The Discover of the Source of the Nile
By John Hanning Speke
Reception of a Victorious Army at Court--Royal Sport--A Review of the Troops--Negotiations for the Opening of the Road along the Nile --Grant's Return--Pillagings--Court Marriages--The King's Brothers-- Divinations and Sacrifices--The Road granted at last-- The Preparations for continuing the Expedition--The Departure.
I now received a letter from Grant to say he was coming by boat from Kitangule, and at once went to the palace to give the welcome news to the king. The road to the palace I found thronged with people; and in the square outside the entrance there squatted a multitude of attendants, headed by the king, sitting on a cloth, dressed in his national costume, with two spears and a shield by his side. On his right hand the pages sat waiting for orders, while on his left there was a small squatting cluster of women, headed by Wichwezis, or attendant sorceresses, offering pombe. In front of the king, in form of a hollow square, many ranks deep, sat the victorious officers, lately returned from the war, variously dressed; the nobles distinguished by their leopard-cat skins and dirks, the commoners by coloured mbugu and cow or antelope skin cloaks; but all their faces and arms were painted red, black, or smoke-colour. Within the square of men, immediately fronting the king, the war-arms of Uganda were arranged in three ranks; the great war-drum, covered with a leopard-skin, and standing on a large carpeting of them, was placed in advance; behind this, propped or hung on a rack of iron, were a variety of the implements of war in common use, offensive and defensive, as spears--of which two were of copper, the rest iron--and shields of wood and leather; whilst in the last row or lot were arranged systematically, with great taste and powerful effect, the supernatural arms, the god of Uganda, consisting of charms of various descriptions and in great numbers. Outside the square again, in a line with the king, were the household arms, a very handsome copper kettledrum, of French manufacture, surmounted on the outer edge with pretty little brass bells depending from swan-neck-shaped copper wire, two new spears, a painted leather shield, and magic wands of various devices, deposited on a carpet of leopard-skins--the whole scene giving the effect of true barbarous royalty in its uttermost magnificence.
Approaching, as usual, to take my seat beside the king, some slight sensation was perceptible, and I was directed to sit beyond the women. The whole ceremonies of this grand assemblage were now obvious. Each regimental commandant in turn narrated the whole services of his party, distinguishing those subs who executed his orders well and successfully from those who either deserted before the enemy or feared to follow up their success. The king listened attentively, making, let us suppose, very shrewd remarks concerning them; when to the worthy he awarded pombe, helped with gourd-cups from large earthen jars, which has n'yanzigged for vehemently; and to the unworthy execution. When the fatal sentence was pronounced, a terrible bustle ensued, the convict wrestling and defying, whilst the other men seized, pulled and tore the struggling wretch from the crowd, bound him hands and head together, and led or rather tumbled him away.
After a while, and when all business was over, the king begged me to follow him into the palace. He asked again for stimulants--a matter ever uppermost in his mind--and would not be convinced that such things can do him no possible good, but would in the end be deleterious. Grant's letter was then read to him before his women, and I asked for the dismissal of all the Wanyambo, for they had not only destroyed my peace and home, but were always getting me into disrepute by plundering the Waganda in the highways. No answer was given to this; and on walking home, I found one of the king's women at my hut, imploring protection against the Wanyambo, who had robbed and bruised her so often, she could not stand such abuse any longer.
4th.--I sent Maula, early in the morning, with the plundered woman, and desired him to request that the Wanyambo might be dismissed. He returned, saying he delivered my message, but no reply was given. I then searched for the king, and found him at his brothers' suite of huts playing the flute before them. On taking my seat, he proudly pointed to two vultures which he had shot with bullet, saying to his brothers, "There, do you see these birds? Bana shoots with shot, but I kill with bullets." To try him, I then asked for leave to go to Usoga, as Grant was so far off; but he said, "No, wait until he comes, and you shall both go together then; you fancy he is far off, but I know better. One of my men saw him coming along carried on a stretcher." I said, "No; that must be a mistake, for he told me by letter he would come by water."
Heavy rain now set in, and we got under cover; but the brothers never moved, some even sitting in the streaming gutter, and n'yanzigging whenever noticed. The eldest brother offered me his cup of pombe, thinking I would not drink it; but when he saw its contents vanishing fast, he cried "lekerow!" (hold fast!) and as I pretended not to understand him, continuing to drink, he rudely snatched the cup from my lips. Alternate concerts with the brothers, and conversation about hunting, in consequence of a bump caused by a fall with steeple-chasing, which as discovered on my forehead, ended this day's entertainment.
5th.--As all the Wanguana went foraging, I was compelled to stop at home. The king, however, sent an officer for Grant, because I would not believe in his statement yesterday that he was coming by land; and I also sent a lot of men with a litter to help him on, and bring me an answer.
6th.--I went to the palace at the king's command. He kept us waiting an hour, and then passing out by a side gate, beckoned us to follow. He was dressed in European clothes, with his guns and tin box of clothes leading the way. His first question was, "Well, Bana, where are your guns? for I have called you to go shooting." "The pages never said anything about shooting, and therefore the guns were left behind." Totally unconcerned, the king walked on to his brothers, headed by a band and attendants, who were much lauded for being ready at a moment's notice. A grand flute concert was then played, one of the younger brothers keeping time with a long hand-drum; then the band played; and dancing and duets and singing followed. After the usual presentations, fines, and n'yanziggings, I asked for leave to go and meet Grant by water, but was hastily told that two boats had been sent for him when we returned from the N'yanza, and that two runners, just returned from Karague, said he was on the way not far off. The child-king then changed his dress for another suit of clothes for his brothers to admire, and I retired, much annoyed, as he would neither give pombe for myself, nor plantains for my men: and I was further annoyed on my arrival at home, to find the Wanguana mobbing my hut and clamouring for food, and calling for an order to plunder if I did not give them beads, which, as the stock had run short, I could only do by their returning to Karague for the beads stored there; and, even if they were obtained, it was questionable if the king would revoke his order prohibiting the sale of provisions to us.
