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The Story of the Life of MacKay of Uganda
Chapter XI - At the Court of Mtesa

“God gives to every man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordained to fill.”


IN early Saxon times the smith was ever regarded as a mighty man. “His person was protected by a double penalty. He was treated as an officer of the highest rank, and awarded the first place in precedency. After him ranked the maker of mead, and then the physician. In the royal court of Wales he sat in the great hall with the king and queen, next to the domestic chaplain.”

From his great skill in handicrafts, especially in all kinds of iron-work, Alexander Mackay soon became as much esteemed by King Mtesa and his court as the early smith was by our woad-stained ancestors. Miscellaneous articles were showered upon him to repair, and much wonder expressed at the burnished face he put on metal goods. The native smiths could manufacture hoes and hatchets, also steely knife blades, but the art of tempering was unknown.  To Burogo (witchcraft) the natives attributed the process by which he put hardness into steel and took it out again. Neither had they any idea of rotatory motion, and when he rolled some logs up an inclined plane, he was followed by dense crowds calling out, “Makay lubare! Makay lubare dala!” (Mackay is the great spirit: he is truly the great spirit.)


King Mtesa


See “Industrial Biography-Iron Workers and Tool Makers,” by Dr. Samuel Smiles.

Mtesa was very intelligent, and could understand anything if properly explained to him. Mackay told him about railways and steamers: how seventy years ago there were no railways, and now the world is girdled with a network of them. He entertained his majesty with accounts of the telegraph and the telephone and the phonograph, and greatly impressed him by saying, “My forefathers made the WIND their slave; then they put WATER in the chain; next they enslaved STEAM; but now the terrible LIGHTNING is the white man's slave, and a capital one it is too!”

Another time he gave the king and court a lesson on astronomy, illustrating it with Reynolds' beautiful diagrams. They very quickly understood the first principles of the Cosmos. Many Arabs were present, and Mackay showed that it would be impossible to fast a whole month, as the Koran ordered, in the polar regions, where some months the sun never sets, and others he never rises, adding, “Mohammed could not have been a true prophet of God, else he would have known this. I am no prophet, and yet I know much more than he did.”

On another occasion he took Huxley's “Physiography” to the palace with him, to show the circulation of the blood, etc. Such a subject proved intensely interesting. He dwelt on the perfection of the human body, which no man could make, nor all the men in the world; and yet the Arabs wished to buy a human being, with an immortal soul, for a bit of soap! The argument went home, and the king said, “From henceforth no slave shall be sold out of the country.” Mackay told him that was “the best decree he had made in all his life.”

Being a layman and having had much to do with large bodies of workmen, together with the valuable experience he had acquired as a Normal School teacher, and being besides a shrewd observer and independent thinker, he derived his knowledge of men from real life and not from books. He cultivated the society of the natives in order to win their love and friendship, joined them at their meals of meat and plantains, which the Arabs scorned to do, respected their prejudices as far as consistent with his conscience, invited many of them to his own house (or rather hut), and entertained them with a magic lantern, which he contrived to make a chimney for out of a couple of Huntley and Palmer's old biscuit tins, one laid horizontally on the top of the other and tacked vertically into a wooden box. These exhibitions greatly delighted the people. Pictures of houses and details they could not understand, as they had never seen any building beyond a grass hut; but the representations of animals were much appreciated, especially when the exhibitor tried a little phantasmagoric effect.

But all these mechanical employments were subsidiary to the spiritual, and he never lost an opportunity of introducing, in a happy way, the subject of religion, or of dropping a word that would touch the heart.

In his log-book in the early part of 1879 are many entries similar to the following: “House inundated with small boys reading with me, and watching my operations. They say my heart is good. I wish it were, and theirs also.”

“Chief who brought the canoes from Busongora spent last night with me. Gave him one of the white blankets off my bed. Had a long conversation with him on the way of salvation. He has been taught something of Islam, but cares little for that, and took a good deal of interest in what I told him last night.”

“Every day I am learning to admire this people more and more.”

As he became familiar with the language, however, he heard of many crying iniquities, -

“And oft his wakeful hours were filled by grief and bitter sighs,
O'er cruel deaths, revengeful blows, and slaves' heartrending cries.”

He never shrank from exposing such evils to the king in open court, and privately to the katikiro (prime minister and judge) and to the chiefs.

He writes: “It is clearly my duty to point out their error and to show them a better way. But great tact is necessary for this, and more wisdom than human. Yet I believe that, with all my unworthiness, I have had more than once Divine guidance and aid in such delicate work. Well I know that such sacred duties could be many times better done than I can do them. But my Master above can use even the humblest instrument in His own hand. The power is in Him alone.”

