Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/127

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A Christmas in the Desert.—Mr. Galton's Return from the Erongo Mountain.—He passes numerous Villages.—Great Drought; the Natives have a Choice of two Evils.—The Hill-Damaras.—The Damaras a Pastoral People.—The whole country Public Property.—Enormous herds of Cattle.—They are as destructive as Locusts to the Vegetation.—Departure from Richterfeldt.—The Author kills an Oryx.—The Oxen refractory.—Danger of traversing dry Watercourses on the approach of the Rainy Season.—Message from the Robber-chief Jonker.—Emeute among the Servants.—Depart for Schmelen's Hope.

We had now been rather more than four months in the country, and Christmas had imperceptibly stolen upon us. Singularly enough, though I kept a journal, I was not aware of the fact until one morning the men came to wish me a "merry Christmas." A merry Christmas! alas! there were no merry children—no joyous feast—no Christmas trees or other indication of "the hallowed and gracious time." One day was of the same importance to us as another. Moreover, our store of grocery, &c., was too scant to enable our cook to produce us a plum-pudding, or any of those dainty dishes that even the working-man in civilized countries would be sorry to be without at this season. Fortunately, we had now so accustomed ourselves to "bush-diet," that we did not even feel the want of what others might deem to be the necessaries of life. Constant exposure to the fresh air and perpetual exercise had so greatly increased our appetites, and improved our digestive powers, that, though we might not, like the natives, demolish a "yard" or so of flesh at a meal, we could, nevertheless, play our part at meals as well as any London alderman; in fact, we could eat at all times, and scarcely any thing ever came amiss. A draft of water