7th.--To-day I called at the queen's, but had to wait five hours in company with some attendants, to whom she sent pombe occasionally; but after waiting for her nearly all day, they were dismissed, because excess of business prevented her seeing them, though I was desired to remain. I asked these attendants to sell me food for beads, but they declared they could not without obtaining permission. In the evening the queen stumped out of her chambers and walked to the other end of her palace, where the head or queen of the Wichwezi women lived, to whom everybody paid the profoundest respect. On the way I joined her, she saying, in a state of high anger, "You won't call on me, now I have given you such a charming damsel: you have quite forgotten us in your love of home." Of course Meri's misdemeanour had to be explained, when she said, "As that is the case, I will give you another; but you must take Meri out of the country, else she will bring trouble on us; for, you know, I never gave girls who lived in the palace to any one in my life before, because they would tell domestic affairs not proper for common people to know." I then said my reason for not seeing her before was, that the four times I had sent messengers to make an appointment for the following day, they had been repulsed from her doors. This she would not believe, but called me a story-teller in very coarse language, until the men who had been sent were pointed out to her, and they corroborated me.
The Wichwezi queen met her majesty with her head held very high, and instead of permitting me to sit on my box of grass, threw out a bundle of grass for that purpose. All conversation was kept between the two queens; but her Wichwezi majesty had a platter of clay-stone brought, which she ate with great relish, making a noise of satisfaction like a happy guinea-pig. She threw me a bit, which to the surprise of everybody, I caught and threw it into my mouth, thinking it was some confection; but the harsh taste soon made me spit it out again, to the amusement of the company. On returning home I found the king had requested me to call on him as soon as possible with the medicine-chest.
8th.--Without a morsel to eat for dinner last night, or anything this morning, we proceeded early to the palace, in great expectation that the medicines in request would bring us something; but after waiting all day till 4 p.m., as the king did not appear, leaving Bombay behind, I walked away to shoot a guinea-fowl within earshot of the palace. The scheme was successful, for the report of the gun which killed the bird reached the king's ear, and induced him to say that if Bana was present he would be glad to see him. This gave Bombay an opportunity of telling all the facts of the case; which were no sooner heard than the king gave his starving guests a number of plantains, and vanished at once, taking my page Lugoi with him, to instruct him in Kisuahili (Zanzibar language).
9th.--As the fruit of last night's scheme, the king sent us four goats and two cows. In great good-humour I now called on him, and found him walking about the palace environs with a carbine, looking eagerly for sport, whilst his pages dragged about five half-dead vultures tied in a bundle by their legs to a string. "These birds," said he, tossing his head proudly, "were all shot flying, with iron slugs, as the boys will tell you. I like the carbine very well, but you must give me a double smooth gun." This I promised to give when Grant arrived, for his good-nature in sending so many officers to fetch him.
We next tried for guinea-fowl, as I tell him they are the game the English delight in; but the day was far spent, and none could be found. A boy then in attendance was pointed out, as having seen Grant in Uddu ten days ago. If the statement were true, he must have crossed the Katonga. But though told with great apparent circumspection, I did not credit it, because my men sent on the 15th ultimo for a letter to ascertain his whereabouts had not returned, and they certainly would have done so had he been so near. To make sure, the king then proposed sending the boy again with some of my men; but this I objected to as useless, considering the boy had spoken falsely. Hearing this, the king looked at the boy and then at the women in turn, to ascertain what they thought of my opinion, whereupon the boy cried. Late in the evening the sly little girl Kahala changed her cloth wrapper for a mbugu, and slipped quietly away. I did not suspect her intention, because of late she had appeared much more than ordinary happy, behaving to me in every respect like a dutiful child to a parent. A search was made, and guns fired, in the hopes of frightening her back again, but without effect.
10th.--I had promised that this morning I would teach the king the art of guinea-fowl shooting, and when I reached the palace at 6 a.m., I found him already on the ground. He listened to the tale of the missing girl, and sent orders for her apprehension at once; then proceeding with the gun, fired eight shots successively at guinea-birds sitting on trees, but missed them all. After this, as the birds were scared away, and both iron shot and bullets were expended, he took us to his dressing-hut, went inside himself, attended by full-grown naked women, and ordered a breakfast of pork, beef, fish, and plantains to be served me outside on the left of the entrance; whilst a large batch of his women sat on the right side, silently coquetting, and amusing themselves by mimicking the white man eating. Poor little Lugoi joined in the repast, and said he longed to return to my hut, for he was half starved here, and no one took any notice of him; but he was destined to be a royal page, for the king would not part with him. A cold fit then seized me, and as I asked for leave to go, the king gave orders for one of his wives to be flogged. The reason for this act of brutality I did not discover; but the moment the order was issued, the victim begged the pages to do it quickly, that the king's wrath might be appeased; and in an instant I saw a dozen boys tear their cord-turbans from their heads pull her roughly into the middle of the court, and belabour her with sticks, whilst she lay floundering about, screeching to me for protection. All I did was to turn my head away and walk rapidly out of sight, thinking it better not to interfere again with the discipline of the palace; indeed, I thought it not improbable that the king did these things sometimes merely that his guests might see his savage power. On reaching home I found Kahala standing like a culprit before my door. She would not admit, what I suspected, that Meri had induced her to run away; but said she was very happy in my house until yester-evening, when Rozaro's sister told her she was very stupid living with the Mzungu all alone, and told her to run away; which she did, taking the direction of N'yamasore's, until some officers finding her, and noticing beads on her neck, and her hair cut, according to the common court fashion, in slopes from a point in the forehead to the breadth of her ears, suspected her to be one of the king's women, and kept her in confinement all night, till Mtesa's men came this morning and brought her back again. As a punishment, I ordered her to live with Bombay; but my house was so dull again from want of some one to eat dinner with me, that I remitted the punishment, to her great delight.
11th.--To-day I received letters from Grant, dated 22d., 25th, 28th April and 2d May. They were brought by my three men, with Karague pease, flour, and ammunition. He was at Maula's house, which proved the king's boy to be correct; for the convoy, afraid of encountering the voyage on the lake, had deceived my companion and brought him on by land, like true negroes.
12th.--I sent the three men who had returned from Grant to lay a complaint against the convoy, who had tricked him out of a pleasant voyage, and myself out of the long-wished-for survey of the lake. They carried at the same time a present of a canister of shot from me to the king. Delighted with this unexpected prize, he immediately shot fifteen birds flying, and ordered the men to acquaint me with his prowess.
