The Discover of the Source of the Nile
By John Hanning Speke
A Visit to a Distinguished Statesman--A Visit from the King--Royal Sport--The Queen's Present of Wives--The Court Beauties and their Reverses--Judicial Procedure in Uganda--Buffalo-Hunting--A Musical Party--My Medical Practice--A Royal Excursion on the N'yanza-- The Canoes of Uganda--A Regatta--Rifle Practice--Domestic Difficulties--Interference of a Magician--The King's Brothers.
29th.--According to appointment I went early this morning to visit Congow. He kept me some time waiting in his outer hut, and then called me in to where I found him sitting with his women--a large group, by no means pretty. His huts are numerous, the gardens and courts all very neat and well kept. He was much delighted with my coming, produced pombe, and asked me what I thought of his women, stripping them to the waist. He assured me that he had thus paid me such a compliment as nobody else had ever obtained, since the Waganda are very jealous of one another--so much so, that any one would be killed if found starring upon a woman even in the highways. I asked him what use he had for so many women? To which he replied, "None whatever; the king gives them to us to keep up our rank, sometimes as many as one hundred together, and we either turn them into wives, or make servants of them, as we please." Just then I heard that Mkuenda, the queen's woman-keeper, was outside waiting for me, but dared not come in, because Congow's women were all out; so I asked leave to go home to breakfast, much to the surprise of Congow, who thought I was his guest for the whole day. It is considered very indecorous in Uganda to call upon two persons in one day, though even the king or the queen should be one of them. Then, as there was no help for it--Congow could not detain me when hungry--he showed me a little boy, the only child he had, and said, with much fatherly pride, "Both the king and queen have called on me to see this fine little fellow"; and we parted to meet again some other day. Outside his gate I found Mkuenda, who said the queen had sent him to invite "her son" to bring her some stomach medicine in the morning, and come to have a chat with her. With Mkuenda I walked home; but he was so awed by the splendour of my hut, with its few blankets and bit of chintz, that he would not even sit upon a cow-skin, but asked if any Waganda dared venture in there. He was either too dazzled or too timid to answer any questions, and in a few minutes walked away again.
After this, I had scarcely swallowed by breakfast before I received a summons from the king to meet him out shooting, with all the Wanguana armed, and my guns; and going towards the palace, found him with a large staff, pages and officers as well as women, in a plantain garden, looking eagerly out for birds, whilst his band was playing. In addition to his English dress, he wore a turban, and pretended that the glare of the sun was distressing his eyes--for, in fact, he wanted me to give him a wideawake like my own. Then, as if a sudden freak had seized him, though I knew it was on account of Maula's having excited his curiosity, he said, "Where does Bana live? lead away." Bounding and scrambling, the Wakungu, the women and all, went pell-mell through everything towards my hut. If the Kamraviona or any of the boys could not move fast enough, on account of the crops on the fields, they were piked in the back till half knocked over; but, instead of minding, they trotted on, n'yanzigging as if honoured by a kingly poke, though treated like so many dogs.
Arrived at the hut, the king took off his turban as I took off my hat, and seated himself on my stool; whilst the Kamraviona, with much difficulty, was induced to sit upon a cowskin, and the women at first were ordered to squat outside. Everything that struck the eye was much admired and begged for, though nothing so much as my wideawake and mosquito-curtains; then, as the women were allowed to have a peep in and see Bana in his den, I gave them two sacks of beads, to make the visit profitable, the only alternative left me from being forced into inhospitality, for no one would drink from my cup. Moreover, a present was demanded by the laws of the country.
The king, excitedly impatient, now led the way again, shooting hurry-scurry through my men's lines, which were much commented on as being different from Waganda hutting, on to the tall tree with the adjutant's nest. One young bird was still living in it. There was no shot, so bullets must be fired; and the cunning king, wishing to show off, desired me to fire simultaneously with himself. We fired, but my bullet struck the bough the nest was resting on; we fired again, and the bullet passed through the nest without touching the bird. I then asked the king to allow me to try his Whitworth, to which a little bit of stick, as a charm to secure a correct aim, had been tied below the trigger-guard. This time I broke the bird's leg, and knocked him half out of the nest; so, running up to the king, I pointed to the charm, saying, That has done it--hoping to laugh him out of the folly; but he took my joke in earnest, and he turned to his men, commenting on the potency of the charm. Whilst thus engaged, I took another rifle and brought the bird down altogether. "Woh, woh, woh!" shouted the king; "Bana, Mzungu, Mzungu!" he repeated, leaping and clapping his hands, as he ran full speed to the prostrate bird, whilst the drums beat, and the Wakungu followed him: "Now, is not this a wonder? but we must go and shoot another." "Where?" I said; "we may walk a long way without finding, if we have nothing but our eyes to see with. Just send for your telescope, and then I will show you how to look for birds." Surprised at this announcement, the king sent his pages flying for the instrument, and when it came I instructed him how to use it; when he could see with it, and understand its powers, his astonishment knew no bounds; and, turning to his Wakungu, he said, laughing, "Now I do see the use of this thing I have been shutting up in the palace. On that distant tree I can see three vultures. To its right there is a hut, with a woman sitting inside the portal, and many goats are feeding all about the palace, just as large and distinct as if I was close by them."
The day was now far spent, and all proceeded towards the palace. On the way a mistletoe was pointed out as a rain-producing tree, probably because, on a former occasion, I had advised the king to grow groves of coffee-trees about his palace to improve its appearance, and supply the court with wholesome food--at the same time informing him that trees increase the falls of rain in a country, though very high ones would be dangerous, because they attract lightning. Next the guns must be fired off; and, as it would be a pity to waste lead, the king, amidst thunders of applause, shot five cows, presenting his gun from the shoulder.
So ended the day's work in the field, but not at home; for I had hardly arrived there before the pages hurried in to beg for powder and shot, then caps, then cloth, and, everything else failing, a load of beads. Such are the persecutions of this negro land-- the host every day must beg something in the most shameless manner from his guest, on the mere chance of gaining something gratis, though I generally gave the king some trifle when he least expected it, and made an excuse that he must wait for the arrival of fresh stores from Gani when he asked.