Every Sunday the flag was hoisted on the Palace hill, and Mackay held a short service and read and explained the story of the Gospel, dwelling especially on the blessedness of doers and not of hearers only. He invited free conversation on the passage read, and great eagerness was shown by king and chiefs and numerous youths to know and possess the truth. Sometimes Mtesa was so much struck with the explanation of a parable, that he remarked to his people “Isa (Jesus), was there ever anyone like Him?”  It seemed as if the prophecy was about to be fulfilled: “The kings shall shut their mouths at him; for that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”

In the meantime two reinforcements to the mission were en route for Uganda. The first arrived by the Nile, having ascended that river under the auspices of General (then Colonel) Gordon. Unfortunately Egypt had always been an object of great suspicion in the eyes of the Baganda. Captain Speke, who formed Mtesa's acquaintance a dozen years before Stanley, tells how the king objected to his passing through Uganda to Egypt via the Nile, and how he only gave way on his promising to do his best to open a communication with Europe by its channel! [See “Lake Victoria: a Narrative of Exploration in Search or the Source of the Nile, compiled from the Memoirs of Captains Speke and Grant.” By George C. Swayne, M.A. (William Blackwood And Sons). ]

The Egyptian station of Mruli was regarded by Mtesa with very jealous feelings, and the Arabs lost no opportunity to fan the flame. Knowing well that with the presence of the white man the hope of their gains was gone, they told him that the “Nile party” were coming as political spies, and were really emissaries from Colonel Gordon, and that the Turks (as they called the Egyptians) would soon come and “eat the country.”  Mackay saw that the king was becoming very nervous as the time drew near for the arrival of the expected missionaries. The Baganda had the word Baturki as often in their mouths as ever the Romans had the word Carthago in the last days of the empire. He (Mtesa) never wearied in narrating all his intercourse with white men: how Speke brought Grant, and then sent Baker; how Colonel Long came, and was followed by Stanley; and now when this party comes there will be five white men in Uganda. What do they all want? Mackay tried to assure him that “they were merely corning in response to his own invitation, and that neither the Queen nor Colonel Gordon had sent them, that godly men in London had asked them to come to teach him and his people, etc.;” and then with tact he changed the subject to one he knew would interest him. But in the middle of it Mtesa, in his abrupt way, asked, “Are these fellows not coming to look for lakes, that they may put ships and guns on them? Did not Speke come here by the Queen's orders for that purpose?”

At length, on the 12th of February, 1879, the king received several Arabic letters from the north, containing gossip about the new party and their stuff. The bearer of the letters was also closely questioned about them, and in a tone of relief Mtesa said to Mackay, “Their guns are only muzzle-loading.”

“Only soldiers require breech-loading rifles, and our party are not soldiers.”

“Will they bring gunpowder?”

 “I don't know.”

“Will they bring beads?”

“Not likely.”

“What will they bring?”

“I cannot tell.”

The following entries in his journal are interesting:-

Friday, Feb. 14th, 1879. - Early my friends arrived.  …..In afternoon I was summoned by Mtesa to give an account of my brethren. Arranged with him that we should all come up to-morrow, when he should give us a grand reception.”

Saturday, 15th. - Having got our presents ready for the king, we were called about I0 a.m. Great crowds lined the way with drums and a band. The king was dressed and sitting in the great court, or rather in the adjoining room, while the chiefs thronged the court. . . . Our presents were produced, the king and chiefs being delighted, calling Massudi (coastman) to witness how we gave whole bales of what the Arabs and coastmen sold at the rate of a couple of yards for a slave or a tusk.” [“When the half-caste Arabs saw these gifts their resentment knew no bounds. Every day they agitated at court, and succeeded in turning the chiefs against us. I had put them to confusion on every occasion before, when they brought forward their false creed at court, and the king had got so disgusted with them that he frequently asked me if he should send them away. I told him, however, not to do so until English traders came. I knew that if no merchants at all were here, demands would be made on us to supply articles we could not meet. These fellows have now got the chiefs to believe that we ought to have given them rich presents also. The king is much influenced by his chiefs, and allowed much evil talk against us. - A. M. M.” ]

Tuesday, I8th. - As we were breakfasting at the oval table (which I had made by screwing together the two bulkheads of the Daisy, and mounting on six ash poles stuck in the ground, at which we can all comfortably sit, like King Arthur and his knights, without any struggle for pre-eminence), and making arrangements as to the best manner of dividing the work every day, an order came down for us all to go up .... When we were called in we were told that two white men had arrived at Ntebe (the port) in a canoe, but who they were the king knew not.”

These turned out to be the vanguard of a party of French Romish priests, who, although the whole continent was open to them, preferred to go where Protestant missionaries were already at work. It was a time of very great trial to Mackay and his brethren. Hitherto Mtesa had been most favourable to Mackay and his teaching, but the interference of these priests bewildered him. “Every nation of white men has another religion. How can I know what is right and what is false?” he asked. Mackay appealed to the infallible Book, and the Roman Catholics to an infallible Church. The battle of the Reformation was fought again at the court of this heathen king; and, to complicate matters still further, the Arabs, ever ready to seize an opportunity of showing their hostility to white men in general, derided the religion of both. It is possible that Mackay's training and the traditions of his family prejudiced his mind against these priests, but the following extracts from his journal are one or two illustrations of their behaviour:-

