Captain Speke's Journal.
Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile.
By John Hanning Speke,
Captain H.M. Indian Army; Fellow and Gold medallist of the Royal Geographical Society; Hon. Corr. Member and Gold-medallist of the French Geographical society, &c.
W. Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London.
Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. No. DLXXIX, VOl. XCV. January 1864, Pp. 1-24.
When the doubling of the Cape has to be spoken of as an achievement of distant times, and the newly discovered hemisphere has a history of centuries, and the Australian continent is fast following the example--to hear of it as the last piece of momentous news in this year 1863 that the oldest and most familiar river in the world has just been fully opened to our knowledge, is something that seems to throw us back into the infancy of society. Surely there is nothing in the world that so completely unites the old and the recent as this river. At one end it belongs to Moses and Herodotus, the Sphinxes and the Pyramids; at the other, the different notable points are named after our gracious Queen, the Emperor Louis Napoleon; Sir Roderick Murchison, the Earl of Ripon, and Jordans, the Somersetshire home of the discoverer's ancestors.
True, it is not for the first time that the solution of the great problem has been announced. Apart from the triumphs arrogated by mere pretenders, a century has very nearly elapsed since James Bruce, after describing how, barefooted, he ran down the hill to the sacred spring, suffering many hard falls from the slippery boulbous roots on the surface of the soil, thus proclaimed his sensations to the world: "It is easier to guess than to describe the situation of my mind at that moment, standing in that spot which had baffled the genius, industry, and inquiry of both ancients and moderns for the course of near three thousand years. Kings had attempted this discovery at the head of armies, and each expedition was distinguished from the last only by the difference of numbers which had perished, and agreed alone in the disappointment which had uniformly and without exception followed them all. Fame, riches, and honour had been held out for a series of ages to every individual of those myriads these princes commanded without having produced one man capable of gratifying the curiosity of his sovereign, or wiping off this stain upon the enterprise and abilities of mankind, or adding this desideratum for the encouragement of geography. Though a mere private Briton, I triumphed here, in my own mind, over kings and their armies; and every comparison was leading nearer and nearer to presumption, when the place itself where I stood--the object of my vainglory--suggested what depressed my shortlived triumph."
It would have depressed it still more had he known that he was not in the place he sought. Where the Nile divides he had selected the Blue branch which is shorter, and in every way less important, than the White; and therefore made a choice which, to one professing to reach the farthest source, was a mistake. That he made a mistake, however, cannot detract from his well-earned fame as a brave man, an indefatigable explorer, a mighty linguist, and a brilliant writer; and it is consolatory to remember that he passed away without knowing the deficiency of his achievement, and that the noble and susceptible nature, teased in declining years by malignity and paltry jealousy, was not robbed of the great delusion that upheld it.
Like all great discoveries, the present was the fruit of an original idea, born of an intuitive genius for this particular kind of achievement. It was by an inversion of the previous efforts, which had been failures. Those ambitious of accomplishing the discovery of the river-head naturally enough tried to force their way up to it from the mouth; and so it came on every weary, baffled aspirant, that"Nilus in extremum fugit perterritus orbem,
The new idea was to cross Africa at right angles to the course of the river, strike the head-waters, and verify them by sailing down. And this was what was done. At between three and four thousand miles' distance from the known portions of the Nile, the discoverer started in a direction nearly opposite to where these lie. Thus, in October 1860, along with his genial companion and assistant, Captain Grant, he left behind him the last vestiges of European civilisation at Zanzibar, a small island six degrees south of the of the equator, well known to African traders; and he saw no European countenance, or any man versed in our ways of Christian civilisation, until, descending the Nile, he reached Gondokoro in February 1863, and there met a fellow-countryman who had gone in search of him.
It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that the conception now so brilliantly accomplished dawned on its author in the course of an exploring expedition through the lake districts of tropical Africa, of which he gave an account in some articles in this Magazine in 1859.
It was naturally among eminent geographers only that the important conclusion to which these articles pointed could be fully comprehended. But to the rest of the world also, instead of being only an amusing narrative of an adventurous expedition through unknown regions, they must now be held in esteem as the harbingers of a mighty discovery. When, on this expedition, he set eyes on the broad waters of the Victoria N'yanza, he said to himself, "All right--here's the Nile top;" or, as he told it more appropriately to the world in his narrative--"When the vast expanse of the pale-blue waters of the N'yanza burst suddenly upon my view,...I no longer felt any doubt that the lake at my feet gave birth to that interesting river, the source of which has been the subject of so much speculation, and the object of so many explorers."--(Maga for October 1859, pp. 411, 412). And this faith, grounded on a special sagacity or instinct for discovery, seems never to have faltered; insomuch that, even when he set sail on the river's bosom, there was no more lingering doubt to be confirmed than the experienced navigator feels about his arrival in any familiar port. Yet, like other discoverers, he had not only entirely to rely on his own resources for his belief, but to fight for it against strong adversaries. In his first expedition to the African lakes he happened to be the junior officer, and his senior in command seems to have considered his conclusion a sort of heresy amounting to insubordination; and not only did he harbour this opinion, but proclaimed it very loudly to the world, laughing in loud print at the folly of the Sub who thought he had made a great discovery;--so adding to the many melancholy illustrations of the wise counsel, that if fallible human beings are determined to prophesy, it is safer to do so in the positive than in the negative--to predict that something will take place, not that it will never, since fact may prove the falsity of the latter before the seer has departed, but the event that is to be may be supposed only to be postponed. There was too, it appears, a curious local difficulty to be overcome in the information of the natives, who all concurred in the statement that towards the north a large river ran into the lake, excepting those who said it had no bounds at all in that direction. This last view was disposed of by the use of a common word for lake and water, so that the river was the boundless continuation. But for the other assertion a more subtle solution had to be found in a peculiarity of the structure of the language, which made it appear to invert its meaning, and speak of water as running into the lake as the means of conveying the meaning that it ran out. When we remember that the German for going to a place means, in its other uses, from, while from means of, and that there, as well as in Scotland, in calculations of time, half-four means three and a half, we may have a notion--but still rather an imperfect one--of such a specialty.
Without further preliminary we shall now quote the description of the Nile as it actually tumbles out of the great lake. The spot is distant from the mouth some 2300 miles--more than thirty-four degrees of latitude, and nearly a tenth of the whole circumference of the globe. As the river breaks through a dyke in something like a cataract, the place is called by the natives simply "The Stones."
"To Ripon Falls, 28th.--At last with a good push for it, crossing hills and threading huge grasses, as well as extensive village plantations lately devastated by elephants--they had eaten all that was eatable, and what would not serve for food they had destroyed with their trunks, not one plantain or one hut being left entire--we arrived at the extreme end of the journey, the farthest point ever visited by the expedition on the same parallel of latitude as king Mtésa's palace, and just forty miles east of it.
"We were well rewarded; for the 'Stones,' as the Waganda call the falls, was by far the most interesting sight I had seen in Africa. Everybody ran to see them at once, though the march had been long and fatiguing; and even my sketch-block was called into play. Though beautiful, the scene was not exactly what I expected; for the broad surface of the lake was shut out from view by a spur of hill, and the falls, about 12 feet deep, and 400 to 500 feet broad, were broken by rocks. Still it was a sight that attracted one to it for hours--the roar of the waters, the thousands of passenger-fish leaping at the falls with all their might, the Wasoga and Waganda fishermen coming out in boats and taking post on all the rocks with rod and hook, hippopotami and crocodiles lying sleepily on the water, the ferry at work above the falls, and cattle driven down to drink at the margin of the lake,--made in all, with the pretty nature of the country--small hills, grassy-topped, with trees in the folds and gardens on the lower slopes--as interesting a picture as one could wish to see.
"The expedition had now performed its functions. I saw that old Father Nile, without any doubt, rises in the Victoria N'yanza, and, as I had foretold, that lake is the great source of the holy river which cradled the first expounder of our religious belief. I mourned however, when I thought how much I had lost by the delays in the journey having deprived me of the pleasure of going to look at the north-east corner of the N'yanza, to see what connection there was, by the strait so often spoken of, with it and the other lake were the Waganda went to get their salt, and from which another river flowed to the north, making 'Usoga an island.' But I felt I ought to be content with what I had been spared to accomplish; for I had seen full half of the lake, and had information given me of the other half, by means of which I knew all about the lake, as far at least, as the chief objects of geographical importance were concerned."
What will probably cause most surprise in the reader who alights on such a passage without being prepared for it by the specialties of this altogether surprising book, is its homely, undramatised simplicity. While the unsuccessful explorers drag us through deserts of stone and sand and salt, diversified by the sweep of some terrific monsoon, or stick us fast in impenetrable jungles among snakes and centipedes-"Where the deadly vine doth weep
here we have the active fishermen, the ferry crossing and recrossing, the goodly kine coming down to drink, the gardens, the small verdant hills--barring the hippopotami and crocodiles, for all the world like a scene in Westmoreland.
