Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/119

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Mr. Gallon had not been idle during my absence. Besides collecting much interesting information with regard to the Damaras and the Namaquas, he had ascertained the existence of a fresh-water lake called Omanbondè. This had the effect of raising our spirits considerably. We had landed at Walfisch Bay with a vague idea as to our route, and had hitherto felt quite at a loss how to act.

To enable us to reach Omanbondè it was necessary to pass through Damara-land, which was totally unknown to Europeans. Even the missionaries who had resided several years on the frontiers were ignorant of the country beyond a very few miles of their own stations. The Damaras themselves entertained the most extravagant notions of its extent, population, and fertility. The people, however, were known to be inhospitable, treacherous, suspicious, and inimical to strangers. It had always been considered insecure to travel among them, but more particularly so at this time, since their southern neighbors, the Kamaquas, attracted by their vast herds, had lately made several extensive raids upon them, killing the people, and carrying off large numbers of cattle, sheep, &c. They believed, and with some show of reason, that every individual of a light complexion was leagued against them. They well knew that the cattle stolen from them by their enemies, the Namaquas, were sold to European traders; and they knew, also, that if, by accident or design, the cattle belonging to the missionaries, or other white men, were stolen by the thievish people in question, they were always restored on application. This, together with the fact than a European could pass unmolested through the Namaqua territory, strengthened them in the conviction that we were enemies in disguise.

In order, therefore, to calm their excited feelings, to assure them of our friendly and peaceable intentions, and to explain to them the real motive of our journey, Mr. Galton had dispatched messengers to the principal Damara chiefs.