations. No threats of reporting them to their chief had any effect, so, knowing that treachery in these countries was a powerful enemy, I ordered them to be paid. N’yamanira, the Mkungu, then gave us a goat and two pots of pombe, begging, at the same time, for four wires, which I paid, hoping thus to get on in the morning.
I then made friends with him, and found he was a great doctor as well as an officer. In front of his hut he had his church or uganga — a tree, in which was fixed a blaue boc’s horn charged with magic powder, and a zebra’s hoof, suspended by a string over a pot of water sunk in the earth below it. His badges of office he had tied on his head; the butt of a shell, representing the officer’s badge, being fixed on the forehead, whilst a small sheep’s horn, fixed jauntily over the temple, denoted that he was a magician. Wishing to try my powers in magical arts, as I laughed at his church, he begged me to produce an everlasting spring of water by simply scratching the ground. He, however, drew short up, to the intense delight of my men, on my promising that I would do so if he made one first.
At night, 22d, a steel scabbard and some cloths were extracted from our camp, so I begged my friend the great doctor would show us the use of his horn. This was promised, but never performed. I then wished to leave, as the Wasui guides, on receiving their pay, promised we should; but they deferred, on the plea that one of them must see their chief first, and get him to frank us through, else, they said, we should be torn to pieces. I said I thought the Kaquenzingiriri could do this; but they said, “No; Suwarora must be told first of your arrival, to prepare him properly for your coming; so stop here for three days with two of us, whilst the third one goes to the palace and returns again; for you know the chiefs of these countries do not feel safe until they have a look at the uganga.”
One of them then went away, but no sooner had left than a man named Makinga arrived to invite us on, as he said, at his adopted brother K’yengo’s request. Makinga then told us that Suwarora, on first hearing that we were coming, became greatly afraid, and said he would not let us set eyes on his country, as he was sure we were king-dethroners; but, referring for opinion to Dr K’yengo, his fears were overcome by the doctor assuring him that he had seen hosts of our sort at Zanzibar; and he knew, moreover, that some years ago we had been to Ujiji and to Ukerewe without having done any harm in those places; and, further, since Musa had sent word that I had done my best to subdue the war at Unyanyembe, and had promised to do my best here, he, Suwarora, had been anxiously watching our movements, and longed for our arrival. This looked famous, and it was agreed we should move the next morning. Just then a new light broke in on my defeat at Sorombo, for with Makinga I recognised one of my former porters, who I had supposed was a “child” of the Pig’s. This man now said before all my men, Baraka included, that he wished to accept the load of mzizima I had offered the Pig if he would go forward with Baraka and tell Suwarora I wanted some porters to help me to reach him. He was not a “child” of the Pig’s, but a “child” of K’yengo’s; and as Baraka would not allow him to accept the load of mzizima, he went on to K’yengo by himself, and told all that had happened. It was now quite clear what motives induced Suwarora to send out the three Wasui; but how I blessed Baraka for this in my heart, though I said nothing about it to him, for fear of his playing some more treacherous tricks. Grant then told me Baraka had been frightened at Mininga, by a blackguard Mganga to whom he would not give a present, into the belief that our journey would encounter some terrible mishap; for, when the M’yonga catastrophe happened, he thought that a fulfillment of the Mganga’s prophecy.
I wished to move in the morning (23d), and had all hands ready, but was told by Makinga he must be settled with first. His dues for the present were four brass wires, and as many more when we reached the palace. I could not stand this: we were literally, as Musa said we should be, being “torn to pieces”; so I appealed to the mace-bearers, protested that Makinga could have no claims on me, as he was not a man of Usui, but a native of Utambara, and brought on a row. On the other hand, as he could not refute this, Makinga swore the mace was all a pretence, and set a-fighting with the Wasui and all the men in turn.