If "up the Nile" should ever become as householdish words as "up the Rhine," then, when the cretaceous crocodile and his fat friend the genial hippopotamus are disturbed in the inward recesses of their watery residences by the splash of the paddle-wheel and the shriek of the railway-whistle--then will the descriptions of the first European who set eyes on these regions be stereotyped into all the Murrays, and be read by lazy luxurious tourists at the bow-windows of their hotels, and tested by the actual vision before them. But this generation will probably pass away before tourism has penetrated thus far, and in the mean time the world must be content with the discoverer's description of what he saw. Let us give a little more of it, premising that, although he approached the Nile from the Victoria N'yanza lake, his first sight of the river was not at the exit described in the quotation. For reasons connected with the facilities for transit through the states bordering on the lake, he had to strike the river some way down and walk to its exit; so it fell out that his first sight of the actual Nile occurred at Urondogani, on the 21st of July 1862; and he thus describes what he saw with sententious brevity:--
"Here at last I stood on the brink of the Nile; most beautiful was the scene--nothing could surpass it! It was the very perfection of the kind of effect aimed at in a highly kept park; with a magnificent stream from 600 to 700 yards wide, dotted with islets and rocks, the former occupied by fishermen's huts, the latter by sterns and crocodiles basking in the sun--flowing between fine high grassy banks, with rich trees and plantains in the background, where herds of the nsunn and hartebeest could be seen grazing, while the hippopotami were snorting in the water, and florikan and guinea-fowl rising at our feet. Unfortunately, the chief district officer, Mlondo, was from home, but we took possession of his huts--clean, extensive, and tidily kept--facing the river, and felt as if a residence here would do one good."
Had the discoverer been very much disposed to moralise aloud about the historical and religious associations--rich almost beyond any earthly parallel--of the sight on which he looked, he would have found a rather discouraging auditory in his assistants. To some of them he appears to have ventured on a remark appropriate to the solemn occasion; it was responded to by his faithful lieutenant and aide-de-camp, Bombay, a personage in whom the reader of this Journal becomes extremely interested; and his comment is about as good an instance of the thorough materialism of the trophical mind as we remember to have seen:--
"I told my men they ought to shave their heads and bathe in the holy river, the cradle of Moses--the waters of which, sweetened with sugar, men carry all the way from Egypt to Mecca, and sell to the pilgrims. But Bombay, who is a philosopher of the Epicurean school, said, 'We don't look on those things in the same fanciful manner that you do; we are contented with all the commonplaces of life, and look for nothing beyond the present. If things don't go well, it is God's will; and if they do go well, that is His will also.'"
Going up from the point where the river is first sighted, to its exit from the lake, the traveller favours the world with another short description of a rapid in the course of his walk:--
"I marched up the left bank of the Nile, at a considerable distance from the water, to the Isamba Rapids, passing through rich jungle and plantain-gardens. Nango, an old friend, and district officer of the place, first refreshed us with a dish of plantain squash and dried fish, with pombé. He told us he is often threatened by elephants, but he sedulously keeps them off with charms; for if they ever tasted a plantain they would never leave the garden until they had cleared it out. He then took us to see the nearest falls of the Nile--extremely beautiful, but very confined. The water ran deep between its banks, which were covered with fine grass, soft cloudy acacias, and festoons of lilac convolvuli; whilst here and there, where the land had slipped above the rapids, bared places of red earth could be seen like that of Devonshire: there, too, the waters, impeded by a natural dam, looked like a huge mill pond, sullen and dark, in which two crocodiles, laying about, were looking out for prey. From the high banks we looked down upon a line of sloping wooded islets lying across the stream, which divide its waters, and, by interrupting them, cause at once both dam and rapids. The whole was more fairy-like, wild, and romantic than--I must confess that my thoughts took that shape--anything I ever saw outside of a theatre. It was exactly the sort of place, in fact, where, bridged across from one side slip to the other, on a moonlight night, brigands would assemble to enact some dreadful tragedy. Even the Wanguna seemed spell-bound at the novel beauty of th sight and no one though of moving till hunger warned us night was setting in, and we had better look out for lodgings."
The people at the top of the Nile had no more notion of where its waters went to, or who lived at the other end, than we had of its source or the dwellers in that region; and entireness of ignorance cannot be more strongly expressed. It always seems strange to us that there should be anywhere a people who themselves in some measure civilised, should not be acquainted with us, their superiors and masters in civilisation. But this notion is a relic of provincialism. The Cockney--about the most ignorant creature in the world, who thinks all Scotsmen wear kilts and libricate themselves with sulphur, and all Frenchmen feed on frogs and play on the fiddle--cannot easily imagine a place where London is unknown. Europe must be content to find that Uganda has been in total ignorance of the Overland Route or the Suez Canal, of Napoleon and Nelson--of all the illustrious men and nations and deeds, the associations of which have clustered round the mighty river for some three thousand years. There is evidence, however, that the Greek geographers knew about the Mountains of the Moon and the great lake. The knowledge of each other may probably at one time have been mutual; and it almost looks like a tradition of such a thing, that there is still a sacredness about the great lake beyond what it would seem entitled to as a mere sheet of water. This is impersonated by a kind of Neptune--a being whom the natives have invested with as much of the nature of a deity as it is in their own natures to conceive. He has a kind of priesthood, who seem to be so far in his confidence as to know the sort of weather he is working with at any given time; and, after the manner of their order all over the world, they profess, to some limited and imperfect extent, to have a vote in such questions, or an influence in propitiating the supreme will, which is of course a source of more or less influence on their own power and earthly interests.
In a grand regatta or boating party, which the king of Uganda has on the lake, we are introduced to the domestic circle of this Neptune's high-priest--a sort of watery archbishop, supreme, apparently, within his own dominions; and surely never before was ecclesiastical dignitary painted for us in so Teniers-like a fashion. The monarch directs the boats to paddle towards "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 Nile, and as such was of course an interesting person for me to meet."
"We 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 pombé was brought, and the spiritual medium arrived. He was dressed Whichwézi 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."
Although the ancient river and the mighty lake are the points on which the discoverer's fame will naturally concentrate, the world's obligations to him go much farther. Whether or not he has laid out a new touring district, as securely as we can calculate upon the world not retrograding into barbarism and poverty, so surely can we calculate on a new and vast field of enterprise and industry having been developed. As no one had penetrated to the interior of tropical Africa, it fell to the philosophers, by a system of induction to tell us what sort of place it is. They were mistaken in their inference, as poor human beings from time to time will be, even though they should call themselves philosophers. That far to the north and far to the south of the equator were vast arid deserts of sand and salt, was a palpable truth. Reason was then shown why the moisture of which these tracts were deprived was concentrated at the equator, where it caused drenching rains, which, under the heat of the sun, encumbered the earth with a rank vegetation generative of pestilent miasmas, and altogether forming a tract too spongily saturated to be bent to human use by tile-draining, or any of the other puny operations of existing agriculture.
Bold speculators, indeed, indulged in a dream that Providence had set down two great compensating elements in Africa, which were some day to test the engineering skill of man in subduing them to co-operation for his advantage. The surplus waters of Central Africa were to irrigate the sandy plains on either side, sending forth its own pestilential elements to confer fruitfulness on the desert. It is a pity perhaps, but these fine speculations have been ruined by the discovery that the equatorial belt does not contain pestilential elements to be got rid of. There is neither excessive moisture nor excessive hear, and the climate appears to be one of the finest in the world. It might have been exactly as the philosophers settled it, but for the important fact that the country is a table-land, varying from 3000 to 6000 feet above the level of the sea, so that what raises us above vegetation and into the regions of eternal snow at this latitude, brings us up to a temperate climate at the equator. The discoverer saw a large tract of this kind of country. He thinks it stretches right across Africa, bisected by the equator; and the geographical sagacity he has shown bespeaks confidence for this opinion. There are districts of rich alluvial country, full of food, animal and vegetable, resembling the finer parts of Dorset or Somerset; and it the Dorsetshire of Somersetshire farm-labourer could realise the abundant luxuries at the command of the people of these favoured districts, his teeth would water and he would sigh with the vain wish that he had been born black and blubber-lipped, and set down in tropical Africa. Butcher-meat in all varieties, from the rarest game kind to the full-bodied beef of the buffalo, abounds, and is well cooked; while the plantain affords a substitute--and a capital one--for bread and potatoes. A sort of wine, or strong beer, made from the plantain, and called pombé, appears to abound to an extent that would greatly distress the British League of Total Abstainers. In fact, these dusky descendants of Ham, instead of being cursed for the indecorous conduct of their great ancestor, would appear to be endowed with a fund of material happiness beyond what poor fallen human nature is entitled to expect, were it not for such slight drawbacks as their constant liability to be kidnapped as slaved, or put to death by tyrannical kings, and to be decimated by famines, caused by their own carelessness in neglecting to make any sort of provision for an unproductive periods, however brief. But these slight crooks in their lot appear to give them no uneasiness, and to abate nothing from the rollicking, easy manner in which they journey through life, with a resolution to live by the way. In fact, in this weary, working, utilitarian world of ours, it mightily refreshes one to read the accounts, one after another, of jolly, merry scenes with which this book abounds. It is like travelling with an excessively good-humoured, genial, and amusing companion.
