Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/277

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269
ARRIVAL AT BARMEN—SELF-POSSESSION.

land to trade with the natives, I myself proceeded along the Swakop with the wagon. We had only one, the other having already been disposed of at Eikhams. The river was still running breast high, and we experienced much difficulty in crossing and recrossing it. One evening, just as we were descending the bank, from which the flood had only lately receded, the vehicle suddenly sank so deep in the mud as almost to hide the fore wheels. Before we could extricate ourselves, which was a work of many hours, we were obliged to dig a deep trench and pave it with stones.

In the afternoon of the 11th of February I reached Barmen, where on the following day I was joined by Hans. He had not been very successful, and, moreover, nearly got into a scrape with the natives. Having one day gone some distance in advance of his small party, he suddenly, at the turn of a hill, came upon some women and children, who, notwithstanding his friendly assurances, ran off in great fright to the werft, which was not far distant, screaming vociferously. The men, thinking that they were about to be attacked by the Namaquas, instantly rushed to arms; and Hans, on coming in view of the village, unexpectedly found himself in the presence of several hundred Damaras, each armed with a huge assegai. Placing his gun against a tree, he walked quietly in the midst of them. His coolness so surprised and amazed them, that the forest of bristling spears, poised in the air ready to strike, were instantaneously lowered. The men, however, continued their yells and shouts for some time, and it was not until his interpreter had arrived that he was able to set their minds at rest as to his peaceable intentions.

The effect often produced on savages by the self-possession of a single European is truly wonderful. If Hans had evinced the smallest sign of fear or hesitation, his fate probably would have been sealed.

I remember, not long after this took place, to have been