CHAPTER XIX. RESTORATION OF THE LIBERATED SLAVES.
Unyoro had always been a country of cowardice and suspicion, and I could plainly see that we were narrowly watched. Kabba Rega usually sat in his public divan from about two p.m. till 4 daily, to transact public business. This large circular building was extremely neat, and the ground was carefully strewed with the long fringes of the papyrus rush, after the fashion of our ancestors in England, who, before the introduction of carpets, strewed the floor with rushes.
The young king informed me that, as he wished to be in constant communication with me personally, he should build a new divan within a few yards of my residence, so that we could converse upon all occasions without being watched by his people.
This was merely an excuse for erecting a building within fifty yards of my house, from which his guards could watch all that happened, and report everything to their master.
The new building was constructed with wonderful quickness, and prettily walled with canes inside to resemble basket-work.
Kabba Rega came to his new divan, attended by a number of his guards, or bonosoora, armed with guns. To give him confidence, I went to see him unattended, except by Lieutenant Baker and my ever-faithful attendant, Monsoor, who did not at all approve of my going unarmed.
The conversation quickly turned upon guns. Kabba Rega was delighted with the mechanism of Monsoor's snider rifle, which he at once understood and explained to his body-guard. He appeared to have quite lost his shyness; and he begged me to consider him simply in the light of my own son, and to give him all the merchandise AT ONCE that I had brought with me to establish a new trade.
I told him that fathers did not give their sons all their property at once; but that if I saw that he performed his duty to the Khedive, he need not fear. I had both the power and the good-will to reward him.
He continued the conversation precisely according to his late father Kamrasi's style: "I have no one but yourself to regard. Does not a father consider the interests of his son? You were my father's friend; and I have always looked for your return. I knew that Abou Saood was a liar when he spoke against you; I knew that he was an impostor when he announced himself as the son of a sultan. Would the son of a sultan only give me a present of an old carpet and a dirty washing-basin? I always said, 'Wait till the Pacha comes', Mallegge, (Mallegge, or the Man with the Beard, was my nickname in Unyoro during my former journey.) my father's friend. He is truly a great man, who does not travel empty-handed; and he will bring me presents worth my acceptance - things that the impostor, Abou Saood, does not understand the use of.' By the by, there was a magic instrument with which you could find your way without a guide in strange countries, that you PROMISED to send to my father; you have, of course, brought it for me?"
This demand amused me much, as I well remembered how Kamrasi had bothered me for my compass. I pretended that he meant a watch, which I had already given him.
At length I was obliged to promise that if he would clear away the grass and cultivate the neighbouring ground, I would give him a compass.
I now explained the advantages of free trade, and I begged him to order his men to complete the government house without delay, as I could not unpack my numerous boxes until I had some place where I could exhibit the contents. I described the difficulties of the route from Khartoum, and the expense of transport from Gondokoro, owing to the unwillingness of the Baris to carry loads, and I explained my intention of erecting steamers on the Nile which would bring all kinds of merchandise to Unyoro via the Albert N'yanza in exchange for ivory, thus the Zanzibar trade would turn towards the north and the elephants' tusks that were now purchased by M'tese, would remain in Unyoro, until delivered to the Khedive's government in barter for manufactured goods.
The name of M'tese seemed to make him uncomfortable. He replied: "You are my father, and you will stand by your son against his enemies. This M'tese troubles me. In my father Kamrasi's lifetime he frequently attacked us, and carried off our herds together with our women and children. He is too strong to resist single-handed, but now that you are hero I shall have no fear. Don't let us talk about merchandise, that will come in due time; never mind trade; let us talk about guns and gunpowder. You must give me muskets and ammunition in large quantities; I will then arm all my bonosoora (soldiers) and with your assistance I will fight M'tese. I will then fill your large new house with ivory for the Khedive."
"There is no time to lose; you PROMISED to fight Rionga; my troops are all ready, your men have nothing to do. Keep a few here, and send the main force with my army to attack him at once, before he has time to escape to the Langgos."
I could almost have imagined that I had been speaking with Kamrasi, so thoroughly did his son resemble him in his diplomacy.
I answered him with caution, declaring that I could not allow any reckless acts that would plunge the country in confusion. He (Kabba Rega) had nothing to fear; but time was required to ripen my plans. I had promised that I would dismiss Suleiman and his people from Unyoro: at the same time I should liberate all the slaves that had been stolen by Abou Saood's companies, and restore them to their homes. This was my first duty, that would assure the natives of my sincerity, and establish general confidence in the government.
Fatiko was 160 miles distant. I should therefore send Suleiman and his people under an escort direct to Major Abdullah, the commandant, with orders to recover from Abou Saood all the slaves that had been captured from Unyoro.