Thus the allusions to high cultivation and affluence are naturally not concentrated in any one place, but crop out through the work, mingled with social contrasts which are not without their parallels in the countries we are in use to call civilised. The expedition has penetrated some seven or eight hundred miles through the interior, when, on the edge of the great lake, near the territory of Uganda, the following successive sketches occur:--
"On arrival at Ngambézi, I was immensely struck with the neatness and good arrangement of the place, as well as its excessive beauty and richness, no part of Bengal or Zanzibar could excel it in either respect; and my men, with one voice, exclaimed, 'Ah, what people these Waganda are!' and passed other remarks, which may be abridged as follows:--'They build their huts and keep their gardens just as well as we do at Ungja, with screens and enclosures for privacy, a clearance in front of their establishments, and a baraza or reception-hut facing the buildings. Then, too, what a beautiful prospect it has!--rich marshy plains studded with mounds, on each of which grows the umbrella cactus, or some other evergreen tree; and beyond; again, another hill-spur, such as the one we have crossed over.' One of king Mtésa's uncles, who had not been burned to death by the order of the late king Sunna on his ascension to the throne, was the proprietor of this place, but unfortunately he was from home. However, his substitute gave me his baraza to live in, and brought many presents of goats, fowls, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, sugar-cane, and Indian-corn, and apologized in the end for deficiency in hospitality. I, of course, gave him beads in return.
"Continuing over the same kind of ground in the next succeeding spurs of the streaky red-clay sandstone hills, we put up at the residence of Isamgévi, a Mkung or district officer of Rmanika's. His residence was as well kept as Mtésa's uncle's; but instead of a baraza fronting his house, he had a small enclosure, with three small huts in it, kept apart for devotional purposes, or to propitiate the evil spirits--in short, according to the notions of the place, a church. This officer gave me a cow and some plantains, and I in return gave him a wire and some beads. Many mendicant women, called by some Wichwézi, by others Mabandwa, all wearing the most fantastic dresses of mbg, covered with beads, shells, and sticks, danced before us, singing a comic song, the chorus of which was a long shrill rolling Coo-roo-coo-roo, coo-roo-coo-roo, delivered as they came to a standstill. Their true functions were just as obscure as the religion of the negroes generally; some called them devil-drivers, others evil-eye averters; but, whatever it was for, they imposed a tax on the people, whose minds being governed by a necessity for making some self-sacrifice to propitiate something, they could not tell what, for their welfare in the world, they always gave them a trifle in the same way as the East Indians do their fakirs....
"Mala now came, after receiving repeated and angry messages, and I forced him to make a move. He led me straight up to his home, a very nice place, in which he gave me a very large, clean, and comfortable hut--had no end of plantains brought for me and my men--and said, 'Now you have really entered the kingdom of Uganda, for the future you must buy no more food. At every place that you stop for the day, the officer in charge will bring you plantains, otherwise you men can help themselves in the gardens, for such are the laws of the land when a king's guest travels in it. Any one found selling anything to either yourself or your men would be punished.' Accordingly, I stopped the daily issue of beads; but no sooner had I done so than all my men declared they could not eat plantains. It was all very well, they said, for the Waganda to do so, because they were used to it, but it did not satisfy their hunger.
"Mala, all smirks and smiles, on seeing me order the things out for the march, begged I would have patience, and wait till the messenger returned from the king; it would not take more than ten days at the most. Much annoyed at this nonsense, I ordered my tent to be pitched. I refused all Mala's plantains, and gave my men beads to buy grain again with; and, finding it necessary to get up some indignation, said I would not stand being chained like a dog; if he would not go on ahead, I should go without him. Mala then said he would go to a friend's and come back again. I said, if he did not, I should go off; and so the conversation ended.
"26th.--Drumming, singing, screaming, yelling, and dancing had been going on these last two days and two nights to drive the Phépo or devil out of a village. The whole of the ceremonies were most ludicrous. An old man and woman, smeared with white mud, and holding pots of pombé in their laps, sat in front of a hut, whilst other people kept constantly bringing them baskets full of plantain-squash and more pots of pombé. In the courtyard fronting them were hundreds of men and women dressed in smart mbgs--the males wearing for turbans strings of abrus-seeds wound round their heads, with polished boars tusks stuck in in a jaunty manner. These were the people who, all drunk as fifers, were keeping up such a continual row to frighten the devil away."
If the fruitfulness of these districts, and their advance in a sort of civilisation of their own, might somewhat surprise the travellers, they themselves created astonishment on grounds not quite dissimilar. For, if we have been under the impression that the inhabitants of equatorial Africa are utterly steeped in barbarism, they have retaliated on us with a vengeance. Just look at the excuse solemnly offered by king Kamrasi of Unyoro for having dealt capriciously and inhospitably with two officers of her Majesty's Indian army:
"At the time the white men were living in Uganda, many of the people who had seen them there came and described them as such monsters, they ate up mountains and drank the N'yanza dry; and although they fed on both beef and mutton, they were not satisfied until they got a dish of the 'tender parts' of human beings three times a-day. Now, I was extremely anxious to see men of such wonderful natures. I could have stood their mountain eating and N'yanza-drinking capacities but on no consideration would I submit to sacrifice my subjects to their appetites, and for this reason I first sent to turn them back; but afterwards, on hearing from Dr. K'yengo's men that, although the white men had travelled all through their country, and brought all the pretty and wonderful things of the world there, they had never heard such monstrous imputations cast upon them, I sent a second time to call them on: these are the facts of the case."
"We were anything but welcomed at Kiratosi, the people asking by what bad-luck we had come there to eat up their crops; but in a little while they flocked to our doors and admired our traps, remarking that they believed each iron box contained a couple of white dwarfs, which we carry on our shoulders, sitting straddle-legs, back to back, and they fly off to eat people whenever they get the order."
The advance, indeed, of these nations in the merely material elements of civilisation--in good living and mechanical skill--is a matter of extremely interesting study, although it is of a kind apt to confound broad principles in ethnological philosophy, and to humiliate their authors. The wisest of us are ever too apt to make our own form of civilisation the measure of other people's absolute advance. Feudal traditions, and many other causes, have associated an advanced civilisation with great houses of stone or brick, and taught us to despise the hovel of turf or mud thatched with grass as a type of primitive barbarism; but the genius of the Uganda people having run upon the structure of huts--and possibly the climate and materials at hand exercising an influence in its favour--they appear to have carried this style of architecture to a marvellous height of excellence. They are subtle workers in iron, both for useful and ornamental purposes; and the ivory merchants, who carry seductive goods for the purchase of tusks, know that there is no use of trying to tempt these people with the common Sheffield ware that is omnipotent among really savage tribes--the Waganda can make better than the trader brings to them. They appear, too, to be highly accomplished in all peltry-work, or manufactures from furs and skins. Whoever is of opinion that the highest type of civilisation is to be found in "a strong government," let him go to Uganda,--where, by the way, as one of its fruits, he will find sanitary rules and measures for the removal of impurities such as would make the heart of Mr. Chadwick rejoice within him, and such as he has in vain attempted to secure for the great cities of this empire.
The etiquette of courts and the habits of the higher orders of society in Europe, though often ridiculed by satirists and condemned by cynics, have generally been counted among the fruits--not always the good fruits--of mature civilisation. They are generally spoken of as of historical origin--Roman or early feudal--and thus consecrated by grand associations, while modern polish has smoothed down their asperities, and carefully adapted the whole to the advanced civilisation in which it is our privilege to live, without departing far from the long succession of precedents on which all is founded. This may be true of European courts and good society; yet whoever would see etiquettes at once the most complex and peculiar, as little like the etiquettes of Europe as it is possible to conceive, and at the same time protected by regulations as strict as the traditionary usages of the most ancient European or Asiatic courts, let him go to Uganda, and be presented, if he have influence enough, at the court of the great king Mtésa. Here is an account of the discoverer's first reception, which may be useful for the stranger's guidance on the solemn occasion, and he will excuse the rather unpronounceable technicalities, used for once in a way on account of the precise definitions given of their grotesque import: it will be seen that at the time referred to there is a queen-dowager's court as well as a king's.