13th.--To-day the king sent me four cows and a load of butter as a return-present for the shot, and allowed one of his officers, at my solicitation, to go with ten of my men to help Grant on. He also sent a message that he had just shot thirteen birds flying.
14th.--Mabuki and Bilal returned with Budja and his ten children from Unyoro, attended by a deputation of four men sent by Kamrasi, who were headed by Kidgwiga. Mtesa, it now transpired, had followed my advice of making friendship with Kamrasi by sending two brass wires as a hongo instead of an army, and Kamrasi in return, sent him two elephant-tusks. Kidgwiga said Petherick's party was not in Unyoro--they had never reached there, but were lying at anchor off Gani. Two white men only had been seen--one, they said, a hairy man, the other smooth-faced; they were as anxiously inquiring after us as we were after them: they sat on chairs, dressed like myself, and had guns and everything precisely like those in my hut. On one occasion they sent up a necklace of beads to Kamrasi, and he, in return, gave them a number of women and tusks. If I wished to go that way, Kamrasi would forward me on to their position in boats; for the land route, leading through Kidi, was a jungle of ten days, tenanted by a savage set of people, who hunt everybody, and seize everything they see.
This tract is sometimes, however, traversed by the Wanyoro and Gani people, who are traders in cows and tippet monkey-skins, stealthily travelling at night; but they seldom attempt it from fear of being murdered. Baraka and Uledi, sent from Karague on the 30th January, had been at Kamrasi's palace upwards of a month, applying for the road to Gani, and as they could not get that, wished to come with Mabruki to me; but this Kamrasi also refused, on the plea that, as they had come from Karague, so they must return there. Kamrasi had heard of my shooting with Mtesa, as also of the attempt made by Mabruki and Uledi to reach Gani via Usoga. He had received my present of beads from Baraka, and, in addition, took Uledi's sword, saying, "If you do not wish to part with it, you must remain a prisoner in my country all your life, for you have not paid your footing." Mabruki then told me he was kept waiting at a village, one hour's walk from Kamrasi's palace, five days before they were allowed to approach his majesty; but when they were seen, and the presents exchanged, they were ordered to pack off the following morning, as Kamrasi said the Waganda were a set of plundering blackguards.
This information, to say the least of it, was very embarrassing-- a mixture of good and bad. Petherick, I now felt certain, was on the look-out for us; but his men had reached Kamrasi's, and returned again before Baraka's arrival. Baraka was not allowed to go on to him and acquaint him of our proximity, and the Waganda were so much disliked in Unyoro, that there seemed no hopes of our ever being able to communicate by letter. To add to my embarrassments, Grant had not been able to survey the lake from Kitangule, nor had Usoga and the eastern side of the lake been seen.
15th.--I was still laid up with the cold fit of the 10th, which turned into a low kind of fever. I sent Bombay to the king to tell him the news, and ask him what he thought of doing next. He replied that he would push for Gani direct; and sent back a pot of pombe for the sick man.
16th.--The king to-day inquired after my health, and, strange to say, did not accompany his message with a begging request.
17th.--My respite, however, was not long. At the earliest possible hour in the morning the king sent begging for things one hundred times refused, supposing, apparently, that I had some little reserve store which I wished to conceal from him.
18th and 19th.--I sent Bombay to the palace to beg for pombe, as it was the only thing I had an appetite for, but the king would see no person but myself. He had broken his rifle washing-rod, and this must be mended, the pages who brought it saying that no one dared take it back to him until it was repaired. A guinea-fowl was sent after dark for me to see, as a proof that the king was a sportsman complete.
20th.--The king going out shooting borrowed my powder-horn. The Wanguana mobbed the hut and bullied me for food, merely because they did not like the trouble of helping themselves from the king's garden, though they knew I had purchased their privilege to do so at the price of a gold chronometer and the best guns England could produce.
21st.--I now, for the first time, saw the way in which the king collected his army together. The highroads were all thronged with Waganda warriors, painted in divers colours, with plantain-leaf bands round their heads, scanty goat-skin fastened to their loins, and spears and shield in their hands, singing the tambure or march, ending with a repetition of the word Mkavia, or Monarch. They surpassed in number, according to Bombay, the troops and ragamuffins enlisted by Sultain Majid when Sayyid Sweni threatened to attack Zanzibar; in fact, he never saw such a large army collected anywhere.
Bombay, on going to the palace, hoping to obtain plantains for the men, found the king holding a levee, for the purpose of despatching this said army somewhere, but where no one would pronounce. The king, then, observing my men who had gone to Unyoro together with Kamrasi's, questioned them on their mission; and when told that no white men were there, he waxed wrathful, and said it was a falsehood, for his men had seen them, and could not be mistaken. Kamrasi, he said, must have hidden them somewhere, fearful of the number of guns which now surrounded him; and, for the same reason, he told lies, yes, lies--but no man living shall dare tell himself lies; and now, as he could not obtain his object by fair means, he would use arms and force it out. Then, turning to Bombay, he said, "What does your master think of this business?" upon which Bombay replied, according to his instructions, "Bana wishes nothing done until Grant arrives, when all will go together." On this the king turned his back and walked away.
22d.--Kitunzi called on me early, because he heard I was sick. I asked him why the Waganda objected to my sitting on a chair; but, to avoid the inconvenience of answering a troublesome question, without replying, he walked off, saying he heard a noise in the neighbourhood of the palace which must be caused by the king ordering some persons to be seized, and his presence was so necessary he could not wait another moment. My men went for plantains to the palace and for pombe on my behalf; but the king, instead of giving them anything, took two fez caps off their heads, keeping them to himself, and ordered them to tell Bana all his beer was done.
23d.--Kidgwiga called on me to say Kamrasi so very much wanted the white men at Gani to visit him, he had sent a hongo of thirty tusks to the chief of that country in hopes that it would insure their coming to see him. He also felt sure if I went there his king would treat me with the greatest respect. This afforded an opportunity for putting in a word of reconciliation. I said that it was at my request that Mtesa sent Kamrasi a present; and so now, if Kamrasi made friends with the Waganda, there would be no difficulty about the matter.
24th.--The army still thronged the highways, some going, others coming, like a swarm of ants, the whole day long. Kidgwiga paid another visit, and I went to the palace without my gun, wishing the king to fancy all my powder was done, as he had nearly consumed all my store; but the consequence was that, after waiting the whole day, I never saw him at all. In the evening pages informed me that Grant had arrived at N'yama Goma, one march distant.