30th.--To fulfil my engagement with the queen, I walked off to her palace with stomach medicine, thinking we were now such warm friends, all pride and distant ceremonies would be dispensed with; but, on the contrary, I was kept waiting for hours till I sent in word to say, if she did not want medicine, I wished to go home, for I was tired of Uganda and everything belonging to it. This message brought her to her gate, where she stood laughing till the Wahuma girls she had promised me, one of twelve and the other a little older, were brought in and made to squat in front of us. The elder, who was in the prime of youth and beauty, very large of limb, dark in colour, cried considerably; whilst the younger one, though very fair, had a snubby nose and everted lips, and laughed as if she thought the change in her destiny very good fun. I had now to make my selection, and took the smaller one, promising her to Bombay as soon as we arrived on the coast, where, he said, she would be considered a Hubshi or Abyssinian. But when the queen saw what I had done, she gave me the other as well, saying the little one was too young to go alone, and, if separated, she would take fright and run away. Then with a gracious bow I walked of with my two fine specimens of natural history, though I would rather have had princes, that I might have taken them home to be instructed in England; but the queen, as soon as we had cleared the palace, sent word to say she must have another parting look at her son with his wives. Still laughing, she said, "That will do; you look beautiful; now go away home"; and off we trotted, the elder sobbing bitterly, the younger laughing.
As soon as we reached home, my first inquiry was concerning their histories, of which they appeared to know but very little. The elder, whom I named Meri (plantains), was obtained by Sunna, the late king, as a wife, from Nkole; and though she was a mere Kahala, or girl, when the old king died, he was so attached to her he gave her twenty cows, in order that she might fatten up on milk after her native fashion; but on Sunna's death, when the establishment of women was divided, Meri fell to N'yamasore's (the queen's) lot. The lesser one, who still retains the name of Kahala, said she was seized in Unyoro by the Waganda, who took her to N'yamasore, but what became of her father and mother she could not say.
It was now dinner-time, and as the usual sweet potatoes and goat's flesh were put upon my box-table, I asked them to dine with me, and we became great friends, for they were assured they would finally get good houses and gardens at Zanzibar; but nothing would induce either of them to touch food that had been cooked with butter. A dish of plantains and goat-flesh was then prepared; but though Kahala wished to eat it, Meri rejected the goat's flesh, and would not allow Kahala to taste it either; and thus began a series of domestic difficulties. On inquiring how I could best deal with my difficult charge, I was told the Wahuma pride was so great, and their tempers so strong, they were more difficult to break in than a phunda, or donkey, though when once tamed, they became the best of wives.
31st.--I wished to call upon the queen and thank her for her charming present, but my hungry men drove me to the king's palace in search of food. The gun firing brought Mtesa out, prepared for a shooting trip, with his Wakungu leading, the pages carrying his rifle and ammunition, and a train of women behind. The first thing seen outside the palace gate was a herd of cows, from which four were selected and shot at fifty paces by the king, firing from his shoulder, amidst thunders of applause and hand-shakings of the elders. I never saw them dare touch the king's hand before. Then Mtesa, turning kindly to me, said, "Pray take a shot"; but I waived the offer off, saying he could kill better himself. Ambitious of a cut above cows, the king tried his hand at some herons perched on a tree, and, after five or six attempts, hit one in the eye. Hardly able to believe in his own skill, he stood petrified at first, and then ran madly to the fallen bird, crying, "Woh, woh, woh! can this be?--is it true? Woh, woh!" He jumped in the air, and all his men and women shouted in concert with him. Then he rushes at me, takes both my hands--shakes, shakes--woh, woh!--then runs to his women, then to his men; shakes them all, woh-wohing, but yet not shaking or wohing half enough for his satisfaction, for he is mad with joy at his own exploit.
The bird is then sent immediately to his mother, whilst he retires to his palace, woh-wohing, and taking "ten to the dozen" all the way and boasting of his prowess. "Now, Bana, tell me--do you not think, if two such shots as you and I were opposed to an elephant, would he have any chance before us? I know I can shoot--I am certain of it now. You have often asked me to go hippopotamus-shooting with you, but I staved it off until I learnt the way to shoot. Now, however, I can shoot--and that remarkably well too, I flatter myself. I will have at them, and both of us will go on the lake together." The palace was now reached; musicians were ordered to play before the king, and Wakungu appointments were made to celebrate the feats of the day. Then the royal cutler brought in dinner-knives made of iron, inlaid with squares of copper and brass, and goats and vegetables were presented as usual, when by torchlight we were dismissed, my men taking with them as many plantains as they could carry.
1st.--I stayed at home all this day, because the king and queen had set it apart for looking at and arranging their horns--mapembe, or fetishes, as the learned call such things--to see that there are no imperfections in the Uganga. This was something like an inquiry into the ecclesiastical condition of the country, while, at the same time, it was a religious ceremony, and, as such, was appropriate to the first day after the new moon appears. This being the third moon by account, in pursuance of ancient customs, all the people about court, including the king, shaved their heads--the king, however, retaining his cockscomb, the pages their double cockades, and the other officers their single cockades on the back of the head, or either side, according to the official rank of each. My men were occupied making trousers for the king all day; whilst the pages, and those sent to learn the art of tailoring, instead of doing their duty, kept continually begging for something to present the king.
2d.--The queen now taking a sporting fit into her head, sent for me early in the morning, with all my men, armed, to shoot a crested crane in her palace; but though we were there as required, we were kept waiting till late in the afternoon, when, instead of talking about shooting, as her Wakungu had forbidden her doing it, she asked after her two daughters--whether they had run away, or if they liked their new abode? I replied I was sorry circumstances did not permit my coming to thank her sooner, for I felt grateful beyond measure to her for having charmed my house with such beautiful society. I did not follow her advice to chain either of them with iron, for I found cords of love, the only instrument white men know the use of, quite strong enough. Fascinated with this speech, she said she would give me another of a middle age between the two, expecting, as I thought, that she would thus induce me to visit her more frequently than I did her son; but, though I thanked her, it frightened me from visiting her for ages after.
She then said, with glowing pride, casting a sneer on the king's hospitality, "In the days of yore, Sunna, whenever visitors came to see him, immediately presented them with women, and, secondly, with food; for he was very particular in looking after his guests' welfare, which is not exactly what you find the case now, I presume." The rest of the business of the day consisted in applications for medicine and medical treatment, which it was difficult satisfactorily to meet.
3d.--To-day Katumba, the king's head page, was sent to me with deoles to be made into trousers and waistcoats, and a large sixty-dollar silk I had given him to cover the chair with. The king likes rich colours, and I was solemnly informed that he will never wear anything but clothes like Bana.