"To-day the king sent his pages to announce his intention of holding a levee in my honour. I prepared for my first presentation at court, attired in my best, though in it I cut a poor figure in comparison with the display of the dressy Waganda. They wore neat bark cloaks resembling the best yellow corduroy cloth, crimp and well set, as if stiffened with starch, and over that, as upper-cloaks, a patchwork of small antelope-skins, which I observed were sewn together as well as any English glovers could have pierced them; whilst their head-dresses, generally, were abrus turbans, set off with highly-polished boar-tusks, stick-charms, seeds, beads, or shells; and on their necks, arms, and ankles they were other charms of wood, or small horns stuffed with magic powder, and fastened on by strings generally covered with snake-skin. N'yamgund and Mala demanded, as their official privilege, a first peep; and this being refused, they tried to persuade me that the articles comprising the present required to be covered with chintz, for it was considered indecorous to offer anything to his majesty in a naked state. This little interruption over, the articles enumerated below were conveyed to the place in solemn procession thus:--With N'yamgund, Mala, the pages, and myself on the flanks, the Union-Jack carried by the kirangozi guide led the way, followed by twelve men as a guard of honour, dressed in red flannel cloaks, and carrying their arms sloped, with fixed bayonets; whilst in their rear were the rest of my men, each carrying some article as a present....The palace on entrance quite surprised me by its extraordinary dimensions, and the neatness with which it was kept. The whole brow and sides of the hill on which we stood were covered with gigantic grass huts, thatched as neatly as so many heads dressed by a London barber, and fenced all round with the tall yellow reeds of the common Uganda tiger-grass; whilst within the enclosure, the lines of huts were joined together, or partitioned off into courts, with walls of the same grass. It is here most of Mtésa's three or four hundred women are kept, the rest being quartered chiefly with his mother, known by the title of N'yamasoré, or queen-dowager. They stood in little groups at the doors, looking at us, and evidently passing their own remarks, and enjoying their own jokes, on the triumphal procession. At each gate as we passed, officers on duty opened and shut it for us, jingling the big bells which are hung upon them, as they sometimes are at shop-doors, to prevent silent, stealthy entrance.
"The first court passed, I was even more surprised to find the unusual ceremonies that awaited me. There courtiers of high dignity stepped forward to greet me, dressed in the most scrupulously neat fashions. Men, woman, bulls, dogs, and goats, were led about by strings; cocks and hens were carried in men's arms; and little pages, with rope-turbans, rushed about, conveying messages, as if their lives depended on their swiftness, every one holding his skin-cloak tightly round him lest his naked legs might by accident be shown.
"This, then, was the ante-reception court; and I might have taken possession of the hut, in which musicians were playing and singing on large nine-stringed harps, like the Nubian tambira, accompanied by harmonicons. By the chief officers in waiting, however, who thought fit to treat us like Arab merchants, I was requested to sit on the ground outside in the sun with my servants. Now, I had made up my mind never to sit upon the ground as the natives and Arabs are obliged to do, nor to make my obeisance in any other manner than is customary in England, though the Arabs had told me that from fear they had always complied with the manners of the court. I felt that if I did not stand up for my social position at once, I should be treated with contempt during the remainder of my visit, and thus lose the vantage-ground I had assumed of appearing rather as a prince than a trader, for the purpose of better gaining the confidence of the king. To avert over-hastiness, however--for my servants began to be alarmed as I demurred against doing as I was bid--I allowed five minutes to the court to give me a proper reception, saying, if it were not conceded I would then walk away."
Then follows a long amusing description of the manner in which the English stranger took the established etiquettes by storm, and entered rather as a conqueror than according to the established form after the manner of a slave.
"The mighty king was now reported to be sitting on his throne in the state-hut of the third tier. I advanced, hat in hand, with my guard of honour following, formed in 'open ranks,' who in their turn were followed by the bearers carrying the present. I did not walk straight up to him as if to shake hands, but went outside the ranks of a three-sided square of squatting Wakung, all habited in skins, mostly cow-skins; some few of whom had, in addition, leopard-cat skins girt round the waist, the sigh of royal blood. Here I was desired to halt and sit in the glaring sun; so I donned my hat, mounted my umbrella, a phenomenon which set them all a-wondering and laughing, ordered the guard to close ranks, and sat gazing at the novel spectacle. A more theatrical sight I never saw. The king, a good-looking, well-figured, tall young man of twenty-five, was sitting on a red blanket spread upon a square platform of royal grass, encased in tiger-grass reeds, scrupulously well dressed in a new mbg. The hair of head was cut short, excepting on the top, where it was combed up into a high ridge, running from stem to stern like a cock's comb. On his neck was a very neat ornament--a large ring, of beautifully-worked small beads, forming elegant patterns by their various colours. On one arm was another bead ornament, prettily devised; and on the other a wooden charm, tied by a string covered with snake-skin. On every finger and every toe he had alternate brass and copper rings; and above the angles, half-way up to the calf, a stocking of very pretty beads. Everything was light, neat, and elegant in its way; not a fault could be found with the taste of his 'getting up.' For a handkerchief he held a well-folded piece of bark, and a piece of gold-embroidered silk, which he constantly employed to hide his large mouth when laughing, or to wipe it after a drink of plantain-wine, of which he took constant and copious draughts from neat little gourd-cups, administered by his ladies-in-waiting, who were at once his sisters and wives. A white dog, spear, shield, and woman--the Uganda cognisance--were by his side, as also a knot of staff-officers, with whom he kept up a brisk conversation on one side; and on the other was a band of Wichwézi, or lady-sorcerers, such as I have already described.
"I was now asked to draw nearer within the hollow square of squatters, where leopard-skins were strewed upon the ground, and a large copper kettle-drum, surmounted with brass bells on arching wires, along with two other smaller drums covered with cowrie-shells, and beads of colour worked into patterns, were placed. I now longed to open conversation, but knew not the language, and no one near me dared speak, or even lift his head from fear of being accused of eyeing the women; so the king and myself sat staring at one another for full an hour--I mute, but he pointing and remaking with those around him on the novelty of my guard and general appearance, and even requiring to see my hat lifted, the umbrella shut and opened, and the guards face about and show off their red cloaks--for such wonders had never been seen in Uganda.
"Then, finding the day waning, he sent Mala on an embassy to ask me if I had seen him; and on receiving my reply, 'Yes, for full one hour,' I was glad to find him rise, spear in hand, lead his dog, and walk unceremoniously away through the enclosure into the fourth tier of huts; for this being a pure levée day, no business was transacted. The king's gait in retiring was intended to be very majestic, but did not succeed in conveying to me that impression. It was the traditional walk of his race, founded on the step of the lion; but the outward sweep of the legs, intended to represent the stride of the noble beast, appeared to me only to realise a very ludicrous king of waddle, which made me ask Bombay if anything serious was the matter with the royal person."
For half a year Captain Speke had to hang on at this court, planning and struggling day by day to get permission and assistance to move onward to his destination. That they were weary, weary days, alternating in faint hopes and sickening disappointments, can easily be seen. But the adventurer, like a wise man, put his very annoyances and difficulties to use by noting everything that passed, and leaving the most extraordinary journal of court life every penned. Reading it is like living in a country-house with the people who come across us in it. Colour and annimation are given to it by two conflicting influences--the haughty rigidness of the court etiquette, and the impulsive African natures ever bounding against its restraints. Bana, or the great chief, as the author was called, must, for the dignity of Uganda, be subjected to as many of its servile etiquettes as he would endure. Yet no one--not even the king himself--could restrain his eagerness to behold the white man's accomplishments, and his rabid greed to possess the white man's effects. Hence came a game of most grotesque coquetting--insolent neglect or disdain when the stranger was courteous and genial--infinite finesses to draw him on if he were shy or indignant. The king's policy was to be ever sought, and ever to repel. There was consequently no meanness to which he would not submit to obtain proffers of attention and consideration from his great visitor, and no amount of insolence with which he would hesitate to repel them when they were secured. By degrees, however, the artificial gave way and the natural prevailed; and ere long Bana became an almost essential member of the Uganda court, and the familiar, and we may say private friend of both the young king and his queenly mother. It is indeed quite clear to the reader, whether it was so to Bana himself or not, that they would never have let him away had they not firmly believed that the charming recollection of their social circle would be sure to attract him speedily back again. So now let us look in upon the queen-mother "at home:"--
"3d.--Our cross purposes seemed to increase; for, while I could not get a satisfactory interview, the king sent for N'yamgund to ascertain why I never went to see him. I had given him good guns and many pretty things which he did not know the use of, and yet I would not visit him to explain their several uses. N'yamgund told him I lived too far off, and wanted a palace. After this I walked off to see N'yamosoré, taking my blankets, a pillow, and some cooking-pots to make a day of it, and try to win the affections of the queen with sixteen cubits bindéra, three pints péké, and three pints mtendé beads, which, as Waganda are all fond of figurative language, I called a trifle for her servants.
"I was shown in at once, and found her majesty sitting on an Indian carpet, dressed in a red linen wrapper with a gold border, and a box, in shape of a lady's work-box, prettily coloured in divers patterns with minute beads, by her side. Her councillors were in attendance; and in the yard a band of music, with many minor Wakung squatting in a semicircle, completed her levee. Mala on my behalf opened conversation, in allusion to her yesterday's question, by saying I had applied to Mtésa for a palace, that I might be near enough both their majesties to pay them constant visits. She replied, in a good hearty manner, that indeed was a very proper request, which showed my good sense, and ought to have been complied with at once; but Mtésa was only a Kijana or stripling, and as she influenced all the government of the country, she would have it carried into effect. Compliments were now passed, my presents given and approved of; and the queen, thinking I must be hungry--for she wanted to eat herself--requested me to refresh myself in another hut. I complied, spread my bedding, and ordered in my breakfast; but as the hut was full of men, I suspended a Scotch plaid, and quite eclipsed her mbg curtain.