25th.--I prepared twenty men, with a quarter of mutton for Grant to help him on the way, but they could not go without a native officer, lest they should be seized, and no officer would lead the way. The king came shooting close to my hut and ordered me out. I found him marching Rozaro about in custody with four other Wanyambo, who, detected plundering by Kitunzi, had set upon and beaten him severely. The king, pointing them out to me, said, he did not like the system of plundering, and wished to know if it was the practice in Karague. Of course I took the opportunity to renew my protest against the plundering system; but the king, changing the subject, told me the Wazungu were at Gani inquiring after us, and wishing to come here. To this I proposed fetching them myself in boats, but he objected, saying he would send men first, for they were not farther off to the northward than the place he sent boats to, to bring Grant. He said he did not like Unyoro, because Kamrasi hides himself like a Neptune in the Nile, whenever his men go on a visit there, and instead of treating his guests with respect, he keeps them beyond the river. For this reason he had himself determined on adopting the passage by Kidi.
I was anxious, of course, to go on with the subject thus unexpectedly opened, but, as ill-luck would have it, an adjutant was espied sitting on a tree, when a terrible fuss and excitement ensued. The women were ordered one way and the attendants another, whilst I had to load the gun on the best way I could with the last charge and a half left in the king's pouch. Ten grains were all he would have allowed himself, reserving the residue, without reflecting that a large bird required much shot; and he was shocked to find me lavishly use the whole, and still say it was not enough.
The bird was then at a great height, so that the first shot merely tickled him, and drove him to another tree. "Woh! woh!" cried the king, "I am sure he is hit; look there, look there;" and away he rushed after the bird; down with one fence, then with another, in the utmost confusion, everybody trying to keep his proper place, till at last the tree to which the bird had flown was reached, and then, with the last charge of shot, the king killed his first nundo. The bird, however, did not fall, but lay like a spread eagle in the upper branches. Wasoga were called to climb the tree and pull it down; whilst the king, in ecstasies of joy and excitement, rushed up and down the potato-field like a mad bull, jumping and plunging, waving and brandishing the gun above his head; whilst the drums beat, the attendants all woh-wohed, and the women, joining with their lord, rushed about lullalooing and dancing like insane creatures. Then began congratulations and hand-shakings, and, finally, the inspection of the bird, which, by this time, the Wasoga had thrown down. Oh! oh! what a wonder! Its wings outspread reached further than the height of a man; we must go and show it to the brothers. Even that was not enough--we must show it to the mother; and away we all rattled as fast as our legs could carry us.
Arrived at the queen's palace, out of respect to his mother, the king changed his European clothes for a white kid-skin wrapper, and then walked in to see her, leaving us waiting outside. By this time Colonel Congow, in his full-dress uniform, had arrived in the square outside, with his regiment drawn up in review order. The king, hearing the announcement, at once came out with spears and shield, preceded by the bird, and took post, standing armed, by the entrance, encircled by his staff, all squatting, when the adjutant was placed in the middle of the company. Before us was a large open square, with the huts of the queen's Kamraviona or commander-in- chief beyond. The battalion, consisting of what might be termed three companies, each containing 200 men, being drawn up on the left extremity of the parade-ground, received orders to march past in single file from the right of companies, at a long trot, and re-form again at the other end of the square.
Nothing conceivable could be more wild or fantastic than the sight which ensued--the men all nearly naked, with goat or cat skins depending from their girdles, and smeared with war colours according to the taste of each individual; one-half of the body red or black, the other blue, not in regular order--as, for instance, one stocking would be red, the other black, whilst the breeches above would be the opposite colours, and so with the sleeves and waistcoat. Every man carried the same arms--two spears and one shield--held as if approaching an enemy, and they thus moved in three lines of single rank and file, at fifteen to twenty paces asunder, with the same high action and elongated step, the ground leg only being bent, to give their strides the greater force. After the men had all started, the captains of companies followed, even more fantastically dressed; and last of all came the great Colonel Congow, a perfect Robinson Crusoe, with his long white-haired goat-skins, a fiddle-shaped leather shield, tufted with white hair at all six extremities, bands of long hair tied below the knees, and a magnificent helmet, covered with rich beads of every colour, in excellent taste, surmounted with a plume of crimson feathers, from the centre of which rose a bent stem, tufted with goat-hair. Next they charged in companies to and fro; and, finally, the senior officers came charging at their king, making violent professions of faith and honesty, for which they were applauded. The parade then broke up, and all went home.
26th.--One of king Mtesa's officers now consenting to go to N'yama Goma with some of my men, I sent Grant a quarter of goat. The reply brought to me was, that he was very thankful for it; that he cooked it and ate it on the spot; and begged I would see the king, to get him released from that starving place. Rozaro was given over to the custody of Kitunzi for punishment. At the same time, the queen, having heard of the outrages committed against her brother and women, commanded that neither my men nor any of Rozaro's should get any more food at the palace; for as we all came to Uganda in one body, so all alike were, by her logic, answerable for the offence. I called at the palace for explanation but could not obtain admittance because I would not fire the gun.
27th.--The king sent to say he wanted medicine to propitiate lightning. I called and described the effects of a lightning-rod, and tried to enter into the Unyoro business, wishing to go there at once myself. He objected, because he had not seen Grant, but appointed an officer to go through Unyoro on to Gani, and begged I would also send men with letters. Our talk was agreeably interrupted by guns in the distance announcing Grant's arrival, and I took my leave to welcome my friend. How we enjoyed ourselves after so much anxiety and want of one another's company, I need not describe. For my part, I was only too rejoiced to see Grant could limp about a bit, and was able to laugh over the picturesque and amusing account he gave me of his own rough travels.
