CHAPTER XVIII. Greeting from Kamrasi's people - Suffering for the sins of others - Alone among savages - The free-masonry of Unyoro - Pottery and civilization.
After an exceedingly fatiguing march we reached the Somerset River, or Victoria White Nile, January 22d. I went to the river to see if the other side was inhabited. There were two villages on an island, and the natives came across in a canoe, bringing the BROTHER OF RIONGA. The guide, as I had feared during the journey, had deceived us, and following the secret instructions of the slave woman Bacheeta, had brought us directly to Rionga's country.
The natives at first had taken us for Mahomet Wat-el-Mek's people; but, finding their mistake, they would give us no information. We could obtain no supplies from them; but they returned to the island and shouted out that we might go to Kamrasi if we wished, but we should receive no assistance from them.
After a most enjoyable march through the exciting scenery of the glorious river crashing over innumerable falls, and in many places ornamented with rocky islands, upon which were villages and plantain groves, we at length approached the Karuma Falls, close to the village of Atada above the ferry. The heights were crowded with natives, and a canoe was sent across to within parleying distance of our side, as the roar of the rapids prevented our voices from being heard except at a short distance. Bacheeta now explained that "SPEKE'S BROTHER had arrived from his country to pay Kamrasi a visit, and had brought him valuable presents."
"Why has he brought so many men with him?" inquired the people from the canoe.
"There are so many presents for the M'Kamma (king) that he has many men to carry them," shouted Bacheeta.
"Let us look at him!" cried the headman in the boat. Having prepared for the introduction by changing my clothes in a grove of plantains for my dressing- room, and altering my costume to a tweed suit, something similar to that worn by Speke, I climbed up a high and almost perpendicular rock that formed a natural pinnacle on the face of the cliff, and waving my cap to the crowd on the opposite side, I looked almost as imposing as Nelson in Trafalgar Square.
I instructed Bacheeta, who climbed up the giddy height after me, to shout to the people that an English lady, my wife, had also arrived, and that we wished immediately to be presented to the king and his family, as we had come to thank him for his kind treatment of Speke and Grant, who had arrived safe in their own country. Upon this being explained and repeated several times the canoe approached the shore.
I ordered all our people to retire and to conceal themselves among the plantains, that the natives might not be startled by so imposing a force, while Mrs. Baker and I advanced alone to meet Kamrasi's people, who were men of some importance. Upon landing through the high reeds, they immediately recognized the similarity of my beard and general complexion to those of Speke, and their welcome was at once displayed by the most extravagant dancing and gesticulating with lances and shields, as though intending to attack, rushing at me with the points of their lances thrust close to my face, and shouting and singing in great excitement.
I made each of them a present of a bead necklace, and explained to them my wish that there should be no delay in my presentation to Kamrasi, as Speke had complained that he had been kept waiting fifteen days before the king had condescended to see him; that if this occurred no Englishman would ever visit him, as such a reception would be considered an insult. The headman replied that he felt sure I was not an impostor; but that very shortly after the departure of Speke and Grant in the previous year a number of people had arrived in their name, introducing themselves as their greatest friends. They had been ferried across the river, and well received by Kamrasi's orders, and had been presented with ivory, slaves, and leopard-skins, as tokens of friendship; but they had departed, and suddenly returned with Rionga's people, and attacked the village in which they had been so well received; and upon the country being assembled to resist them, about three hundred of Kamrasi's men had been killed in the fight. The king had therefore given orders that upon pain of death no stranger should cross the river.
He continued, "that when he saw our people marching along the bank of the river they imagined us to be the same party that had attacked them formerly, and they were prepared to resist us, and had sent on a messenger to Kamrasi, who was three days' march from Karuma, at his capital, M'rooli; until they received a reply it would be impossible to allow us to enter the country. He promised to despatch another messenger immediately to inform the king who we were, but that we must certainly wait until his return. I explained that we had nothing to eat, and that it would be very inconvenient to remain in such a spot; that I considered the suspicion displayed was exceedingly unfair, as they must see that my wife and I were white people like Speke and Grant, whereas those who had deceived them were of a totally different race, all being either black or brown.
I told him that it did not much matter; that I had very beautiful presents intended for Kamrasi, but that another great king would be only too glad to accept them, without throwing obstacles in my way. I should accordingly return with my presents.