4th.--By invitation I went to the palace at noon, with guns, and found the king holding a levee, the first since the new moon, with all heads shaved in the manner I have mentioned. Soon rising, he showed the way through the palace to a pond, which is described as his bathing N'yanza, his women attending, and pages leading the way with his guns. From this we passed on to a jungle lying between the palace hill and another situated at the northern end of the lake, where wild buffaloes frequently lie concealed in the huge papyrus rushes of a miry drain; but as none could be seen at that moment, we returned again to the palace. He showed me large mounds of earth, in the shape of cocked hats, which are private observatories, from which the surrounding country can be seen. By the side of these observatories are huts, smaller than the ordinary ones used for residing in, where the king, after the exertion of "looking out," takes his repose. Here he ordered fruit to be brought--the Matunguru, a crimson pod filled with acid seeds, which has only been observed growing by the rivers or waters of Uganda--and Kasori, a sort of liquorice-root. He then commenced eating with us, and begging again, unsuccessfully, for my compass. I tried again to make him see the absurdity of tying a charm on Whitworth's rifle, but without the least effect. In fact he mistook all my answers for admiration, and asked me, in the simplest manner possible, if I would like to possess a charm; and even when I said "No, I should be afraid of provoking Lubari's" (God's) "anger if I did so," he only wondered at my obstinacy, so thoroughly was he wedded to his belief. He then called for his wideawake, and walked with us into another quarter of his palace, when he entered a dressing-hut, followed by a number of full-grown, stark-naked women, his valets; at the same time ordering a large body of women to sit on one side the entrance, whilst I, with Bombay, were directed to sit on the other, waiting till he was ready to hold another levee. From this, we repaired to the great throne-hut, where all his Wakungu at once formed court, and business was commenced. Amongst other things, an officer, by name Mbogo, or the Buffalo, who had been sent on a wild-goose chase to look after Mr Petherick, described a journey he had made, following down the morning sun. After he had passed the limits of plantain-eating men, he came upon men who lived upon meat alone, who never wore mbugus, but either cloth or skins, and instead of the spear they used the double-edged sime. He called the people Wasewe, and their chief Kisawa; but the company pronounced them to be Masawa (Masai).
After this, about eighty men were marched into the court, with their faces blackened, and strips of plantain-bark tied on their heads, each holding up a stick in his hand in place of a spear, under the regulation that no person is permitted to carry weapons of any sort in the palace. They were led by an officer, who, standing like a captain before his company, ordered them to jump and praise the king, acting the part of fugleman himself. Then said the king, turning to me, "Did I not tell you I had sent many men to fight? These are some of my army returned; the rest are coming, and will eventually, when all are collected, go in a body to fight in Usoga." Goats and other peace-offerings were then presented; and, finally a large body of officers came in with an old man, with his two ears shorn off for having been too handsome in his youth, and a young woman who, after four days' search, had been discovered in his house. They were brought for judgment before the king.
Nothing was listened to but the plaintiff's statement, who said he had lost the woman four days, and, after considerable search, had found her concealed by the old man, who was indeed old enough to be her grandfather. From all appearances one would have said the wretched girl had run away from the plaintiff's house in consequence of ill treatment, and had harboured herself on this decrepid old man without asking his leave; but their voices in defence were never heard, for the king instantly sentenced both to death, to prevent the occurrence of such impropriety again; and, to make the example more severe, decreed that their lives should not be taken at once, but, being fed to preserve life as long as possible, they were to be dismembered bit by bit, as rations for the vultures, every day, until life was extinct. The dismayed criminals, struggling to be heard, in utter despair, were dragged away boisterously in the most barbarous manner, to the drowning music of the milele and drums.
The king, in total unconcern about the tragedy he had thus enacted, immediately on their departure said, "Now, then, for shooting, Bana; let us look at your gun." It happened to be loaded, but fortunately only with powder, to fire my announcement at the palace; for he instantly placed caps on the nipples, and let off one barrel by accident, the contents of which stuck in the thatch. This created a momentary alarm, for it was supposed the thatch had taken fire; but it was no sooner suppressed than the childish king, still sitting on his throne, to astonish his officers still more, levelled the gun from his shoulder, fired the contents of the second barrel into the faces of his squatting Wakungu, and then laughed at his own trick. In the meanwhile cows were driven in, which the king ordered his Wakungu to shoot with carbines; and as they missed them, he showed them the way to shoot with the Whitworth, never missing. The company now broke up, but I still clung to the king, begging him to allow me to purchase food with beads, as I wanted it, for my establishment was always more or less in a starving state; but he only said, "Let us know what you want and you shall always have it"; which, in Uganda, I knew from experience only meant, Don't bother me any more, but give me your spare money, and help yourself from my spacious gardens--Uganda is before you.
5th--To-day the king went on a visit with his mother, and therefore neither of them could be seen by visitors. I took a stroll towards the N'yanza, passing through the plantain-groves occupied by the king's women, where my man Sangoro had been twice taken up by the Mgemma and put in the stocks. The plantain gardens were beautifully kept by numerous women, who all ran away from fright at seeing me, save one who, taken by surprise, threw herself flat on the ground, rolled herself up in her mbugu, and, kicking with her naked heels, roared murder and help, until I poked her up, and reproached her for her folly. This little incident made my fairies bolder, and, sidling up to me one by one, they sat in a knot with me upon the ground; then clasping their heads with their hands, they woh-wohed in admiration of the white man; they never in all their lives saw anything so wonderful; his wife and children must be like him; what would not Sunna have given for such a treat?--but it was destined to Mtesa's lot. What is the interpretation of this sign, if it does not point to the favour in which Mtesa is upheld by the spirits? I wished to go, but no: "Stop a little more," they said, all in a breath, or rather out of breath in their excitement; "remove the hat and show the hair; take off the shoes and tuck up the trousers; what on earth is kept in the pockets? Oh, wonder of wonders!--and the iron!" As I put the watch close to the ear of one of them, "Tick, tick, ticks--woh, woh, woh"--everybody must hear it; and then the works had to be seen. "Oh, fearful!" said one, "hide your faces: it is the Lubari. Shut it up, Bana, shut it up; we have seen enough; but you will come again and bring us beads." So ended the day's work.
