Mtesa Welcomes Stanley – Human Sacrifices
Attacked By The Savages Of The Lake
As we left off in the last text, the King had asked Stanley to please stay with him one day longer so that he could show him the hospitalities of his country.
Magassa led the procession in his superb canoe, with Stanley following. When they were about two miles from Usavara, they saw what looked like thousands of people that had arranged themselves in order on a gently rising ground. When they were about a mile from shore, Magassa gave the order to signal their advance with firearms. He was at once obeyed by a dozen musketeers. Half a mile off Stanley saw that the people on the shore had formed themselves into two dense lines. At the ends of the lines stood several finely dressed men that were arrayed in crimson, black, and snowy white. As they neared the beach, volleys of muskets burst out from the long lines, with there being 200 to 300 heavily loaded guns that announced to all around that the white man whom Mtesa’s mother had dreamed about had arrived. There were also numerous kettle and bass drums that sounded a noisy welcome, plus flags, banners, and the people also shouting.
Stanley was very much amazed at all this ceremony. Magassa had already landed and hurried upon shore so he could reverently kneel to welcome the visitor. Stanley walked through the long line of people and came upon a man whom Magassa told him was the Katekiro, or Prime Minister. A dozen well-dressed officers came forward, and grasped Stanley’s hand and welcomed him to Uganda. Stanley was in complete awe at the magnitude of the proceedings that were being carried on just for him. The officers conducted him to a courtyard that was surrounded by a circle of grass-thatched huts. In their midst was a larger house where he was invited to make his quarters. He was soon besieged by all kinds of questions concerning the earth, air, and the heavens. He apparently answered them to the satisfaction of the natives, because they went to King Mtesa and told him the white man knew everything. At this the King rubbed his hands as though he had just come into the possession of a treasure. He sent 14 fat oxen, 16 goats and sheep, 100 bunches of bananas, 3 dozen fowls, 4 wooden jars of milk, 4 baskets of sweet potatoes, 50 ears of green Indian corn, a basket of rice, 20 fresh eggs, and 10 pots of maramba wine.
Kauta, who was Mtesa’s butler fell on his knees before Stanley and said: “The Kabaka sends salaams unto his friend who has traveled so far to see him. The Kabaka cannot see the face of his friend until he has eaten and is satisfied. The Kabaka has sent his slave with these few things to his friend that he may eat, and at the ninth hour, after his friend has rested, the Kabaka will send and call for him to appear at the burzah. I have spoken. Twi-yanzi-yanzi-yanzi!”
The appointed time approached, and Stanley was prepared for the time that he would meet with the Foremost Man of Equatorial Africa. Two pages came to Stanley and told him that everything was ready. The men went with him with five men on each side of Stanley armed with Snider rifles. They walked down a short broad street to a hut. Here the Kabaka was seated with a multitude of chiefs, generals and colonels. They stood ranked from the throne in two opposing kneeling or seated lines. The ends of the lines were drummers, guards, executioners, pages, etc. As they approached the nearest group it opened and the drummers started playing. The Foremost Man of Equatorial Africa arose and advanced, and all the kneeling and seated lines arose – generals, colonels, chiefs, cooks, butlers, pages, executioners, etc. Both Mtesa and Stanley stood there for awhile getting a good look at each other.
After the audience with Mtesa, Stanley wrote the following in his journal: “As I had read Speke’s book for the sake of its geographical information, I retained but a dim remembrance of his description of his life in Uganda. If I remember rightly, Speke described a youthful prince, vain and heartless, a wholesale murderer and tyrant, one who delighted in fat women. Doubtless he described what he saw, but it is far from being the state of things now. Mtesa has impressed me as being an intelligent and distinguished prince, who, if aided in time by virtuous philanthropists, will do more for Central Africa than fifty years of Gospel teaching, unaided by such authority, can do. I think I see in him the light that shall lighten the darkness of this benighted region; a prince well worthy the most hearty sympathies that Europe can give him. In this man I see the possible fruition of Livingstone’s hopes, for with his aid the civilization of Equatorial Africa becomes feasible. I remember the ardor and love which animated Livingstone when he spoke of Sekeletu; had he seen Mtesa, his ardor and love had been for him tenfold, and his pen and tongue would have been employed in calling all good men to assist him.”
Five days later Stanley added to his observations the following: “I see that Mtesa is a powerful Emperor, with great influence over his neighbors. I have today seen the turbulent Mankorongo, King of Usui, and Mirambo, that terrible phantom who disturbs men’s minds in Unyamwezi, through their embassies, kneeling and tendering their tribute to him. I saw over three thousand soldiers of Mtesa nearly half civilized. I saw about a hundred chiefs who might be classed in the same scale as the men of Zanzibar and Oman; clad in as rich robes, and armed in the same fashion, and have witnessed with astonishment such order and law as is obtainable in semi-civilized countries. All this is the result of a poor Muslim’s labor; his name is Muley bin Salim. He it was who first began teaching here the doctrines of Islam. False and contemptible as these doctrines are, they are preferable to the ruthless instincts of a savage despot, whom Speke and Grant left wallowing in the blood of women, and I honor the memory of Muley bin Salim – Muslim and slave trader though he be – the poor priest who has wrought this happy change. With a strong desire to improve still more the character of Mtesa, I shall begin building on the foundation stones laid by Muley bin Salim. I shall destroy his belief in Islam, and teach the doctrines of Jesus of Nazareth.”
