Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/287

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
279
STRENGTH OF JONKER'S TRIBE—THE RED NATION.

women and children, at least—congregated. This was an opportunity I had long desired, since it would enable me to form a rough estimate of their number. Jonker and most of the men were absent; but by counting the huts, and taking the average number of individuals to each, I came to the conclusion that the aggregate of Namaquas capable of carrying arms did not exceed five hundred. The servants, or rather slaves, on the other hand, consisting of Bushmen, Hill-Damaras, and impoverished Damaras, were probably three or four times as numerous. By supposing each man to be possessed of one gun, which is perhaps below the mark, Jonker's tribe possess in round numbers two thousand firelocks. If their courage corresponded to their numerical strength, they might prove a formidable body even to Europeans, but this is fortunately far from being the case.

Jonker was indebted to us several head of cattle, and we were accordingly anxious for his return, but no person could or would inform us when this was likely to happen. With regard to other inquiries, such as the object and motive of his present journey, the answers were equally unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, the shyness of the natives, when interrogated on these points, coupled with our knowledge that Jonker was accompanied by almost all his warriors, made us suspect that he had gone on a plundering expedition against the Damaras.

After a few days' stay at Eikhams we directed our steps to a powerful tribe of Namaquas, known as the "Roode-Natie," or Red Nation. I had two objects in view for visiting these people, namely, to trade, and to learn something about them and their country. Every one I met, including the missionaries, represented them as the most barbarous and brutal of all the Hottentots in Great Namaqua-land. Only one trader had visited them, and him they treated so shamefully as to discourage others from making a like attempt. I was determined, however, if possible, to ascertain the cause