6th.--To-day I sent Bombay to the palace for food. Though rain fell in torrents, he found the king holding a levee, giving appointments, plantations, and women, according to merit, to his officers. As one officer, to whom only one woman was given, asked for more, the king called him an ingrate, and ordered him to be cut to pieces on the spot; and the sentence was, as Bombay told me, carried into effect-- not with knives, for they are prohibited, but with strips of sharp-edged grass, after the executioners had first dislocated his neck by a blow delivered behind the head, with a sharp, heavy-headed club.
No food, however, was given to my men, though the king, anticipating Bombay's coming, sent me one load of tobacco, one of butter, and one of coffee. My residence in Uganda became much more merry now, for all the women of the camp came daily to call on my two little girls; during which time they smoked my tobacco, chewed my coffee, drank my pombe, and used to amuse me with queer stories of their native land. Rozaro's sister also came, and proposed to marry me, for Maula, she said, was a brutal man; he killed one of his women because he did not like her, and now he had clipped one of this poor creature's ears off for trying to run away from him; and when abused for his brutality, he only replied, "It was no fault of his, as the king set the example in the country."
In the evening I took a walk with Kahala, dressed in a red scarf, and in company with Lugoi, to show my children off in the gardens to my fair friends of yesterday. Everybody was surprised. The Mgemma begged us to sit with him and drink pombe, which he generously supplied to our heart's content; wondered at the beauty of Kahala, wished I would give him a wife like her, and lamented that the king would not allow his to wear such pretty clothes. We passed on a little farther, and were invited to sit with another man, Lukanikka, to drink pombe and chew coffee--which we did as before, meeting with the same remarks; for all Waganda, instructed by the court, know the art of flattery better than any people in the world, even including the French.
7th.--In the morning, whilst it rained hard, the king sent to say that he had started buffalo-shooting, and expected me to join him. After walking a mile beyond the palace, we found him in a plantain garden, dressed in imitation of myself, wideawake and all, the perfect picture of a snob. He sent me a pot of pombe, which I sent home to the women, and walked off for the shooting-ground, two miles further on, the band playing in the front, followed by some hundred Wakungu--then the pages, then the king, next myself, and finally the women--the best in front, the worst bringing up the rear, with the king's spears and shield, as also pots of pombe, a luxury the king never moves without. It was easy to see there would be no sport, still more useless of offer any remarks, therefore all did as they were bid. The broad road, like all in Uganda, went straight over hill and dale, the heights covered with high grass or plantain groves, and the valleys with dense masses of magnificent forest-trees surrounding swamps covered with tall rushes half bridged. Proceeding on, as we came to the first water, I commenced flirtations with Mtesa's women, much to the surprise of the king and every one. The bridge was broken, as a matter of course; and the logs which composed it, lying concealed beneath the water, were toed successively by the leading men, that those who followed should not be tripped up by them. This favour the king did for me, and I in return for the women behind; they had never been favoured in their lives with such gallantry, and therefore could not refrain from laughing, which attracted the king's notice and set everybody in a giggle; for till now no mortal man had ever dared communicate with his women.
Shortly after this we left the highway, and, turning westwards, passed through a dense jungle towards the eastern shores of the Murchison Creek, cut by runnels and rivulets, where on one occasion I offered, by dumb signs to carry the fair ones pick-a-back over, and after crossing a second myself by a floating log, offered my hand. The leading wife first fears to take it, then grows bold and accepts it; when the prime beauty, Lubuga, following in her wake, and anxious to feel, I fancy, what the white man is like, with an imploring face holds out both her hands in such a captivating manner, that though I feared to draw attention by waiting any longer, I could not resist compliance. The king noticed it; but instead of upbraiding me, passed it off as a joke, and running up to the Kamraviona, gave him a poke in the ribs, and whispered what he had seen, as if it had been a secret. "Woh, woh!" says the Kamraviona, "what wonders will happen next?"
We were now on the buffalo ground; but nothing could be seen save some old footprints of buffaloes, and a pitfall made for catching them. By this time the king was tired; and as he saw me searching for a log to sit upon, he made one of his pages kneel upon all fours and sat upon his back, acting the monkey in aping myself; for otherwise he would have sat on a mbugu, in his customary manner, spread on the ground. We returned, pushing along, up one way, then another, without a word, in thorough confusion, for the king delights in boyish tricks, which he has learned to play successfully. Leaving the road and plunging into thickets of tall grass, the band and Wakungu must run for their lives, to maintain the order of march, by heading him at some distant point of exit from the jungle; whilst the Kamraviona, leading the pages and my men, must push head first, like a herd of buffaloes, through the sharp-cutting grass, at a sufficient rate to prevent the royal walk from being impeded; and the poor women, ready to sink with exhaustion, can only be kept in their places by fear of losing their lives.
We had been out the whole day; still he did not tire of these tricks, and played them incessantly till near sundown, when we entered the palace. Then the women and Wakungu separating from us, we--that is, the king, the Kamraviona, pages, and myself--sat down to a warm feast of sweet potatoes and plantains, ending with pombe and fruit, whilst moist circular napkins, made in the shape of magnificent wafers out of plantain fibre, acted at once both the part of water and towel. This over, as the guns had to be emptied, and it was thought sinful to waste the bullets, four cows were ordered in and shot by the king. Thus ended the day, my men receiving one of the cows.
8th.--As Mtesa was tired with his yesterday's work, and would not see anybody, I took Lugoi and Kahala, with a bundle of beads, to give a return to the Mgemma for his late treat of pombe. His household men and women were immensely delighted with us, but more so, they said, for the honour of the visit. They gave us more pombe, and introduced us to one of N'yamasore's numerous sisters, who was equally charmed with myself and my children. The Mgemma did not know how he could treat us properly, he said, for he was only a poor man; but he would order some fowls, that I might carry them away. When I refused this offer, because we came to see him, and not to rob him, he thought it the most beautiful language, and said he would bring them to the house himself. I added, I hoped he would do so in company with his wife, which he promised, though he never dared fulfil the promise; and, on our leaving, set all his servants to escort us beyond the premises. In the evening, as the king's musicians passed the camp, I ordered them in to play the milele, and give my men and children a treat of dancing. The performers received a bundle of beads and went away happy.
9th.--I called on Congow, but found him absent, waiting on the king, as usual; and the king sent for my big rifle to shoot birds with.
