Chapter XIII. Palace, Uganda - Continued
The king, in total unconcern about the tragedy he had thus enacted, immediately on their departure said, "Now, then, for shooting, Bana; let us look at your gun." It happened to be loaded, but fortunately only with powder, to fire my announcement at the palace; for he instantly placed caps on the nipples, and let off one barrel by accident, the contents of which stuck in the thatch. This created a momentary alarm, for it was supposed the thatch had taken fire; but it was no sooner suppressed than the childish king, still sitting on his throne, to astonish his officers still more, levelled the gun from his shoulder, fired the contents of the second barrel into the faces of his squatting Wakungu, and then laughed at his own trick. In the meanwhile cows were driven in, which the king ordered his Wakungu to shoot with carbines; and as they missed them, he showed them the way to shoot with the Whitworth, never missing. The company now broke up, but I still clung to the king, begging him to allow me to purchase food with beads, as I wanted it, for my establishment was always more or less in a starving state; but he only said, "Let us know what you want and you shall always have it"; which, in Uganda, I knew from experience only meant, Don't bother me any more, but give me your spare money, and help yourself from my spacious gardens - Uganda is before you.
5th - To-day the king went on a visit with his mother, and therefore neither of them could be seen by visitors. I took a stroll towards the N'yanza, passing through the plantain-groves occupied by the king's women, where my man Sangoro had been twice taken up by the Mgemma and put in the stocks. The plantain gardens were beautifully kept by numerous women, who all ran away from fright at seeing me, save one who, taken by surprise, threw herself flat on the ground, rolled herself up in her mbugu, and, kicking with her naked heels, roared murder and help, until I poked her up, and reproached her for her folly. This little incident made my fairies bolder, and, sidling up to me one by one, they sat in a knot with me upon the ground; then clasping their heads with their hands, they woh-wohed in admiration of the white man; they never in all their lives saw anything so wonderful; his wife and children must be like him; what would not Sunna have given for such a treat? - but it was destined to Mtesa's lot. What is the interpretation of this sign, if it does not point to the favour in which Mtesa is upheld by the spirits? I wished to go, but no: "Stop a little more," they said, all in a breath, or rather out of breath in their excitement; "remove the hat and show the hair; take off the shoes and tuck up the trousers; what on earth is kept in the pockets? Oh, wonder of wonders! - and the iron!" As I put the watch close to the ear of one of them, "Tick, tick, ticks - woh, woh, woh" - everybody must hear it; and then the works had to be seen. "Oh, fearful!" said one, "hide your faces: it is the Lubari. Shut it up, Bana, shut it up; we have seen enough; but you will come again and bring us beads." So ended the day's work.
6th. - To-day I sent Bombay to the palace for food. Though rain fell in torrents, he found the king holding a levee, giving appointments, plantations, and women, according to merit, to his officers. As one officer, to whom only one woman was given, asked for more, the king called him an ingrate, and ordered him to be cut to pieces on the spot; and the sentence was, as Bombay told me, carried into effect - not with knives, for they are prohibited, but with strips of sharp-edged grass, after the executioners had first dislocated his neck by a blow delivered behind the head, with a sharp, heavy-headed club.
No food, however, was given to my men, though the king, anticipating Bombay's coming, sent me one load of tobacco, one of butter, and one of coffee. My residence in Uganda became much more merry now, for all the women of the camp came daily to call on my two little girls; during which time they smoked my tobacco, chewed my coffee, drank my pombe, and used to amuse me with queer stories of their native land. Rozaro's sister also came, and proposed to marry me, for Maula, she said, was a brutal man; he killed one of his women because he did not like her, and now he had clipped one of this poor creature's ears off for trying to run away from him; and when abused for his brutality, he only replied, "It was no fault of his, as the king set the example in the country."
In the evening I took a walk with Kahala, dressed in a red scarf, and in company with Lugoi, to show my children off in the gardens to my fair friends of yesterday. Everybody was surprised. The Mgemma begged us to sit with him and drink pombe, which he generously supplied to our heart's content; wondered at the beauty of Kahala, wished I would give him a wife like her, and lamented that the king would not allow his to wear such pretty clothes. We passed on a little farther, and were invited to sit with another man, Lukanikka, to drink pombe and chew coffee - which we did as before, meeting with the same remarks; for all Waganda, instructed by the court, know the art of flattery better than any people in the world, even including the French.