"Reports of this magnificence at once flew to the queen, who sent to know how many more blankets I had in my possession, and whether, if she asked for one, she would get it. She also desired to see my spoons, fork, and pipe--an English meerschaum, mounted with silver; so, after breakfast, I returned to see her, showed her the spoons and forks, and smoked my pipe, but told her I had no blankets left but what formed my bed. She appeared very happy and very well, did not say another word about the blankets, but ordered a pipe for herself, and sat chatting, laughing, and smoking in concert with me....
"The queen and her ministers then plunged into pombé and became uproarious, laughing with all their might and main. Small bugu cups were not enough to keep up the excitement of the time, so a large wooden trough was placed before the queen and filled with liquor. If any was spilt, the Wakung instantly fought over it, dabbing their noses on the ground, or grabbing it with their hands, that not one atom of the queen's favour might be lost; for everything must be adored that comes from royalty, whether by design or accident. The queen put her head to the trough and drank like a pig from it, and was followed by her ministers. The band, by order, then struck up a tune called the Milélé, playing on a dozen reeds, ornamented with beads and cowtips, and five drums, of various tones and sizes, keeping time. The musicians dancing with zest, were led by four band-masters, also dancing, but with their backs turned to the company to show off their long, shaggy, goat-skin jackets, sometimes upright, at other times bending and on their heels, like the hornpipe dancers of Western countries.
"It was a merry scene, but soon became tiresome; when Bombay, by way of flattery, and wishing to see what the queen's wardrobe embraced, told her, Any woman, however ugly, would assume a goodly appearance if prettily dressed; upon which her gracious majesty immediately rose, retired to her toilet-hut, and soon returned attired in a common check cloth, an abrus tiara, a bead necklace, and with a folding looking-glass, when she sat, as before, and was handed a blown-glass cup of pombé, with a cork floating on the liquor, and a napkin mbg covering the top, by a naked virgin. For her kind condescension in assuming plain raiment, everybody, of course, n'yanzigged. next she ordered her slave-girls to bring a large number of sambo (anklets), and begged me to select the best, for she liked me much. In vain I tried to refuse them: she had given more than enough for a keepsake before, and I was not hungry for property; still I had to choose some, or I would give offence. She then gave me a basket of tobacco, and a nest of hen eggs for her 'son's' breakfast. When this was over, the Mkondéri, another dancing-dune, with instruments something like clarionets, was ordered; but it had scarcely been struck up, before a drenching rain, with strong wind, set in and spoilt the music, though not the playing--for none dared stop without an order; and the queen, instead of taking pity, laughed most boisterously over the exercise of her savage power as the unfortunate musicians were nearly beaten down by the violence of the weather.
"When the rain ceased, her majesty retired a second time to her toilet-hut, and changed her dress for a puce-coloured wrapper, when I, ashamed of having robbed her of so many sambo, asked her if she would allow me to present her with a little English wool to hand up instead of her mbg curtain on cold days like this. Of course she could not decline, and a large double scarlet blanket was placed before her. 'Oh, wonder of wonders!' exclaimed all the spectators, holding their mouths in both hands at a time--such a pattern had never been seen here before. It stretched across the hut, was higher than the men could reach--indeed it was a perfect marvel; and the man must be a good one who brought such a treasure as this to Udd....The queen began to sing, and the councillors to join in chorus; then all sang and all drank, and drank and sang, till, in their heated excitement, they turned the palace into a pandemonium; still there was not noise enough, so the band and drums were called again, and tommfool--for Uganda, like the old European monarchies, always keeps a jester--was made to sing in the gruff, hoarse, unnatural voice which he ever affects to maintain his character, and furnished with pombé when his throat was dry.
"Now all of a sudden, as if a devil had taken possession of the company, the prime minister with all the courtiers jumped upon their legs, seized their sticks--for nobody can carry a spear when visiting--swore the queen had lost her heart to me, and, running into the yard, returned, charging and jabbering at the queen; retreated and returned again, as if they were going to put an end to her for the guilt of loving me, but really to show their devotion and true love to her. The queen professed to take this ceremony with calm indifference, but her face showed that she enjoyed it. Ii was now getting very tired of sitting on my low stool, and begged for leave to depart, but N'yamasoré would not hear of it; she loved me a great deal too much to let me go away at this time of day, and forthwith ordered in more pombé. The same roystering scene was repeated; cups were too small, so the trough was employed; and the queen graced it by drinking, pig-fashion, first, and then handing it round to the company."
Let us now join the king in a couple of days' shooting, a pursuit in which he formed a wholesome acquaintance with the formidable weapons at the command of his white visitors:
"Immediately after breakfast the king sent his pages in a great hurry to say he was waiting on the hill for me, and begged I would bring all my guns immediately. I prepared, thinking, naturally enough, that some buffaloes had been marked down; for the boys, as usual, were perfectly ignorant of his designs. To my surprise, however, when I mounted the hill half-way to the palace, I found the king standing, dressed in a rich filigreed waistcoat, trimmed with gold embroidery, tweedling the loading-rod in his finger, and an alfia cap on his head, whilst his pages held his chair and guns, and a number of officers with dogs and goats for offerings, squatting before him.
"When I arrived, hat in hand, he smiled, examined my firearms, and proceeded for sport, leading the way to a high tree, on which some adjutant birds were nesting, and numerous vultures resting. This was the sport; Bana must shoot a nundo (adjutant) for the king's gratification. I begged him to take a shot himself, as I really could not demean myself by firing at birds sitting on a tree; but it was all of no use--no one could shoot as I could, and they must be shot. I proposed frightening them out with stones, but no stone could reach so high; so, to cut the matter short, I killed an adjutant on the nest, and, as the vultures flew away, brought one down on the wing, which fell in the garden enclosure.
"The Waganda were for a minute all spell-bound with astonishment, when the king jumped frantically in the air, clapping his hands above his head, and singing out, 'Woh, woh, woh! what wonders! Oh, Bana, Bana! what miracles he performs!'--and all the Wakung followed in chorus. 'Now load, Bana--load, and let us see you do it!' cried the excited king; but before I was half loaded, he said, 'Come along, come along, and let us see the bird.' Then directing the officers which way to go--for, by the etiquette of the court of Uganda, every one must precede the king--he sent them through a court where his women, afraid of the gun, had been concealed. Here the rush onward was stopped by newly-made fences, but the king roared to the officers to knock them down. This was no sooner said than done, by the attendants in a body shoving on and trampling them under, as an elephant would crush small trees to keep his course. So pushing, floundering through plantain and shrub, pell-mell one upon the other, that the king's pace might not be checked, or any one come in for a royal kick or a blow, they came upon the prostrate bird. 'Woh, woh, woh!' cried the king again, 'there he is, sure enough; come here, women--come and look what wonders!' And all the women, in the highest excitement, 'woh-wohed' as loud as any of the men. But that was not enough. 'Come along, Bana,' said the king, 'we must have some more sport;' and, saying this, he directed the way towards the queen's palace, the attendants leading, followed by the pages, then the king, next myself--for I never would walk before him--and finally the women, some forty or fifty, who constantly attended him.
"To make the most of the king's good-humour, while I wanted to screen myself from the blazing sun, I asked him if he would like to enjoy the pleasures of an umbrella; and before he had time to answer, held mine over him as we walked side by side. The Wakung were astonished, and the women prattled in great delight; whilst the king, hardly able to control himself, sidled and spoke to his flatterers as if he were doubly created monarch of all he surveyed. He then, growing more familiar, said, 'Now, Bana, do tell me--did you not shoot that bird with something more than common ammunition? I am sure you did, now; there was magic in it.' And all I said to the contrary would not convince him. 'But we will see again.' 'At buffaloes?' I said. 'No, the buffaloes are too far off now; we will wait to go after them until I have given you a hut close by.' Presently, as some herons were flying overhead, he said, 'Now, shoot, shoot!' and I brought a couple down right and left. He stared, and everybody stared, beliving me to be a magician, when the king said he would like to have pictures of the birds drawn and hung up in the palace; 'but let us go and shoot some more, for it is truly wonderful.' Similar results followed, for the herons were continually whirling round, as they had their nests upon a neighbouring tree; and then the king ordered his pages to carry all the birds, save the vulture--which, for some reason, they did not touch--and show them to the queen.
