Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/181

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173
MEETING WITH THE OVAMBO—DIET.

tion and independence. On acquainting them with our object, and our wish to obtain a guide to conduct us to their country, they not only refused, but became very reserved in their manner. They promised, however, that if we would return with them to Tjopopa's werft, and there wait until they had disposed of their articles of exchange, we were welcome to accompany them home. They assured us, moreover, that any attempt on our part to accomplish the journey alone would be attended with certain destruction; for, even supposing we should find the waters—which were few and far between—their chief, unless previously apprised of our approach, would never receive us. We thought their language bold, and at first laughed at them; but they remained inflexible. Remonstrances were of no avail, and we soon saw that they were a very different style of natives from those with whom we had been accustomed to deal. Moreover, on mature consideration, we thought it only just that they should know something of our character before taking us into the heart of the country. We accordingly made necessity a law, and agreed to their proposal. No sooner had we done so than they threw off their reserve, and in a very short time we became the best of friends.

Mr. Galton made them a present of some meat, which they greatly prized. Their sole diet, on these occasions, was apparently a kind of grain resembling Caffre-corn (holcus Caffrorum), which they carried in small skin-bags. This grain was either half boiled, simply steeped in water, or, more commonly, partially crushed, and then converted into a coarse stirabout. They kindly gave us a liberal supply of their homely fare, which we eagerly partook of, being quite tired with the everlasting flesh-diet. Our Damaras were also treated with a dish of soaked corn; but, before they were allowed to taste it, they were obliged to undergo the ceremony (why or wherefore I know not) of having a quantity of water spirted into their faces from the mouth of one of the Ovambo. These