Saturday, Feb. 22nd, 1879. - Went up to the palace, having heard that the men of whose arrival we had heard were Frenchmen. We suspected that they were the Romish priests who were reported by Colonel Gordon to be en route for Uganda. On reaching the outer courts, I found two men who had come with them, one being a slave of Said bin Salim, and the other the same old Msukuma who accompanied me to Ukerewe last July. From them I obtained the information that the strangers were padres, that they had left three of their number at Kagei, and that all meant to come here to stay. Thus I was prepared for an audience with the king, which commenced immediately afterwards. Mtesa of course asked me about them. They had sent him a letter in Arabic conveying their salaams. I explained to the king what their system was: that they were followers of Jesus (Isa) as we, accepted the Old and New Testaments as we, but worshipped the mother of Jesus more than the Lord Himself, prayed to prophets and saints dead long ago, and taught obedience to the Pope before their own king. I proposed that Mtesa should send a chief along with Pearson and myself to see the Frenchmen, and bring back word to the king explaining who they were, and why come. Mtesa did not accede to this plan, however, but said he would call the Frenchmen some day, and we should then understand all.”

Sunday, 23rd. - We understood that a reception was to be given the French padre to-day (his com- panion frere being sick). We went therefore up. Drums were beating, and the general noise so great that I went to the katikiro, and stated how vexed I was at such profanation of the Lord's day. I said that he had agreed, and the king also, to have quietness at least on Sunday; and now, the very first day a European came, all teaching was forgotten. The judge felt guilty, and said that ‘it was the king's order to pay honour to their guest.’ I showed the want of necessity to hold the reception on Sunday, as there was no hurry. The head-drummer was at once called, and from what we noticed afterwards, I believe he was ordered to make the reception as quiet as possible. We then retired to the church, where we spent an hour teaching natives to read and understand the Creed, when we were informed that the padre had arrived. The king sat in the side room of the large hall, the throne having been uncovered, but he did not come out to sit on it. We waited a suitable opportunity to ask if we were to hold service, but found none. A tall, stout, awkward white man was then introduced, who made the faintest recognition of Mtesa, and sat down sideways on a camp stool, with his back to us. Evidently he was not aware of our presence at all. Soon the king called me forward, when I rose and shook hands with the stranger, and sat (or rather kneeled) down by him to interpret. He said he knew no German or English, but professed his ability to speak in Suahili or in Arabic. His attempts at being understood, or in understanding either of these latter two languages, failed, however; and I explained to the king that Pearson could talk French, and thus we might be able to converse. But the padre would not reply in his own tongue to Pearson's questions, answering generally in Suahili (very broken). A present for the king was produced of seven or eight common coloured cloths such as go in Unyamwezi, and a French fifteen-shooter (old). I asked where he had come from, to what Society he belonged, for what purpose he came? Did our Society know of their coming, and was he aware of there being five representatives of a Protestant mission here? He replied to most questions rather unwillingly (at least we thought so). He belonged to the ‘African Mission Society,’ came from Algiers, had heard of Mtesa’s willingness to receive white men (he never said Christian missionaries), that their chief was still at Kagei, that should Mtesa be willing they would all come to settle here, but if not they would go elsewhere. He was not aware as to whether or not our Society, or the English Government, knew of their coming, as he was not chief. He knew there were one or two Protestants here.

“I asked plainly if he was not come to teach the Romish faith? He said they came to teach to read and write, and useful arts. I was cross-questioned by the king about the faith of Roman Catholics, and I stated that they prayed to the Virgin Mary, to saints, etc., and inculcated obedience to the Pope. I said we wrote in the same character, and our arts were the same, and in all respects we were the same as they, only our religions were totally different. I said that they accepted the Fathers, etc., while we received only the Old Testament and the New, as we were distinctly disciples of Isa Messiah (Jesus Christ). On this the gentleman said politely, in Suahili: “You are a liar.” This he explained by declaring that I had called him a believer in Islam. I explained calmly that he had not sufficiently understood, that I had not said so, but that we believed in Isa. For his mistake and rudeness he was not, however, polite enough to make any apology. The king asked if in Egypt and Zanzibar there were not both English and French living together? The padre said that we and they were not different, as there were people of his religion in England, and of ours in France. I said, ‘Yes, just as there are Arabs living in Uganda, but who will say that the Baganda in consequence are Mussulmans?’ This argument was understood.

“Evidently Mtesa and the chiefs, for selfish interests, would prefer to have as many English or French or other Europeans here as possible, as thus they know they will get more presents, and have prestige added to their court.”

“After the Baraza, broke up the Frenchman asked us if he might not have a few words with us? We therefore asked him down to dinner at five p.m., and he agreed, but evidently with no goodwill.

“I talked earnestly with Kauta and others on the impropriety of having given a state reception on Sunday, to the exclusion of Divine service. They allowed that they had done wrong, and after much talk we left.”

“In the evening our guest showed no signs of coming, so Pearson wrote a polite note in French, and we sent two boys with it to show him the way. No reply came, however, and we dined alone. Towards morning, however, one of our boys woke us up, saying, he and the other had been bound by order of the Frenchman, who said ‘he did not want our salaams,’ and his servants robbed them of their clothing!

