Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/167

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159
THE LOOKING-GLASS—MEAT BY THE YARD.

be called, since it consisted alternately of dry, open spaces and deep gulleys. Both banks of this peculiar water-course were hemmed in by one vast thorn-jungle, which seemed to defy the passage of man or beast. It was doubly fortunate, therefore, that we met this river, as its sides served as a good and open road, while a plentiful supply of water was afforded by the occasional pools. It was here, at last, that we arrived at some Damara villages, on the fifth day after leaving Otjironjuba. At first the natives tried to run away; but we captured a few women, which soon induced the men to return. These people had never before seen a white man; and our sudden appearance, therefore, created no small astonishment, not to say consternation. But of all our property, nothing amused them more than the sight of a looking-glass. On finding that the mirror faithfully reflected the smallest of their motions or gesticulations, they became convulsed with laughter; and some of them were so excited as to throw themselves on the ground, pressing their hands against their stomachs. Others would approach with their faces to the glass as close as they could, then suddenly turn it round, fully expecting somebody at its back. It is a great pity that the Damaras are such unmitigated scoundrels, for they are full of fun and merriment. Give them a "yard of meat" and a bucket of water, and they are the happiest creatures on the face of the earth.

After some parleying, a man agreed to guide us to the lake. An afternoon's farther traveling brought us to a second werft, the captain of which was the jolliest and the most amusing Damara that we ever saw before or since. He mimicked the figure and the actions of the hippopotamus so admirably that we should never have mistaken the animal, even had we not known a word of the language. He also gave us an amusing and laughable account of the people to the north.

One day more, and the goal of our hopes and anxieties