"He then gave the order to move on, and we all repaired to the palace. arrived at the usual throne-room, he took his seat, dismissed the party of wives who had been following him, as well as the Wakung, received pombé from his female evil-eye averters, and ordered me, with my men, to sit in the sun facing him, till I complained of the heat, and was allowed to sit by his side. Kites, crows, and sparrows were flying about in all directions, and as they came within shot, nothing would satisfy the excited boy-king but I must shoot them, and his pages take them to the queen, till my ammunition was totally expended. He then wanted me to send for more shot; and as I told him he must wait for more until my brother came, he contented himself with taking two or three sample grains and ordering his iron-smiths to make some like them.
"Cows were now driven in for me to kill two with one bullet; but as the off one jumped away when the gun fired, the bullet passed through the near one, then through all the courts and fences, and away no one knew where. The king was delighted, and said he must keep the rifle to look at for the night....
"I had scarcely swallowed my breakfast before I received a summons from the king to meet him out shooting, with all the Wangana 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 Mala's having excited his curiosity, he said, 'Where does Bana live? lead away.' Bounding and scrambling, the Wakung, 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 cow-skin, and the women at first were ordered to squat outside. Everything that stuck the eye was much admired and begged for, though nothing so much as my wide-awake 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 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, Mzung, Mzung!' he repeated, leaping and clapping his hands, as he ran full speed to the prostrate bird, whilst the drums beat, and the Wakung 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 Wakung, 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.'"
Now for a water-party or regatta on the famous lake Victoria N'yanza, destined, without doubt, ere long to exercise on its bosom a different sort of craft from the little fleet of the king of Uganda. It was on this occasion that our explorer met the high-priest of the Nile already mentioned:--
"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 Wakung 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 arrival at the mooring station, not one boat was to 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 Nsunn (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-strewn 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 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 Mtésa's four-mile-an-hour strides, was very amusing. The whole of the scenery--hill, dale, and lake--was extremely beautiful. The Wangana 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. Pombé 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--Wakung 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 back-ground of that lovely place, which are here represented by the most beautiful little hills. A band of fifteen drums of all sizes, called the Mazagzo, 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 from 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 wakung and Wangana in others, whilst I sat in the same boat with him at his feet, three women holding bgs of pombé behind. The king's Kisahili 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 ear--for they, poor things, got nothing--but the king, myself, the pages, and the principal Wakung. 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 directed 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 duputy....The first operation on shore was picnicking, when many large mbgs of pombé where brought for the king; next, the whole party took a walk, winding 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 Kamravonia and Mzung (myself), for help and protection; whilst Lbga, 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, Mzung, 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."
In this last extract came forth some portions of the dark side of Central African life. We are, indeed, afforded many opportunities of seeing the blackness of the blots that may pollute a civilisation where there is no Christianity. This jolly, thoughtless people seem to have among them an abundant supply of all the vices prevalent in Europe--with a good many more. among those which involve the infliction of injury to our neighbour, recklessness of life and cruelty rise conspicuous. the palaces are sickening shambles, where blood seems ever to flow. The young king, Mtésa, seems not to have been in other respects a bad fellow; but he was for ever killing. If there be any soundness in the theory that the slaughters in Dahomey are in some measure the accomplishment of religious promptings, and that a king who exceeds his predecessors in killing only thus shows himself to be a man of very serious impressions, which he exhibits in active piety,--no such vindication can be pleaded for the king of Uganda. Nor does his appear to be the nature that would come out in bloody ruffianism or vindictive malignity among ourselves. The spirit of the sportsman seems to have had more to do with his slaughters--they appear to have been good fun to him, like the feat of the pirate who, in sheer exhilaration of animal spirits over the after-dinner grog, fired his pistols under the table among the legs of his fellow-roysters--an incident deemed so comical by a companion who was not among the sufferers, that he could never allude to it without tears of laughter. Take the following passages, in which it seems impossible, from the simple clearness of their statements, that there is any exaggeration. One day at court is thus commemorated:--
"I was called in, and found the court sitting much as it was on the first day's interview, only that the number of squatting Wakung was much diminished; and the king, instead of wearing his ten brass and copper rings, had my gold one on this third finger. This day, however, was cut out for business, as, in addition to the assemblage of officers, there were women, cows, goats, fowls, confiscations, baskets of fish, baskets of small antelopes, porcupines, and curious rats caught by his gamekeepers, bundles of mbg, &c. &c., made by his linendrapers, coloured earths and sticks by his magician, all ready for presentation; but, as rain fell, the court broke up, and I had nothing for it but to walk about under my umbrella, indulging in angry reflections against the haughty king for not inviting me into his hut.
"When the rain had ceased, and we were again called in, he was found sitting in state as before, but this time with the head of a black bull placed before him, one horn of which, knocked off, was placed alongside, whilst four living cows walked about the court.
"I was now requested to shoot the four cows as quickly as possible; but having no bullets for my gun, I borrowed the revolving pistol I had given him, and shot all four in a second of time; but as the last one, only wounded, turned sharply upon me, I gave him the fifth and settled him Great applause followed this wonderful feat, and the cows were given to my men. The king now loaded one of the carbines I had given him with his own hands, and, giving it full-cock to a page, told him to go out and shoot a man in the outer court; which was no sooner accomplished than the little urchin returned to announce his success, with a look of glee such as one would see in the face of a boy who had robbed a bird's nest, caught a trout, or done any other boyish trick. The king said to him, 'And did you do it well?' 'Oyes, capitally.' He spoke the truth, no doubt, for he dared not have trifled with the king; but the affair created hardly any interest. I never heard, and there appeared no curiosity to know, what individual human being the urchin had deprived of life."
And here is another incident totally different in its details, yet presenting the same utter absence of thoughtfulness about life and death, and the same motley mixture of savage cruelty with careless glee:--
"Goats and other peace-offerings were 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 decrepit 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 milélé and drums.
"The king, in total unconcern about the tragedy he had thus enacted, immediately on their departure said "Now, the, 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 Wakung, and then laughed at his own trick. In the meanwhile cows were driven in, which the king ordered his Wakung to shoot with carbines; and as they missed them, he showed them the way to shoot with the Whitworth, never missing."
The blood-letting of his subjects seems to have been a resource of this king whenever anything excited his own royal nerves, whether joyfully or sorrowfully. Captain Speke was told that on receiving the ravishing intelligence of the approach of the white men, he immediately gave outlet to his excitement by putting to death "fifty big men and four hundred small ones." He was generous in his way, and liked those who could enjoy it to participate with him in this sort of sport. Though Captain Speke had a disagreeable suspicion that the cruelties of the palace were a little enhanced to impress him with the king's power, yet Mtésa had the sense not to bring his bloody fun too offensively under the eyes of his guest. On Bana's dusky lieutenant Bombay, however, having been sent on a message to the court, he reported thus:--
"Just as at the last interview, the king had four women, lately seized and condemned to execution, squatting in his court. He wished to send them to Bana, and when Bombay demurred, saying he had no authority to take women in that way, the king gave him one, and asked him if he would like to see some sport, as he would have the remaining women cut to pieces before him. Bombay, by his own account, behaved with great propriety, saying Bana never wished to see sport of that cruel kind, and it would ill become him to see sights which his master had not."
In another incident reported to but not seen by the author, the combination of effeminate etiquette with cruelty makes the blood creep. No knife, sword, or other sharp-edged or pointed piece of metal can be brought within the precincts of the court--a wise precaution probably. When the king, therefore, desired to see one of his victims cut to pieces without being at the trouble of going to the proper shambles, an ingenious operator managed to do it with blades of sharp-edged papyrus grass.
By no means the least impressive feature in this volume is the author himself, who, without a particle of egotism, comes before us with wonderful clearness. He does so, because, not thinking of himself, he is entirely absorbed in his great project. He thus furnished an addition to the known instances of men, who, in the single-hearted devotion to their special objects, let us into their personality with a clearness which the egotist, ever thinking of himself and the effect he is producing, totally misses. The entire absorbing devotion to the one object was, as often happens, the potential cause of its accomplishment. A man resolving merely to do something great and make himself famous, would have got, by playing a deep and complicated game, into infinite meshes of difficulty and danger, which the single-hearted explorer avoided. This thorough unconsciousness of all dangers or hardships, except as impediments to his progress to the great fountainhead seems to have been his real protection through the hundreds of days, on every one of which no respectable insurance office would have taken his life at any reasonable premium. As the fiercest wild beasts are said to be appalled by the eye that shows no impression either of risk or wrath, so the sanguinary potentates among whom our explorer went, demanding nothing but a clear path to the head of the Nile, but determined to get that, seemed to have restrained in their amazement the natural impulses of their ferocity.
The inner impulse which bore him on to the one great object had excellent auxiliaries, too, in may constitutional specialties,--among which were, a continued fund of good spirits and cheerfulness under conditions which would have sent despair to the hearts of other men; habits of punctual activity, which secured prompt attention to all the daily harassing details of the expedition; and a constitution not only strong, but peculiarly adapted to circumstances in which other strong constitutions broke down.