Monday, 24th. - Pearson and I went early to the katikiro and asked him to send for our boy, who was still in custody. I explained also to him that if the Frenchmen were brought here we should all leave.[“This was not my own suggestion. All of our party, at the time, were of the same mind. I thought then, and think still, it was a mistake; but mistakes become experience, and the best of us call rise to greatness and usefulness and goodness only in that school. -  A. M. M.”]  This, he said, would not be once thought of; still he seemed inclined to want the Frenchmen here. He said that co one would pay attention to their teaching. This I declared to be impossible, and distinctly gave him to understand that we should not remain here, and we should tell the king so.”

“We then went up to the king's, but did not see him. We talked with the chiefs, however, as we had done with the katikiro, but they were evidently inclined to have the Frenchmen come, yet they would not hear of our going away. In the evening I was sent for. I spoke of the French padres, and distinctly told the king that we could not remain here if these men were allowed to settle in the place. Mtesa asked where we would go to? I said the continent was large, and we could find plenty of room, as the padres could do without coming here. He said that it would never do to reject Englishmen in favour of Frenchmen. Besides, he said he could not adopt a new religion with every new comer. I showed how impossible it was for padres to settle here without making proselytes, or doing their utmost to do so, even although Mtesa declared that neither he nor his people would listen to their teaching. I left him in good humour, the head chiefs being also gratified by a present I gave each that morning.

Friday, 28th. - In the afternoon we proposed sending a note to the Frenchmen, which Pearson wrote in French; and as we wished to make sure of their receiving it, one of my brethren and I went off with it, taking a fine goat also as a present. In the letter we said that we had heard they were both sick, and that our doctor would be glad to see them, and give them medicine, condiments, or anything else they might wish. We took with us the two boys whom they had apprehended last Sunday. After passing the hill on which the palace stands, we met a native sub-chief, who told our boys that if we went to the Frenchmen we should be bound hand and foot. We went on, however, but Juma (our Mganda boy) was afraid, and went to stay at the house of the chief who had thus threatened us. We took him on against his will, and crossed the swamp, when natives were seen rushing in various directions, some past us, to a point on the road in front. When we came up to the place, about thirty men armed with clubs, spears, axes, and guns (their chief being the headman whom I have mentioned), stood up and menaced us should we go on. My companion waved some of them aside, and got half through; but I saw the danger, as he would next moment have been murdered as well as I; so I cried out to him to desist, and sat down on the bank by the roadside, he accompanying me. The wild attitude of the gang was truly diabolical. As I sat down, one fellow with a large native axe jumped up behind me, and I expected next moment to have my head in two. I looked up calmly in his face, and his chief had by this time succeeded in driving back the furious mob. I asked what was the matter, and wanted the chief to sit down and explain. This he refused to do, as he was too big a man; but I insisted, and at length he sat down on the ground. He said he had the king's orders not to allow us to go on. I allowed him to say no more, but said, ‘Let us go at once to the king.’ Back we went, the mob being by this time increased to nearly a hundred men, all armed. Half went before and the others remained with us all the way. When we came to the second court the chief went in and we were told to sit down outside. This we refused to do, and stood waiting at the gate for a few minutes. One of the pages came out soon, and asked me if I had brought medicine for Mtesa, or what I wanted. I sent him in to say that I wished to see the king at once, but I should not wait more than five minutes for an answer. As no response was made we left, bringing back the letter and the goat. All hangers-on in the grounds looked on in silence as we turned to go, but we were not further troubled.

“Who is at the root of all this we cannot say. Probably Mtesa had ordered that sub-chief to look after the padres, and he, on his own responsibility acted as I have stated. Anyhow, we feel matters have come to a crisis - our lives are no longer safe, our usefulness is at an end, our teaching rejected, our medicine refused, Romish priests received contrary to our advice, and no reply written to Lord Salisbury's friendly letter. [This letter from Lord Salisbury was anent the massacre of British subjects in Ukerewe, and the fact that the Nile party were the bearers of it led the king to think that they must have come for political purposes. ]  May God turn good out of evil. We now intend sending Mtesa a written letter, stating our determination to leave the country unless he gives us a written promise of protection, food, and liberty to go about among his subjects. All promises he has now broken, and we must demand his word in writing in future. I feel confident that all will turn out well in the end, and that even were we to leave we should soon be asked back; still at this crisis it is a time of trouble to us, and only the God whom we serve can bring us out of it.”

Matters came to such a crisis that the Church Missionary Society party thought they ought to withdraw from Uganda for a time, and go to Makraka, on the north of the Albert Lake, which appeared to be an open field. On the 7th of March, 1879, they heard “it would be well for them to clear out as quickly as possible, as the king's soldiers were only waiting to kill them all.” On the 30th, also, an Egyptian soldier (a runaway for years) informed them that “the king was very ill and had slept in his large hall last night, expecting to die; also that there was a conclave between chiefs and coastmen, when it was resolved to murder all the Englishmen should Mtesa die.”

