Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/291

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283
LOCUSTS—THEIR DEVASTATIONS.

caused by a gale of wind whistling through the shrouds of a ship at anchor. It was interesting to witness at a distance the various shapes and forms that these columns assumed, more especially when crossing mountain ranges. At one time they would rise abruptly in a compact body, as if propelled by a strong gust of wind; then, suddenly sinking, they would disperse into smaller battalions, not unlike vapors floating about a hill side at early morn, and when slightly agitated by the breeze; or they would resemble huge columns of sand or smoke, changing every minute their shape and evolutions.

During their flight numbers were constantly alighting, an action which has not inaptly been compared to the falling of large snow-flakes. It is, however, not until the approach of night that they encamp. Woe to the spot they select as a resting-place! When the rising sun again speeds their departure, localities which, on the preceding evening, were rich in vegetation, are bare and naked as the Sahara. "When a swarm alights on a garden," says Mr. Moffat, "or even fields, the crop for one season is destroyed. I have observed a field of young maize devoured in the space of two hours. They eat not only tobacco and every other vegetable, but also flannel and linen."

From what has been said, it is evident that the husbandman has just reason to be appalled at the approach of this destructive insect. To the poor Bushmen, "the children of the desert," on the other hand, who have neither herds to lose by famine nor corn-fields to be destroyed by their devastations, their arrival is a cause of rejoicing. Pringle, in his song of the wild Bushman, has the following lines:

"Yea, even the wasting locust-swarm,
Which mighty nations dread,
To me nor terror brings nor harm;
I make of them my bread."

On the present occasion we found a great number of Hot-