Of the same singleness of purpose and unconsciousness of all things not connected with the great object, there are other less momentous symptoms. While in everything bearing on the mere accomplishment of his journey to the point selected one sees the instinctive genius of the discoverer, there is in minor adjuncts a deal of simplicity. It is clear that, in all his transactions of a business character, he was cheated enormously at all hands. He was without the instinct of the wholesale merchant to take with him the best commodities to serve as money in the districts he was to pass through--he was without the instincts of the retail dealer, or the employer of labour, to get proper value for the goods he had with him. But the elements which this unworldly man adds to his other and more important difficulties, only make one love him the more for the patient serenity and courage with which he endures all things, from the risk of violent death or the absolute depression of heavy sickness, down to provoking detentions and paltry pillagings.
That instead of making up a book after fully digesting his experiences he has given up his daily journal, is a great gain to the world. We have here everything significant or important that was seen by him, or that happened to him, set down with a contemporary precision more like Boswell's Johnson than the manner of any other book we can recall--though the matters dealt with by the two are so different that one does feel something ludicrous in the comparison. Ans as for the days when there was no events--the many many days of uniform weariness--we are told that they passed, and are not made partakers in their dreary monotony, for the tired traveller bears his burden alone. At one juncture, indeed, the expedition was seriously imperilled. The caravan had, indeed, to turn back and be reorganised. Of the sea of troubles in which he was then struggling the explorer affords us the following Robinson-Crusoe-like picture:
"On arrival at Mihambo next day, all the porters brought their pay to me, and said they would not go, for nothing would induce them to advance a step farther. I said nothing; but with 'my heart in my shoes,' I gave what I thought their due for coming so far, and motioned them to be off; then calling on the Pig for his decision, I tried to argue again, though I saw it was no use, for there wad not one of my own men who wished to go on. They were unanimous in saying Usi was a 'fire,' and I had no right to sacrifice them. The Pig then finally refused, saying three loads even would not tempt him, for all were opposed to it. Of what value, he observed, would the beads be to him if his life was lost? This was crushing; the whole camp was unanimous in opposing me. I then made Baraka place all of my kit in the middle of the boma, which was a very strong one, keeping out only such beads as I wished him to use for the men's rations daily, and ordered him to select a few men who would return with me to Kazé; when I said, if I could not get all the men I wanted, I would try and induce some one who would not fear, to go on to Usi; failing which, I would even walk back to Zanzibar for men, as nothing in the world would ever induce me to give up the journey.
"This appeal did not move him; but without a reply, he sullenly commenced collecting some men to accompany me back to Kazé. At first no one would go; then hey mutinied for more beads, announcing all sorts of grievances, which they said they were always talking over to themselves, though I did not hear them. The greatest, however, that they could get up was, that I always paid the Wanyamézi 'temporaries' more than they got, though 'permanents.' 'They were the flesh, and I was the knife;' I cut and did with them just as I liked, and they could not stand it any longer. However, they had to stand it, and next day, when I had brought them to reason, I gave over the charge of my tent and property to Baraka, and commenced the return with a bad hitching cough, caused by those cold easterly winds that blow over the plateau during the six dry months of the year, and which are, I suppose, the Harmattan peculiar to Africa.
"Next day I rejoined Grant once more, and found he had collected a few Sorombomen, hoping to follow after me. I then told him all my mishaps in Sorombo, as well as of the 'blue-devil' fights that had seized all my men. I felt greatly alarmed about the prospects of the expedition, scarcely knowing what I should do. I resolved at last, if everything else failed, to make up a raft at the southern end of the N'yanza, and try to go up to the Nile in that way. My cough daily grew worse. I could not lie or sleep on either side. Still my mind was so excited and anxious that, after remaining one day here to enjoy Grant's society, I pushed ahead again, taking Bombay with me, and had breakfast at Mchiméka's.....Baraka told me his heart shrank to the dimensions of a very small berry when he saw whom I had brought with me yesterday--meaning Bombay, and the same porters whom he had prevented going on with me before. I said, 'Pooh, nonsense; have done with such excuses, and let us get away out of this as fast as we can. Now, like a good man, just use your influence with the chief of the village, and try and get from him five or six men to complete the number we want, and then we will work round the east of Sorombo up to Usi, for Sunwarora has invited us to him.' This, however, was not so easy; for Lmérési, having heard of my arrival, sent his Wanyapara, or grey-beards, to beg I would visit him. He had never seen a white man in all his life, neither had his father, nor any of his forefathers, although he had often been down the coast; I must come and see him, as I had seen his mtoto Rhé. He did not want property; it was only the pleasure of my company that he wanted, to enable him to tell all his friends what a great man had lived in his house.
"This was terrible; I saw at once all my difficulties in Sorombo would have to be gone through again if I went there, and groaned when I thought what a trick the Pig had played me when I first of all came to this place; for if I had gone on then, as I wished, I should have slipped past Lmérési without his knowing it.
"I had to get up a storm at the grey-beards, and said I could not stand going out of my road to see any one now, for I had already lost so much time by Makaka's trickery in Sorombo. Bi then, quaking with fright at my obstinacy, said, 'You must--indeed you must--give in and do with these savage chiefs as the Arabs when they travel, for I will not be a party to riding rough-shod over them.' Still I stuck out, and the grey-beards departed to tell their chief of it. Next morning he sent them back again to say he would not be cheated out of his rights as the chief of the district. Still I would not give in, and the whole day kept 'jawing' without effect, for I could get no man to go with me until the chief gave his sanction. I then tried to send Bombay off with Bi, Nasib, and their guide, by night; but though Bombay was willing, the other two hung back on the old plea. In this state of perplexity, Bi begged I would allow him to go over to Lmérési and see what he could do with a present. Bi really now was my only stand-by, so I sent him off, and next had the mortification to find that he had been humbugged by honeyed words, as Baraka had been with Makaka, into believing that Lmérési was a good man, who really had no other desire at heart than the love of seeing me. His boma, he said, did not lie much out of my line, and he did not wish a stitch of my cloth. So far from detaining me, he would give me as many men as I wanted; and, as an earnest of his good intentions, he sent his copper hatchet, the badge of office as chief of the district, as a guarantee for me.
"To wait here any longer after this, I knew, would be a mere waste of time, so I ordered my men to pack up that moment, and we all marched over at once to Lmérési, when we put up in his boma. Lmérési was not in then, but, on his arrival at night, he beat all his drums to celebrate the event, and fired a musket, in reply to which I fired three shots."
He was then assailed by a very critical illness, the torments of which were thus diversified by Lmérési:--
"He, with the most benign countenance, came in to see me, the very first thing in the morning, as he said, to inquire after my health; when, to please him as much as I could, I had a guard of honour drawn up at the tent door to fire a salute as he entered; then giving him my iron camp-chair to sit upon, which tickled him much--for he was very corpulent, and he thought its legs would break down with his weight--we had a long talk, though it was as much as I could do to remember anything, my brain was so excited and weak. Kind as he looked and spoke, he forgot all his promises about coveting my property, and scarcely got over the first salutation before he began begging for many things that he saw, and more especially for a déolé, in order that he might wear it on all great occasions, to show his contemporaries what a magnanimous man his white visitor was. I soon lost my temper whilst striving to settle the hongo. Lmérési would have a déolé, and I would not admit that I had one.
"23d to 31st.--Next morning I was too weak to speak moderately, and roared more like a madman than a rational being, as, breaking his faith, he persisted in bullying me. The day after, I took pills and blistered my chest all over; still Lmérési would not let me alone, nor come to any kind of terms until the 25th, when he said he would take a certain number of pretty common cloths for his children if I would throw in a red blanket for himself. I jumped at this concession with the greatest eagerness, paid down my cloths on the spot; and, thinking I was free at last, ordered a hammock to be slung on a pole, that I might leave the next day. Next morning, however, on seeing me actually preparing to start, Lmérési found he could not let me go until I increased the tax by three more cloths, as some of his family complained that they had got nothing. After some badgering, I paid what he asked for, and ordered the men to carry me out of the palace before anything else was done, for I would not sleep another night where I was. Lmérési then stood in y way, ans said he would never allow a man of his country to give me any assistance until I was well, for he could not bear the idea of hearing it said that, after taking so many cloths from me, he had allowed me to die in the jungles--and dissuaded my men from obeying my orders.
"In vain I appealed to his mercy, declaring that the only chance left me of saving my life would be from the change of air in the hammock as I marched along. He would not listen, professing humanity, whilst he meant plunder; and I now found he was determined not to beat the drum until I had paid him some more, which he was to think over and settle next day. When the next day came, he would not come near me, as he said I must possess a déolé, otherwise I would not venture on to Karagé; for nobody ever yet 'saw' Rmanika without one. This suspension of business was worse than the rows; I felt very miserable, and became worse. At last, on my offering him anything that he might consider an equivalent for the déolé if he would but beat the drums of satisfaction, he said I consider myself his prisoner instead of his guest if I persisted in my obstinacy in not giving him Rmanika's déolé; and then again peremptorily ordered all of his subjects not to assist me in moving a load. After this, veering round for a moment on the generous tack, he offered me a cow, which I declined.