On the 8th of April, however, their hearts were strengthened by the arrival of Messrs. Stokes and Copplestone by the Zanzibar route. There were thus seven C.M.S. missionaries in the country. With the exception of Mr. Pearson, however, they all soon left. On the 13th of April Mackay writes: “To my mind, the most likely way to get the king to grant us what we want (food and liberty to teach) is to live on good terms with him and his chiefs and redeem the time by using every opportunity of teaching the truth. Persuasion is better than force, and tact and patience better than urgent demand. I feel sure that the king will now never grant us what we have begged of him unless we show him that we are his friends, and are actuated towards him by motives of real love. Many missionaries in many lands have been worse treated than we, and have held out for many more years than we have done months, and ultimately the Lord has rewarded their patience and perseverance. No real success in missions has ever yet been won without long opposition and frequent violent persecutions for years. It is therefore unreasonable to expect that it should be otherwise here. I mean, therefore, to stay by my post as long as God enables me. If I am peremptorily ordered by the C.M.S. to return, or if the place becomes too hot for me to stay, I may have to leave, but I cannot just now think any other course honourable or upright.

Saturday, 19th April. - Stokes and I went up to court. I asked the king if he was willing I should bring up my Bible on the morrow and read a little to him (the public services had been stopped). He at once replied, ‘Yes, bring the book.’

“Before this he had asked many questions on the future state. What sort of bodies, what desires, what clothing? I explained that we should be like the angels, but I found St. Paul's own excellent simile suit best, the new body given by God to the seedcorn sowed. Mtesa quite caught this, and explained it to all present. A little after he asked what we would wear in heaven? I said, we were not told exactly, for our bodies would require no protection from heat or cold. I stated plainly that Christ had left us in the dark about many things in the world beyond, that we might be the more anxious to get there to know all. He asked me if we had any more knowledge than Jesus taught His disciples and they further wrote? I said we had not. I feared the padre sitting behind me would have contradicted this, but he said nothing. Most probably he did not understand.

May 15th. - In the middle of a multitude of questions about the first and second resurrections, Mtesa abruptly asked me if I knew that the Egyptians had planted a new station in his territory, and within three days of Ripon Falls? ‘They are gnawing at my country like rats, and ever pushing their fortifications nearer.’ I advised him to send two chiefs to Colonel Gordon to make a friendly treaty with him, settling the question of boundary for good.”

“‘Gordon is an Englishman, and so are you: why, therefore, do you take my country from me?’”

“To this I merely replied that we had nothing in common: Gordon is practically an Egyptian, while we are subjects of Mtesa.”

“‘Did you not promise me arms, and now the Egyptians are upon me?’”

“Mtesa knowing well that we never made any such promise, and probably not willing to hear a reply to so foolish a question, dismissed the court at once.”

In the month of June, however, the king sent an embassy to Queen Victoria in charge of two missionaries who were returning to England via the Nile. After their departure the king's friendliness returned, the Sunday services were resumed, and Mackay's printing press turned to good account in supplying reading sheets, and portions of Scripture, and pupils increased in number daily.

Next came Mackay's unavailing struggle against a sorceress who professed to be possessed of the Lubare of the Nyanza, and to have power to restore the king to health.*  For a time Mtesa and his chiefs prohibited both Christianity and Mohammedanism, and returned to their pagan superstitions.

The following extracts from Mackay's journal at this time will give some idea of his discouragement after all his attempts to teach the knowledge of the true God:-

Monday, Dec. 29th, 1879. - Again at dawn, or rather before it, the loud beating of drums and shrill cries of women let us know that the great lubare, Mukasa, was on her way to pay the king a second visit. I did not know before that the individual is a woman. Mukasa is not her name, but that of the deity or spirit which is supposed to possess her. Mukasa is, moreover, not a spirit of the whole lake, only of some three or four creeks on the coast of Uganda. I have been told that the formidable foes of the Baganda - the Bavuma, are continually paying visits to the island where Mukasa lives, and plundering the god of cattle and slaves

“To-day, I believe, the audience was of a much more private nature than the previous one. Some say that not even a single chief, nor a woman, was present at the interview between the king and the witch. The king has ordered the chiefs to bring numbers of cattle, slaves, and cowries, and these have been presented to the lubare in no small quantity.”

“I was chaffing some natives about their king being obliged to pay tribute (musolo) to an old woman. ‘It is not tribute,’ they replied, ‘it is bigali,’or sacrificial offerings to the deity!”

Wednesday, Dec. 3Ist. - Early Mufta came, having been sent by the katikiro to call me. Between 8 and 9 a.m. Pearson went with me. After waiting half an hour at his door, he came out, dressed up like a tailor's dummy, thinking himself remarkably smart, but his appearance tended only to excite our risible faculties. Among other vanities he had tied to his neck a plated railway whistle which I gave him many months ago.”

“He said that he expected us early, and that he had an engagement just now, but would soon be back. We sat down thereupon in the inner court, but loud beating of drums, as in a procession, excited our curiosity to go out and see. We found the katikiro standing at his outer gate, while hundreds of people, chiefs and slaves, were squatting on the ground outside. All, including the judge, had on a string of green leaves passing over the shoulder like a sash. As we approached, I overheard the katikiro saying (of Pearson and me) to those round him, ‘Here come our boys’ (balenzi bafwe), at which they all laughed.”