28th.--The king in the morning sent Budja, his ambassador, with Kamrasi's Kidgwiga, over to me for my men and letters, to go to Kamrasi's again and ask for the road to Gani. I wished to speak to the king first, but they said they had no orders to stop for that, and walked straight away. I sent the king a present of a double-barrelled gun and ammunition, and received in answer a request that both Grant and myself would attend a levee, which he was to hold in state, accompanied by his bodyguard, as when I was first presented to him. In the afternoon we proceeded to court accordingly, but found it scantily attended; and after the first sitting, which was speedily over, retired to another court, and saw the women. Of this dumb show the king soon got tired; he therefore called for his iron chair, and entered into conversation, at first about the ever-engrossing subject of stimulants, till we changed it by asking him how he liked the gun? He pronounced it a famous weapon, which he would use intensely. We then began to talk in a general way about Suwarora and Rumanika, as well as the road through Unyamuezi, which we hoped would soon cease to exist, and be superseded by one through Unyoro.
It will be kept in view that the hanging about at this court, and all the perplexing and irritating negotiations here described, had always one end in view--that of reaching the Nile where it pours out of the N'yanza, as I was long certain that it did. Without the consent and even the aid of this capricious barbarian I was now talking to, such a project was hopeless. I naturally seized every opportunity for putting in a word in the direction of my great object, and here seemed to be an opportunity. We now ventured on a plump application for boats that we might feel our way to Gani by water, supposing the lake and river to be navigable all the way; and begged Kitunzi might be appointed to accompany us, in order that whatever was done might be done all with good effect in opening up a new line of commerce, by which articles of European manufacture might find a permanent route to Uganda. It was "no go," however. The appeal, though listened to, and commented on, showing that it was well understood, got no direct reply. It was not my policy to make our object appear too important to ourselves, so I had to appear tolerably indifferent, and took the opportunity to ask for my paint-box, which he had borrowed for a day and had kept in his possession for months. I got no answer to that request either, but was immediately dunned for the compass, which had been promised on Grant's arrival. Now, with a promise that the compass would be sent him in the morning, he said he would see what pombe his women could spare us; and, bidding good evening, walked away.
29th.--I sent Bombay with the compass, much to the delight of the king, who no sooner saw it than he jumped and woh-wohed with intense excitement at the treasure he had gained, said it was the greatest present Bana had ever given him, for it was the thing by which he found out all the roads and countries--it was, in fact, half his knowledge; and the parting with it showed plainly that Bana entertained an everlasting friendship for him. The king then called Maula, and said, "Maula, indeed you have spoken the truth; there is nothing like this instrument," etc., etc., repeating what he had already told Bombay. In the evening, the king, accompanied by all his brothers, with iron chair and box, came to visit us, and inspected all Grant's recently brought pictures of the natives, with great acclamation. We did not give him anything this time, but, instead, dunned him for the paint-box, and afterwards took a walk to my observatory hill, where I acted as guide. On the summit of this hill the king instructed his brothers on the extent of his dominions; and as I asked where Lubari or God resides, he pointed to the skies.
30th.--The king at last sent the paint-box, with some birds of his own shooting, which he wished painted. He also wanted himself drawn, and all Grant's pictures copied. Then, to wind up these mild requests, a demand was made for more powder, and that all our guns be sent to the palace for inspection.
31st.--I drew a large white and black hornbill and a green pigeon sent by himself; but he was not satisfied; he sent more birds, and wanted to see my shoes. The pages who came with the second message, however, proving impertinent, got a book flung at their heads, and a warning to be off, as I intended to see the king myself, and ask for food to keep my ever-complaining Wanguana quiet. Proceeding to the palace, as I found Mtesa had gone out shooting, I called on the Kamraviona, complained that my camp was starving, and as I had nothing left to give the king said I wished to leave the country. Ashamed of its being supposed that his king would not give me any food because I had no more presents to give him, the Kamraviona, from his own stores, gave me a goat and pombe, and said he would speak to the king on the subject.
1st.--I drew for the king a picture of a guinea-fowl which he shot in the early morning, and proceeded on a visit with Grant to the queen's, accompanied only by seven men, as the rest preferred foraging for themselves, to the chance of picking up a few plantains at her majesty's. After an hour's waiting, the queen received us with smiles, and gave pombe and plantains to her new visitor, stating pointedly she had none for me. There was deep Uganda policy in this: it was for the purpose of treating Grant as a separate, independent person, and so obtaining a fresh hongo or tax. Laughing at the trick, I thanked her for the beer, taking it personally on my household, and told her when my property arrived from Karague, she should have a few more things as I promised her; but the men sent had neither brought my brother in a vessel, as they were ordered, not did they bring my property from Karague.
Still the queen was not content: she certainly expected something from Grant, if it was ever so little, for she was entitled to it, and would not listen to our being one house. Turning the subject, to put in a word for my great object, I asked her to use her influence in opening the road to Gani, as, after all, that was the best way to get new things into Uganda. Cunning as a fox, the queen agreed to this project, provided Grant remained behind, for she had not seen enough of him yet, and she would speak to her son about the matter in the morning.
This was really the first gleam of hope, and I set to putting our future operations into a shape that might lead to practical results without alarming our capricious host. I thought that whilst I could be employed in inspecting the river, and in feeling the route by water to Gani, Grant could return to Karague by water, bringing up our rear traps, and, in navigating the lake, obtain the information he had been frustrated in getting by the machinations of his attendant Maribu. It was agreed to, and all seemed well; for there was much left to be done in Uganda and Usoga, if we could only make sure of communicating once with Petherick. Before going home we had some more polite conversation, during which the queen played with a toy in the shape of a cocoa du mer, studded all over with cowries: this was a sort of doll, or symbol of a baby and her dandling it was held to indicate that she would ever remain a widow. In the evening the king returned all our rifles and guns, with a request for one of them; as also for the iron chair he sat upon when calling on us, an iron bedstead, and the Union Jack, for he did not honour us with a visit for nothing; and the head page was sent to witness the transfer of the goods, and see there was no humbug about it. It was absolutely necessary to get into a rage, and tell the head page we did not come to Uganda to be swindled in that manner, and he might tell the king I would not part with one of them.
2d.--K'yengo, who came with Grant, now tried to obtain an interview with the king, but could not get admission. I had some further trouble about the disposal of the child Meri, who said she never before had lived in a poor man's house since she was born. I thought to content her by offering to marry her to one of Rumanika's sons, a prince of her own breed, but she would not listen to the proposal.