To put a stop to this, I ordered a halt, and called on the district officer to assist us, on which he said he would escort us on to Suwarora’s if we would stop till next morning. This was agreed to; but in the night we were robbed of three goats, which he said he could not allow to be passed over, lest Suwarora might hear of it, and he would get into a scrape. He pressed us strongly to stop another day whilst he sought for them, but I told him I would not, as his magic powder was weak, else he would have found the scabbard we lost long before this.
At last we got under way, and, after winding through a long forest, we emerged on the first of the populous parts of Usui, a most convulsed-looking country, of well-rounded hills composed of sandstone. In all the parts not under cultivation they were covered with brushwood. Here the little grass-hut villages were not fenced by a boma, but were hidden in large fields of plantains. Cattle were numerous, kept by the Wahuma, who could not sell their milk to us because we ate fowls and a bean called maharague.
Happily no one tried to pillage us here, so on we went to Vikora’s, another officer, living at N’yakasenye, under a sandstone hill, faced with a dyke of white quartz, over which leaped a small stream of water — a seventy-feet drop — which, it is said, Suwarora sometimes paid homage to when the land was oppressed by drought. Vikora’s father it was whom Sirboko of Mininga shot. Usually he was very severe with merchants in consequence of that act; but he did not molest us, as the messenger who went on to Suwarora returned here just as we arrived, to say we must come on at once, as Suwarora was anxious to see us, and had ordered his Wakungu not to molest us. Thieves that night entered our ringfence of thorns, and stole a cloth from off one of my men while he was sleeping.
We set down Suwarora, after this very polite message, “a regular trump,” and walked up the hill of N’yakasenye with considerable mirth, singing his praises; but we no sooner planted ourselves on the summit than we sang a very different tune. We were ordered to stop by a huge body of men, and to pay toll.
Suwarora, on second thoughts, had changed his mind, or else he had been overruled by two of his officers — Kariwami, who lived here, and Virembo, who lived two stages back, but were then with their chief. There was no help for it, so I ordered the camp to be formed, and sent Nasib and the mace-bearers at once off to the palace to express to his highness how insulted I felt as his guest, being stopped in this manner, even when I had his Kaquenzingiriri with me as his authority that I was invited there as a guest. I was not a merchant who carried merchandise, but a prince like himself, come on a friendly mission to see him and Rumanika. I was waiting at night for the return of the messengers, and sitting out with my sextant observing the stars, to fix my position, when some daring thieves, in the dark bushes close by, accosted two of the women of the camp, pretending a desire to know what I was doing. They were no sooner told by the unsuspecting women, than they whipped off their cloths and ran away with them, allowing their victims to pass me in a state of absolute nudity. I could stand this thieving no longer. My goats and other things had been taken away without causing me much distress of mind, but now, after this shocking event, I ordered my men to shoot at any thieves that came near them.
This night one was shot, without any mistake about it; for the next morning we tracked him by his blood, and afterwards heard he had died of his wound. The Wasui elders, contrary to my expectation, then came and congratulated us on our success. They thought us most wonderful men, and possessed of supernatural powers; for the thief in question was a magician, who until now was thought to be invulnerable. Indeed, they said Arabs with enormous caravans had often been plundered by these people; but though they had so many more guns than ourselves, they never succeeded in killing one.
Nasib then returned to inform us that the king had heard our complaint, and was sorry for it, but said he could not interfere with the rights of his officers. He did not wish himself to take anything from us, and hoped we would come on to him as soon as we had satisfied his officers with the trifle they wanted. Virembo then sent us some pombe by his officers, and begged us to have patience, for he was then fleecing Masudi at the encamping-ground near the palace. This place was alive with thieves. During the day they lured my men into their huts by inviting them to dinner; but when they got them they stripped them stark-naked and let them go again; whilst at night they stone our camp. After this, one more was shot dead and two others wounded.