"When the procession came up we found it to consist of a whole host of Maandwas, i.e. wizards and witches - each with a magic wand which they rattled on the ground in succession before the katikira, he touching the wands with a finger. Three or four wizards were dressed in leopards' skins, while the witches were clad in a succession of layers of goatskins - white and black alternately. The head of the whole - a little witch named Wamala - was in aprons of goatskins, and had a head cap of many coloured beads. The consequential air with which they shook their wands on the ground was rather amusing. Many women carried on their shoulders, entirely wrapped up in bark cloth, with a garland of the same green leaves as the chiefs, etc., wore, what were virtually idols, being urn-shaped things called balongo. These I did not see exposed on this occasion, but others which I saw before were of the urn-shape, with a large bow handle like a pot. They were entirely covered with beads sewed in neat patterns over a mass of bark cloth, having in the heart the umbilical cord of either the present king or one of his ancestors.

See “A. M. Mackay, Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society to Uganda” (Hodder & Stoughton), p. 145.

“The katikiro went then to the palace courts with the procession; we thought it useless waiting, and came home. I am told that the king refused to be seen by the witches, etc. Wamala, the head one, is stationed near Unyoro, in Mkwenda's country. She is a rival of the other great witch Mukasa, and once lived on the lake, but having quarrelled with the other spirit, she went far inland to rule the dry land, as the other does the water!”

New Year's Day 1880 brought good tidings to Mackay from Colonel Gordon, - viz., that he had withdrawn all his troops from not only Mruli but also from all the stations south of the Somerset Nile. Mackay writes: “I am truly thankful to God that Colonel Gordon has determined on this. Now that Mruli is abandoned, I hope we shall have much less suspicion lying on us as being implicated in bringing ‘the Turks’ always nearer. The tone of all Colonel Gordon's letters is beautiful and spiritual, and I cannot fail to profit much by the expressed experience of this truly Christian governor.

“When we told Mtesa that Colonel Gordon advised him to occupy Mruli he was very pleased, and said ‘his heart was good, and that we were good, and that his remarks at court before Christmas, that we were spies, were finished now.’ In other words, that he meant to say nothing of the kind again.”

A few jottings from Mackay's journal in the early months of 1880 will give a glimpse of missionary life in Central Africa:-

Jan. 1st, 1880. - Sewed up with silver wire the breast of wounded woman. I do not think any ribs are broken, but I fear the lung is injured from the cough she has. Syringed inside of wound in body and re-dressed the hand, cutting away various broken pieces of bone which I did not discover before.” [This was a severe ease of gunshot, which happened on December 26th, 1879. “A wife of Kaitabarwa's was handling a gun which went off (an Enfield with iron bullet). The bullet passed into the back of the left side, just under the armpit, out under the nipple, then through the back of the left hand, shattering the metacarpal bones connecting the forefinger and the wrist. The bullet passed out under the thumb; we amputated the forefinger, sewed up the hand, and applied styptics to the wounds in chest. The woman has had a severe shock to her nervous system and has lost much blood. They brought her in a hide and we sent her back on a Kitanda.” By March 7th she was almost well, and able to trip about nimbly. ]

Feb. 7th. - Had a day's work at tailoring to-day. Clothes I am almost out of: and have considerable difficulty in dressing with any degree of respectability. A coat of checked tweed which one of the Nile party hung up in his hut one night on the way here was partly eaten up, and partly built into the earthen wall by morning, by white ants. This coat he handed over to me, and I have succeeded in putting patches into the back of it so as not to be very noticeable. I wish I had got some lessons in sewing before leaving England.”

Sunday, Feb. 8th. - Continued translation this morning. Read with much edification a nice little book entitled ‘The King of Love,’ by the author of ‘How to Enter into Rest.’ There are most beautiful thoughts throughout the book, and much I would seek to live in the realisation of them. ‘God is never so far off as even to be near.’

Feb. 9th. - Patchcd up an old pith helmet inside and out. Cut up and stitched a white umbrella cover as cover for my helmet. On the whole I have made a decent head-gear.”

March 18th, 1380. - It is now announced that another army is under orders to go again to Busoga to subdue rebels there. Sekibobo is commander-in-chief. A whole host of chiefs and subs are now going off with him, and of course as many men as each can muster. All is feudal system here. I wish I knew the real nature of this war, and if I found it to be a war undertaken to capture cattle and slaves, I should not fail, God helping me, to show Mtesa and his court the evil of such terrible work.”

"Sunday, March 21st. - Kago, one of the most powerful chiefs, and also one of the strongest upholders of the witchcraft religion of the country, called to-day.”

“He told me a series of lies. He said he was not going to war, while I know he is. He said that the cattle and slaves which they brought so frequently from the East were only presents from the people! etc., etc. I reproved him for telling such false-hoods, he being an old man, and a chief, while he should be an example to the people. Then I spoke solemnly to him about the evil of making these raids for murder and robbery. I said that, however Uganda might meantime escape from punishment for such evil work, yet Almighty God saw it all and would one day call the king and chiefs to account for it.”