10th.--In consequence of my having explained to the king the effect of the process of distilling, and the way of doing it, he sent a number of earthen pots and bugus of pombe that I might produce some spirits for him; but as the pots sent were not made after the proper fashion, I called at the palace and waited all day in the hope of seeing him. No one, however, dared enter his cabinet, where he had been practising "Uganga" all day, and so the pombe turned sour and useless. Such are the ways of Uganda all over.
11th.--The king was out shooting; and as nothing else could be done, I invited Uledi's pretty wife Guriku to eat a mutton breakfast, and teach my child Meri not to be so proud. In this we were successful; but whether her head had been turned, as Bombay thought, or what else, we know not; but she would neither walk, nor talk, nor do anything but lie at full length all day long, smoking and lounging in thorough indolence.
12th.--I distilled some fresh pombe for the king; and taking it to him in the afternoon, fired guns to announce arrival. He was not visible, while fearful shrieks were heard from within, and presently a beautiful woman, one of the king's sisters, with cockscomb erect, was dragged out to execution, bewailing and calling on her king, the Kamraviona, and Mzungu, by turns, to save her life. Would to God I could have done it! but I did not know her crime, if crime she had committed, and therefore had to hold my tongue, whilst the Kamraviona, and other Wakungu present, looked on with utter unconcern, not daring to make the slightest remark. It happened that Irungu was present in the ante-chamber at this time; and as Maula came with my party, they had a fight in respect to their merits for having brought welcome guests to their king. Mtesa, it was argued, had given N'yamgundu more women and men than he did to Maula, because he was the first to bring intelligence of our coming, as well as that of K'yengo, and Suworora's hongo to his king; whilst, finally, he superseded Maula by taking me out of his charge, and had done a further good service by sending men on to Karague to fetch both Grant and K'yengo.
Maula, although he had received the second reward, had literally done nothing, whilst Irungu had been years absent at Usui, and finally had brought a valuable hongo, yet he got less than Maula. This, Irungu said, was an injustice he would not stand; N'yamgundu fairly earned his reward, but Maula must have been tricking to get more than himself. He would get a suitable offering of wire, and lay his complaint in court the first opportunity. "Pooh, pooh! nonsense!" says Maula, laughing; "I will give him more wires than you, and then let us see who will win the king's ear." Upon this the two great children began collecting wire and quarrelling until the sun went down, and I went home. I did not return to a quiet dinner, as I had hoped, but to meet the summons of the king. Thinking it policy to obey, I found him waiting my coming in the palace. He made apologies for not answering my gun, and tasted some spirits resembling toddy, which I had succeeded in distilling. He imbibed it with great surprise; it was wonderful tipple; he must have some more; and, for the purpose of brewing better, would send the barrel of an old Brown Bess musket, as well as more pombe and wood in the morning.
13th.--As nothing was done all day, I took the usual promenade in the Seraglio Park, and was accosted by a very pretty little woman, Kariana, wife of Dumba, who, very neatly dressed, was returning from a visit. At first she came trotting after me, then timidly paused, then advanced, and, as I approached, stood spellbound at my remarkable appearance. At last recovering herself, she woh-wohed with all the coquetry of a Mganda woman, and a flirtation followed; she must see my hair, my watch, the contents of my pockets-- everything; but that was not enough. I waved adieu, but still she followed. I offered my arm, showing her how to take it in European fashion, and we walked along to the surprise of everybody, as if we had been in Hyde Park rather than in Central Africa, flirting and coquetting all the way. I was surprised that no one came to prevent her forwardness; but not till I almost reached home did any one appear; and then, with great scolding, she was ordered to return-- not, however, without her begging I would call in and see her on some future occasion, when she would like to give me some pombe.
14th.--As conflicting reports came about Grant, the king very courteously, at my request, forwarded letters to him. I passed the day in distilling pombe, and the evening in calling on Mrs Dumba, with Meri, Kahala, Lugoi, and a troop of Wanyamuezi women. She was very agreeable; but as her husband was attending the palace, could not give pombe, and instead gave my female escort sundry baskets of plaintains and potatoes, signifying a dinner, and walked half-way home, flirting with me as before.
15th--I called on the king with all the spirits I had made, as well as the saccharine residue. We found him holding a levee, and receiving his offerings of a batch of girls, cows, goats, and other things of an ordinary nature. One of the goats presented gave me an opportunity of hearing one of the strangest stories I had yet heard in this strange country: it was a fine for attempted regicide, which happened yesterday, when a boy, finding the king alone, which is very unusual, walked up to him and threatened to kill him, because, he said, he took the lives of men unjustly. The king explained by description and pantomime how the affair passed. When the youth attacked him he had in his hand the revolving pistol I had given him, and showed us, holding the pistol to his cheek, how he had presented the muzzle to the boy, which, though it was unloaded, so frightened him that he ran away. All the courtiers n'yanzigged vigorously for the condescension of the king in telling the story. There must have been some special reason why, in a court where trifling breaches of etiquette were punished with a cruel death, so grave a crime should have been so leniently dealt with; but I could not get at the bottom of the affair. The culprit, a good-looking young fellow of sixteen or seventeen, who brought in the goat, made his n'yanzigs, stroked the goat and his own face with his hands, n'yanzigged again with prostrations, and retired.
After this scene, officers announced the startling fact that two white men had been seen at Kamrasi's, one with a beard like myself, the other smooth-faced. I jumped at this news, and said, "Of course, they are there; do let me send a letter to them." I believed it to be Petherick and a companion whom I knew he was to bring with him. The king, however, damped my ardour by saying the information was not perfect, and we must wait until certain Wakungu, whom he sent to search in Unyoro, returned.
16th.--The regions about the palace were all in a state of commotion to-day, men and women running for their lives in all directions, followed by Wakungu and their retainers. The cause of all this commotion was a royal order to seize sundry refractory Wakungu, with their property, wives, concubines--if such a distinction can be made in this country--and families all together. At the palace Mtesa had a musical party, playing the flute occasionally himself. After this he called me aside, and said, "Now, Bana, I wish you would instruct me, as you have often proposed doing, for I wish to learn everything, though I have little opportunity for doing so." Not knowing what was uppermost in his mind, I begged him to put whatever questions he liked, and he should be answered seriatim-- hoping to find him inquisitive on foreign matters; but nothing was more foreign to his mind: none of his countrymen ever seemed to think beyond the sphere of Uganda.