3d.--For days past, streams of men have been carrying faggots of firewood, clean-cut timber, into the palaces of the king, queen, and the Kamraviona; and to-day, on calling on the king, I found him engaged having these faggots removed by Colonel Mkavia's regiment from one court into another, this being his way of ascertaining their quantity, instead of counting them. About 1600 men were engaged on this service, when the king, standing on a carpet in front of the middle hut of the first court, with two spears in his hand and his dog by his side, surrounded by his brothers and a large staff of officers, gave orders for the regiment to run to and fro in column, that he might see them well; then turning to his staff, ordered them to run up and down the regiment, and see what they thought of it. This ridiculous order set them all flying, and soon they returned, charging at the king with their sticks, dancing and jabbering that their numbers were many, he was the greatest king on earth, and their lives and services were his for ever. The regiment now received orders to put down their faggots, and, taking up their own sticks in imitation of spears, followed the antics of their officers in charging and vociferating. Next, Mkavia presented five hairy Usoga goats, n'yanzigging and performing the other appropriate ceremonies. On asking the king if he had any knowledge of the extent of his army, he merely said, "How can I, when these you see are a portion of them just ordered here to carry wood?"
The regiment was now dismissed; but the officers were invited to follow the king into another court, when he complimented them on assembling so many men; they, instead of leaving well alone, foolishly replied they were sorry they were not more numerous, as some of the men lived so far away they shirked the summons; Maula, then, ever forward in mischief, put a cap on it by saying, if he could only impress upon the Waganda to listen to his orders, there would never be a deficiency. Upon which the king said, "If they fail to obey you, they disobey me; for I have appointed you as my orderly, and thereby you personify the orders of the king." Up jumped Maula in a moment as soon as these words were uttered, charging with his stick, then floundering and n'yanzigging as if he had been signally rewarded. I expected some piece of cruel mischief to come of all this, but the king, in his usual capricious way, suddenly rising, walked off to a third court, followed only by a select few.
Here, turning to me, he said, "Bana, I love you, because you have come so far to see me, and have taught me so many things since you have been here." Rising, with my hand to my heart, and gracefully bowing at this strange announcement--for at that moment I was full of hunger and wrath--I intimated I was much flattered at hearing it, but as my house was in a state of starvation, I trusted he would consider it. "What!" said he, "do you want goats?" "Yes, very much." The pages then received orders to furnish me with ten that moment, as the king's farmyard was empty, and he would reimburse them as soon as more confiscations took place. But this, I said, was not enough; the Wanguana wanted plantains, for they had received none these fifteen days. "What!" said the king, turning to his pages again, "have you given these men no plantains, as I ordered? Go and fetch them this moment, and pombe too, for Bana."
The subject then turned on the plan I had formed of going to Gani by water, and of sending Grant to Karague by the lake; but the king's mind was fully occupied with the compass I had given him. He required me to explain its use, and then broke up the meeting.
4th.--Viarungi, an officer sent by Rumanika to escort Grant to Uganda, as well as to apply to king Mtesa for a force to fight his brother Rogero, called on me with Rozaro, and said he had received instructions from his king to apply to me for forty cows and two slave-boys, because the Arabs who pass through his country to Uganda always make him a present of that sort after receiving them from Mtesa. After telling him we English never give the presents they have received away to any one, and never make slaves, but free them, I laid a complaint against Rozaro for having brought much trouble and disgrace upon my camp, as well as much trouble on myself, and begged that he might be removed from my camp. Rozaro then attempted to excuse himself, but without success, and said he had already detached his residence from my camp, and taken up a separate residence with Viarungi, his superior officer.
I called on the king in the afternoon, and found the pages had already issued plantains for my men and pombe for myself. The king addressed me with great cordiality, and asked if I wished to go to Gani. I answered him with all promptitude,--Yes, at once, with some of his officers competent to judge of the value of all I point out to them for future purposes in keeping the road permanently open. His provoking capriciousness, however, again broke in, and he put me off till his messengers should return from Unyoro. I told him his men had gone in vain, for Budja left without my letter or my men; and further, that the river route is the only one that will ever be of advantage to Uganda, and the sooner it was opened up the better. I entreated him to listen to my advice, and send some of my men to Kamrasi direct, to acquaint him with my intention to go down the river in boats to him; but I could get no answer to this. Bombay then asked for cows for the Wanguana, getting laughed at for his audacity, and the king broke up the court and walked away.
5th.--I started on a visit to the queen, but half-way met Congow, who informed me he had just escorted her majesty from his house, where she was visiting, to her palace. By way of a joke and feeler, I took it in my head to try, by taking a harmless rise out of Congow, whether the Nile is understood by the natives to be navigable near its exit from the N'yanza. I told him he had been appointed by the king to escort us down the river to Gani. He took the affair very seriously, delivering himself to the following purport: "Well, then, my days are numbered; for if I refuse compliance I shall lose my head; and if I attempt to pass Kamrasi's, which is on the river, I shall lose my life; for I am a marked man there, having once led an army past his palace and back again. It would be no use calling it a peaceful mission, as you propose; for the Wanyoro distrust the Waganda to such an extent, they would fly to arms at once."
Proceeding to the queen's palace, we met Murondo, who had once travelled to the Masai frontier. He said it would take a month to go in boats from Kira, the most easterly district in Uganda, to Masai, where there is another N'yanza, joined by a strait to the big N'yanza, which king Mtesa's boats frequent for salt; but the same distance could be accomplished in four days overland, and three days afterwards by boat. The queen, after keeping us all day waiting, sent three bunches of plantains and a pot of pombe, with a message that she was too tired to receive visitors, and hoped we would call another day.
6th.--I met Pokino, the governor-general of Uddu, in the morning's walk, who came here at the same time as Grant to visit the king, and was invited into his house to drink pombe. His badge of office is an iron hatchet, inlaid with copper and handled with ivory. He wished to give us a cow, but put it off for another day, and was surprised we dared venture into his premises without permission from the king. After this, we called at the palace, just as the king was returning from a walk with his brothers. He saw us, and sent for Bana. We entered, and presented him with some pictures, which he greatly admired, looked at close and far, showed to the brothers, and inspected again. Pokino at this time came in with a number of well-made shields, and presented them grovelling and n'yanzigging; but though the governor of an important province, who had not been seen by the king for years, he was taken no more notice of than any common Mkungu. A plan of the lake and Nile, which I brought with me to explain our projects for reaching Karague and Gani, engaged the king's attention for a while; but still he would not agree to let anything be done until the messenger returned from Unyoro. Finding him inflexible, I proposed sending a letter, arranging that his men should be under the guidance of my men after they pass Unyoro on the way to Gani; and this was acceded to, provided I should write a letter to Petherick by the morrow. I then tried to teach the king the use of the compass. To make a stand for it, I turned a drum on its head, when all the courtiers flew at me as if to prevent an outrage, and the king laughed. I found that, as the instrument was supposed to be a magic charm of very wonderful powers, my meddling with it and treating it as an ordinary movable was considered a kind of sacrilege.