On the 2nd April, 1880, Mackay started for Uyui for a supply of cloth and other barter goods, as the mission store of such things was all but exhausted, and he and Mr. Pearson were entirely dependent on the caprice of the king for subsistence. The Frenchmen kindly lent him cloth to pay his expenses down to Uyui, and would listen to no promise of repayment. Sorely as they tried to injure the work of the C.M.S. missionaries, yet in everything else they were disposed to be friendly. On the above date Mackay writes: “This day two years ago I started from Mpwapwa for Uyui, and now I am on my way to the same place once more. May the good Lord, who has preserved me amid no ordinary troubles and dangers since that day, keep me on this journey and bring me safely back to Uganda.

“Ten Baziba carried the luggage to Admiral Gabunga's. The king gave me a present of five thousand cowries, as he said, to buy food on the way, and not to rob! Paid four thousand cowries, however, to carry the ten loads to Gabunga's.”

April 16th. - Having succeeded in getting a few canoes, we embarked. As the season was early for marching through Usukuma, harvest not commencing till June, we did not hurry the canoe-men, allowing them to take their own time. Some of Gabunga's men who were going to Unyanyembe to sell ivory had joined us, and altogether we had fourteen canoes in our expedition.”

May 11th, reached Kagei safely. Several men of the Romish mission had arrived there, en route for Mtesa's."

Strange to say, among the freres was a countryman of his own, a Mr. Charles Stuart, from Aberdeen! He had been educated at Blairs, on Deeside. Mackay had several talks with him, but did not expect he would hold out long, as he lay about all day doing nothing, and imagining himself ill from greasy French cooking. Mackay says: “I felt sorely tempted to say to him, ‘Och, man, I could hae forgi'en ye a' yer Popery, but what for hae ye forsaken yer parritch?' Poor fellow, he had all his clothes stolen from him on the way, nor had he any book to read. I happened to have a Shakespeare, which I had taken to while away weary hours in the canoes, and that I gave him.”

The road from Kagei to Uyui is through a most unsettled and unsafe country, with plenty of robbers on the way, and continual demands for tribute at every petty village. Sometimes he had to pay honga three times in a march of seven miles.

But he was mercifully preserved from attacks of natives and from highwaymen in the jungles, although he was only armed with his umbrella. He reached Uyui on the 5th of June, after a march of twenty days. There he remained five weeks, and set out again northwards to Kagei. Though it was the month of July, it was the dead of winter there, and while the sun was sultry through the day, there were piercing east winds every morning, which he found most trying, especially as he and his men, in order to avoid the cupidity of as many greedy chiefs as possible, frequently marched through the night. For instance, on the 4th of August he says: “By 3 a.m. my men wakened me up, saying we should start. Got up and looked at the stars (my only clock), and told them it was yet several hours to daylight, and we might lose our way in the forest, but if the porters were willing to start, I was ready. Struck tent, and packed up in dead silence, and by clear starlight set off. Lost our way at one point, but got on right road again, and the cocks crew as we stole silently past the hut of the extortionate chief. After more than an hour we got into the jungle, where we could breathe freely; but walking was difficult, as in many places there were deep holes like wells caused by the tread of elephants.”

At the next village he carne to, he and his party were detained many days before the matter of the toll was settled. He could get nothing to eat save a few ground nuts, and a glass of milk was scarcely to be had. But he learned to be patient of such delays, and embraced the opportunity to instruct the Baganda lads who were with him, and at the same time he gained much knowledge from them regarding the superstitions and language of Uganda. He had made such a rapid journey on the former occasion that much escaped his observation, but he found now that a common act among many of the tribes was the kidnapping of boys, such as goat-herds, etc., who were generally alone, at some distance from the villages, there being always plenty of Arabs and Wangwana about, ready to buy such children. At such times the wails of the poor mothers overnight, and. every now and again breaking out through the day, were most piteous. When will this traffic in human flesh cease?

At most villages great crowds of women and children followed him to feast their eyes on the fair face of the white man. Sometimes, to please them, he got out a music-box with which they were enraptured; and, strange to say, the popular tune was “God Save the Queen!”

Then they must see his arm and his bare foot, while they stroked his hair and compared it to an antelope's. Until he bared his foot they believed that his boot was part of himself! But perhaps the greatest curiosity he could show them was his lamp, for artificial light is quite unknown.

Owing to the many detentions for honga, he was forty-five days on the way back to Kagei. While there his three Baganda lads were nearly murdered. They were sleeping in a hut behind Mackay's house, when some men they had quarrelled with went and fired a volley into the hut. A terrible scuffle and chase ensued. The three lads ran for their lives, and the murderous party after them. Mackay was half-down with fever, but managed with great exertion to persuade the leader to sit down and talk to him (having previously secreted the objects of his malice). The Beloochees and Arabs next appeared, armed to the teeth, expecting to find that Mackay had been attacked, when they were prepared to aid in murdering him. The chief of the village also arrived, after making sure that the fray was over. With much trouble Mackay got them all to fire off their guns and go home.

