Chapter XIII. Palace, Uganda - Continued
7th. - In the morning, whilst it rained hard, the king sent to say that he had started buffalo-shooting, and expected me to join him. After walking a mile beyond the palace, we found him in a plantain garden, dressed in imitation of myself, wideawake and all, the perfect picture of a snob. He sent me a pot of pombe, which I sent home to the women, and walked off for the shooting- ground, two miles further on, the band playing in the front, followed by some hundred Wakungu - then the pages, then the king, next myself, and finally the women - the best in front, the worst bringing up the rear, with the king's spears and shield, as also pots of pombe, a luxury the king never moves without. It was easy to see there would be no sport, still more useless of offer any remarks, therefore all did as they were bid. The broad road, like all in Uganda, went straight over hill and dale, the heights covered with high grass or plantain groves, and the valleys with dense masses of magnificent forest-trees surrounding swamps covered with tall rushes half bridged. Proceeding on, as we came to the first water, I commenced flirtations with Mtesa's women, much to the surprise of the king and every one. The bridge was broken, as a matter of course; and the logs which composed it, lying concealed beneath the water, were toed successively by the leading men, that those who followed should not be tripped up by them. This favour the king did for me, and I in return for the women behind; they had never been favoured in their lives with such gallantry, and therefore could not refrain from laughing, which attracted the king's notice and set everybody in a giggle; for till now no mortal man had ever dared communicate with his women.
Shortly after this we left the highway, and, turning westwards, passed through a dense jungle towards the eastern shores of the Murchison Creek, cut by runnels and rivulets, where on one occasion I offered, by dumb signs to carry the fair ones pick-a- back over, and after crossing a second myself by a floating log, offered my hand. The leading wife first fears to take it, then grows bold and accepts it; when the prime beauty, Lubuga, following in her wake, and anxious to feel, I fancy, what the white man is like, with an imploring face holds out both her hands in such a captivating manner, that though I feared to draw attention by waiting any longer, I could not resist compliance. The king noticed it; but instead of upbraiding me, passed it off as a joke, and running up to the Kamraviona, gave him a poke in the ribs, and whispered what he had seen, as if it had been a secret. "Woh, woh!" says the Kamraviona, "what wonders will happen next?"
We were now on the buffalo ground; but nothing could be seen save some old footprints of buffaloes, and a pitfall made for catching them. By this time the king was tired; and as he saw me searching for a log to sit upon, he made one of his pages kneel upon all fours and sat upon his back, acting the monkey in aping myself; for otherwise he would have sat on a mbugu, in his customary manner, spread on the ground. We returned, pushing along, up one way, then another, without a word, in thorough confusion, for the king delights in boyish tricks, which he has learned to play successfully. Leaving the road and plunging into thickets of tall grass, the band and Wakungu must run for their lives, to maintain the order of march, by heading him at some distant point of exit from the jungle; whilst the Kamraviona, leading the pages and my men, must push head first, like a herd of buffaloes, through the sharp-cutting grass, at a sufficient rate to prevent the royal walk from being impeded; and the poor women, ready to sink with exhaustion, can only be kept in their places by fear of losing their lives.
We had been out the whole day; still he did not tire of these tricks, and played them incessantly till near sundown, when we entered the palace. Then the women and Wakungu separating from us, we - that is, the king, the Kamraviona, pages, and myself - sat down to a warm feast of sweet potatoes and plantains, ending with pombe and fruit, whilst moist circular napkins, made in the shape of magnificent wafers out of plantain fibre, acted at once both the part of water and towel. This over, as the guns had to be emptied, and it was thought sinful to waste the bullets, four cows were ordered in and shot by the king. Thus ended the day, my men receiving one of the cows.
8th. - As Mtesa was tired with his yesterday's work, and would not see anybody, I took Lugoi and Kahala, with a bundle of beads, to give a return to the Mgemma for his late treat of pombe. His household men and women were immensely delighted with us, but more so, they said, for the honour of the visit. They gave us more pombe, and introduced us to one of N'yamasore's numerous sisters, who was equally charmed with myself and my children. The Mgemma did not know how he could treat us properly, he said, for he was only a poor man; but he would order some fowls, that I might carry them away. When I refused this offer, because we came to see him, and not to rob him, he thought it the most beautiful language, and said he would bring them to the house himself. I added, I hoped he would do so in company with his wife, which he promised, though he never dared fulfil the promise; and, on our leaving, set all his servants to escort us beyond the premises. In the evening, as the king's musicians passed the camp, I ordered them in to play the milele, and give my men and children a treat of dancing. The performers received a bundle of beads and went away happy.
9th. - I called on Congow, but found him absent, waiting on the king, as usual; and the king sent for my big rifle to shoot birds with.