I knew that Suwarora’s message was all humbug, and that his officers merely kept about one per cent. of what they took from travellers, paying the balance into the royal coffers. Thinking I was now well in for a good fleecing myself, I sent Bombay off to Masudi’s camp, to tell Insangez, who was travelling with him on a mission of his master’s, old Musa’s son, that I would reward him handsomely if he would, on arrival at Karague, get Rumanika to send us his mace here in the same way as Suwarora had done to help us out of Bogue, as he knew Musa at one time said he would go with us to Karague in person. When Bombay was gone, Virembo then deputed Kariwami to take the hongo for both at once, mildly requiring 40 wires, 80 cloths, and 400 necklaces of every kind of bead we possessed. This was, indeed, too much of a joke. I complained of all the losses I had suffered, and begged for mercy; but all he said, after waiting the whole day, was, “Do not stick at trifles; for, after settling with us, you will have to give as much more to Vikora, who lives down below.”
Next morning, as I said I could not by any means pay such an exorbitant tax as was demanded, Kariwami begged me to make an offer which I did by sending him four wires. These, of course, were rejected with scorn; so, in addition, I sent an old box. That, too, was thrown back on me, as nothing short of 20 wires, 40 cloths, and 200 necklaces of all sorts of beads, would satisfy him; and this I ought to be contented to pay, as he had been so moderate because I was the king’s guest, and had been so reduced by robbery. I now sent six wires more, and said this was the last I could give — they were worth so many goats to me — and now by giving them away, I should have to live on grain like a poor man, though I was a prince in my own country, just like Suwarora. Surely Suwarora could not permit this if he knew it; and if they would not suffice, I should have to stop here until called again by Suwarora. The ruffian, on hearing this, allowed the wires to lie in his hut, and said he was going away, but hoped, when he returned, I should have, as I had got no cloths, 20 wires, and 1000 necklaces of extra length, strung and all ready for him.
Just then Bombay returned flushed with the excitement of a great success. He had been in Masudi’s camp, and had delivered my message to Insangez. Asudi, he said, had been there a fortnight unable to settle his hongo, for the great Mkama had not deigned to see him, though the Arab had been daily to his palace requesting an interview. “Well,” I said, “that is all very interesting, but what next? — will the big king see us?” “O no; by the very best good fortune in the world, on going into the palace I saw Suwarora, and spoke to him at once; but he was so tremendously drunk, he could not understand me.” “What luck was there in that?” I asked. On which Bombay said, “Oh, everybody in the place congratulated me on my success in having obtained an interview with that great monarch the very first day, when Arabs had seldom that privilege under one full month of squatting; even Masudi had not yet seen him.” To which Nasib also added, “Ah, yes — indeed it is so — a monstrous success; there is great ceremony as well as business at these courts; you will better see what I mean when you get to Uganda. These Wahuma kings are not like those you ever saw in Unyamuezi or anywhere else; they have officers and soldiers like Said Majid, the Sultan at Zanzibar.” “Well,” said I to Bombay, “what was Suwarora like?” “Oh, he is a very fine man — just as tall, and in the face very like Grant; in fact, if Grant were black you would not know the difference.” “And were his officers drunk too?” “O yes, they were all drunk together; men were bringing in pombe all day.” “And did you get drunk?” “O yes,” said Bombay, grinning, and showing his whole row of sharp-pointed teeth, “they WOULD make me drink; and then they showed me the place they assigned for your camp when you come over there. It was not in the palace, but outside, without a tree near it; anything but a nice-looking residence.” I then sent Bombay to work at the hongo business; but, after haggling till night with Kariwami, he was told he must bring fourteen brass wires, two cloths, and five mukhnai of kanyera, or white porcelain beads — which, reduced, amounted to three hundred necklaces; else he said I might stop there for a month.
At last I settled this confounded hongo, by paying seven additional wires in lieu of the cloth; and, delighted at the termination of this tedious affair, I ordered a march. Like magic, however, Vikora turned up, and said we must wait until he was settled with. His rank was the same as the others, and one bead less than I had given them he would not take. I fought all the day out, but the next morning, as he deputed his officers to take nine wires, these were given, and then we went on with the journey.
