Chapter XVII. Unyoro

Invitation to the Palace at last - Journey to it - Bombay's Visit to King Kamrasi - Our Reputation as Cannibals - Reception at Court- - Acting the Physician again - Royal Mendicancy.

We halted again, but in the evening one of Dr K'yengo's men came to invite us to the palace. He explained that Kamrasi was in a great rage because we only received seven goats instead of thirty, the number he had ordered Kwibeya to give us, besides pombe and plantains without limitation. I complained that Bombay had been shown more respect than myself, obtaining an immediate admittance to the king's presence. To this he gave two ready answers - that every distinction shown my subordinate was a distinction to myself, and that we must not expect court etiquette from savages.

9th. - We set off for the palace. This last march differed but little from the others. Putting Dr K'yengo's men in front, and going on despite all entreaties to stop, we passed the last bit of jungle, sighted the Kidi hills, and, in a sea of swampy grass, at last we stood in front of and overlooked the great king's palace, situated N. lat. 1§ 37' 43", and E. long. 32§ 19' 49", on a low tongue of land between the Kafu and Nile rivers. It was a dumpy, large hut, surrounded by a host of smaller ones, and the worst royal residence we had seen since leaving Uzinza. Here Kajunju, coming from behind, overtook us, and breathless with running, in the most excited manner, abused Dr K'yengo's men for leading us on, and ordered us to stop until he saw the king, and ascertained the place his majesty wished us to reside in. Recollecting Mtesa's words that Kamrasi placed his guest on the N'yanza, I declined going to any place but the palace, which I maintained was my right, and waited for the issue, when Kajunju returned with pombe, and showed us to a small, dirty set of huts beyond the Kafu river - the trunk of the Mwerango and N'yanza branches which we crossed in Uganda - and trusted this would do for the present, as better quarters in the palace would be looked for on the morrow. This was a bad beginning, and caused a few of the usual anathemas in which our countrymen give vent to their irritation.

Two loads of flowers, neatly packed in long strips of rushpith, were sent for us "to consume at once," as more would be given on the morrow. To keep us amused, Kidgwiga informed us that Kamrasi and Mtesa - in fact, all the Wahuma - came originally from a stock of the same tribe dwelling beyond Kidi. All bury their dead in the same way, under ground; but the kings are toasted first for months till they are like sun-dried meat, when the lower jaw is cut out and preserved, covered with beads. The royal tombs are put under the charge of special officers, who occupy huts erected over them. The umbilical cords are preserved from birth, and, at death, those of men are placed within the door-frame, whilst those of women are buried without - this last act corresponding, according to Bombay, with the custom of the Wahiyow. On the death of any of the great officers of state, the finger-bones and hair are also preserved; or if they have died shaven, as sometimes occurs, a bit of their mbugu dress will be preserved in place of the hair. Their families guard their tombs.

The story we heard at Karague, about dogs with horns in Unyoro, was confirmed by Kidgwiga, who positively assured us that he once saw one in the possession of an official person, but it died. The horn then was stuffed with magic powder, and, whenever an army was ordered for war, it was placed on the war-track for the soldiers to step over, in the same way as a child is sacrificed to insure victory in Unyomuezi. Of the Karague story, according to which all the Kidi people sleep in trees, Kidgwiga gave me a modified version. He said the bachelors alone do son, whilst the married folk dwell in houses. As most of these stories have some foundation in fact, we presumed that the people of Kidi sometimes mount a tree to sleep at night when travelling through their forests, where lions are plentiful - but not otherwise.

10th. - I sent Kidgwiga with my compliments to the king, and a request that his majesty would change my residence, which was so filthy that I found it necessary to pitch a tent, and also that he would favour me with an interview after breakfast. The return was a present of twenty cows, ten cocks, two bales of flour, and two pots of pombe, to be equally divided between Grant and myself, as Kamrasi recognised in us two distinct camps, because we approached his country by two different routes - a smart method for expecting two presents from us, which did not succeed, as I thanked for all, Grant being "my son" on this occasion. The king also sent his excuses, and begged pardon for what happened to us on entering his country, saying it could not have taken place had we come from Rumanika direct. His fear of the Waganda gave rise to it, and he trusted we would forget and forgive. To-morrow our residence should be changed, and an interview follow, for he desired being friends with us just as much as we did with him.

At last Bombay came back. He reported that he had not been allowed to leave the palace earlier, though he pleaded hard that I expected his return; and the only excuse he could extract from the king was, that we were coming in charge of many Wakungu, and he had found it necessary to retard our approach in consequence of the famine at Chaguzi. His palace proper was not here, but three marches westward: he had come here and pitched a camp to watch his brothers, who were at war with him. Bombay, doing his best to escape, or to hurry my march, replied that he was very anxious on our account, because the Waganda wished to snatch us away.