CHAPTER XV. KAMRASI BEGS FOR THE BRITISH FLAG.
Kamrasi, thus freed from his invaders, was almost stupefied with astonishment. He immediately paid me a visit, and as he entered the courtyard he stopped to look at the flag that was gaily fluttering above him, as though it were a talisman. He inquired "why the Turks were awed by an apparent trifle." I explained that the flag was well known, and might be seen in every part of the world; wherever it was hoisted it was respected, as he had just witnessed, even at so great a distance from home and unsupported, as in Unyoro.
Seizing the opportunity, he demanded it, saying, "What shall I do when you leave my country and take that with you? These Turks will surely return. Give me the flag, and they will be afraid to attack me!" I was obliged to explain to him that "the respect for the British ensign had not been gained by running away on the approach of danger, as he had proposed on the arrival of the enemy, and that its honour could not be confided to any stranger." True to his uncontrollable instinct of begging, he replied, "If you cannot give me the flag, give me at least that little double-barrelled rifle that you do not require, as you are going home; then I can defend myself should the Turks attack me."
I was excessively disgusted; he had just been saved by my intervention, and his manner of thanking me was by begging most pertinaciously for the rifle that I had refused him on more than twenty occasions. I requested him never to mention the subject again, as I would not part with it under any circumstances. Just at this moment I heard an uproar outside my gate, and loud screams, attended with heavy blows. A man was dragged past the entrance of the courtyard bound hand and foot, and was immediately cudgelled to death by a crowd of natives. This operation continued for some minutes, until his bones had been thoroughly broken up by the repeated blows of clubs. The body was dragged to a grove of plantains, and was there left for the vultures, who in a few minutes congregated around it.
It appeared that the offence thus summarily punished was the simple act of conversing with some of the natives who had attended Mahommed's men from Fowooka's island to Kisoona: a conversation with one of the enemy was considered high treason, and was punished with immediate death. In such cases, where either Kamrasi or his brother M'Gambi determined upon the sudden execution of a criminal, the signal was given by touching the condemned with the point of a lance: this sign was the order that was immediately obeyed by the guards who were in attendance, and the culprit was beaten to death upon the spot. Sometimes the condemned was touched by a stick instead of a lance-point; this was a signal that he should be killed by the lance, and the sentence was carried out by thrusting him through the body with numerous spears - thus the instrument used to slay the criminal was always contrary to the sign.
On the day following this event, drums were beating, horns blowing, and crowds of natives were singing and dancing in all directions; pots of plantain cider were distributed, and general festivities proclaimed the joy of the people at the news that Mahommed's party had retreated across the river, according to their agreement with me. My men had returned with a letter from Mahommed, stating that he was neither afraid of Ibrahim's people nor of Kamrasi, but that as I claimed the country, he must retire. Not only had he retired with his thwarted allies, but, disgusted at the failure of his expedition, he had quarrelled with Fowooka, and had plundered him of all his cattle, together with a number of slaves: this termination of the affair had so delighted Kamrasi that he had ordered general rejoicings: he killed a number of oxen, and distributed them among his people, and intoxicated half the country with presents of maroua, or the plantain cider.
Altogether Mahommed, the vakeel of Debono, had behaved well to me in this affair, although rather shabbily to his allies: he sent me six pieces of soap, and a few strings of blue beads and jenettos (red glass beads) as a proof that he parted with no ill feeling. Hardly were the Turks in retreat when Kamrasi determined to give the finishing stroke to his enemies. He sent great quantities of ivory to the camp, and one evening his people laid about twenty tusks at my door, begging me to count them. I told him to give the ivory to Ibrahim's men, as I required nothing; but that should Ibrahim find a large quantity ready for him on his return to the country, he would do anything that he might desire.
A few days later, whole lines of porters arrived, carrying enormous elephants' tusks to Eddrees, the vakeel. Early the next morning, Kamrasi's entire army arrived laden with provisions, each man carrying about 40 lbs. of flour in a package upon his head. The Turks' party of ten men joined them, and I heard that an attack was meditated upon Fowooka.
A few days after the expedition had started, the Turks and about 1,000 natives returned. Kamrasi was overjoyed; they had gained a complete victory, having entirely routed Fowooka, and not only captured the islands and massacred the greater number of the inhabitants, but they had captured all the wives of the rebel chiefs, together with a number of inferior slaves, and a herd of goats that had fortunately escaped the search of Mahommed's retreating party. Fowooka and Owine had escaped by crossing to the northern shore, but their power was irretrievably ruined, their villages plundered and burned, and their women and children captured.
A number of old women had been taken in the general razzia; these could not walk sufficiently fast to keep up with their victors during the return march, they had accordingly all been killed on the road as being cumbersome: in every case they were killed by being beaten on the back of the neck with a club. Such were the brutalities indulged in.