Tripping along over the hill, we descended to a deep miry watercourse, full of bulrushes, then over another hill, from the heights of which we saw Suwarora’s palace, lying down in the Uthungu valley, behind which again rose another hill of sandstone, faced on the top with a dyke of white quartz. The scene was very striking, for the palace enclosures, of great extent, were well laid out to give effect. Three circles of milk bush, one within the other, formed the boma, or ring-fence. The chief’s hut (I do not think him worthy of the name of king, since the kingdom is divided in two) was three times as large as any of the others, and stood by itself at the farther end; whilst the smaller huts, containing his officers and domestics, were arranged in little groups within a circle, at certain distances apart from one another, sufficient to allow of their stalling their cattle at night.
On descending into the Uthungu valley, Grant, who was preceding the men, found Makinga opposed to the progress of the caravan until his dues were paid. He was a stranger like ourselves, and was consequently treated with scorn, until he tried to maintain what he called his right, by pulling the loads off my men’s shoulders, whereupon Grant cowed him into submission, and all went on again — not to the palace, as we had supposed, but, by the direction of the mace-bearers, to the huts of Suwarora’s commander-in-chief, two miles from the palace; and here we found Masudi’s camp also. We had no sooner formed camp for ourselves and arranged all our loads, than the eternal Vikora, whom I thought we had settled with before we started, made a claim for some more wire, cloth, and beads, as he had not received as much as Kariwani and Virembo. Of course I would not listen to this, as I had paid what his men asked for, and that was enough for me. Just then Masudi, with the other Arabs who were travelling with him, came over to pay us a visit, and inquire what we thought of the Usui taxes. He had just concluded his hongo to Suwarora by paying 80 wires, 120 yards of cloth, and 130 lb. of beads, whilst he had also paid to every officer from 20 to 40 wires, as well as cloths and beads. On hearing of my transactions, he gave it as his opinion that I had got off surprisingly well.
Next morning, (1st) Masudi and his party started for Karague. They had been more than a year between this and Kaze, trying all the time to get along. Provisions here were abundant — hawked about by the people, who wore a very neat skin kilt strapped round the waist, but otherwise were decorated like the Wanyamuezi. It was difficult to say who were of true breed here, for the intercourse of the natives with the Wahuma and the Wanyamuezi produced a great variety of facial features amongst the people. Nowhere did I ever see so many men and women with hazel eyes as at this place.
In the evening, an Uganda man, by name N’yamgundu, came to pay his respects to us. He was dressed in a large skin wrapper, made up of a number of very small antelope skins: it was as soft as kid, and just as well sewn as our gloves. To our surprise the manners of the man were quite in keeping with his becoming dress. I was enchanted with his appearance, and so were my men, though no one could speak to him but Nasib, who told us he knew him before. He was the brother of the dowager queen of Uganda, and, along with a proper body of officers, he had been sent by Mtesa, the present king of Uganda, to demand the daughter of Suwarora, as reports had reached his king that she was surprisingly beautiful. They had been here more than a year, during which time this beautiful virgin had died; and now Suwarora, fearful of the great king’s wrath, consequent on his procrastinations, was endeavouring to make amends for it, by sending, instead of his daughter, a suitable tribute in wires. I thought it not wonderful that we should be fleeced.
