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boar tusks; stick charms, seeds, beads or shells; and on their necks, arms and ankles were suspended wooden charms, or small horns stuffed with magic powder. In the palace courts were many strange sights. “Men, women, bulls, dogs and goats were led about by strings; cocks and hens were carried in men's arms; and little boy pages in rope turbans rushed about conveying messages as if their lives depended on their swiftness, everyone holding his skin cloak tightly around him lest his naked legs might by accident be seen."
Instead of being at once introduced to the king, Speke was requested to sit down with his servants outside in the sun. He informed the officers he was a prince, and would do nothing of the kind ; if in five minutes they did not introduce him to the king he would walk away. No notice was taken. In a few minutes accordingly Speke walked off, bidding Bombay place the presents upon the ground and follow him with the men.
Here was a commotion. The king was told that the white prince was offended, and had gone away. In hot haste Mtésa sent messengers after him, who fell upon their knees before him, begging him to return. As there was no interpreter with him, Speke pretended not to understand what they meant; he shook his head, he patted his breast, and walked on all the faster, to express his indignation.
When he arrived at the hut, Bombay came in wet with perspiration, so much had he hurried, in spite of the heat; to tell his master that Mtésa begged he would return; he should at once see the king, and if he pleased sit upon his own chair. Mtésa declared he was very anxious to show his guest great respect.
Speke thought it was the king's turn to wait now, so he sat down, had some coffee, and smoked a pipe, and then, when he was rested, quietly returned to the palace. Every one there was excited and confused, they did not know what to make of such behaviour. This stranger who was so easily offended must be a great prince indeed. With great politeness the officers begged he would sit upon his chair, while messengers ran in haste to inform the king of his arrival. In a few minutes a band of musicians entered, dressed in long-haired goatskins. They were playing upon reed instruments, ornamented prettily with beads; and, to amuse the visitor, danced as they advanced.
King Mtésa was now sitting on his throne. Speke advanced towards him, but was directed to halt outside the hut. As this was in the broad sunlight, he sat down upon his chair, which one of his servants carried, put on his hat and opened his umbrella, much to the astonishment of the king and his courtiers.
The kings of Uganda, it appears, allow no one to speak to them until they have permission to do So. For a whole hour did the king and Speke sit looking at each other, Speke sitting on his iron chair, and the king upon his throne, which was a heap of royal grass covered with a red blanket. The king sometimes pointed at his visitor and
made remarks to the officers about him, and every now and again asked Speke to lift his hat that he might admire his hair, or to open and shut his umbrella for his amusement, or requested that his twelve guards might turn round and so exhibit their fine red cloaks thoroughly. At last Mtésa wanted to know if Speke had now seen him.
“Yes,” replied Speke; "for one full hour.”
I suppose the king thought to look at him for an hour was enough to satisfy any one; he rose, spear in hand, and leading his dog, walked away.
King Mtésa had allowed Speke to sit before him on the iron chair, but he did not quite like any one to be thus enthroned in his presence. He therefore sent one of his boy pages to Speke with a bundle of royal grass, saying that he had allowed him to use the chair to appease his wrath, bụt in future he wished him to sit upon the grass. Speke stuffed the grass into a box, and whenever afterwards he visited the king or the queen-mother he had the box carried for him, and used it as a stool.
"Bana has been accustomed to sit before kings, and sit in his own way he will," said Mtésa.
The king had given Speke some very dirty huts at a considerable distance from the palace, as dwellings for himself and his men. This was not at all satisfactory, as the king was constantly sending for him, and keeping him waiting when he came outside the palace huts. Over and over again, when talking to the king, Speke requested that he might be treated like a prince and have apartments in the palace.
One day the king sent a page in haste for Bana. The impudent little fellow, having given his message, began rolling over and over on the carpeted floor, and Speke, in great indignation, declared he would turn him out if he could not behave respectfully; and as for his goirg to the palace, it was out of the question unless the king provided a more fitting residence closer to his own. Bombay was sent back with the page to tell Mtésa that his master was exceedingly sorry not to see him constantly, that he was ashamed of his dwelling, that it was too hot for white men to walk in the sun, and that when he came to the palace the officers kept him waiting outside as though he were a servant.
Bombay no sooner arrived at the palace and saw the king, than Mtèsa asked why he had come instead of his master.
"By the instruction of Bana," he replied. “Bana cannot walk in the sun."
The king stopped to hear no more; he rose up in a huff and walked away.
The end of it all was that Speke got his own way; he was allowed to move into huts within the palace bounds, which were decidedly more cleanly and comfortable, and where he had many opportunities of watching the customs and manners of the king and his people.
King Mtésa must have had almost as many wives as Solomon, but the exact number it would puzzle any one to tell; I doubt very much whether he knew himself. He was constantly taking fresh
wives, and getting rid of the old ones. If either of them offended in any way, it was the easiest thing possible to order one of his executioners to put the poor woman to death. Speke says something of this kind happened almost every day.
One day, when the king and a number of his wives were enjoying themselves at a picnic, Speke joined them. After dinner the whole party took a walk, winding in and out among the trees, gathering and eating the fruit that hung in clusters from the branches. Presently, one of the women, most unfortunately forgetting herself, offered to her lord and master some fruit she had gathered. No doubt she thought to please him, but he flew into a violent passion, declaring that it was the first time a woman had ever been impudent enough to offer him anything, and calling to his pages to seize her, bind her, and carry her off to execution.
Instantly the boy pages slipped their cord turbans off their heads, unwound them, and rushed upon the queen. In vain she struck at them and shook them off, in vain the other women fell at the king's feet and begged him to spare her,-he only grew the more angry, and belaboured her himself over her head with a stick. The poor creature called to Speke for protection and help; he rushed to the king, seized his uplifted arm, and demanded from him the woman's life. The king smiled, and instantly released the woman; but he might have done just the opposite—he might have ordered Speke also to be seized and executed.
Such scenes as this Speke was frequently obliged to witness, and often he dared not interfere.