The Frenchmen never went to Mackay's aid, although they knew how ill he was, but simply looked over the fence at the fight!

The journal continues:-

“I remained at Kagei two and a half months. I sent on a man to Uganda with a large load of cowries to Mr. Pearson, as also his English letters, which I had brought with me. Many days I spent packing all boxes, etc., in raw hide, sewing the whole with stout twine, to make our goods waterproof on the lake. Much time I had to spend in bed from repeated and severe attacks of remittent fever.”

Nov. 2nd. - Having secured five canoes, I embarked for Uganda with my loads and servants, leaving the iron boiler parts and machinery well packed in Kaduma's care. Last of the Frenchmen left for King Roma's in canoes which he sent for them. (Roma owns all the west side of Smith's Creek, and the road from thence to Msalala). Pere Levesque alone goes to Uganda, and is commended to my protection.”

Nov. 3rd. - Camp on Juma Island. Pere Levesque and I cross over channel, and spend a few days at Roma's capital.”

Nov. 20th. - At Makongo. Went with Pere Levesque to visit Kaitaba, the king of Busongora. Gave him a present, and received a fat bullock in return.”

Dec. 2nd. - Arrived at Ntcbe, with everything safe. Lake journey has thus occupied thirty days.”

Dec. 14th. - After much delay at Ntebe, and on road, and repeated messages to Mtesa, got sufficient men under two chiefs to carry all our goods to capital (a distance of twenty-six miles). Met Mr. Pearson at mission-house, soon after noon.”

Dec.16th. - King held Baraza in great hall and received the Frenchmen in state, as also the messengers from Roma. The Frenchmen gave presents of gunpowder in kegs and in tins, guns, caps, bullets military suits, a drum and sundry small articles.

“Mr. Pearson and I agreed that we had better not attend the reception along with the Frenchmen, as we resolved to give no present of anything in the shape of arms or ammunition, and the contrast between our presents and those of the Frenchmen might prove unpleasant.”

“The French party now at Roma's had given that king a large present of cloth, guns, a revolver, gunpowder, etc., etc. Every one of these things Roma sent on to Mtesa by some of his own men, these accompanying me. The revolver alone he kept for himself, asking me most imploringly for my revolver offering me ten boys for it, promising me also a road to Mirambo's, or anything I liked; and when all these were declined by me, he tried hard to get me to exchange the one he got from the padres for mine. But I was inexorable, saying that I would give such a weapon neither to him, nor to Mtesa, nor to Mirambo. Roma's object in sending the presents to Mtesa was to ask his aid to fight against (i.e. spoil and murder) Kigaju, the king of Bukosa, while he asked me to write a letter from him to Mtesa begging the Uganda fleet. I flatly refused to do so, saying that we white men came to bring peace into the country and not war. Strange to say, Roma took me and not the Frenchmen into his private conference with his head chiefs when he proposed begging Mtesa's aid. Even afterwards, when I was leaving, and the Frenchmen all present, he asked me again to recommend him to Mtesa, but did not ask them. I said before them all that I was a messenger of God, and would willingly ask Mtesa to make an alliance with Roma, but I would bear no message asking aid in war.”

“Pere Girault, who is head of the mission there, felt offended that he was not consulted by Roma in the matter, especially after he had given the guns and powder, which were being sent as the price of the army, and walked off in apparent ill mood.”

Dec. 18th. - Mr. Pearson and I went to court. After friendly greetings from the katikiro and chiefs in the outer court, we went into the inmost court (except the king's own). After waiting nearly half an hour, the king called us in. The house was full of naked women, probably nearly a hundred. The king apologised for making no public reception on my behalf, on the ground of his illness.”

“Our present to Mtesa consisted of a few doti of coloured cloth, two fine large knives, and a score of Rags of diverse colours. We explained that the flags were international, and none of them English. (They were a set of the ordinary “commercial code.”)”

“We read the king a Suahili translation of part of the Committee's letter, informing him that his men had reached England, had been received by the Queen most graciously, and had been shown every honour, and that Her Majesty had sent them to Zanzibar in one of her own men-of-war.”

“Mtesa said that ‘the fact of his men being so well received in England raised in his mind the longing to go there himself, but he said the Arabs asserted that he could not reach there.’ (This is not true, for the Arabs have always, in court, told him that he would find an open way, and that the English would be so overjoyed at his condescension, that they would send at once a hundred large ships to Zanzibar to convey him to London.) I merely said to him, ‘A great man can overcome many difficulties.’”

Mackay then showed the king some pictures in the Graphic of Queen Victoria receiving his envoys. He was delighted, and seemed never to weary looking at them. The next day Mackay went to court he found his majesty still entertaining himself with them, and he greeted Mackay with the remark: “I am determined to go to England, to consult a doctor about my ailments, and I will leave the queenmother on the throne, in my absence.”

The haughty chiefs, however, opposed this, saying: “Why should a great monarch like Mtesa go to England? Queenie (Queen Victoria) sends only small men to Uganda. Speke, and Grant, and Stanley were only travellers!”

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