Next day (2d) Sirhid paid us a visit, and said he was the first man in the state. He certainly was a nice-looking young man, with a good deal of the Wahuma blood in him. Flashily dressed in coloured cloths and a turban, he sat down in one of our chairs as if he had been accustomed to such a seat all his life, and spoke with great suavity. I explained our difficulties as those of great men in misfortune; and, after listening to our tale, he said he would tell Suwarora of the way we had been plundered, and impress upon him to deal lightly with us. I said I had brought with me a few articles of European manufacture for Suwarora, which I hoped would be accepted if I presented them, for they were such things as only great men like his chief every possessed. One was a five-barrelled pistol, another a large block-in box, and so fourth; but after looking at them, and seeing the pistol fired, he said; “No; you must not shew these things at first, or the Mkama might get frightened, thinking them magic. I might lose my head for presuming to offer them, and then there is no knowing what might happen afterwards.” “Then can I not see him at once and pay my respects, for I have come a great way to obtain that pleasure?” “No,” said Sirhid, “I will see him first; for he is not a man like myself, but requires to be well assured before he sees anybody.” “Then why did he invite me here!” “He heard that Makaka, and afterwards Lumeresi, had stopped your progress; and as he wished to see what you were like, he ordered me to send some men to you, which, as you know, I did twice. He wishes to see you, but does not like doing things in a hurry. Superstition, you know, preys on these men’s minds who have not seen the world like you and myself.” Sirhid then said he would ask Suwarora to grant us an interview as soon as possible; then, whilst leaving, he begged for the iron chair he had sat upon; but hearing we did not know how to sit on the ground, and therefore could not spare it, he withdrew without any more words about it.
Virembo then said (3d) he must have some more wire and beads, as his proxy Kariwami had been satisfied with too little. I drove him off in a huff, but he soon came back again with half the hongo I had paid to Kariwami, and said he must have some cloths or he would not have anything. As fortune decreed it, just then Sirhid dropped in, and stopped him importunity for the time by saying that if we had possessed cloths his men must have known it, for they had been travelling with us. No sooner, however, did Virembo turn tail than the Sirhid gave us a broad hint that he usually received a trifle from the Arabs before he made an attempt at arranging the hongo with Suwarora. Any trifle would do but he preferred cloth.
This was rather perplexing. Sirhid knew very well that I had a small reserve of pretty cloths, though all the common ones had been expended; so, to keep in good terms with him who was to be our intercessor, I said I would give him the last I had got if he would not tell Suwarora or any one else what I had done. Of course he was quite ready to undertake the condition, so I gave him two pretty cloths, and he in return gave me two goats. But when this little business had been transacted, to my surprise he said: “I have orders from Suwarora to be absent five days to doctor a sick relation of his, for there is no man in the country so skilled in medicines as myself; but whilst I am gone I will leave Karambule, my brother, to officiate in my stead about taking your hongo; but the work will not commence until to-morrow, for I must see Suwarora on the subject myself first.”
Irungu, a very fine-looking man of Uganda, now called on me and begged for beads. He said his king had heard of our approach, and was most anxious to see us. Hearing this I begged him to wait here until my hongo was paid, that we might travel on to Uganda together. He said, No, he could not wait, for he had been detained here a whole year already; but, if I liked, he would leave some of his children behind with me, as their presence would intimidate Suwarora, and incite him to let us off quickly.
I then begged him to convey a Colt’s six-chamber revolving rifle to his king, Mtesa, as an earnest that I was a prince most desirous of seeing him. No one, I said, but myself could tell what dangers and difficulties I had encountered to come thus far for the purpose, and all was owing to his great fame, as the king of kings, having reached me even as far off as Zanzibar. The ambassador would not take the rifle, lest his master, who had never seen such a wonderful weapon before, should think he had brought him a malign charm, and he would be in danger of losing his head. I then tried to prevail on him to take a knife and some other pretty things, but he feared them all; so, as a last chance — for I wished to send some token, by way of card or letter, for announcing my approach and securing the road — I gave him a red six-penny pocket-handkerchief, which he accepted; and he then told me he was surprised I had come all this way round to Uganda, when the road by the Masai country was so much shorter. He told me how, shortly after the late king of Uganda, Sunna, died, and before Mtesa had been selected by the officers of the country to be their king, an Arab caravan came across the Masai as far as Usoga, and begged for permission to enter Uganda; but as the country was disturbed by the elections, the officers of the state advised the Arabs to wait, or come again when the king was elected. I told him I had heard of this before, but also heard that those Arabs had met with great disasters, owing to the turbulence of the Masai. To which he replied: “That is true; there were great difficulties in those times, but now the Masai country was in better order; and as Mtesa was most anxious to open that line, he would give me as many men as I liked if I wished to go home that way.”
