Chapter XIV. Palace, Uganda - Continued

Reception of a Victorious Army at Court - Royal Sport - A Review of the Troops - Negotiations for the Opening of the Road along the Nile - Grant's Return - Pillagings - Court Marriages - The King's Brothers - Divinations and Sacrifices - The Road granted at last - The Preparations for continuing the Expedition - The Departure.

I now received a letter from Grant to say he was coming by boat from Kitangule, and at once went to the palace to give the welcome news to the king. The road to the palace I found thronged with people; and in the square outside the entrance there squatted a multitude of attendants, headed by the king, sitting on a cloth, dressed in his national costume, with two spears and a shield by his side. On his right hand the pages sat waiting for orders, while on his left there was a small squatting cluster of women, headed by Wichwezis, or attendant sorceresses, offering pombe. In front of the king, in form of a hollow square, many ranks deep, sat the victorious officers, lately returned from the war, variously dressed; the nobles distinguished by their leopard-cat skins and dirks, the commoners by coloured mbugu and cow or antelope skin cloaks; but all their faces and arms were painted red, black, or smoke-colour. Within the square of men, immediately fronting the king, the war-arms of Uganda were arranged in three ranks; the great war-drum, covered with a leopard-skin, and standing on a large carpeting of them, was placed in advance; behind this, propped or hung on a rack of iron, were a variety of the implements of war in common use, offensive and defensive, as spears - of which two were of copper, the rest iron - and shields of wood and leather; whilst in the last row or lot were arranged systematically, with great taste and powerful effect, the supernatural arms, the god of Uganda, consisting of charms of various descriptions and in great numbers. Outside the square again, in a line with the king, were the household arms, a very handsome copper kettledrum, of French manufacture, surmounted on the outer edge with pretty little brass bells depending from swan-neck-shaped copper wire, two new spears, a painted leather shield, and magic wands of various devices, deposited on a carpet of leopard-skins - the whole scene giving the effect of true barbarous royalty in its uttermost magnificence.

Approaching, as usual, to take my seat beside the king, some slight sensation was perceptible, and I was directed to sit beyond the women. The whole ceremonies of this grand assemblage were now obvious. Each regimental commandant in turn narrated the whole services of his party, distinguishing those subs who executed his orders well and successfully from those who either deserted before the enemy or feared to follow up their success. The king listened attentively, making, let us suppose, very shrewd remarks concerning them; when to the worthy he awarded pombe, helped with gourd-cups from large earthen jars, which has n'yanzigged for vehemently; and to the unworthy execution. When the fatal sentence was pronounced, a terrible bustle ensued, the convict wrestling and defying, whilst the other men seized, pulled and tore the struggling wretch from the crowd, bound him hands and head together, and led or rather tumbled him away.

After a while, and when all business was over, the king begged me to follow him into the palace. He asked again for stimulants - a matter ever uppermost in his mind - and would not be convinced that such things can do him no possible good, but would in the end be deleterious. Grant's letter was then read to him before his women, and I asked for the dismissal of all the Wanyambo, for they had not only destroyed my peace and home, but were always getting me into disrepute by plundering the Waganda in the highways. No answer was given to this; and on walking home, I found one of the king's women at my hut, imploring protection against the Wanyambo, who had robbed and bruised her so often, she could not stand such abuse any longer.

4th. - I sent Maula, early in the morning, with the plundered woman, and desired him to request that the Wanyambo might be dismissed. He returned, saying he delivered my message, but no reply was given. I then searched for the king, and found him at his brothers' suite of huts playing the flute before them. On taking my seat, he proudly pointed to two vultures which he had shot with bullet, saying to his brothers, "There, do you see these birds? Bana shoots with shot, but I kill with bullets." To try him, I then asked for leave to go to Usoga, as Grant was so far off; but he said, "No, wait until he comes, and you shall both go together then; you fancy he is far off, but I know better. One of my men saw him coming along carried on a stretcher." I said, "No; that must be a mistake, for he told me by letter he would come by water."

Heavy rain now set in, and we got under cover; but the brothers never moved, some even sitting in the streaming gutter, and n'yanzigging whenever noticed. The eldest brother offered me his cup of pombe, thinking I would not drink it; but when he saw its contents vanishing fast, he cried "lekerow!" (hold fast!) and as I pretended not to understand him, continuing to drink, he rudely snatched the cup from my lips. Alternate concerts with the brothers, and conversation about hunting, in consequence of a bump caused by a fall with steeple-chasing, which as discovered on my forehead, ended this day's entertainment.

5th. - As all the Wanguana went foraging, I was compelled to stop at home. The king, however, sent an officer for Grant, because I would not believe in his statement yesterday that he was coming by land; and I also sent a lot of men with a litter to help him on, and bring me an answer.