Then the Mazitu soldiers piled their spears and bows at the gate of the kraal and we proceeded with only the Union Jack and the musical box, which was now discoursing “Britannia rules the waves.”
Across the open space we marched to where several broad-leaved trees grew in front of a large native house. Not far from the door of this house a fat, middle-aged and angry-looking man was seated on a stool, naked except for a moocha of catskins about his loins and a string of large blue beads round his neck.
“Bausi, the King,” whispered Babemba.
At his side squatted a little hunchbacked figure, in whom I had no difficulty in recognising Imbozwi, although he had painted his scorched scalp white with vermillion spots and adorned his snub nose with a purple tip, his dress of ceremony I presume. Round and behind there were a number of silent councillors. At some signal or on reaching a given spot, all the soldiers, including old Babemba, fell upon their hands and knees and began to crawl. They wanted us to do the same, but here I drew the line, feeling that if once we crawled we must always crawl.
So at my word we advanced upright, but with slow steps, in the midst of all this wriggling humanity and at length found ourselves in the august presence of Bausi, “the Beautiful Black One,” King of the Mazitu.
We stared at Bausi and Bausi stared at us.
“I am the Black Elephant Bausi,” he exclaimed at last, worn out by our solid silence, “and I trumpet! I trumpet! I trumpet!” (It appeared that this was the ancient and hallowed formula with which a Mazitu king was wont to open a conversation with strangers.)
After a suitable pause I replied in a cold voice:
“We are the white lions, Macumazana and Wazela, and we roar! we roar! we roar!”
“I can trample,” said Bausi.
“And we can bite,” I said haughtily, though how we were to bite or do anything else effectual with nothing but a Union Jack, I did not in the least know.
“What is that thing?” asked Bausi, pointing to the flag.
“That which shadows the whole earth,” I answered proudly, a remark that seemed to impress him, although he did not at all understand it, for he ordered a soldier to hold a palm leaf umbrella over him to prevent it from shadowing him.
“And that,” he asked again, pointing to the music box, “which is not alive and yet makes a noise?”
“That sings the war-song of our people,” I said. “We sent it to you as a present and you returned it. Why do you return our presents, O Bausi?”
Then of a sudden this potentate grew furious.