This was pleasant information, but not quite new, for the Arabs had told me Mtesa was so anxious to open that route, he had frequently offered to aid them in it himself. Still it was most gratifying to myself as I had written to the Geographical Society, on leaving Bogue, that if I found Petherick in Uganda, or on the northern end of the N’yanza, so that the Nile question was settled, I would endeavour to reach Zanzibar via the Masai country. In former days, I knew, the kings of Uganda were in the habit of sending men to Karague when they heard that Arabs wished to visit them — even as many as two hundred at a time — to carry their kit; so I now begged Irungu to tell Mtesa that I should want at least sixty men; and then, on his promising that he would be my commissioner, I gave him the beads he had begged for himself.
4th to 6th. — Karambule now told us to string our beads on the fibre of the Mwale tree, which was sold here by the Wasui, as he intended to live in the palace for a couple of days, arranging with Suwarora what tax we should have to pay, after which he would come and take it from us; but we must mind and be ready, for whatever Suwarora said, it must be done instantly. There was no such thing as haggling with him; you must pay and be off at once, failing which you might be detained a whole month before there would be an opportunity to speak on the subject again. Beads were then served out to all my men to be strung, a certain quantity to every kambi or mess, and our work was progressing; but next day we heard that Karambule was sick or feigning to be so, and therefore had never gone to the palace at all. On the 6th, provoked at last by the shameful manner in which we were treated, I send word to him to say, if he did not go at once I would go myself, and force my way in with my guns, for I could not submit to being treated like a slave, stuck out here in the jungle with nothing to do but shoot for specimens, or make collections of rocks, etc. This brought on another row; for he said both Virembo and Vikora had returned their hongos, and until their tongues were quieted he could not speak to Suwarora.
To expedite matters (7th), as our daily consumption in camp was a tax of itself, I gave these tormenting creatures one wire, one pretty cloth, and five hundred necklaces of white beads, which were no sooner accepted than Karambule, in the same way as Sirhid had done, said it would be greatly to my advantage if I gave him something worth having before he saw the Mkama. Only too glad to being work I gave him a red blanket, called joho, and five strings of mzizima beads, which were equal to fifty of the common white.
8th and 9th. — All this time nothing but confusion reigned in camp, khambi fighting against khambi. Both men and women got drunk, whilst from outside we were tormented by the Wasui, both men and women pertinaciously pressing into our hut, watching us eat, and begging in the most shameless manner. They did not know the word bakhshish, or present; but, as bad as the Egyptians, they held our their hands, patted their bellies, and said Kaniwani (my friend) until we were sick of the sound of that word. Still it was impossible to dislike these simple creatures altogether, they were such perfect children. If we threw water at them to drive them away, they came back again, thinking it fun.
Ten days now had elapsed since we came here, still nothing was done (10th), as Karambule said, because Suwarora had been so fully occupied collecting an army to punish an officer who had refused to pay his taxes, had ignored his authority, and had set himself us as king of the district he was appointed to superintend. After this, at midnight, Karambule, in an excited manner, said he had seen Suwarora, and it then was appointed that, not he, but Virembo should take the royal hongo, as well as the Wahinda, or princes’ shares, the next morning — after which we might go as fast as we liked, for Suwarora was so full occupied with his army he could not see us this time. Before, however, the hongo could be paid, I must give the Sirhid and himself twenty brass wires, three joho, three barsati, twenty strings of mzizima, and one thousand strings of white beads. They were given.