Colonel Long, an officer of the Egyptian army under General Gordon, had visited Mtesa nearly a year previous to Stanley’s arrival. He described the Emperor as exceedingly fierce and brutal, which was altogether different from how Stanley saw him. Colonel Long traveled on horseback from Gondokoro to Mtesa’s capital. The horse was an unknown animal at that time, and the natives at first thought that the gallant Colonel and his horse were united in some mysterious manner. They concluded that he was an extraordinary being and gave him an unusually grand reception. Mtesa ordered 30 people to be slain in honor of his visit, with the victims being selected from among prisoners captured in war. Colonel Long only had a few people in his company, and did not want to interfere with the shocking ceremony, but was compelled to watch this terrible ceremony.
He described the executioners as being ferocious in dress and appearance, with a wild glare of brutality in their gleaming eyes. They also had a long black beard that meant they were of other origin than being Ugandan, probably Malay. Their dress consisted of a pantaloon of red and black flannel, bordered with black. They had a tunic of red flannel with black stripes across the vest. From this hung a fringe of peculiar monkey skin, a red cloth turban, around which was wound in coils a finely plaited rope-cord, badge and instrument of their deadly office. The people surrounded Mtesa on all public occasions, and at even a nod from him they rushed upon their victims and beheaded them with their long sharp knives.
This writing was totally different from the character given to Mtesa by Stanley and other explorers, but evidently Mtesa was a man of varying moods, because each person who visited him gave him a different character. His character had also been improved, though, by intercourse with foreigners, and before he had met Stanley, he had embraced the Muslim faith. This may account for his behavior when Stanley saw him.
A Grand Review
On the 7th of April Mtesa invited Stanley to witness a sham naval battle, between 40 huge canoes that each contained 30 soldiers. In all, there were 1200 men engaged in the battle. The captain of each canoe was dressed in a white cotton shirt and cloth head cover that was neatly folded in turban-style fashion. The admiral wore over his shirt a crimson jacket that was decorated with gold braid. On his head he wore the red fez of Zanzibar. When the staged battle was over, Mtesa commanded one of the captains to try and discover a crocodile or a hippopotamus. After 15 minutes he reported that there was a young crocodile asleep on a rock about 200 yards away. Mtesa took Stanley there because he wanted him to show his wives how a white man could shoot. Stanley fired the rifle with such precision that the head of the crocodile was almost severed, though he was 50 yards away.
Mtesa grew to like Stanley very much and repeatedly invited him to his palace. Much of the time that Stanley spent there was devoted to religion, and Stanley earnestly told him the story of Christ’s life and sufferings. By doing this, he won the king over from Mohammedanism to the Christian faith.
Attacked By the Savages of the Lake
Stanley finally had to depart for his camp at the southern extremity of Victoria Lake. Mtesa supplied him with 30 canoes and a large force of men under the leadership of Magassa, but Magassa proved to be obstinate and lazy and Stanley had to threaten him frequently to do his job. He finally had to send him back to Uganda. The escort of the 30 canoes only escorted him for 50 miles before they had to turn back. Then he was left alone again to complete the exploration of the lake.
They were proceeding without incident until they had to steer off course for an island in search of food. As the boat came near to shore, a great number of natives rushed down the slopes uttering war cries. Stanley thought little of it since that was the way it usually was when they first saw a white man. He felt, though, that they would be reconciled quickly when the natives saw that they didn’t mean to hurt them. He meant to give them beads and cloth.
As the boat came to shore, the natives seized it and dragged it 20 yards onto the land. As they neared an opening in the trees, there they saw a thousand black devils that were armed with bows and spears. They swarmed the boat with threatening gestures and were yelling like demons. Stanley was going to shoot in the air, but felt they might kill all of them in a massacre. After some time, an old man that was one of the leaders was somewhat placated by the beads and cloth. He then called all the people together for a session about what to do about the situation. Stanley felt that this must be his moment to escape. He ordered his men to take the boat back to the lake and start rowing furiously. This worked so well that they were well out onto the water again before the natives could reach the water. The natives came after them and they had some lively fighting for a time. Stanley killed five of the men with his rifle. Then he loaded his shotgun and killed several more of them. During this time two hippopotami started advancing toward the boat with their mouths wide open. They had no doubt been excited by all the shots that had been fired.
Stanley shot one right through the brain and wounded the other one badly so that it retreated. This seemed to send panic waves among the natives and they immediately retreated in their boats as fast as they could. They had just had a narrow escape from death.
At the end of 57 days they had navigated Victoria N’yanza. They had covered a distance of 1000 miles. As the boat came in sight of the camp at Kagehyi, a joyful shout was sent up, and when they landed Stanley was raised upon the shoulders of several men and carried triumphantly around the camp. The natives were firing salutes with their muskets. Their joyful return was marred, however, when they found out that Frederick Barker had died twelve days before of dysentery. Six of the other members of the expedition had also fallen victims to the same death.