"1st to 4th.--Still I rejected the offered cow, until the 2d, when, finding him as dogged as ever, at the advice of my men I accepted it, hoping thus to please him; but it was no use, for he now said he must have two déolés, or he would never allow me to leave his palace. Every day matters got worse and worse. Mfmbi, the small chief of Sorombo, came over, in an Oily-Gammon kind of manner, to say Makaka had sent him over to present his compliments to me, and express his sorrow on hearing that I had fallen sick here. He further informed me that the road was closed between this and Usi, for he had just been fighting there, and had killed the chief Gomba, burnt down all his villages, and dispersed all the men in the jungle, where they now resided, plundering every man who passed that way. this gratuitous, wicked, humbugging terrifier helped to cause another defeat. It was all nonsense, I knew, but both Bi and Nasib, taking fright, begged for their discharges. In fearful alarm and anxiety, I then begged them to have patience and see the hongo settled first, for there was no necessity, at any rate, for immediate hurry; I wished them to go on ahead with Bombay, as in four days they could reach Swarora's. But they said they could not hear of it--they would not go a step beyond this. All the chiefs on ahead would do the same as Lmérési; the whole country was roused. I had not even half enough cloths to satisfy the Wasi; and my faithful followers would never consent to be witness to my being 'torn to pieces.'
"5th and 6th.--The whole day and half of the next went in discussions. At last, able for the first time to sit up a little, I succeeded in prevailing on Bi to promise he would go to Usi as soon as the hongo was settled, provided, as he said, I took on myself all responsibilities of the result. This cheered me so greatly, I had my chair placed under a tree and smoked my first pipe. On seeing this, all my men struck up a dance, to the sound of the drums, which they carried on throughout the whole night, never ceasing until the evening of the next day. These protracted caperings were to be considered as their congratulation for my improvement in health; for, until I got into my chair, they always thought I was going to die. They then told me, with great mirth and good mimicry, of many absurd scenes which, owing to the inflamed state of my brain, had taken place during my interviews with Lmérési. Bombay at this time very foolishly told Lmérési, if he 'really wanted a déolé,' he must send to Grant for one. This set the chief raving. He knew there was one in my box, he said, and unless I gave it, the one with Grant must be brought; for under no circumstances would he allow of my proceeding northwards until that was given him. Bi and Nasib then gave me the slip, and slept that night in a neighbouring boma without my knowledge.
7th to 8th.--As things had now gone so far, I gave Lmérési the déolé I had stored away for Rmanika, telling him, at the same time as he took it, that he was robbing Rmanika, and not myself; but I hoped, now I had given it, he would beat the drums. The scoundrel only laughed as he wrapped my beautiful silk over his great broad shoulders, and said, 'Yes, this will complete our present of friendship; now then for the hongo--I must have exactly double of all you have given.' this Sorombo trick I attributed to the instigation of Makaka, for these savages never fail to take their revenge when they can. I had doubled back from his country, and now he was cutting me off in front. I expected as much when the oily blackguard Mfmbi came over from his chief to ask after my health; so, judging from my experience with Makaka, I told Lmérési at once to tell me what he considered his due, for this fearful haggling was killing me by inches. I had no more déolés, but would make that up in brass wire. He then fixed the hongo at fifteen masango, or brass-wire bracelets, sixteen cloths of sorts, and a hundred necklaces of samisami, or red coral beads, which was to pay for Grant as well as myself. I paid it down on the spot; the brums beat the 'satisfaction,' and I ordered the march with the greatest relief of mind possible.
"But Bi and Nasib were not to be found; they had bolted. The shock nearly killed me. I had walked all the way to Kazé and back again for these men, to show mine a good example--had given them pay and treble rations, the same as Bombay and Baraka--and yet they chose to desert. I knew not what to do, for it appeared to me that, do what I would, we would never succeed; and in my weakness of body and mind I actually cried like a child over the whole affair. I would rather have died than have failed in y journey, and yet failure seemed at this juncture inevitable."
After this it is refreshing to join the traveller in his visit to the good king Rmanika.
"The whole scenery was most beautiful. Green and fresh, the slopes of the hill were covered with grass, with small clumps of soft cloudy-looking acacias growing at a few feet only above the water, and above them, facing over the hills, fine detached trees, and here and there the gigantic medicinal aloe. Arrived near the end of the Moga-Namirinzi hill in the second lake, the paddlers splashed into shore, where a large concourse of people, headed by Nnanaji, were drawn up to receive me. I landed with all the dignity of a prince, when the royal band struck up a march, and we all moved on to Rmanika's frontier palace, talking away in a very complimentary manner, not unlike the very polite and flowery fashion of educated Orientals.
"Rmanika we found sitting dressed in a wrapper made of a nzoé antelope's skin, smiling blandly as we approached him. In the warmest manner possible he pressed me to sit by his side, asked how I had enjoyed myself, what I thought of his country, if I did not feel hungry; when a picnic dinner was spread, and we all set to a cooked plantains and pombé, ending with a pipe of his best tobacco. Bit by bit Rmanika became more interested in geography, and seemed highly abmitious of gaining a world-wide reputation through the medium of my pen. At his invitation we now crossed over the spur to the Ingézi Kagéra side, when, to surprise me, the canoes I had come up the lake in appeared before us. They had gone out of the lake at its northern end, paddled into and then up the Kagéra to where we stood, showing, by actual navigation, the connection of these highland lakes with the rivers which drain the various spurs of the Mountains of the Moon. The Kagéra was deep and dark, of itself a very fine stream, and, considering it was only one--and that, too, a minor one--of the various affluents which drain the mountain valleys into the Victoria N'yanza through the medium of the Kitanglé river, I saw at once there must be water sufficient to make the Kitanglé a very powerful tributary to the lake....
"On the 9th I went out shooting, as Rmanika, with his usual politeness, on hearing my desire to kill some rhinoceros, ordered his sons to conduct the field for me. Off we started by sunrise to the bottom of the hills overlooking the head of the Little Windermere lake. On arrival at the scene of action--a thicket of acacia shrubs--all the men in the neighbourhood were assembled to beat. Taking post myself, by direction, in the most likely place to catch a sight of the animals, the day's work began by the beaters driving the covers in my direction. In a very short time, a fine male was discovered making towards me, but not exactly knowing where he should bolt to. While he was in this perplexity, I stole along between the bushes, and caught sight of him standing as if anchored by the side of a tree, and gave him a broadsider with Blissett, which, too much for his constitution to stand, sent him off trotting, till exhausted by bleeding he lay down to die, and allowed me to give him a settler.
"In a minute or two afterwards, the good young princes, attracted by the sound of the gun, came to see what was done. Their surprise knew no bounds; they could scarcely believe what they saw; and then, on recovering, with the spirit of true gentlemen, they seized both my hands, congratulating me on the magnitude of my success, and pointed out, as an example of it, a bystander who showed fearful scars, both on his abdomen and at the blade of his shoulder, who, they declared, had been run through by one of these animals. It was, therefore, wonderful to them, they observed, with what calmness I went up to such formidable beasts.
"Just at this time a distant cry was heard that another rhinoceros was concealed in a thicket, and off we set to pursue her. Arriving at the place mentioned, I settled at once I would enter with only two spare men carrying guns, for the acacia thorns were so thick that the only tracks into the thicket were runs made by these animals. Leading myself, bending down to steal in, I tracked up a run till half-way through cover, when suddenly before me, like a pig from a hole, a large female, with her young one behind her, came straight down whoof-whoofing upon me. In this awkward fix I forced myself to one side, though pricked all over with thorns in doing so, and gave her one in the head which knocked her out of my path, and induced her for safety to make for the open, where I followed her down and gave her another. She then took to the hills and crossed over a spur, when, following after her, in another dense thicket, near the head of a glen, I came upon three, who no sooner sighted me, than all in line they charged down my way. Fortunately at the time my gun-bearers were with me; so, jumping to one side, I struck them all three in turn. One of them dropped dead a little way on, but the others only pulled up when they arrived at the bottom. To please myself now I had done quite enough; but as the princes would have it, I went on with the chase. As one of the two, I could see, had one of his fore-legs broken, I went at the sounder one, and gave him another shot, which simply induced him to walk over the lower end of the hill. Then turning to the last one, which could not escape, I asked the Wanyambo to polish him off with their spears and arrows, that I might see their mode of sport. As we moved up to the animal, he kept charging with such impetuous fury, they could not go into him; so I gave him a second ball, which brought him to anchor. In this helpless state the men set at him in earnest, and a more barbarous finale I never did witness. Every man sent his spear, assagé, or arrow, into his sides, until, completely exhausted, he sank like a porcupine covered with quills. The day's sport was now ended, so I went home to breakfast, leaving instructions that the heads should be cut off and sent to the king as a trophy of what the white man could do."