A fearful row now broke out between Bombay and Baraka (11th). Many of my men had by this time been married, notwithstanding my prohibition. Baraka, for instance, had with him the daughter of Ungurue, chief of Phunze; Wadimoyo, a woman called Manamaka; Sangizo, his wife and sister; but Bombay had not got one, and mourned for a girl he had set his eyes on, unfortunately for himself letting Baraka into his confidence. This set Baraka on the qui vive to catch Bombay tripping; for Baraka knew he could not get her without paying a good price for her, and therefore watched his opportunity to lay a complaint against him of purloining my property, by which scheme he would, he thought, get Bombay’s place as storekeeper himself. In a sly manner Bombay employed some of my other men to take five wires, a red blanket, and 500 strings of beads, to his would-be father-in-law, which, by a previously-concocted arrangement, was to be her dowry price. These men did as they were bid; but the father-in-law returned things, saying he must have one more wire. That being also supplied, the scoundrel wanted more, and made so much fuss about it, that Baraka became conversant with all that was going on, and told me of it.
This set the whole camp in a flame, for Bombay and Baraka were both very drunk, as well as most of the other men, so that it was with great difficulty I could get hold of the rights of their stories. Bombay acknowledged he had tried to get the girl, for they had been sentimentalising together for several days, and both alike wished to be married. Baraka, he said, was allowed to keep a wife, and his position, demanded that he should have one also; but the wires were his own property, and not mine, for he was given them by the chiefs as a perquisite when I paid their hongo through him. He thought it most unjust and unfair of Baraka to call him to account in that way, but he was not surprised at it, as Baraka, from the beginning of the journey to the present moment, had always been backbiting him, to try and usurp his position. Baraka, at this, somewhat taken aback, said there were no such things as perquisites on a journey like this; for whatever could be saved from the chiefs was for the common good of all, and all alike ought to share in it — repeating words I had often expressed. Then Bombay retorted trembling and foaming in his liquor: “I know I shall get the worst of it, for whilst Baraka’s tongue is a yard long, mine is only an inch; but I would not have spent any wires of master’s to purchase slaves with (alluding to what Baraka had done at Mihambo); nor would I, for any purpose of making myself richer; but when it comes to a wife, that’s a different thing.”
In my heart I liked Bombay all the more for this confession, but thought it necessary to extol Baraka for his quickness in finding him out, which drove Bombay nearly wild. He wished me to degrade him, if I thought him dishonest; threw himself on the ground, and kissed my feet. I might thrash him, turn him into a porter, or do anything else that I liked with him, as long as I did not bring a charge of dishonesty against him. He could not explain himself with Baraka’s long tongue opposed to him, but there were many deficiencies in my wires before he took overcharge at Bogue, which he must leave for settlement till the journey was over, and then, the whole question having been sifted at Zanzibar, we would see who was the most honest. I then counted all the wires over, at Bombay’s request, and found them complete in numbers, without those he had set aside from the dowry money. Still there was a doubt, for the wires might have been cut by him without detection, as from the commencement they were of different lengths. However, I tried to make them friends, claimed all the wires myself, and cautioned every man in the camp again, that they were all losers when anything was misappropriated; for I brought this property to pay our way with and whatever balance was over at the end of the journey I would divide amongst the whole of them.
12th and 13th. — When more sober, Bombay again came to crave a thousand pardons for what he had done, threw himself down at my feet, then at Grant’s, kissed our toes, swore I was his Ma Pap (father and mother); he had no father or mother to teach him better; he owed all his prosperity to me; men must err sometimes; oh, if I would only forgive him — and so forth. Then being assured that I knew he never would have done as he had if a woman’s attractions had not led him astray, he went to his work again like a man, and consoled himself by taking Sangizo’s sister to wife on credit instead of the old love, promising to pay the needful out of his pay, and to return her to her brother when the journey was over.