The whole conversation turned on medicines, or the cause and effects of diseases. Cholera, for instance, very much affected the land at certain seasons, creating much mortality, and vanishing again as mysteriously as it came. What brought this scourge? and what would cure it? Supposing a man had a headache, what should he take for it? or a leg ache, or a stomach-ache, or itch; in fact, going the rounds of every disease he knew, until, exhausting the ordinary complaints, he went into particulars in which he was personally much interested; but I was unfortunately unable to prescribe medicines which produce the physical phenomenon next to his heart.
17th.--I called upon the king by appointment, and found a large court, where the Wakungu caught yesterday, and sentenced to execution, received their reprieve on paying fines of cattle and young damsels--their daughters. A variety of charms, amongst which were some bits of stick strung on leather and covered with serpent-skin, were presented and approved of. Kaggao, a large district officer, considered the second in rank here, received permission for me to call upon him with my medicines. I pressed the king again to send men with mine to Kamrasi's to call Petherick. At first he objected that they would be killed, but finally he yielded, and appointed Budja, his Unyoro ambassador, for the service. Then, breaking up the court, he retired with a select party of Wakungu, headed by the Kamraviona, and opened a conversation on the subject which is ever uppermost with the king and his courtiers.
18th.--To-day I visited Kaggao with my medicine-chest. He had a local disease, which he said came to him by magic, though a different cause was sufficiently obvious, and wanted medicine such as I gave Mkuenda, who reported that I gave him a most wonderful draught. Unfortunately I had nothing suitable to give my new patient, but cautioned him to have a care lest contagion should run throughout his immense establishment, and explained the whole of the circumstances to him. Still he was not satisfied; he would give me slaves, cows, or ivory, if I would only cure him. He was a very great man, as I could see, with numerous houses, numerous wives, and plenty of everything, so that it was ill-becoming of him to be without his usual habits. Rejecting his munificent offers, I gave him a cooling dose of calomel and jalap, which he drank like pombe, and pronounced beautiful--holding up his hands, and repeating the words "Beautiful, beautiful! they are all beautiful together! There is Bana beautiful! his box is beautiful! and his medicine beautiful!"--and, saying this, led us in to see his women, who at my request were grouped in war apparel--viz., a dirk fastened to the waist by many strings of coloured beads. There were from fifty to sixty women present, all very lady-like, but none of them pretty. Kaggao then informed me the king had told all his Wakungu he would keep me as his guest four months longer to see if Petherick came; and should he not by that time, he would give me an estate, stocked with men, women, and cattle, in perpetuity, so that, if I ever wished to leave Uganda, I should always have something to come back to; so I might now know what my fate was to be. Before leaving, Kaggao presented us with two cows and ten baskets of potatoes.
19th.--I sent a return present of two wires and twelve fundo of beads of sorts to Kaggao, and heard that the king had gone to show himself off to his mother dressed Bana fashion. In the evening Katunzi, N'yamasore's brother, just returned from the Unyoro plunder, called on me whilst I was at dinner. Not knowing who he was, and surprised at such audacity in Uganda, for he was the first officer who ever ventured to come near me in this manner, I offered him a knife and fork, and a share in the repast, which rather abashed him; for, taking it as a rebuff, he apologised immediately for the liberty he had taken, contrary to the etiquette of Uganda society, in coming to a house when the master was at dinner; and he would have left again had I not pressed him to remain. Katunzi then told me the whole army had returned from Unyoro, with immense numbers of cows, women, and children, but not men, for those who did not run away were killed fighting. He offered me a present of a woman, and pressed me to call on him.
20th.--Still I found that the king would not send his Wakungu for the Unyoro expedition, so I called on him about it. Fortunately he asked me to speak a sentence in English, that he might hear how it sounds; and this gave me an opportunity of saying, if he had kept his promise by sending Budja to me, I should have despatched letters to Petherick. This was no sooner interpreted than he said, if I would send my men to him with letters in the morning he would forward them on, accompanied with an army. On my asking if the army was intended to fight, he replied, in short, "First to feel the way." On hearing this, I strongly advised him, if he wished the road to be kept permanently open, to try conciliation with Kamrasi, and send him some trifling present.
Now were brought in some thirty-odd women for punishment and execution, which the king, who of late had been trying to learn Kisuahili, in order that we might be able to converse together, asked me, in that language, if I would like to have some of these women; and if so, how many? On my replying "One," he begged me to have my choice, and a very pretty one was selected. God only knows what became of the rest; but the one I selected, on reaching home, I gave to Ilmas, my valet, for a wife. He and all the other household servants were much delighted with this charming acquisition; but the poor girl, from the time she had been selected, had flattered herself she was to be Bana's wife, and became immensely indignant at the supposed transfer, though from the first I had intended her for Ilmas, not only to favour him for his past good services, but as an example to my other men, as I had promised to give them all, provided they behaved well upon the journey, a "free-man's garden," with one wife each and a purse of money, to begin a new life upon, as soon as they reached Zanzibar. The temper of Meri and Kahala was shown in a very forcible manner: they wanted this maid as an addition to my family, called her into the hut and chatted till midnight, instructing her not to wed with Ilmas; and then, instead of turning into bed as usual, they all three slept upon the ground. My patience could stand this phase of henpecking no longer, so I called in Manamaka, the head Myamuezi woman, whom I had selected for their governess, and directed her to assist Ilmas, and put them to bed "bundling."
21st.--In the morning, before I had time to write letters, the king invited me to join him at some new tank he was making between his palace and the residence of his brothers. I found him sitting with his brothers, all playing in concert on flutes. I asked him, in Kisuahili, if he knew where Grant was? On replying in the negative, I proposed sending a letter, which he approved of; and Budja was again ordered to go with an army for Petherick.
22d.--Mabruki and Bilal, with Budja, started to meet Petherick, and three more men, with another letter to Grant. I called on the king, who appointed the 24th instant for an excursion of three days' hippopotamus-shooting on the N'yanza.
23d.--To-day occurred a brilliant instance of the capricious restlessness and self-willedness of this despotic king. At noon, pages hurried in to say that he had started for the N'yanza, and wished me to follow him without delay. N'yanza, as I have mentioned, merely means a piece of water, whether a pond, river, or lake; and as no one knew which N'yanza he meant, or what project was on foot, I started off in a hurry, leaving everything behind, and walked rapidly through gardens, over hills, and across rushy swamps, down the west flank of the Murchison Creek, till 3 p.m., when I found the king dressed in red, with his Wakungu in front and women behind, travelling along in the confused manner of a pack of hounds, occasionally firing his rifle that I might know his whereabouts. He had just, it seems, mingled a little business with pleasure; for noticing, as he passed, a woman tied by the hands to be punished for some offence, the nature of which I did not learn, he took the executioner's duty on himself, fired at her, and killed her outright.