7th.--I wrote a letter to Petherick, but the promised Wakungu never came for it. As K'yengo was ordered to attend court with Rumanika's hongo, consisting of a few wires, small beads, and a cloth I gave him, as well as a trifle from Nnanji, I sent Bombay, in place of going myself, to remind the king of his promises for the Wakungu to Gani, as well as for boats to Karague, but a grunt was the only reply which my messenger said he obtained.
8th.--Calling at the palace, I found the king issuing for a walk, and joined him, when he suddenly turned round in the rudest manner, re-entered his palace, and left me to go home without speaking a word. The capricious creature then reissued, and, finding me gone, inquired after me, presuming I ought to have waited for him.
9th.--During the night, when sleeping profoundly, some person stealthily entered my hut and ran off with a box of bullets towards the palace, but on the way dropped his burden. Maula, on the way home, happening to see it, and knowing it to be mine, brought it back again. I stayed at home, not feeling well.
10th.--K'yengo paid his hongo in wire to the king, and received a return of six cows. Still at home, an invalid, I received a visit from Meri, who seemed to have quite recovered herself. Speaking of her present quarters, she said she loved Uledi's wife very much, thinking birds of a feather ought to live together. She helped herself to a quarter of mutton, and said she would come again.
11th.--To-day Viarungi, finding Rozaro's men had stolen thirty cows, twelve slaves, and a load of mbugu from the Waganda, laid hands on them himself for Rumanika, instead of giving them to King Mtesa. Such are the daily incidents among our neighbours.
12th.--At night a box of ammunition and a bag of shot, which were placed out as a reserve present for the king, to be given on our departure, were stolen, obviously by the king's boys, and most likely by the king's orders; for he is the only person who could have made any use of them, and his boys alone know the way into the hut; besides which, the previous box of bullets was found on the direct road to the palace, while it was well known that no one dared to touch an article of European manufacture without the consent of the king.
13th.--I sent a message to the king about the theft, requiring him, if an honest man, to set his detectives to work, and ferret it out; his boys, at the same time, to show our suspicions, were peremptorily forbidden ever to enter the hut again. Twice the king sent down a hasty message to say he was collecting all his men to make a search, and, if they do not succeed, the Mganga would be sent; but nothing was done. The Kamraviona was sharply rebuked by the king for allowing K'yengo to visit him before permission was given, and thus defrauding the royal exchequer of many pretty things, which were brought for majesty alone. At night the rascally boys returned again to plunder, but Kahala, more wakeful than myself, heard them trying to untie the door-handle, and frightened them away in endeavouring to awaken me.
14th and 15th.--Grant, doing duty for me, tried a day's penance at the palace, but though he sat all day in the ante-chamber, and musicians were ordered into the presence, nobody called for him. K'yengo was sent with all his men on a Wakungu-seizing expedition, --a good job for him, as it was his perquisite to receive the major part of the plunder himself.
16th.--I sent Kahala out of the house, giving her finally over to Bombay as a wife, because she preferred playing with dirty little children to behaving like a young lady, and had caught the itch. This was much against her wish, and the child vowed she would not leave me until force compelled her; but I had really no other way of dealing with the remnant of the awkward burden which the queen's generosity had thrown on me. K'yengo went to the palace with fifty prisoners; but as the king had taken his women to the small pond, where he has recently placed a tub canoe for purposes of amusement, they did no business.
17th.--I took a first convalescent walk. The king, who was out shooting all day, begged for powder in the evening. Uledi returned from his expedition against a recusant officer at Kituntu, bringing with him a spoil of ten women. It appeared that the officer himself had bolted from his landed possessions, and as they belonged to "the church," or were in some way or other sacred from civil execution, they could not be touched, so that Uledi lost an estate which the king had promised him. We heard that Ilmas, wife of Majanja, who, as I already mentioned, had achieved an illustrious position by services at the birth of the king, had been sent to visit the late king Sunna's tomb, whence, after observing certain trees which were planted, and divining by mystic arts what the future state of Uganda required, she would return at a specific time, to order the king at the time of his coronation either to take the field with an army, to make a pilgrimage, or to live a life of ease at home; whichever of these courses the influence of the ordeal at the grave might prompt her to order, must be complied with by the king.
18th.--I called at the palace with Grant, taking with us some pictures of soldiers, horses, elephants, etc. We found the guard fighting over their beef and plantain dinner. Bombay remarked that this daily feeding on beef would be the lot of the Wanguana if they had no religious scruples about the throat-cutting of animals for food. This, I told him, was all their own fault, for they have really no religion or opinions of their own; and had they been brought up in England instead of Africa, it would have been all the other way with them as a matter of course; but Bombay replied, "We could no more throw off the Mussulman faith than you could yours." A man with a maniacal voice sang and whistled by turns. Katumba, the officer of the guards, saw our pictures, and being a favourite, acquainted the king, which gained us an admittance.
We found his majesty sitting on the ground, within a hut, behind a portal, encompassed by his women, and took our seats outside. At first all was silence, till one told the king we had some wonderful pictures to show him; in an instant he grew lively, crying out, "Oh, let us see them!" and they were shown, Bombay explaining. Three of the king's wives then came in, and offered him their two virgin sisters, n'yanzigging incessantly, and beseeching their acceptance, as by that means they themselves would become doubly related to him. Nothing, however, seemed to be done to promote the union, until one old lady, sitting by the king's side, who was evidently learned in the etiquette and traditions of the court, said, "Wait and see if he embraces, otherwise you may know he is not pleased." At this announcement the girls received a hint to pass on, and the king commenced bestowing on them a series of huggings, first sitting on the lap of one, whom he clasped to his bosom, crossing his neck with hers to the right, then to the left, and, having finished with her, took post in the second one's lap, then on that of the third, performing on each of them the same evolutions. He then retired to his original position, and the marriage ceremony was supposed to be concluded, and the settlements adjusted, when all went on as before.