In the evening Virembo and Karambule came to receive the hongo for their chief, demanding 60 wires, 160 yards merikani, 300 strings of mzizima, and 5000 strings of white beads; but they allowed themselves to be beaten down to 50 wires, 20 pretty cloths, 100 strings mzizima, and 4000 kutuamnazi, or cocoa-nut-leaf coloured beads, my white being all done. It was too late, however, to count all the things out, so they came the next day and took them. They then said we might go as soon as we had settled with the Wahinda or Wanawami (the king’s children), for Suwarora could not see us this time, as he was so engaged with his army; but he hoped to see us and pay us more respect when we returned from Uganda, little thinking that I had sworn in my mind never to see him, or return that way again. I said to those men, I thought he was ashamed to see us, as he had robbed us so after inviting us into the country, else he was too superstitious, for he ought at least to have given us a place in his palace. They both rebutted the insinuation; and, to change the subject, commenced levying the remaining dues to the princes, which ended by my giving thirty-four wires and six pretty cloths in a lump.
Early in the morning we were on foot again, only too thankful to have got off so cheaply. Then men were appointed as guides and protectors, to look after us as far as the border. What an honour! We had come into the country drawn there by a combination of pride and avarice and now we were leaving it in hot haste under the guidance of an escort of officers, who were in reality appointed to watch us as dangerous wizards and objects of terror. It was all the same to us, as we now only thought of the prospect of relief before us, and laughed at what we had gone through.
Rising out of the Uthungu valley, we walked over rolling ground, drained in the dips by miry rush rivulets. The population was thinly scattered in small groups of grass huts, where the scrub jungle had been cleared away. On the road we passed cairns, to which every passer-by contributed a stone. Of the origin of the cairns I could not gain any information, though it struck me as curious I should find them in the first country we had entered governed by the Wahuma, as I formerly saw the same thing in the Somali country, which doubtless, in earlier days, was governed by a branch of the Abyssinians. Arrived at our camping, we were immediately pounced upon by a deputation of officers, who said they had been sent by Semamba, the officer of this district. He lived ten miles from the road; but hearing of our approach, he had sent these men to take his dues. At first I objected to pay, lest he should afterwards treat me as Virembo had done; but I gave way in the end, and paid nine wires, two chintz and two bindera cloths, as the guides said they would stand my security against any further molestation.
Rattling on again as merry as larks, over the same red sandstone formation, we entered a fine forest, and trended on through it as a stiff pace until we arrived at the head of a deep valley called Lohuati, which was so beautiful we instinctively pulled up to admire it. Deep down its well-wooded side below us was a stream, of most inviting aspect for a trout-fisher, flowing towards the N’yanza. Just beyond it the valley was clothed with fine trees and luxuriant vegetation of all descriptions, amongst which was conspicuous the pretty pandana palm, and rich gardens of plantains; whilst thistles of extraordinary size and wild indigo were the more common weeds. The land beyond that again rolled back in high undulations, over which, in the far distance, we could see a line of cones, red and bare on their tops, guttered down with white streaks, looking for all the world like recent volcanoes; and in the far background, rising higher than all, were the rich grassy hills of Karague and Kishakka.
On resuming our march, a bird, called khongota, flew across our path; seeing which, old Nasib, beaming with joy, in his superstitious belief cried out with delight, “Ah, look at that good omen! — now our journey will be sure to be prosperous.” After fording the stream, we sat down to rest, and were visited by all the inhabitants, who were more naked than any people we had yet seen. All the maidens, even at the age of puberty, did not hesitate to stand boldly in front of us — for evil thoughts were not in their minds. From this we rose over a stony hill to the settlement of Vihembe, which, being the last on the Usui frontier, induced me to give our guides three wires each, and four yards of bindera, which Nasib said was their proper fee. Here Bombay’s would-be, but disappointed, father-in-law sent after us to say that he required a hongo; Suwarora had never given his sanction to our quitting his country; his hongo even was not settled. He wished, moreover, particularly to see us; and if we did not return in a friendly manner, an army would arrest our march immediately.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00