Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/185

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177
IMMORALITY.

barter in the hope of inducing him to purchase. Brass or gilt ornaments he almost spurned, but cast longing eyes on articles of iron or copper. At last he selected goods to the value of four oxen, with which he quietly walked off. On asking him for payment the following day, he smilingly replied, "Why, between us there must be no talk of buying and selling. You are going to stop here a long time, and you want plenty of food: this I will give you."

Knowing the truth of the adage that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," we should infinitely have preferred an immediate settlement to any vague promises. And the end justified our apprehensions. The old rogue took good care neither to pay his debt, nor make us any presents of cattle, of which we stood so much in need. Nay, he even went further. Under pretext of supplying our wants, he induced his people to contribute oxen and sheep, which he was mean enough to keep for his own use.

Our friend Tjopopa was rather a sensual man: he was supposed to have no less than twenty wives, two of whom I found, to my astonishment, were mother and daughter! I have since ascertained that this is by no means an unusual practice among this demoralized nation. Moreover, when a chief dies, his surviving wives are transferred to his brother or to his nearest relation.

It is in vain that poets and philanthropists endeavor to persuade us that savage nations who have had no previous intercourse with Europeans are living in a state of the most enviable happiness and purity, where ignorance is virtuous simplicity; poverty, frugality and temperance; and indolence, laudable contempt for wealth. One single day among such people will be sufficient to repudiate these idle notions.