Chapter XII. Palace, Uganda - Continued
After this unsatisfactory interview, I repaired to the king's, knowing the power of my gun to obtain an interview, whilst doubting the ability of the Wakungu to gain an audience for me. Such was the case. These men had been sitting all day without seeing the king, and three shots opened his gate immediately to me. He was sitting on the iron chair in the shade of the court, attended by some eighty women, tweedling the loading rod in his fingers; but as my rod appeared a better one than his, they were exchanged. I then gave him a tortoise-shell comb to comb his hair straight with, as he invariably remarked on the beautiful manner in which I dressed my hair, making my uncap to show it to his women, and afterwards asked my men to bring on the affair of last night. They feared, they said, to speak on such subjects whilst the women were present. I begged for a private audience; still they would not speak until encouraged and urged beyond all patience. I said, in Kisuahili, "Kbakka" (king), "my men are afraid to tell you what I want to say"; when Maula, taking advantage of my having engaged his attention, though the king did not understand one word I said, said of himself, by way of currying favour, "I saw a wonderful gun in Rumankika's hands, with six barrells; not a short one like your fiver" (meaning the revolving pistol) "but a long one, as long as my arm." "Indeed," says the king, "we must have that." A page was then sent for by Maula, who, giving him a bit of stick representing the gun required, told him to fetch it immediately.
The king then said to me, "What is powder made of?" I began with sulphur (kibriti), intending to explain everything; but the word kibriti was enough for him, and a second stick was sent for kibriti, the bearer being told to hurry for his life and fetch it. The king now ordered some high officers who were in waiting to approach. They come, almost crouching to their knees, with eyes averted from the women, and n'yanzigged for the favour of being called, till they streamed with perspiration. Four young women, virgins, the daughters of these high officers, nicely dressed, were shown in as brides, and ordered to sit with the other women. A gamekeeper brought in baskets small antelopes, called mpeo - with straight horns resembling those of the saltiana, but with coats like the hog-deer of India - intended for the royal kitchen. Elderly gentlemen led in goats as commutation for offences, and went through the ceremonies due for the favour of being relieved of so much property. Ten cows were then driven in, plundered from Unyoro, and outside, the voices of the brave army who captured them were heard n'yanzigging vehemently. Lastly, some beautifully made shields were presented, and, because extolled, n'yanzigged over; when the king rose abruptly and walked straight away, leaving my fools of men no better off for food, no reparation for their broken heads, than if I had never gone there.
22d. - I called on the queen to inquire after her health, and to know how my men were to be fed; but, without giving me time to speak, she flew at me again about my men plundering. The old story was repeated; I had forty-five hungry men, who must have food, and unless either she or the king would make some proper provision for them, I could not help it. Again she promised to feed them, but she objected to them bearing swords, "for of what use are swords? If the Waganda don't like the Wanguana, can swords prevail in our country?" And, saying this, she walked away. I thought to myself that she must have directed the attack upon my camp last night and is angry at the Wanguana swords driving her men away. At 3 p.m. I visited the king, to have a private chat, and state my grievances; but the three shots fired brought him out to levee, when animals and sundry other things were presented; and appointments of Wakungu were made for the late gallant services of some of the men in plundering Unyoro.
The old executioner, Kunza, being present, I asked the king to pardon his son. Surprised, at first Mtesa said, "Can it be possible Bana has asked for this?" And when assured, in great glee he ordered the lad's release, amidst shouts of laughter from everybody but the agitated father, who n'yanzigged, cried, and fell at my feet, making a host of powerful signs as a token of his gratitude; for his heart was too full of emotion to give utterance to his feelings. The king them, in high good-humour, said, "You have called on me many times without broaching the subject of Usoga, and perhaps you may fancy we are not exerting ourselves in the matter; but my army is only now returning from war" (meaning plundering in Unyoro), "and I am collecting another one, which will open Usoga effectually." Before I could say anything, the king started up in his usual manner, inviting a select few to follow him to another court, when my medicine-chest was inspected, and I was asked to operate for fistula on one of the royal executioners. I had no opportunity of incurring this responsibility; for while professing to prepare for the operation, the king went off it a fling.