On this occasion, to test all his followers, and prove their readiness to serve him, he had started on a sudden freak for the three days' excursion on the lake one day before the appointed time, expecting everybody to fall into place by magic, without the smallest regard to each one's property, feelings, or comfort. The home must be forsaken without a last adieu, the dinner untasted, and no provision made for the coming night, in order that his impetuous majesty should not suffer one moment's disappointment. The result was natural; many who would have come were nowhere to be found; my guns, bed, bedding, and note-books, as well as cooking utensils, were all left behind, and, though sent for, did not arrive till the following day.
On arriving at the mooring station, not one boat was to be found, nor did any arrive until after dark, when, on the beating of drums and firing of guns, some fifty large ones appeared. They were all painted with red clay, and averaged from ten to thirty paddles, with long prows standing out like the neck of a syphon or swan, decorated on the head with the horns of the Nsunnu (lencotis) antelope, between which was stuck upright a tuft of feathers exactly like a grenadier's plume. These arrived to convey us across the mouth of a deep rushy swamp to the royal yachting establishment, the Cowes of Uganda, distant five hours' travelling from the palace. We reached the Cowes by torchlight at 9 p.m., when the king had a picnic dinner with me, turned in with his women in great comfort, and sent me off to a dreary hut, where I had to sleep upon a grass-strew floor. I was surprised we had to walk so far, when, by appearance, we might have boated it from the head of the creek all the way down; but, on inquiry, was informed of the swampy nature of the ground at the head of the creek precluded any approach to the clear water there, and hence the long overland journey, which, though fatiguing to the unfortunate women, who had to trot the whole way behind Mtesa's four-mile-an-hour strides, was very amusing. The whole of the scenery--hill, dale, and lake--was extremely beautiful. The Wanguana in my escort compared the view to their own beautiful Poani (coast); but in my opinion it far surpassed anything I ever saw, either from the sea or upon the coast of Zanzibar.
The king rose betimes in the morning and called me, unwashed and very uncomfortable, to picnic with him, during the collection of the boats. The breakfast, eaten in the open court, consisted of sundry baskets of roast-beef and plantain-squash, folded in plantain-leaves. He sometimes ate with a copper knife and picker, not forked--but more usually like a dog, with both hands. The bits too tough for his mastication he would take from his mouth and give as a treat to the pages, who n'yanzigged, and swallowed them with much seeming relish. Whatever remained over was then divided by the boys, and the baskets taken to the cooks. Pombe served as tea, coffee, and beer for the king; but his guests might think themselves very lucky if they ever got a drop of it.
Now for the lake. Everybody in a hurry falls into his place the best way he can--Wakungu leading, and women behind. They rattle along, through plantains and shrubs, under large trees, seven, eight, and nine feet in diameter, till the beautiful waters are reached--a picture of the Rio scenery, barring that of the higher mountains in the background of that lovely place, which are here represented by the most beautiful little hills. A band of fifteen drums of all sizes, called the Mazaguzo, playing with the regularity of a lot of factory engines at work, announced the king's arrival, and brought all the boats to the shore--but not as in England, where Jack, with all the consequence of a lord at home, invites the ladies to be seated, and enjoys the sight of so many pretty faces. Here every poor fellow, with his apprehensions written in his face, leaps over the gunwale into the water--ducking his head for fear of being accused of gazing on the fair sex, which is death--and bides patiently his time. They were dressed in plantain leaves, looking like grotesque Neptunes. The king, in his red coat and wideawake, conducted the arrangements, ordering all to their proper places-- the women, in certain boats, the Wakungu and Wanguana in others, whilst I sat in the same boat with him at his feet, three women holding mbugus of pombe behind. The king's Kisuahali now came into play, and he was prompt in carrying out the directions he got from myself to approach the hippopotami. But the waters were too large and the animals too shy, so we toiled all the day without any effect, going only once ashore to picnic; not for the women to eat-- for they, poor things, got nothing--but the king, myself, the pages, and the principal Wakungu. As a wind-up to the day's amusement, the king led the band of drums, changed the men according to their powers, put them into concert pitch, and readily detected every slight irregularity, showing himself a thorough musician.
This day requires no remark, everything done being the counterpart of yesterday, excepting that the king, growing bolder with me in consequence of our talking together, became more playful and familiar--amusing himself, for instance, sometimes by catching hold of my beard as the rolling of the boat unsteadied him.
We started early in the usual manner; but after working up and down the creek, inspecting the inlets for hippopotami, and tiring from want of sport, the king changed his tactics, and, paddling and steering himself with a pair of new white paddles, finally directing the boats to an island occupied by the Mgussa, or Neptune of the N'yanza, not in person--for Mgussa is a spirit--but by his familiar or deputy, the great medium who communicates the secrets of the deep to the king of Uganda. In another sense, he might be said to be the presiding priest of the source of the mighty Nile, and as such was, of course, an interesting person for me to meet. The first operation on shore was picnicking, when many large bugus of pombe were brought for the king; next, the whole party took a walk, winking through the trees, and picking fruit, enjoying themselves amazingly, till, by some unlucky chance, one of the royal wives, a most charming creature, and truly one of the best of the lot, plucked a fruit and offered it to the king, thinking, doubtless, to please him greatly; but he, like a madman, flew into a towering passion, said it was the first time a woman ever had the impudence to offer him anything, and ordered the pages to seize, bind, and lead her off to execution.
These words were no sooner uttered by the king than the whole bevy of pages slipped their cord turbans from their heads, and rushed, like a pack of cupid beagles upon the fairy queen, who, indignant at the little urchins daring to touch her majesty, remonstrated with the king, and tried to beat them off like flies, but was soon captured, overcome, and dragged away, crying, in the names of the Kamraviona and Mzungu (myself), for help and protection; whilst Lubuga, the pet sister, and all the other women, clasped the king by his legs, and, kneeling, implored forgiveness for their sister. The more they craved for mercy, the more brutal he became, till at last he took a heavy stick and began to belabour the poor victim on the head.