The pictures were again looked at, and again admired, when we asked for a private interview on business, and drew the king outside. I then begged he would allow me, whilst his men were absent at Unyoro, to go to the Masai country, and see the Salt Lake at the north-east corner of the N'yanza, and to lend me some of his boats for Grant to fetch powder and beads from Karague. This important arrangement being conceded by the king more promptly than we expected, a cow, plantains, and pombe were requested; but the cow only was given, though our men were said to be feeding on grass. Taking the king, as it appeared, in a good humour, to show him the abuses arising from the system of allowing his guests to help themselves by force upon the highways, I reported the late seizures made of thirty cows and twelve slaves by the Wanyambo; but, though surprised to hear the news, he merely remarked that there were indeed a great number of visitors in Uganda. During this one day we heard the sad voice of no less than four women, dragged from the palace to the slaughter-house.
19th.--To follow up our success in the marching question and keep the king to his promise, I called at his palace, but found he had gone out shooting. To push my object further, I then marched off to the queen's to bid her good-bye, as if we were certain to leave the next day; but as no one would dare to approach her cabinet to apprise her of our arrival, we returned home tired and annoyed.
20th.--The king sent for us at noon; but when we reached the palace we found he had started on a shooting tour; so, to make the best of our time, we called again upon the queen for the same purpose as yesterday, as also to get my books of birds and animals, which, taken merely to look at for a day or so, had been kept for months. After hours of waiting, her majesty appeared standing in an open gateway; beckoned us to advance, and offered pombe; then, as two or three drops of rain fell, she said she could not stand the violence of the weather, and forthwith retired without one word being obtained. An officer, however, venturing in for the books, at length I got them.
21st.--To-day I went to the palace, but found no one; the king was out shooting again.
22d.--We resolved to-day to try on a new political influence at the court. Grant had taken to the court of Karague a jumping-jack, to amuse the young princes; but it had a higher destiny, for it so fascinated the king Rumanika himself that he would not part with it --unless, indeed, Grant would make him a big one out of a tree which was handed to him for the purpose. We resolved to try the influence of such a toy on king Mtesa, and brought with us, in addition, a mask and some pictures. But although the king took a visiting card, the gate was never opened to us. Finding this, and the day closing, we deposited the mask and pictures on a throne, and walked away. We found that we had thus committed a serious breach of state etiquette; for the guard, as soon as they saw what we had done, seized the Wanguana for our offences in defiling the royal seat, and would have bound them, had they not offered to return the articles to us.
23d.--Early in the morning, hearing the royal procession marching off on a shooting excursion, we sent Bombay running after it with the mask and pictures, to aquaint the king with our desire to see him, and explain that we had been four days successively foiled in attempts to find him in his palace, our object being an eager wish to come to some speedy understanding about the appointed journeys to the Salt Lake and Karague. The toys produced the desired effect; for the king stopped and played with them, making Bombay and the pages don the masks by turns. He appointed the morrow for an interview, at the same time excusing himself for not having seen us yesterday on the plea of illness. In the evening Kahala absconded with another little girl of the camp in an opposite direction from the one she took last time; but as both of them wandered about not knowing where to go to, and as they omitted to take off all their finery, they were soon recognised as in some way connected with my party, taken up, and brought into camp, where they were well laughed at for their folly, and laughed in turn at the absurdity of their futile venture.
24th.--Hoping to keep the king to his promise, I went to the palace early, but found he had already gone to see his brothers, so followed him down, and found him engaged playing on a harmonicon with them. Surprised at my intrusion, he first asked how I managed to find him out; then went on playing for a while; but suddenly stopping to talk with me, he gave me an opportunity of telling him I wished to send Grant off to Karague, and start myself for Usoga and the Salt Lake in the morning. "What! going away?" said the king, as if he had never heard a word about it before; and then, after talking the whole subject over again, especially dwelling on the quantity of powder I had in store at Karague, he promised to send the necessary officers for escorting us on our respective journeys in the morning.
The brothers' wives then wished to see me, and came before us, when I had to take off my hat and shoes as usual, my ready compliance inducing the princes to pass various compliments of my person and disposition. The brothers then showed me a stool made of wood after the fashion of our sketching-stool, and a gun-cover of leather, made by themselves, of as good workmanship as is to be found in India. The king then rose, followed by his brothers, and we all walked off to the pond. The effect of stimulants was mooted, as well as other physiological phenomena, when a second move took us to the palace by torchlight, and the king showed a number of new huts just finished and beautifully made. Finally, he settled down to a musical concert, in which he took the lead himself. At eight o'clock, being tired and hungry, I reminded the king of his promises, and he appointed the morning to call on him for the Wakungu, and took leave.
25th.--Makinga, hearing of the intended march through Usoga, was pleased to say he would like to join my camp and spend his time in buying slaves and ivory there. I went to the palace for the promised escort, but was no sooner announced by the pages than the king walked off into the interior of his harem, and left me no alternative but to try my luck with the Kamraviona, who, equally proud with his master, would not answer my call,--and so another day was lost.
26th.--This morning we had the assuring intelligence from Kaddu that he had received orders to hold himself in readiness for a voyage to Karague in twenty boats with Grant, but the date of departure was not fixed. The passage was expected to be rough, as the water off the mouth of the Kitangule Kagera (river) always runs high, so that no boats can go there except at night, when the winds of day subside, and are replaced by the calms of night. I called at the palace, but saw nothing of the king, though the court was full of officials; and there were no less than 150 women, besides girls, goats, and various other things, seizures from refractory state officers, who, it was said, had been too proud to present themselves at court for a period exceeding propriety.
All these creatures, I was assured, would afterwards be given away as return-presents for the hongos or presents received from the king's visitors. No wonder the tribes of Africa are mixed breeds. Amongst the officers in waiting was my friend Budja, the ambassador that had been sent to Unyoro with Kidgwiga, Kamrasi's deputy. He had returned three days before, but had not yet seen the king. As might have been expected, he said he had been anything but welcomed in Unyoro. Kamrasi, after keeping him half-starved and in suspense eight days, sent a message--for h