Chapter XVIII. Unyoro - Continued

The Ceremonies of the New Moon - Kamrasi's Rule and Discipline - An Embassy from Uganda, and its Results - The Rebellious Brothers- - An African Sorcerer and his Incantations - The Kamraviona of Unyoro - Burial Customs - Ethiopian Legends - Complicated Diplomacy for our Detention - Proposal to send Princes to England - We get away.

26th. - We found that the palace was shut up in consequence of the new moon, seen for the first time last evening; and incessant drumming was the order of the day. Still, private interviews might be granted, and I sent to inquire after the state of the king's health. The reply was, that the medicine had not taken, and the king was very angry because nothing was given him when he took the trouble to call on us. He never called at a big man's house and left it mwiko (empty-handed) before; if there was nothing else to dispose of, could Bana not have given him a bag of beads?

To save us from this kind of incessant annoyance, I now thought it would be our best policy to mount the high horse and bully him. Accordingly, we tied up a bag of the commonest mixed beads, added the king's chronometer, and sent them to Kamrasi with a violent message that we were thoroughly disgusted with all that had happened; the beads were for the poor beggar who came to our house yesterday, not to see us, but to beg; and as we did not desire the acquaintance of beggars, we had made up our minds never to call again, nor receive any more bread or wine from the king.

This appeared to be a hit. Kamrasi, evidently taken aback, said, if he thought he should have offended us by begging, he would not have begged. He was not a poor man, for he had many cows, but he was a beggar, of course, when beads were in the question; and, having unwittingly offended, as he desired our friendship, he trusted his offence would be forgiven. On opening the chronometer, he again wrenched back the seconds-hand, and sent it for repair, together with two pots of pombe as a peace-offering. Frij, who accompanied the deputation, overheard the counsellors tell their king that the Waganda were on their way back to Unyoro to snatch us away; on hearing which the king asked his men if they would ever permit it; and, handling his spear as if for battle, said at the same time he would lose his own head before they should touch his guests. Then, turning to Frij, he said, "What would you do if they came? - go back with them?" To which Frij said, "No, never, when Gani is so near; they might cut our heads off, but that is all they could do." The watch being by this time repaired, it gave me the opportunity of sending Kidgwiga back to the palace to say we trusted Kamrasi would allow Budja to come here, if only with one woman to carry his pombe, else Mtesa would take offence, form an alliance with Rionga, and surround the place with warriors, for it was not becoming in great kings to treat civil messengers like dogs.

The reply to this was, that Kamrasi was very much pleased with my fatherly wisdom and advice, and would act up to it, allowing Budja only to approach with one woman; we need, however, be under no apprehensions, for Kamrasi's power was infinite; the Gani road should be opened even at the spear's point; he had been beating the big drum in honour of us the whole day; he would not allow any beggars to come and see us, for he wanted us all to himself, and for this reason had ordered a fence to be built all round our house; but he had got no present from Grant yet, though all he wanted was his mosquito-curtains, whilst he wished my picture- books to show his women, and be returned. We sent a picture of Mtesa as a gift, the two books to look at and an acknowledgement that the mosquito-curtains were his, only he must have patience until Bombay arrived; but his proposition about the fence we rejected with scorn. The king had been raising an army to fight Rionga - the true reason, we suspect, for the beating of the drums.

27th and 28th. - There was drumming and music all day and night, and the army was being increased to a thousand men, but we poor prisoners could see nothing of it. Frij was therefore sent to inspect the armament and brings us all the news. Some of N'yamyonjo's men, seeing mine armed with carbines, became very inquisitive about them, and asked if they were the instruments which shot at their men on the Nile - one in the arm, who died; the other on the top of the shoulder, who was recovering. The drums were kept in private rooms, to which a select few only were admitted. Kamrasi conducts all business himself, awarding punishments and seeing them carried out. The most severe instrument of chastisement is a knob-stick, sharpened at the back, like that used in Uganda, for breaking a man's neck before he is thrown into the N'yanza; but this severity is seldom resorted to, Kamrasi being of a mild disposition compared with Mtesa, whom he invariably alludes to when ordering men to be flogged, telling them that were they in Uganda, their heads would suffer instead of their backs. In the day's work at the palace, army collecting, ten officers were bound because they failed to bring a sufficient number of fighting men, but were afterwards released on their promising to bring more.

Nothing could be more filthy than the state of the palace and all the lanes leading up to it: it was well, perhaps, that we were never expected to go there, for without stilts and respirators it would have been impracticable, such is the dirty nature of the people. The king's cows, even, are kept in the palace enclosure, the calves actually entering the hut, where, like a farmer, Kamrasi walks amongst them up to his ankles in filth, and, inspecting them, issues his orders concerning them. What has to be selected for his guests he singles out himself.