Hitherto I had been extremely careful not to interfere with any of the king's acts of arbitrary cruelty, knowing that such interference, at an early stage, would produce more harm than good. This last act of barbarism, however, was too much for my English blood to stand; and as I heard my name, Mzungu, imploringly pronounced, I rushed at the king, and, staying his uplifted arm, demanded from him the woman's life. Of course I ran imminent risk of losing my own in thus thwarting the capricious tyrant; but his caprice proved the friend of both. The novelty of interference even made him smile, and the woman was instantly released.
Proceeding on through the trees of this beautiful island, we next turned into the hut of the Mgussa's familiar, which at the farther end was decorated with many mystic symbols amongst others a paddle, the badge of his high office--and for some time we sat chatting, when pombe was brought, and the spiritual medium arrived. He was dressed Wichwezi fashion, with a little white goat-skin apron, adorned with numerous charms, and used a paddle for a mace or walking stick. He was not an old man, though he affected to be so-- walking very slowly and deliberately, coughing asthmatically, glimmering with his eyes, and mumbling like a witch. With much affected difficulty he sat at the end of the hut beside the symbols alluded to, and continued his coughing full half an hour, when his wife came in in the same manner, without saying a word, and assumed the same affected style. The king jokingly looked at me and laughed, and then at these strange creatures, by turn, as much as to say, What do you think of them? but no voice was heard save that of the old wife, who croaked like a frog for water, and, when some was brought, croaked again because it was not the purest of the lake's produce--had the first cup changed, wetted her lips with the second, and hobbled away in the same manner as she came.
At this juncture the Mgussa's familiar motioned the Kamraviona and several officers to draw around him, when, in a very low tone, he gave them all the orders of the deep, and walked away. His revelations seemed unpropitious, for we immediately repaired to our boats and returned to our quarters. Here we no sooner arrived than a host of Wakungu, lately returned from the Unyoro war, came to pay their respects to the king: they had returned six days or more, but etiquette had forbidden their approaching majesty sooner. Their successes had been great, their losses, nil, for not one man had lost his life fighting. To these men the king narrated all the adventures of the day; dwelling more particularly on my defending his wife's life, whom he had destined for execution. This was highly approved of by all; and they unanimously said Bana knew what he was about, because he dispenses justice like a king in his own country.
Early in the morning a great hue and cry was made because the Wanguana had been seen bathing in the N'yanza naked, without the slightest regard to decency. We went boating as usual all day long, sometimes after hippopotami, at others racing up and down the lake, the king and Wakungu paddling and steering by turns, the only break to this fatigue being when we went ashore to picnic, or the king took a turn at the drums. During the evening some of the principal Wakungu were collected to listen to an intellectual discourse on the peculiarities of the different women in the royal establishment, and the king in good-honour described the benefits he had derived from this pleasant tour on the water.
Whilst I was preparing my Massey's log to show the use of it to the king, he went off boating without me; and as the few remaining boats would not take me off because they had received no orders to do so, I fired guns, but, getting no reply, went into the country hoping to find game; but, disappointed in that also, I spent the first half of the day with a hospitable old lady, who treated us to the last drop of pombe in her house--for the king's servants had robbed her of nearly everything--smoked her pipe with me, and chatted incessantly on the honour paid her by the white king's visit, as well as of the horrors of Uganda punishment, when my servants told her I saved the life of one queen. Returning homewards, the afternoon was spent at a hospitable officer's, who would not allow us to depart until my men were all fuddled with pombe, and the evening setting in warned us to wend our way. On arrival at camp, the king, quite shocked with himself for having deserted me, asked me if I did not hear his guns fire. He had sent twenty officers to scour the country, looking for me everywhere. He had been on the lake the whole day himself, and was now amusing his officers with a little archery practice, even using the bow himself, and making them shoot by turns. A lucky shot brought forth immense applause, all jumping and n'yanzigging with delight, whether it was done by their own bows or the king's.
A shield was the mark, stuck up at only thirty paces; still they were such bad shots that they hardly ever hit it. Now tired of this slow sport, and to show his superior prowess, the king ordered sixteen shields to be placed before him, one in front of the other, and with one shot from Whitworth pierced the whole of them, the bullet passing through the bosses of nearly every one. "Ah!" says the king, strutting about with gigantic strides, and brandishing the rifle over his head before all his men, "what is the use of spears and bows? I shall never fight with anything but guns in the future." These Wakungu, having only just then returned from plundering Unyoro, had never before seen their king in a chair, or anybody sitting, as I was, by his side; and it being foreign to their notions, as well as, perhaps, unpleasant to their feelings, to find a stranger sitting higher than themselves, they complained against this outrage to custom, and induced the king to order my dethronement. The result was, as my iron stool was objectionable, I stood for a moment to see that I thoroughly understood their meaning; and then showing them my back, walked straightway home to make a grass throne, and dodge them that way.
There was nothing for dinner last night, nothing again this morning, yet no one would go in to report this fact, as rain was falling, and the king was shut up with his women. Presently the thought struck me that the rifle, which was always infallible in gaining me admittance at the palace, might be of the same service now. I therefore shot a dove close to the royal abode, and, as I expected, roused the king at once, who sent his pages to know what the firing was about. When told the truth--that I had been trying to shoot a dish of doves for breakfast, as I could get neither meat nor drink from his kitchen--the head boy, rather guessing than understanding what was told him, distorted my message, and said to the king, as I could not obtain a regular supply of food from his house, I did not wish to accept anything further at his hands, but intended foraging for the future in the jungles. The king, as might be imagined, did not believe the boy's story, and sent other pages to ascertain the truth of the case, bidding them listen well, and beware of what they were about. This second lot of boys conveyed the story rightly, when the king sent me a cow. As I afterwards heard, he cut off the ears of the unfortunate little mischief-maker for not making a proper use of those organs; and then, as the lad was the son of one of his own officers he was sent home to have the sores healed. After breakfast the king called me to go boating, when I used my grass throne, to the annoyance of the attendants. This induced the king to say before them, laughing, "Bana, you see, is not to be done; he is accustomed to sit before kings, and sit he will." Then by way of a change, he ordered all the drums to embark and play upon the waters; whilst he and his attendants paddled and steered by turns, first up the creek, and then down nearly to the broad waters of the lake.
There was a passage this way, it was said, leading up to Usoga, but very circuitous, on account of reefs or shoals, and on the way the Kitiri island was passed; but no other Kitiri was known to the Waganda, though boats went sometimes coasting down the western side of
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